An article in a prominent evangelical Christian magazine that its publisher describes as an unbiased look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being called out by critics as anti-Israel propaganda.
“Is Peace Possible?” was the cover story in the March/April issue of Relevant magazine, a millennial-generation publication founded by Cameron Strang, the son of Charisma magazine founder and Strang Communications CEO Stephen Strang.
A monitor of news about Israel, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA, said Strang missed an “opportunity, and an obligation, to inform his readers about the realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
CAMERA’s Tricia Aven said that instead, “he wrote an article that places all the responsibility for peace on Israel while making no demands of the Palestinians.”
“This is an appalling contribution to the delegitimization of the Jewish State that responsible Christians who are biblically literate cannot accept,” she said.
“In spite of his claim to be pro-peace, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, Strang places all the responsibility for a successful peace process on the Jewish State. He says Israel ‘must find a way to acknowledge Palestinian demands’ and Palestinians ‘must be allowed to create their own state in a portion of historic Palestine or be given equal civil and political rights in Israel.”
Aven said that at no point in the article “does Strang judge the Palestinians responsible for anything.”
“Strang’s biased modus operandi is particularly disturbing in light of the fact that Relevant claims the magazine is read by more than 1.35 million young adults each year. The magazine’s target audience is members of the millennial generation (typically defined as people born after 1980).”
In an email exchange with WND, Strang called further dialogue regarding the CAMERA analysis “pointless.”
The difference in view between CAMERA and Strang speaks to a much broader polarization occurring in the American church. Increasingly, evangelical figures such as Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Church in Illinois, Mae Cannon of World Vision and Wheaton College’s Gary Burge are taking the so-called “Palestinian narrative” into churches.
The presentations are being met with alarm by supporters of Israel
David Brog, director of Christians United for Israel, said the movement has had influence, with support for Israel now “in play” in evangelical communities where it once was strong.
Victor Styrsky, eastern regional coordinator for CUFI, told WND that “if something isn’t done on college campuses, within 10 years, it’ll all be over,” referring to broad Israel support.
Already, many Palestinian student groups and Muslim studies groups react strongly to any type of pro-Israel presentation.
Along with Cameron Strang, millennial generation figures such as writer Donald Miller have helped advance the “Palestinian narrative.” In November 2012, Miller accused the Israel Defense Forces of shooting Palestinian women and children along with controlling the food supply of Gazans. The charges, however, published at Miller’s Storylineblog site, were undocumented.
Several evangelical leaders are taking to local churches across America the message that evangelicals have reflexively supported Israel because of dubious theology that has caused them to ignore the plight of Palestinian Christians, who trace their heritage back to the First Century church.
Among the speakers are Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church; Todd Deatherage, co-founder of the Telos Group and a former State Department official); and Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem who leads a group focused on reconciliation.
They contend the Israeli “occupation” of the Palestinians is hampering peace efforts.
Aven takes issue with, among other things, Strang’s omission of the extreme elements of Palestinian nationalism.
“The inability to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is simply an extension of the Palestinian national movement’s difficulty in making ideological concessions concerning the Jewish national movement,” she wrote. “While Israel has recognized the Palestinian people and their right to a Palestinian state, the Palestinians have not reciprocated by acknowledging the Jewish people’s right to a state in their ancient homeland.”
She contended that Strang “completely ignores this reality.”
Strang’s visits to Israel, with friends Miller and Hybels, reinforce the perception by supporters of Israel that American evangelical leaders are being duped by the Palestinian Authority.
Writing in The Middle East Quarterly, Brog sounded the alarm.
“A mere decade ago, Christian Zionism was seen as an emerging force in American politics. As if out of nowhere, a block of fifty to one hundred million friends of Israel were poised to enter the national debate and safeguard the U.S.-Israel relationship for generations to come. Evangelical love for Israel appeared so solid that the only debate within the Jewish community was whether or not to ‘accept’ it,” he wrote.
“How quickly things change. The days of taking evangelical support for Israel for granted are over. As they are increasingly confronted with an evangelical-friendly, anti-Israel narrative, more and more of these Christians are turning against the Jewish state.”