Choosing sides

"Choosing sides" Continued...

Issue: "Reaping the whirlwind," July 20, 2002

The city of Jerusalem is now setting up its own program to offer help to victims. Mr. Bauer, who heads the Institute for American Values and the political action committee Campaign for Working Families, said he is part of a coalition "looking for ways to help" in the Middle East conflict. This was his first trip to Israel. He hand-delivered a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, signed by 26 Christian conservative activists, expressing solidarity with Israel in its own war on terrorism. The letter stressed Israel's right to exist and said, "We believe terrorists cannot be appeased and we reject all pressure on Israel to do so." It also said "the suffering of Palestinian Arabs is due to the failure of their leaders to provide any vision for the future, other than hatred of Israel and self-destruction."

Other signers included Focus on the Family president James Dobson, Prison Fellowship Ministries chairman Chuck Colson, and Jerry Falwell. They believe this year's escalation in violence demands that American Christians stand with Israel. "I am puzzled why Americans seem hung up on moral equivalency here," Mr. Bauer said. "I think there is a pretty clear moral call to make, even though there is obviously suffering on both sides."

That show of support from Western Christians will further alienate Arab Christian leaders. They are more likely to side with the Palestinians, who are predominantly Muslim, because, as longtime inhabitants of land inside Israel's borders, they also view Israelis as occupying territory that once belonged to them.

"If it is a God-given state, it cannot start by occupation and by violence," said one evangelical currently pastoring a church in Beirut, who asked not to be identified because of pressure from both sides in the conflict. "Muslims who look at us as evangelicals will assume we are against Palestinians. We are looked at in a politicized way, as if we are pro-Israel because of the loud voice of the pro-Israel lobby in America." On the other hand, he said, "Israel should recognize that it was not established on a violent act of God but by an act of grace."

Outside support is likely to increase-and exacerbate the conflict. Saddam Hussein now pays $25,000 to families of "successful" suicide bombers. Other Palestinians are compensated by the Iraqi dictator, too. Rawhiyya Ilayyan, mother of seven, said she received $10,000 from Iraq to renovate her home in Rafah refugee camp after her husband was killed last September during fighting in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials say Saddam Hussein has provided a total of $5 million in aid to Gaza families that have lost family members as "martyrs" in the intifada.

Ibrahim Al-Zaaneen of the Arab Liberation Front said, "I lost a son in clashes with Israeli occupation forces. I received $10,000. Families of martyrdom commandos receive $25,000."

Saudi Arabia is also aiding Palestinians. UPI reports that the government of Saudi Arabia has paid out at least $33 million to families of Palestinians killed or injured in the nearly 2-year-old intifada. The Saudi Committee for Support of the Al-Aqsa Intifada distributes payments of $5,333 to the families of the dead and $4,000 to each Palestinian receiving medical treatment in Saudi hospitals.

At the same time, pro-Israel Christian leaders are stepping up their support for Israel and the Sharon government. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is spending $2 million in a grant to assist Jewish immigrants. The first newcomers, 400 immigrants from the United States and Canada, arrived last week (July 9) at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport. Most intend to settle south of Jerusalem at Beit Shemesh. International Fellowship of Christians and Jews founder, Jewish rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, co-chairs Stand for Israel, a media enterprise formed with Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. The group is spending $400,000 in print and radio ads targeting conservatives and Christians "to foster greater unity on the paramount issue of Israel while we also shatter the stereotype of Christians as adversaries of the Jewish community."


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