“Christ at the Checkpoint” (CatC) is a biennial conference sponsored by the Bethlehem Bible College since 2010. The conference claims to be “theology in the service of peace and justice” but its true purpose is to fundamentally change the way that Evangelicals in the West read the Bible in order to fundamentally change their political stand regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict-and through them, to affect their political leaders. Instead of reading the Bible in its historical and cultural context in order to understand what the inspired prophets and apostles communicated as the Word of God, organizers of CatC want us to read the Scriptures only “in the shadow of the occupation”, that is, filtered through the Palestinian Arab’s POV and political aspirations. The result is “theology” divorced from God’s originally intended meaning; “theology” as clay reformed in the CatC potter’s hand to serve a one-sided, anti-Israel Palestinian political program.
A Position Paper for the Messianic Jewish Community regarding the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CatC)
1.The Word of God: the Tanakh and the New Covenant Scriptures together, are the one true, infallible, and unalterable standard of truth and life for all believers. As Yeshua our Messiah declared, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17) and “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Therefore we affirm that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes’” and ‘Amen’ (not abrogated) in Yeshua (II Cor. 1:20), and that “the gifts and calling of God” for His chosen people, Israel, “are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28b-29 in context). “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew!” (Romans 11:2). Rather, “to them belong [present tense!] the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4).
2.The Messiah Yeshua’s calling for His Body — in the Land of Israel and throughout the world — is to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) by proclaiming “repentance for the forgiveness of sins…in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Every movement or activity which does not promote or which, on the contrary, distracts us from that central purpose and calling is not of God, no matter what biblical or spiritual language may be used to describe it. Yeshua never commanded, or even suggested, that His followers were to “bring in” the Kingdom of God on earth. Yeshua Himself promised to establish His Kingdom upon His return (Matthew 25:31, 34), and we, who are heirs of His Kingdom and proclaimers of it in the present age (James 2:5; Acts 28:23, 31), are instructed to pray for that day to quickly come (Matthew 6:10; cf. Philippians 3:20-21).
3.Christ at the Checkpoint is, therefore, a false messianic movement, arrogating to itself the role of Messiah in establishing the Kingdom while promoting a humanistic, political “liberation theology.” [All the “evangelical” CatC speakers reflect the same approach and goals, as is evident from the Kairos Document which Yohanna Katanacho, CatC Committee member, helped compose and Bethlehem Bible College endorsed]. Although cloaking its “mandate” in biblical language (“the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God”) and using seductively positive terms (“Peace, justice, and reconciliation”), this movement has one overriding purpose: to sway Evangelical believers worldwide away from belief in the eternal promises of God to Israel by slandering the Jewish people and delegitimizing the Jewish state; painting Israel as a wicked, oppressive, apartheid “entity”—especially in contrast to the supposedly ‘democratic, tolerant and peace-seeking’ Palestinian Authority and people. There is no Gospel here!
4.Christ at the Checkpoint is a partisan political movement, willingly acting as public relations spokesmen for the Palestinian Authority to the Evangelical world. The CatC 2012 keynote speech by then Prime Minister of the PA, Saleem Fayad, demonstrated the one-sided and political nature of this conference. In 2014, CatC will open “under the Patronage and Presence” of Dr. Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of Palestine. As president of Al-Najah University, in 2001 Hamdallah sponsored an exhibition glorifying terrorism, including a reconstruction of the Sbarro Restaurant massacre in Jerusalem. By welcoming the patronage of one who glorifies terror, CatC has lost any claim to morality, not to mention objectivity. All claims to be an Evangelical movement for peace, justice and reconciliation are exposed as false propaganda.
CatC speakers and “testimonials” consistently demonize Israel, while they absolutely refuse to condemn, or even mention, the repression of Evangelical churches and systemic human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority and their outrageous financial corruption—all of which have been documented and which are recognized even by Israel’s critics in the European Union. While the “nefarious evils” of the “Israeli occupation” are trumpeted incessantly, and carefully selective guided tours are offered to mislead naïve participants, CatC speakers make no mention of the hundreds of Palestinian terror attacks and thousands of Israeli terror victims which necessitated the security fence, for example. Such inconvenient facts are summarily dismissed as beside the point.
5.CatC deliberately misleads their Evangelical brethren in the world by intentionally misrepresenting the two sides of the Middle East conflict. CatC organizers and speakers like Sami and Alex Awad and Mitri Raheb crisscross the world, calling on Evangelical Christians to stand up for “their Christian brethren in Palestine” who are being terrorized by the Israeli occupation. In so doing, these self-proclaimed Evangelicals are falsely portraying the conflict as a war of the Jews against the Christians. Their use of the image of Jesus as a Palestinian being “crucified” on the “apartheid wall” by the Jews recalls the age-old anti-Semitic blood-libel. The fact is that “Evangelical Palestinians” make up less than 0.1% of the population in the West Bank and Gaza; with 95–98% being Moslems and the remaining 2-5% being predominantly Roman Catholic or Orthodox Church members. Western Evangelicals are intentionally and deceitfully led to believe a lie.
6.The organizers of CatC have as their final goal the end of the Jewish state and its replacement with a single, multinational “Palestine.” This is also the purpose of the BDS campaign against Israel, which is strongly supported by CatC organizers and speakers (see CatC website links to Kairos Palestine “Bethlehem Call” document there). While ostensibly eschewing violence as the means to this end, and expressing willingness to accept a “two-state solution” as an interim measure, the dissolution of Israel is nonetheless the actual result which they promote (see Alex Awad interview). Awad and Stephen Sizer participated—along with Hezbollah and Hamas representatives–in the 2008 Voice of Palestine Naqba conference in Indonesia where the one state solution was one of the four objectives.
This “one-state solution” echoes the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to acknowledge any Jewish right to an independent national existence in the Land of Israel (that is, Zionism), while at the same time demanding that same right of “self-determination” for the “Palestinians.” CatC’s unequivocal, hypocritical condemnation of Zionism, Christian or otherwise, is therefore inherently racist.
7.Messianic Jews and Evangelical Christians should have nothing to do with a false messianic, partisan political movement which turns a blind eye to terror and misleads Evangelicals in order to promote the destruction of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel. These false teachers are like those from which the apostle Paul warned the believers in Rome: “…by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:18). And what did he call us to do? “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” (Romans 16:17).
We call on all those who follow the Messiah Yeshua truly and submit to His Word faithfully to join us in publicly rejecting the CatC agenda and refusing to lend legitimacy to its activities in any way.
Published by Noam Hendren; Faculty of our seminary, Congregational Leader, and Chairman of the National Evangelism Committee.