Bethlehem Bible College faculty criticise Israel

In response to Israel’s military action in Gaza, Alex Awad of the Bethlehem Bible College has strongly criticised Israel. Despite the fact that Hamas has already admitted that most of the dead are Hamas combatants, Awad nevertheless claims:

What troubles me most in this current war is that most of the victims of this Israeli incursion on Gaza are average people-men, women and children–who are struggling to just to survive under the extreme and harsh conditions that the Israeli siege has created.

Yet Awad has a track record of preaching anti-Zionism around the world. Most notoriously, in May 2008, Awad attended the Voice of Palestine 60th Nakba Conference hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia.

You can read conference-attendee and Holocaust-denier Fred Tobin’s account of events in Jakarta here. You can see the aims of the Voice Of Palestine conference here. According to Tobin’s report, Awad advocated a one-state solution, as did others at the event.

Also in attendance was Ayatollah Khomeini’s daughter Zahra Mostafavi from Iran, who has previously urged children to become suicide bombers. British vicar Stephen Sizer also spoke at this conference.

You can see a list of speakers, including representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah, here. You can see photos of Awad at the conference here and here alongside, among others, Neturei Karta Jews Dovid Weiss and Aharon Cohen.

According to the Voice of Palestine website, Awad was representing the Bethlehem Bible College at this event.

The website Kesher Talk has previously highlighted the controversy surrounding Bethlehem Bible College and the Awad family, and cites Alex Awad and brother Bishara (himself President of the college) as having said:

“Palestinian Christians view Israel, and not Arafat, as the problem.”

And here for more about the Awad family’s views on Arafat.

Interestingly, a colleague of Alex and Bishara Awad, Yohanna Katanacho, has this week published an open letter against Messianic Jews in Israel, in response to the war in Gaza, in which he asks:

will you look me in the eyes next time we meet and shake my hands while the hands of your army are still wet with the blood of my people!?

It is worth reading the comments in response to Katanacho.

Whilst Katanacho seems to blame Israel for the current violence, it is worth noting that Alex Awad blames Israel for suicide bombings, and claims:

“When we fight for a piece of land, we use religion to rally people, to excite people to build zeal among the people so they will help accomplish a goal. Religion is used in the conflict, but it’s about land. The Muslim is fighting the Jew because of what the Jew took by force.”

One blogger reviewing Alex Awad’s book Palestinian Memories wrote:

“While Alex Awad has no problem detailing many instances of injustice committed by Israelis against Christians, he completely denies that there are any injustices committed by Muslims. Alex Awad has allowed his hate of Israelis to affect biblical worldview.”

Awad’s writing is used approvingly by the Amos Trust, who were recently criticised in the press for manipulating Christmas to advance a political agenda. Awad himself frequently writes articles critical of Israel and Zionism.

Whilst the faculty at Bethlehem Bible College are busy asking questions of Israel and Israeli Christians, it seems they have a lot to answer to themselves.

Advertisements

15 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

15 responses to “Bethlehem Bible College faculty criticise Israel

  1. Pingback: Liberation theology and terrorism (part 3): Hamas, Sabeel and the children of Gaza « Seismic Shock

  2. Tim Seid

    I was a visiting professor at Bethlehem Bible College in the fall of 2009. I don’t think you fairly characterize what BBC faculty have written. I’ve read Alex Awad’s book and the letter from Yohanna Katanacho. I also attended the International Sabeel conference held in Nazareth & Jerusalem in Nov. 2009.

    To charge people with anti-semitism because of anti-Israeli opinions is fallacious. This has nothing to do with anyone’s attitudes toward Jewish people or Judaism. The political issues are based on the practices and policies of the State of Israel. These are views shared by many Jews including Jewish Israelis.

    You also misrepresent what people have said. You characterize Yohanna Katanacho’s open letter as “against” Messianic Jews. It was written “to” them in very frank language about the culpability of Israeli citizens for the actions of their elected government.

    I felt I needed to take a minute to respond to these baseless charges about deeply committed Christians who are struggling to keep alive the witness of Jesus in the Holy Land.

  3. seismicshock

    Hi Tim, if Alex Awad isn’t an antisemite, then why did he go to this conference in Indonesia, which was also attended by a Holocaust denier who glorified Adolf Hitler in his speech? Why didn’t Awad challenge him?

    Furthermore, you only have to read the responses of Israeli Messianic Jews and other Christians in order to see how they interpreted the letter as against them, and anyway, since when did the citizens of a country become the people responsible for every decision of its elected government?

    I could perhaps take Mr Awad more seriously if he had been complaining about Hamas rocket attacks on Southern Israel for the last eight years, but instead, Awad has only chosen to speak up when Israel launched its operation.

    Which brings me to my next point.

    What do you make of Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians?

  4. David

    Well stated Tim. Alas, however, I suspect you realize that the folks like those at seismicshock have no interest in representing people and positions fairly. It is Zionism, right or wrong, and therefore rhetoric and “persuasion” will always be more highly valued than truth and integrity.

  5. Dooley

    Really David? Then why hasn’t Tim responded to Seismic’s last comment? Perhaps you could do so on his behalf?

  6. simukonda sydney

    Hai iam looking for abible school from gaza because thats were my calling has been set, iwill be very gretful if you sent me one for full time clases. my home adress 17-6th street, nchanga south, chingola zambia.

    • Hi Simukonda,
      There isnt any bible schools in Gaza, I would look at finding a bible school in Jerusalem, there are congregations with Jewish and Arab believers such as King of kings community who can help you with prayer and intercession over specific things like Gaza. Gaza is not safe for foreign visitors or anyone foreign in fact. God bless and hope you manage to find what you are looking for. Don’t forget there is conflict in physical form as well as whats in the media which demonises Israel. All the best Jonathan

  7. Alex Awad

    Since much of the above criticism is directed at me, I decided to respond.

    Yes! I did go to a conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. Why did I go? I went because the organizers wanted to hear a Christian voice. So Rev. Steve Sizer and I presented that voice. What is important is not that we were guest speakers at that a political conference, but rather the significant thing is what we shared with the students and faculty of the University during our visit. I stood before about a thousand students and faculty (at least 90% of them were Muslims) at the University of Jakarta and gave a testimony of my mother who was (before she died) a committed Christian and a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. I was not ashamed of my faith in Christ before a crowd who rarely had an opportunity to hear a testimony from a Christian person. I may never be invited again because of my testimony but if I get the opportunity to go to any Islamic University to share because I am a Christian, I will not hesitate to accept such an invitation.

    Moreover, the question that my critics should have asked is this: In each of those meetings in Indonesia, did I ever deny the holocaust? Did I call for the destruction of the State of Israel? Did I call for armed struggle or a jihad against Israel? The answer to all three questions is, ABSOLUTLY NOT! As a matter of fact, I do not agree with holocaust deniers, people who call for the destruction of the State of Israel and I am fully against all forms of violence including violence against Israel or the Jewish people.

    I wish that those who spend so much time searching through my writings to find an item to smear my reputation and the reputation of the faculty of Bethlehem Bible College, will come first and meet with us and learn from us where we stand on these issues. We are not anti-Semitic, not anti-Jewish and not for violence against Israelis or Jews.

    Yes! We are, from time to time, critical of some of the actions of the State of Israel and many enlightened Israeli Jews are. That is because we live with the Palestinians and we see their suffering first hand. If you do not trust what we write, come and see. We will give you a tour and show you the pain of our people, the stolen lands, the demolished homes and present to you evidence of the one hundred and one other forms of injustice that the current Israeli government is inflicting on our people.

    And, let me speak loudly for all to hear, Israel is not the only party in the Middle East that is guilty of injustice. We stand against Hamas’s violence and we abhor Akaida’s militants and their many crimes. We teach our students to resist all evil whether it is motivated by Islamic, Christian or Muslim fanatics. We believe in the sanctity of all life. We believe in God’s love for all people and God’s yearning to bring them into His Kingdom.

    We must also remember that the ancient Hebrew prophets were severely critical of ancient Israel when Israelite kings, rulers and the religious leaders abused their power and acted injustly. The greater sin is to be silent when one sees all forms of injustice.

    Finally, I wish to say to all of our critics, that politics is not the main theme that is discussed at Bethlehem Bible College. We rarely address the conflict in the classrooms. We spend all of our time teaching, equipping and admonishing young men and women from the word of God to become faithful disciples and servants for Jesus Christ. Many of our students are not even aware of our political perspectives. If you do not believe me, come and see. Be my guest!

    And my dear friends and critic let me make it clear to you that you are not the only one that is throwing mud at us. Some groups within our neighborhood call us Zionists, collaborators and other false titles.

    We bless you dear critic in the name of Jesus that is above all names

    Alex

    • seismicshock

      Dear Alex,

      Firstly I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to comment here. It is very big of you to take the time to offer an explanation, here on a blog where you have been publicly criticised.

      I sympathise hugely with the plight of Palestinian Christians, and I know that you are caught between a rock and a hard place, in that there are suspicions towards you from some within Israeli society because you are Palestinian, and suspicion from some within Palestinian society because you are Christian, as you alluded to at the end.

      I think, however, that the more you criticise Christian Zionism, the easier you are making it for the likes of Hamas to accuse your fellow Christians of being traitors to the Palestinian cause in the long run.

      Hamas already see Christianity as a Western, Zionist imposition on Islam, and by stressing the links between Western Christians and Zionism, I think you are ultimately harming Palestinian Christianity.

      You may think I don’t appreciate your position as I do not live there. You would be right to some degree, but I think you should know that – just as there is a lot of suspicion about Palestinian Christians being “Zionist” and therefore bad, there is also a lot of suspicion about Messianic Jews being “Zionist” and therefore bad.

      When you go to Indonesia and join others in denouncing Christian Zionism, it further discredits the witness of your Jewish brothers in Christ. It’s as if you are dismissing most Israeli believers and Western Messianic Jews as heretics.

      I believe we would have plenty more in common if we focused on our unity in Christ, and not our political divisions. So I deeply admire this aspect of your college’s teachings.

      However, with respect, you did sign a joint call to replace Israel with a single state called Palestine, alongside Holocaust denier Frederick Tobin.

      As someone whose family perished in the Holocaust, you must appreciate how offensive I find this to be.

      I think there is dialogue to be had between nationalist Palestinian Christians and Zionist Messianic Jews. Indeed, I would go further and say we need to have this dialogue to show the strength of the gospel. Compromise must be made on both sides, and we both have to listen to each other.

      I would love to come and visit the college one day and meet fellow believers. I would not wish to undermine or deny the hardships you have been through as a people, and I am sure you feel the same towards Jews.

      Again, this is why appearing alongside Tobin – without making a public statement about how offensive Tobin is at the time – is quite so shocking for many people.

      I hope you will return for further debate, and I look forward to discussing some of these points in greater detail with you.

      All the best,

      Joseph

      • Roger McClary

        When I was in Israel, I found it necessary to make a clear distinction that I was a follower of Jesus Christ, rather than saying I was Christian. The world news-media has for years called everyong of “The Faith” Christian, collectively; however, I am not Catholic. The only exception was when the Catholics were called the Irisn Republic Army, while they fought against the Protestants.
        In as much, the different factions of that part of the world seems to be “Christian” and Muslim conflict, I think it wise to state what one is talking about.
        Not a critic, but I would like to understand who we are talking about.

    • seismicshock

      ” We stand against Hamas’s violence and we abhor Akaida’s militants and their many crimes.”

      Glad to hear Alex, thankyou.

  8. Alex Awad

    Dear Joseph,

    Thanks for your comments on my response.

    In the future, when you publicly criticize another person, make sure before you indulge in the critique that you do not base your criticism on second hand information. Here is an example. You wrote,

    “However, with respect, you did sign a joint call to replace Israel with a single state called Palestine, alongside Holocaust denier Frederick Tobin.

    As someone whose family perished in the Holocaust, you must appreciate how offensive I find this to be.”

    First, what document are you talking about? I never signed a document calling for the creation of a single state called Palestine. Where did you get your information from? In Jakarta, I was not asked to sign a document and if I was asked, I would not have signed it. I am not for or against a one state solution because the one-state solution is not practical since 85% of the Israeli population reject it. I will accept any just solution that will be signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders that would lead to peace. Please, Joseph, check your sources before you make judgments.

    Second, any one could be invited to speak at a conference that includes all kinds of people with different perspectives. The fact that a person attends a conference that had a holocaust denier as a presenter does not make that person automatically a holocaust denier. I simply did not agree with all the presenters at the conference in Jakarta. All of them however, heard my witness about my faith in Jesus Christ. Have I stayed home, these people would not have heard my testimony. Let us not be quick to judge.

    Third, I am not an enemy of Messianic Judaism. I consider Messianic Jews as brothers and sisters in Christ and I love them with all sincerity. I desire fellowship with MJ and I pray that they will grow in numbers and in grace in Jesus Christ. That does not mean that I agree with them on all aspects of politics or eschatology or that I expect them to agree with my political or theological perspectives. It is a seismic mistake to conclude that one is at odds with MJ because he or she is critical of the policies of the Israeli government. If some folks wish to sanctify a secular state, whitewash her sins with holy talk and cover up her injustice that is their business. I will not be part of this hypocrisy. Those who love Israel need not cover up for her sins. Let me illustrate what I saw happening in the West Bank:

    One of my students called me not long ago and told me that the settlers from Neve Daniel came with Caterpillars and bulldozers to establish a settlement on his family’s land. This student is a born-again Palestinian Christian who is studying to serve the Lord. When I and others went to the land, sure enough, the bulldozers were cutting the rocks and making a road on this student’s land. The Palestinian family had the land since 1916. We called the police, he asked both parties to show their title to the land. The student had the papers in his hands but the settlers had nothing. In spite of the fact that the police was an Israeli Jew from Kifar Etzion, the settlers began to insult him when he asked them to stop their activity on the land and take the case to court. My student and his family had already paid over $70,000 in court charges to keep their land from settler takeover. They are not allowed to develop their land and they are periodically attacked by settlers. This is only one of many stories that I can share with you. This is the injustice that is taking place around us. Would the prophets of ancient Israel be silent to this injustice? Do you recall the story of Nayboth and Jezabel? Followers of Christ can’t ignore this injustice on the assumption that it fits well with their prophetic perspective. Let us stand for what is just and right in the sight of God. God himself will take care of His prophetic plan.

    Fourth, Joseph, you call on me, a Palestinian Christian, to be fair in relating to Christian Zionism. Can I ask you also to be fair in relating to the plight of the improvised Palestinian refugees stranded for decades in refugee camps? Can I ask you to speak out on behalf all the Palestinians whose houses have been demolished and continue to be demolished and their farmlands are expropriated by the Israeli authorities? Would you speak up against the suffocating imprisonment of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who are incarcerated by hundreds of checkpoints and miles and miles of walls that do not only separate Palestinians from Israelis but they also separate Palestinians from Palestinians. Do you know how many Palestinians (like me) who were born in Jerusalem have lost the right of citizenship because Israel is working around the clock to make “United Jerusalem the eternal Capital of the Jewish people”? Let us seek fairness and justice on both sides of the political divide in order to be effective witnesses of our faith in Jesus Christ.

    Yours in the name of the Prince of Peace,

    Alex

    • seismicshock

      Hi Alex,

      “First, what document are you talking about? I never signed a document calling for the creation of a single state called Palestine. Where did you get your information from? In Jakarta, I was not asked to sign a document and if I was asked, I would not have signed it. I am not for or against a one state solution because the one-state solution is not practical since 85% of the Israeli population reject it. I will accept any just solution that will be signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders that would lead to peace. Please, Joseph, check your sources before you make judgments.”

      Hi Alex,

      I got the information from the conference website itself:
      http://voiceofpalestine.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=83&Itemid=41

      That is a “Declaration of Conference” – a declaration which I presumed that yourself and Frederick Tobin happily and knowingly lent your support to.

      However, I accept that they may have assumed your support for their resolution without actually consulting you. Here I must cede to your integrity and honour.

      Third, I am not an enemy of Messianic Judaism. I consider Messianic Jews as brothers and sisters in Christ and I love them with all sincerity. I desire fellowship with MJ and I pray that they will grow in numbers and in grace in Jesus Christ. That does not mean that I agree with them on all aspects of politics or eschatology or that I expect them to agree with my political or theological perspectives. It is a seismic mistake to conclude that one is at odds with MJ because he or she is critical of the policies of the Israeli government. If some folks wish to sanctify a secular state, whitewash her sins with holy talk and cover up her injustice that is their business. I will not be part of this hypocrisy. Those who love Israel need not cover up for her sins […] Would the prophets of ancient Israel be silent to this injustice? Do you recall the story of Nayboth and Jezabel? Followers of Christ can’t ignore this injustice on the assumption that it fits well with their prophetic perspective. Let us stand for what is just and right in the sight of God. God himself will take care of His prophetic plan.

      Agreed – and very sorry to hear about your student.

      Fourth, Joseph, you call on me, a Palestinian Christian, to be fair in relating to Christian Zionism. Can I ask you also to be fair in relating to the plight of the improvised Palestinian refugees stranded for decades in refugee camps? Can I ask you to speak out on behalf all the Palestinians whose houses have been demolished and continue to be demolished and their farmlands are expropriated by the Israeli authorities? Would you speak up against the suffocating imprisonment of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who are incarcerated by hundreds of checkpoints and miles and miles of walls that do not only separate Palestinians from Israelis but they also separate Palestinians from Palestinians. Do you know how many Palestinians (like me) who were born in Jerusalem have lost the right of citizenship because Israel is working around the clock to make “United Jerusalem the eternal Capital of the Jewish people”? Let us seek fairness and justice on both sides of the political divide in order to be effective witnesses of our faith in Jesus Christ.

      It’s totally fair of you to call for greater rights and sovereignty for Palestinians, yes absolutely. I hope you will prosper as a nation and I also hope that it will be possible in the near future reject the leaders who prefer perpetual struggle to peacr with Israel.

      I understand that your view better represents the will of the Palestinian people, and for this I thank you.

      Again, I am truly grateful that you have taken time out to explain yourself hear, and I am greatly encouraged by the dialogue we are able to have.

      So far I think we actually agree on most points, which is very refreshing.

      Here is my only quibble with you, but it is a major one:

      Second, any one could be invited to speak at a conference that includes all kinds of people with different perspectives. The fact that a person attends a conference that had a holocaust denier as a presenter does not make that person automatically a holocaust denier. I simply did not agree with all the presenters at the conference in Jakarta. All of them however, heard my witness about my faith in Jesus Christ. Have I stayed home, these people would not have heard my testimony. Let us not be quick to judge.

      No, but Alex, herein lies problem. If you were invited to a private meeting with these individuals, and you chose to share your testimony with them, that is fine. However, the problem is that by standing alongside them, what we see is you lending political credibility to a Holocaust denier.

      Not intentionally, but Christians will look to yourself and by extension your political allies to seek to further understand God’s truths.

      I’m pretty sure that in his seminar, Fred Tobin said that the only bad thing about Hitler was his moustache.

      Here is his presentation in full:
      http://www.adelaideinstitute.org/newsletters/n386.htm

      And you said nothing.

      Here is a picture of you at the airport with Fred Tobin:
      http://deraplangkahbiru.multiply.com/photos/photo/27/36

      You all seem friendly.

      Perhaps you did explain to him what was wrong with his talk, and why Hitler indeed was a terrible individual.

      Perhaps you did bravely challenge someone who sought to deny history in the most terrible way, I don’t know.

      Did you?

      Or did you stay silent?

      Joseph

  9. Pingback: Should Messianic Jews speak at Christian “anti-Zionist” conferences? « The Rosh Pina Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s