Georgetown University neglects the fact that a 70-year old Israel has the only growing Christian population in a Middle East that has witnessed a centuries-long decline of Christianity in its birthplace under Islamic sharia oppression. This emerged from a filmed September 12 panel before about 90 listeners that pilloried Israel and praised Islam, co-hosted by Georgetown's Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU).
ACMCU's director, Professor Jonathan Brown, introduced the event on Palestinian Christians to a like-minded audience, including his fellow ACMCU academic Islam apologists John Esposito, Tamara Sonn, and John Voll. They joined leading Washington, DC-area Israel-haters including Tom Getman, Steve France, and Philip Farah, as well as Georgetown University's Muslim chaplain, Yahya Hendi. Brown noted that one of the panelists, Dr. Munib A. Younan, had come to Georgetown to receive ACMCU's "Building Bridges Award" for "Muslims and Christians who are accomplished in the field of building bridges" of "Muslim-Christian understanding." Past recipients include the disgraced Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Rather than "building bridges," Younan, Bishop Emeritus of the Evangelical Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, appeared more accomplished in historical fiction. He claimed that "Arab Christians have been in the Middle East since the Pentecost," a formulation that obscures that the first followers of the Jew Jesus were also Jews, who then spread the Gospel of his messianic claims to non-Jews. The seventh-century Arab-Islamic conquests of the Middle East and North Africa then initiated a process of Arabization for the region's largely Christian populations.
Younan remained firmly convinced of the Arab nationalism that Arab Christians historically pioneered in a failed attempt to efface Christian-Muslim sectarian divides. "We are Christians who have always considered ourselves to be an integral part of our societies in the Middle East," he stated, not sharia's subjugated non-Muslim dhimmis. By contrast, an Iraqi Catholic archbishop had described in February at Georgetown a 1,400-year old Islamic "slow-motion genocide" of Middle East Christians.
Yet Younan denied that Middle East Christians "need to be rescued from our Muslim neighbors." Contrary to many Christians worldwide, "Arab Christians strongly reject this paternalistic, neo-colonial approach." Despite documented repression of Christians, he dubiously declared that "maybe Jordan is the best country for Christians in the Middle East." "Christians are also flourishing in Lebanon," he added, where only the local Christian population's numeric strength has enabled Christians to survive Lebanon's longstanding sectarian strife.
Younan conceded the horrible plight of Christians in places such as Iraq and Syria, but claimed that in the Holy Land "my people has not been affected by the bloodshed and persecution now facing many members of the churches in the Middle East." His fellow panelist, Todd Deatherage, Executive Director and co-founder of the George Soros-funded Telos Group, concurred. "The Christian and Muslim communities that make up Palestinian society live to a very large degree with mutual respect and in friendship," he stated.
Many Palestinian Christians who live under the Palestinian Authority's Basic Law with its proclamations of Islamic faith and sharia supremacy would beg to differ. However, these Christians often fear to reveal their ongoing oppression, even as Bethlehem's former Christian majority has shrunk to 15 percent of the population through Christian emigration and Muslim immigration. Not surprisingly, Bethlehem's Christian mayor campaigned before Israel's transfer of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1995 for Israel to include Bethlehem once again in greater Jerusalem.
Deatherage's claims are particularly suspect given the facts behind Telos' "pro-Israeli…pro-Palestinian…pro-peace" message. As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has extensively documented, Telos promotes a "one-sided narrative that portrays Palestinians as victims and Israelis as oppressors." Telos' "trite observations" about conflict's human toll target primarily naïve American evangelical would-be Middle East peacemakers, while exposing Telos event participants to anti-Semitic replacement theology.
More than just a "pro-peace…pro-Israel" slogan unites Telos and J Street, another suspect Soros-funded, anti-Israeli group. One Telos film, Apolis, wrongfully equates Jewish Holocaust history with real or imagined Palestinian grievances. Meanwhile, Deatherage in the video What is Telos, and the Telos website respectively, mischaracterize Israel's confrontation with jihad as a conflict between "two national groups" that "is fueled by frustrated needs" of socioeconomic nature.
Deatherage's Telos cofounder, the Christian Palestinian-American Gregory Khalil, has been featured as a J Street events speaker. In the What is Telos video, he promotes the Palestinian "refugee" farce by stating that "most Palestinians are still refugees more than 60 years later" after Israel's 1948 independence war. He has also stated that Israel after its 2005 withdrawal still occupies the Gaza Strip.
Panelist Deatherage accordingly presented a benign image of Palestinians, claiming that Palestinian Christians "don't teach their children to hate Jews." His assertion left unexamined the rampart, officially promoted antisemitism of majority-Muslim Palestinians ruled by the PA and Hamas jihadists. Younan also ludicrously asserted that "we Palestinians are never anti-Semitic," and that any future Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution will bring "excellent relations with the Israelis."
For Deatherage, the real threat to Middle East peace came from Israel and its supporters, as he falsely claimed that the Holy Land's "Christian presence is diminishing, largely due to the pressures of the conflict" with Israel. Younan similarly condemned Christian Zionists as "very dangerous for the world" and promoters of Israeli "apartheid." Like the Telos website, Deatherage promoted simplistic stereotypes of Christian Zionists as religious fanatics with "weaponized theologies" and "unqualified support of Israel," while condemning "Islamophobia." Meanwhile, Younan complained that support for "human rights" groups such as the anti-Semitic Kairos Palestine movement, whose founding document he had previously helped draft, means "you are then immediately defamed."
Deatherage mentioned his past help to his fellow panelist, Arab American Institute President James Zogby, in preparing a 2016 report that he had presented to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). During his "rather harrowing experience" as a USCIRF commissioner, he had presented this report together with the anti-Israeli Father Fouad Twal, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. USCIRF had dismissed this anti-Israeli screed, which concludes that "religious freedom violations are, in fact, structural elements of the Israeli ethnocracy" that "is increasingly recognized as a system of apartheid."
Zogby believed that this experience manifested how, "where Israel is concerned among policymakers, there can be no rational discussion" and how some American Christians "turn a blind eye to their co-religionists in Palestine." American policymakers are often "heavily-influenced either by hardline pro-Israel groups, rightwing Christian groups, or hardline Christian exile organizations" and "guided by an anti-Muslim animus." By contrast, he drew hope from the British Labour Party's anti-Semitic, radical development that showed "growing recognition" of Israel's "apartheid."
Zogby's fellow panelist, Georgetown University professor and Catholic priest Drew Christiansen, had also helped present the report to USCIRF, befitting his longstanding anti-Israel animus. "Israel today is not a covenantal state, but instead the projection of human will," he asserted, as supposedly "countless acts of injustice" against Palestinians befitting his distorted understanding of Zionist revisionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky. This classical liberal had always emphasized the rights of Arabs in, and their integration into, a Jewish state, including in his 1923 "Iron Wall" essay that stressed the necessity of Jewish military power in an unavoidable military conflict with Arabs.
Christiansen's biases thus turned his facially true conclusion, that human rights standards must inform "Catholic affectation for the Jewish people," into a practical rejection of the Catholic Church's recent embrace of Zionism. Such "Catholic minimalist Zionism" for him
While increasingly Middle East Christians recognize Israel as an isolated safe space for themselves and others, Christiansen demonstrates that Georgetown still can only find Christians who condemn Israel and/or praise Islam. Per Younan, they offer tired clichés like the "core problem of the whole Middle East is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict" or pieties about an as-yet unrealized "constitution that protects all persons equally" amidst a Muslim-majority population. The hallowed halls of Georgetown's ivory terror remain far removed from the Middle East's often hellish reality.
twists Catholic teaching to argue that the promise given the Jewish people in antiquity provides warrant to ignore costly injustices committed by Zionists against the Palestinian people from the late nineteenth century through the early twenty-first century.