Beliefnet
Is it the End of the World?

Christians, especially conservative ones, often go out of their way to speak well of people who loathe them. I do think that sometimes this is done out of a conscious desire to appear likable and avoid being tagged as a boorish danger to the civilized world.

So it is that many Christians have reacted to news of the death of Christopher Hitchens with deference. I did, asking that Christians not gloat over his death. Hitchens, the journalist, was a fierce opponent of religion, particularly Christianity.

In 2007, when Jerry Falwell died, Hitchens made sure his audience understood him clearly, in an interview with Anderson Cooper. Calling Falwell an “ugly little charlatan,” among other things, he also speculated that in duping believers with an Elmer Gantry-like phoniness, Falwell went about “giggling and sniggering” as he conned people out of their hard-earned money.

Hitchens’ recent bestseller, god is Not Great, caused a firestorm of controversy, of course, which sold books. Although he moved away from many of the leftist ideologies he once embraced, Hitchens remained militantly anti-religion.

I was saddened to see Jonathan Falwell’s Twitter message about Hitchens’ death. While he did not characterize the dead writer the way his father had been savaged after his death, he still felt led to mention at the beginning that Hitchens had really trashed his father. Falwell the Younger then went on to say he’s praying for the Hitchens family.

In the end, all of us leave this world in a solo flight. Some are ghastly, some appear peaceful. Hitchens once said in a lecture that he didn’t believe the Bible’s claims about our ultimate destiny are true. I do believe in these instances, the weaknesses of his arguments were most pronounced (he simply, dismissively, “didn’t believe it”).

I am simply sad that he is gone. A great thinker, right in so many areas (yes, I know about his anti-Israel stances), he has passed from the only life he knew.

At least, no one I know is giggling and sniggering.

(More tomorrow on Christopher Hitchens and his views of eschatology, or, Bible prophecy)

The current surging Republican candidate for president, Newt Gingrich, generated a firestorm of criticism today when he asserted in an interview that the Palestinians are “invented.” In answering a question about Zionism, he said:

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire.”

This is factually true. Yet it has caused the Palestinians and their supporters around the world to bash Gingrich. In particular—not surprisingly—Palestinian “negotiators” Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi decried the former Speaker’s remarks.

Ashrawi trotted-out the usual diatribe against anyone calling Palestinian history into question: “This is certainly an invitation to further conflict rather than any contribution to peace.”

The Israel/Palestinian issue has become one of the chief flashpoints for the entire global community (hard to explain apart from biblical prophecies indicating just such a scenario, but that’s a separate subject). Each “side” has its own narrative, but Israel’s tends to be buttressed by facts.

The Palestinians tend to rely on emotional stories (“the IDF marched my family at gunpoint from their homes”), obfuscation, and outright denial of historical reality, among other things. Their long media campaign against Israel is enhanced by the fact that huge numbers of people hate Jews.

What Gingrich said is true. Why then the extreme reaction from the Palestinians and their supporters?

Because anyone who departs from the Palestinian narrative must be demonized and marginalized.

When I heard about the flap over Gingrich’s remarks, I thought about the many times that the Palestinians have gotten a pass over outrageous claims against the Jews and their history.

In the frenzied final months of Bill Clinton’s time in the Oval Office, the gifted communicator raced the clock to bring a final peace solution to the Arabs and Israelis. Incredibly—even Clinton was incredulous—PLO chieftain Yasser Arafat claimed the two Jewish temples of antiquity never stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Erekat echoed this outrageous claim, as this excerpt from a recent article in The American Interest shows:

“Most Israelis were first exposed to the Palestinian denial of history in July 2000. According to U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross, when Jerusalem was discussed during the second Camp David summit, Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat asserted that ‘the Temple never existed in Jerusalem, but rather in Nablus.’ Another senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, asserted, the ‘Jerusalem Temple is a Jewish invention.’ President Bill Clinton was astonished: ‘Not only do all of the world’s Jews believe that the Temple was located on the Temple Mount, but most Christians believe it, too.’”

The Arab story of a distinct Palestinian Arab people springs from an agenda to marginalize Israel. And they get away with it. It was after Camp David of 2000 that the Palestinians began the attempt to literally wipe away Jewish history, starting with the Temple Mount. Truckloads of dirt and artifact-filled debris were hauled away from the Mount and unceremoniously dumped. Two mosques were constructed underneath.

New mosque construction that destroyed part of the Temple Mount

I’ve been there and seen the desecration of perhaps the world’s most famous archaeological site. Newly cut paving stones, replacing the ancient ones there in biblical times, lead to underground mosques. Yet the Palestinians are allowed to get away with it; no one raises questions. However, Newt Gingrich (who knows history) makes a simple, factual statement, and he’s roundly denounced!

In the ‘90s, the official website for the Palestinian Authority cobbled together what I can only describe as a painfully thin “Palestinian history,” with the intention of convincing the world that there was once a nation of Palestine, with an indigenous population separate from the surrounding pan-Arab nation. Among the evidences displayed were pieces of Palestinian “currency,” and a few “Palestinian” dresses.

Upon close examination, the currency for “Palestine” was issued during the British Mandate, and contained characters in English, Arabic, and…Hebrew.

Oops. The currency was simply money created by the British for the region. It wasn’t currency backed by any sort of Palestinian authority, simply because there had never been one.

As for the dresses, they looked just like those sewn in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan…well, you get the picture.

After these discrepancies were pointed out, the PA took them off the website.

Newt Gingrich merely stated the fact that there has never been a distinct nation of Palestine. If there had been one, may we see the evidence?

In her 1994 autobiography, Hanan Ashrawi, a shrewd propagandist, goes to great lengths to maintain the view opposite the one Gingrich presented. In an account of an IDF raid on Birzeit University in Ramallah, Ashrawi used her gift for narrative to describe seeing through the smoke of teargas “phantoms” emerging “from the mist,” these being Palestinian students. They had decided—in the middle of an allegedly brutal attack—to break out in a “primeval dance of survival,” described by Ashrawi as “the dabke, our ancient dance/ritual.”

The dabke is certainly an ancient dance, but one practiced by the pan-Arab nation. It is not distinctly “Palestinian.”

In a 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper, Trouw, Zohair Mohsin said:

“It is only for tactical reasons that we carefully stress our Palestinian identity, for it is in the national interest of the Arabs to encourage a separate Palestinian identity to counter Zionism: the founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the ongoing battle against Israel.”

There is a diabolical dimension to this tension between Israel and the Arabs, because in the end, someone is in large measure not telling the truth.

Erekat and Ashrawi are held in high esteem by many, yet they support the Palestinian Authority, which can deny history and get away with it.

Why?

Gingrich states an historical fact and is demonized.

Why?

Whenever I visit Israel, I see things not as a tourist, but as an…observer. It helps one discover the story behind the story.

One afternoon, while visiting the Mount of Olives, I spent some time looking at the Seven Arches Hotel, which overlooks the slopes of the mountain, and the stark Jewish tombs in view of the Temple Mount opposite.

Jerusalem's Seven Arches Hotel

Originally the Intercontinental Hotel, and built in 1964 with help from Pan American Airlines, the Seven Arches was also the scene of the PLO’s first Palestine National Council, in May, 1964.

Like a resort frozen in the time of Sean Connery’s James Bond, the Seven—what’s that? When was the Palestine Liberation Organization founded, you ask? Why, I see that you are particularly observant and discerning.

The PLO was indeed founded in 1964, so when the terror group convened at the Seven Arches, its agenda was in full force three years before the 1967 Six Day War!

Well! That is an inconvenient truth that Israel’s many detractors either don’t know, or want to sweep under the rug. So what was the PLO really trying to liberate? All of Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—exactly what the Palestinians really want, right up to this very minute. (http://blog.beliefnet.com/isittheendoftheworld/2011/09/free-palestine.html)

Do you understand the significance of that? The Palestine…Liberation…Organization—dedicated to liberating Palestine from the Jews—came into being long before Israel allegedly destroyed Middle East peace by “occupying” Palestinian land. In 1964, the whole of Jerusalem’s Old City was in Arab hands, as was the West Bank.

All this compelling history came back to me when I watched the film “Little Town of Bethlehem” recently. A group called “Global Voices for Nonviolence” partnered with EGM Films, the producer of the film, and Beliefnet, to screen “Little Town of Bethlehem” online and host a Washington D.C. conference.

I watched the film, twice. I was stunned by the bias/propaganda masquerading as a non-partisan film. Three men are interviewed by director Jim Hanon: Sami Awad, from Bethlehem and executive director of the Holy Land Trust; Ahmad Al’Azzeh, a Muslim; and Israeli pacifist Yonatan Shapira. Each man presents the Palestinian narrative: Israel oppresses the Palestinians.

One of the themes of the film is the odious, clumsy, and offensive allusion to the Holocaust. In other words, because the Jews were oppressed by the Nazis, well, unfortunately, they are now taking it out on the Arabs.

Any real Israeli context is missing from the film. Because EGM Films is financed by Hobby Lobby’s Mart Green, the production values for “Little Town of Bethlehem” are outstanding. Add to this mix the fact that the Palestinian narrative is the backbone of the film, and you have a recipe for a hit-piece on the state of Israel.

I traveled to Oklahoma City to interview Hanon and tour the EGM offices. Everyone was exceptionally nice, and Hanon especially emphasized his belief in non-violent models for conflict resolution. This is commendable.

What isn’t commendable is the production of such a one-sided film. You see, to feature a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew appears to be the very definition of balance. Yet I am reminded of what the late journalist David Bar Illan once said, and I’m paraphrasing: media will host programs about the Middle East conflict and in the interests of “balance,” interview an Arab who hates Israel, and a Jew who hates Israel. So you get to hear from “both sides,” Arabs and Jews.

And to hear the team at “Little Town of Bethlehem” tell it, Israel is the reason for the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. But have they really not noticed a spike in Christians fleeing since Yasser Arafat’s PLO was handed the keys to power in the territories in the early ‘90s? We are back to the Seven Arches Hotel story.

I’ve talked with Palestinians there, too. Most cannot reveal their names for fear of backlash from their own people, who have a vested interest in continuing to demonize Israel.

Because young people in America today (I mean high school-age to 30-ish) respond emotionally to story, to narrative, “Little Town of Bethlehem” will no doubt have an impact that will be detrimental to Israel. Why? Because facts, the Jewish state’s greatest ally (recall the Seven Arches story), are pushed to the side. Instead, we hear about the brutal “Goliath” oppressing the weak “David.”

Some people are stunned to learn that Israel did not possess the West Bank in 1964, the year the Palestine Liberation Organization was formed ostensibly to “recover” the West Bank! Does that mean anything to you?

The same type of skewed story is being told today: powerful Israel is holding the Middle East hostage. Who knew that the little town of Bethlehem would wind up being a new front in that old war?

My fascination with the Middle East leads me to extraordinary friendships. One such friendship—a new one—is with the folks at “Untold News” (www.untoldnews.org).

Too often (okay, to be more precise: constantly), we hear only gloomy, depressing news from this troubled region. The Untold News staff is committed to making people aware of another story: good things are coming out of Israel.

Whether you are on the left or the right, I think we can all agree that Israel is often portrayed as an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. I believe that is an accurate assessment.

Yet very few people are aware just how much good Israel does. Quite frankly, reporting that rarely supports certain journalistic agendas. Well, Untold News is changing that. For example:

Arab man reports on his liver transplant in Israeli hospital

This type of story serves to highlight two things: Israel is not only a compassionate nation, but the Israelis use their considerable technology…for good.

I encourage you to check out the Untold News website. I know I will. Often.