Sami Awad, Executive Director of Holy Land Trust and filmmaker Porter Speakman, Jr. in Bethlehem in 2014.
The November 18th murder of five people at Kehilat Yaakov Synagogue in Jerusalem has shocked the world. Two Palestinian men turned a house of prayer into a killing zone.
One group that has remained remarkably silent about the massacre is Christian leaders in Bethlehem, where the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference takes place every even-numbered year under the auspices of Bethlehem Bible College (BethBC).
Christian leaders associated with CATC and BethBC have offered nary a word of criticism of the attack, nor have they condemned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the inflammatory remarks he has made prior to the attack. He has referred to Jews who want to visit the Temple Mount as "a herd of cattle," accused them as "contaminating" the Al Aksa Mosque and declared they must be prevented from entering the site "by any means."
With their silence, these Christians have demonstrated once again that they are not really the peacemakers they claim to be, but are merely propagandists who use the language of peace to condemn Israel and encourage their allies in the West to gloss over the sins of the Palestinians.
They are part of the machinery of cognitive warfare that has been built piece-by-piece, year-by-year over the past several decades to destroy the reputation of the Jewish state and undermine its ability to defend itself both physically and ideologically.
When Westerners speak of Palestinian "civil society," what they are referring to without meaning to is this apparatus of cognitive warfare. Palestinian intellectuals, politicians, journalists and religious leaders (including Christians), have helped keep Palestinians on a war-footing with the Jewish state for the past several decades. All too often, they speak in terms that justify Palestinian violence against Israelis.
For example, at the 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference, one of the speakers was Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh, a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine the organization which, according to The New York Times, took credit for the November 18 attack. It was also responsible for the murder of Leon Klinghoffer.
During his talk, Batarseh said Israel was crucifying the Palestinians, spoke of Bethlehem being a giant prison and said that Jesus Christ was, in the form of the Palestinian people, imprisoned by the security barrier.
Statements like these are clearly intended to incite Christian animosity toward the Jewish state. (Apparently, you can take the mayor out of the PFLP, but you can't take the PFLP out of the mayor.)
The PFLP, which was founded by a Palestinian Christian (and terrorist) by the name of George Habash, enjoys a vaunted place in the imagination of Christians in Bethlehem. In September 2007, the Holy Land Trust, founded and led by Sami Awad, held a protest in honor of Abu Ali Mustafa, who served as secretary General of the PFLP prior to his death in 2006. Judging from this 2000 interview, Mustafa was clearly a supporter of violence against Israel, even as other Palestinian organizations were negotiating with Israel.
Why did Sami Awad, a so-called peacemaker who is heavily involved with the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference, allow his organization, Holy Land Trust, to commemorate the death of an avowed terrorist who in 2000 was calling for violence against Israel when other Palestinian factions were negotiating with Israel? Is this an appropriate action for a so-called peacemaking organization to be doing?
This question takes on increased urgency when we learn that Awad has called Khader Ahdnan, a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a national hero.
Unfortunately, the people who help broadcast the Palestinian Christian narrative in the United States and Europe are reluctant to raise these issues. In his 2012 movie, With God on Our Side, filmmaker Porter Speakman presented Palestinian Christians as unalloyed forces for peace in the Holy Land.
For example, he portrayed Saleem Munayeer, who at one time bragged of his connections to PFLP founder George Habash, as someone who can point a way to peace between Jew and Arab. This might alarm people who are knowledgeable about Habash's life story.
The sad reality is this: Christians in Palestinian society are not the unalloyed force for good they are portrayed as by their allies in the West.
Some Christians, like George Habash, engage in acts of violence against Israel.
Others, like Victor Batarseh, justify it with falsehoods.
And others, like Sami Awad and those associated with the Bethlehem Bible College's Christ at the Checkpoint movement, condemn Israel every chance they get, but keep their mouths shut when their countrymen do unspeakable things.
If Palestinian Christians cannot speak the truth about their own society at a time such as this, there is every reason to question their testimony about the Jewish state.