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Middle East Issues





Head of British Non-Profit Engages in Propaganda War Against Israel


For the past several years, the chief executive officer of a British non-profit has been running a propaganda war against the Jewish state. His name is Jeremy Moodey and the organization he leads is an interdenominational Christian charity called Embrace the Middle East, which was founded in 1854. Moodey, who in his previous careers worked as a banker, and before that, an official in England's diplomatic service, describes it as a “development” organization.

For the first few decades of its existence, the charity was called the Turkish Missions Aid Society. In 1893, it changed its name to the Bible Lands Missions Aid Society, a name it kept until 1962, when it adopted another name, Bible Lands Society. In 1996, this name was shortened to “BibleLands” and in 2012, the charity again changed its name to Embrace the Middle East.

Throughout all these name changes, the organization has established a laudable legacy of helping the poor and marginalized in various countries in the Middle East. The organization's current motto is “Tackling poverty and injustice in the Middle East.”

Embrace the Middle East has been particularly active in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Since the early 1900s, it has run the Helen Keller School in eastern Jerusalem and is now trying to turn the school over to local officials. It also supports the Arab Evangelical School in Hebron, which serves 300 young Palestinians between the ages of four and 12. The organization also provides help to refugees from the civil war in Syria and the fighting in Iraq.

This laudable work is marred by the anti-Zionist activism of its CEO, Jeremy Moodey. Moodey is a propagandist who makes no effort to disguise his contempt for Israel.

His contempt for Jewish sovereignty was revealed in 2012, when he came to the defense of Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer who had come under intense criticism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews for ugly attacks on Israel and its supporters during his visits to Iran. (In 2014, Sizer promised his bishop to stop commenting publicly on the Arab-Israeli conflict.)

During the controversy Moodey described Zionism, or the push for Jewish sovereignty and self-determination, as an “incoherent and racist theology.” (Moodey made this statement in a response to a blog entry posted at the Rosh Pina Project, an organization that had been paying close attention to the controversy surrounding Rev. Sizer's anti-Zionism.)

Moodey's ugly description of Zionism is just the tip of the iceberg. His regular commentaries in the UK-based website, Christian Today and his entries on the blog at Embrace the Middle East are filled with anti-Israel polemics. In Moodey's distorted narrative, Hamas is not really dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state and that Israel is singularly responsible for Palestinians suffering.

In sum, Moodey's writings about the Middle East promote an obsession with Israel's efforts to defend itself while downplaying the violence and hostility of its adversaries, most notably Hamas.

One of the most egregious examples of Moodey's ongoing efforts to demonize Israel came in November 2012 when he wrote a piece for Christian Today describing Omar Misharawi, an 18-month old Palestinian baby, as having “been murdered” by an Israeli air strike.

As it turns out, Misharawi was probably killed by a Hamas rocket (directed at Israeli civilians) that fell short during the 2012 fighting. It took three years, but eventually, Moodey retracted his defamatory accusation. Interestingly enough, in his own “clarificatory update” in which he retracted the accusation, Moodey admitted that Israel had been targeting a “militant” living in the same building as Misharawi, undercutting his original assertion that the boy was “murdered.”

Even if Misharawi had been killed by shrapnel from an Israeli missile, which the evidence indicates he was not, his death, tragic as it was, would not have qualified as murder because it was not an intended on the part of the Israelis. By admitting that there was no intentionality involved, Moodey implicitly admitted that his charge of murder was simply defamatory.

Moodey's efforts to controversialize Israeli self-defense is also evident in a subsequent article published in Christian Today in January 2015. In this article, Moodey relayed, without challenge, the Palestinian charge that Israel targeted Palestinian civilians in its fight with Hamas. He does this by invoking Article 8 of the Rome Statute (which established the International Criminal Court), which declares that intentionally targeting civilians not involved in the fighting constitutes a war crime.

Here, as in his other writings, Moodey ignores Israeli efforts to avoid civilian causalities and Hamas' efforts to put Palestinians in harm's way. Israel drops leaflets and sends text messages to warn of impending attack, depriving itself of the element of surprise. Hamas on the other hand, launches missiles at civilians in Israel from civilian neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip.

Moodey's tendency to ignore all this is evident in another article published in Christian Today in July 2015. Accompanying the article is a photo of a young Palestinian boy standing in front of the ruins of the Al-Wafa Hospital in the Gaza Strip. In the piece, Moodey refers to the photo (which he took) and writes that “the social and physical infrastructure of the territory was shattered.”

Moodey fails to report that during the fighting that took place in 2014, Hamas used the hospital as a command center and had fired rockets at Israeli civilians from nearby the facility. This constitutes a war crime and helps explain why the hospital was destroyed, but Moodey makes no mention of it. It's a material omission that serves to demonize Israel's use of force.

In addition to ignoring Hamas' war crimes, Moodey downplays its anti-Semitic hostility toward Israel. In Moodey's world view, it is not Hamas' enmity toward Israel that is the problem, but Israel's incitement against it. In a piece published in Christian Today in August 2014, Moodey writes “Israel insists that Hamas is a jihadist organization that wants to destroy Israel and murder every single Jew in the Holy Land and turn the whole region into an Islamic caliphate.” This “has only a passing resemblance to the truth,” Moodey reports, adding that “the main stated objective of Hamas is to tend Israel's 47-year occupation of Palestinian land, and it has even hinted at a willingness to recognize Israel within its pre-1967 borders.” Elsewhere in the same article he states that Hamas' main concern is “to end the occupation since 1967 of Palestinian territory.”

Moodey's claim that Hamas' “main stated objective is to end Israel's 47-year occupation of Palestinian land,” runs counter to a quote from Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan Al Bana included in the preamble to the Hamas Covenant issued in 1988: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” The same document also states that Israel is located on land given to Muslims by God until the day of judgment and that no government has the right to accept Israel's right to exist as a result. Any action that cedes Muslim conquered land to non-Muslims is “null and void” the document states.

If Hamas' covenant is too old for Moodey, there are numerous comments from Hamas leaders that communicate the organization's desire for Israel's destruction. For example, Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar stated on June 15, 2010 “Our plan for this stage is to liberate any inch of Palestinian land, and to establish a state on it. Our ultimate plan is [to have] Palestine in its entirety. I say this loud and clear so that nobody will accuse me of employing political tactics. We will not recognize the Israeli enemy.”

In light of this evidence it is simply dishonest for Moodey to report that the organization is only interested in recapturing land the Arabs lost in the 1967 War. The organization is dedicated to eliminating the Jewish state. The goal is in Hamas' founding document and is periodically repeated by Hamas leaders.

And as far as Hamas wanting to establish a caliphate, it's not an unreasonable concern. Hamas's founding document laments the destruction of the Caliphate in the early 20th century and proclaims that Hamas is “fighting against the false, defeating it and vanquishing it so that justice could prevail, homelands be retrieved and from its mosques would the voice of the mu'azen emerge declaring the establishment of the state of Islam, so that people and things would return each to their right places and Allah is our helper.” (Emphasis added.)
 
Given that the Hamas covenant laments the loss of the caliphate and explicitly calls for the “establishment of the state of Islam,” how can Moodey suggest that Hamas is not interested in establishing a caliphate? That's what the document says. What evidence does Moodey have to refute it?

Rooted in Christian Anti-Judaism?

Moodey's enmity toward the modern state of Israel and his tendency to downplay threats to Jewish sovereignty appears to be rooted in age-old Christian anti-Judaism. In short, like many Christians Moodey has a problem with the resilience of the Jewish people and Judaism as a faith.

It's a common affliction on the part of Christians and has been around for centuries. The survival of the Jews as a people and Judaism as a faith simply gets into the craws of some Christians. In his 1975 text, The Crucifixion of the Jews: The Failure of Christians to Understand the Jewish Experience, Frank Littell reports the problem as follows: “If [a Jew] remains loyal to his fathers and fathers' fathers, if he stubbornly maintains in some fashion—however loosely!—his relationship to the Jewish people, he is resented.”

Moodey has this resentment, and he has it bad. He is particularly offended by the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Moodey expressed this contempt in a 45-minute presentation about what the Bible says about Israel that he gave at his church in England in 2012. In this presentation, available on Youtube.com, Moodey uses Christian Zionism as a straw-man to justify his attacks on Jews as a disobedient and reprobate people because they do not accept Jesus and because the Jewish state, in his judgment, fails to follow the ethical demands that come with living in the land of Israel as enunciated in the Torah.

In Moodey's view, Jews who do not accept Jesus have no role to play in God's plan for humanity; the only Jews who do have any role to play in this drama are those who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah. There may be some vestigial affection for Jews who do not believe in Jesus, but this does not include an affirmation in Jewish territoriality. In sum, Jews who do not accept Jesus and insist on living out their faith and maintaining a connection to the land of Israel are worthy of particular scrutiny and contempt.

To buttress this point, he quotes a German theologian, Manfred Kohl, who spoke at the 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference: “To Jump from God's encounter with Abraham in Genesis 12 to the modern state of Israel is to nullify totally the intervention of Jesus Christ in the world.” Implicit in Kohl and Moodey's theology is the notion that the continued existence of the Jewish people and their state is an affront to God. No other people group in the modern world is subjected to such polemics.

At one point during his presentation, Moodey takes issue with Rev. John Hagee, leader of Christians United for Israel for Hagee's refusal to condemn the Jews for rejecting Jesus as the messiah. Recounting a CUFI event that had recently taken place in Jerusalem, Moodey reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed up late and when he did finally show up, Hagee allegedly stated, “At last the Messiah is here.” Moodey continues:

That sounds pretty shocking but actually, John Hagee doesn't believe that the Jews should be in any way condemned for rejecting the Messiah because he argues that since Jesus never declared himself to be the Messiah during his lifetime you cannot blame the Jews for not accepting him.

Here, Moodey insists on the Christian right to condemn the Jews for rejecting Jesus, a “right” that Christians have been exercising for centuries, with catastrophic consequences. In Moodey's world view, Jewish self-definition, which by definition, includes a rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, is an unforgivable insult to his Christian faith. Again, Moodey is not alone in feeling this insult. In 1973, a group of Christian theologians issued a statement to their fellow Christians calling on them to rethink their attitudes regarding Jews and Judaism in light of the Holocaust. In their statement they lamented that “many Christians have assumed that the validity of Judaism ended with the beginning of Christianity, the rejection of Jesus as Messiah marking the dissolution of the covenant.”

This describes Moodey's attitude nearly perfectly, who has concluded that the promises (but not the curses) directed Jews in the Hebrew Scriptures are no longer in force because of Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.

Moodey's resentment over the Jewish rejection of Jesus is evident in his description of the banquet parable described in Matthew 22 as a “metaphor for the hard-heartedness of the Jews who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah.”

To further justify his theological polemic against the modern state of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants, Moodey quotes Avraham Burg, an Israeli Jew who has condemned Israeli policies and who has warned his fellow Israelis that according to the Torah, the land will vomit them out if they do not behave ethically. Using a shop-warn technique of anti-Judaism, Moodey appropriates this intra-Jewish polemic to further his Christian defamation of Israel:
Most Jews continue to reject Yeshua as they call him or Jesus, the Messiah. And the Jewish state, the State of Israel, has been complicit in oppressing the rights of the aliens in their midst, even if you believe they’re aliens, in fact it was their land. And they’ve denied them the rights to their land for over 60 years. And this despite the injunctions in the Torah, look at Exodus, look at Deuteronomy, against mistreating the aliens. In the face of such Torah disobedience, there is a risk as Avraham Burg, the former speaker of the Israeli Knesset notes that Leviticus 18 will come true again and the Jews will be vomited out of the land.
Here, Moodey reveals a fundamental misunderstanding. Burg, who as a Jew, is a target of antisemitic hostility in ways that Moodey is not, has a right to condemn his fellow Israelis in ways that Moodey simply does not.
 
Franklin Littell writes that John the Baptist and Paul of Tarsus, “who would have perished in a Death Camp, had the right to speak harshly of their fellow Jews. […] An American gentile Christian, whose government was silently complicit in the Holocaust and whose cobelievers (whether Protestant, Orthodox, or Roman Catholic) shared in the operation of the camps, has no ground on which to stand validly to criticize 'the Jews.' "
 
The same is true for Moodey, a British Christian. For him to invoke Burg in his defamation of the Jewish state is a demonstration of bad faith, and an egregious one at that.

To make matters worse, Moodey's summary judgment of Israel fails to take into account a number of factors such as Israel's efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the past few decades, the failure of Palestinians to negotiate in good faith, and the disastrous consequences of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. It also fails to take into account ongoing anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian society.

Israel is not perfect. But by way of comparison, Israel treats its enemies, minorities and dissidents with greater humanity than any other country or political movement in the Middle East. Israel has a vibrant civil society and human rights community (whose activists show more concern for Palestinian welfare than Palestinian leaders do). Israel maintains these institutions despite having been under attack almost continuously since its founding in 1948. This is due largely to Israel's commitment to Jewish principles that Moodey incessantly uses to indict Israel.

Moodey's merciless failure to acknowledge Israel's efforts to achieve peace, coupled with his unwillingness to confront the misdeeds of his adversaries is indicative of more than a troubling double-standard. His polemics suggest that he views Israel's enemies, who are intent on destroying Israel, as an instrument of God's wrath against the Christ-denying Jews of Israel and therefore unworthy of condemnation.
 
Alleged obduracy on the part of Jews has been used to justify violence and hostility toward the Jewish people for centuries and sadly such arguments survive even today when we have the leader of a Christian charity in enlightened Britain no less, making similar arguments that give theological aid and comfort to enemies of the Jewish state in the Middle East.

Such are the wages of Christian triumphalism and anti-Judaism.


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