Another Deception Discovered in “‘Til Kingdom Come”

It’s not as if viewers need any more evidence that “‘Til Kingdom Come,” the faux documentary produced by filmmakers Maya Zinshtein and Abraham (Abie) Troen, was a dishonest hit job against Israel’s Evangelical supporters in the United States.

The film included a fake quote attributed to former U.S. President Donald Trump and deployed another out-of-context quote to make former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo look like he was intent on starting Armageddon in the Middle East.

But the quote in question, which spoke about the “rapture,” was made in 2015 when Pompeo was a U.S. Representative from Kansas and had nothing to do with the Middle East but was related to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex marriage

The film also portrayed Israel’s Evangelical supporters in the U.S. as promoting a showdown between Israel and the rest of the countries in the Middle East, even though the producers knew that this community helped lay the groundwork for normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries (AKA “The Abraham Accords.”)

By themselves, these falsehoods and omissions demonstrated that “‘Til Kingdom Come” was a dishonest hit job designed to frighten American Jews who watched the film at online film festivals in late 2020 and early 2021 into thinking that American Evangelicals were intent on starting a global war with Muslims in the Middle East, with Jews and Israel as their proxies.

But there is yet another example of profound dishonesty in the film: it portrayed Christian Zionists as waging a heartless and pointless war on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as part of an effort to deprive the Palestinians of the humanitarian aid they need to survive and, in turn, creating a violence-inducing humanitarian crisis in the disputed territories.

To make matters worse, the way Zinshtein and Troen told the story, Christian Zionists pursued this policy over the objections of Israeli security officials.

“I can tell you that the security community of Israel were extremely against this move because the security community of the State of Israel understands what it means if we will have a humanitarian crisis on our borders,” Zinshtein said in a post-screening webinar organized by the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.

What Zinshtein omitted from the film, however, was that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the White House to cut aid to UNRWA in 2018.

The film also omitted some crucial facts as to why aid to UNRWA is even an issue. Schools run by the organization have been used to indoctrinate children to hate Israel and Jews, and the buildings themselves have been used to store weapons employed in terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

Manipulated Speech from CUFI

David Brog, founding director of Christians United for Israel. (Wikipedia photo.)

But that’s not the worst of it. In addition to these material omissions, Zinshtein and Troen manhandled words that came out of the mouth of David Brog, the founding executive director for Christians United for Israel, in a manner similar to what they did to the words that came out of the mouth of former U.S. President Trump.

In addition to omitting crucial aspects of Brog’s 2018 speech to CUFI from their film, the filmmakers also cobbled together statements made at disparate points in his speech to portray Evangelicals as attempting to stop aid to the Palestinians.

And in one instance, they changed a reference to UNRWA to “Palestinian refugees.” This is a crucial change of meaning that will be elucidated below.

Then, at some point over the past few months, probably after the controversy surrounding the quote from a White House Press Conference, Zinsthein and Troen restored the audio to include what Brog actually said. (Again, more about this below.)

In sum, Zinshtein and Troen grievously distorted CUFI policy commitments. Instead of cutting off funds to the Palestinian people altogether, CUFI wanted the money previously given to UNRWA to be distributed to needy Palestinians through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In sum, the story told by Zinshtein and Troen about CUFI’s UNRWA policy was false, and intentionally so.

Here is a scene-by-scene summary of the false story Zinshtein and Troen tell about CUFI and UNRWA followed by a brief description of what they left out (and in one instance, altered).

Scene One – CUFI 2018 Conference

To set up their alarmist scenario, Zinshtein and Troen showed a clip of a speech made by CUFI’s founding executive director David Brog at the organization’s national conference in Washington, D.C. in July 2018.

In the first version released to the American public, watched by CAMERA staffers in March 2021, Brog is quoted as saying:

CUFI is going to go to the Hill this year and lead the way on the issue of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Our point is not that we think the Palestinians are getting too much money, although they probably are.
We think Congress should express support for limiting our contributions to Palestinian refugees. We have a friendly administration, a friendly House of Representatives, a friendly United States Senate.
Are we tired of winning? Let’s win some more!

In a subsequent version of the film, seen by this writer on June 14, 2021, the following statement is heard: “We think Congress should express support for limiting our contributions to UNRWA.”

In other words, the phrase, “limiting our contributions to Palestinian refugees” was changed to “limiting our contributions to UNRWA.” (This is a crucial difference, which will be described below.)

After reviewing the video of Brog’s 2018 provided by CUFI, CAMERA can inform its viewers that the actual statement that came out of Brog’s mouth is as follows:

“Congress should express support for limiting our contributions to UNRWA to the amount necessary to provide aid to those Palestinians who meet the standard definition of refugees.”

The words “We think,” which were likely inserted to provide logical continuity between the first and second paragraphs quoted above, came from somewhere else in Brog’s speech.

In addition to these changes, it should also be noted upfront that this section is broadcast to the viewer as if it is one fluid statement from the mouth of David Brog, when in fact, it is a series of quotes from different parts of his speech, cobbled together.

Brog said the first statement quoted above at about 12 minutes and 30 seconds into his speech, the second statement at about 19 minutes into his speech, and the last sentence at about 46 seconds into his speech. Deploying Brog’s words in such a disjointed and out-of-order manner indicates that Zinsthein and Troen are not playing it straight with the facts.

After Brog is shown speaking, the video then cuts to a woman blowing a shofar on the streets of Washington, D.C. and then to a group of CUFI activists getting onto a bus, presumably to speak with Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill about UNRWA. Text on the screen explains what is happening: “5000 CUFI members are sent to Capitol Hill to lobby against American aid to UNRWA – the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees.”

Scene Two – “I’m Doing This Anyway”

As individual CUFI members get on the bus, the voice of Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), is heard to say:

UNRWA has been under attack for years. And with CUFI you have an army of people pushing that agenda. In the West Bank and Gaza, UNRWA plays a critical role. It provides education, food, water, housing. The security community has been warning people this could be extremely destabilizing. But there is a political moment here that is being driven by people who say, “Don’t bother me with your security problems because I’m doing this anyway.” (Emphasis added.)

As Friedman speaks about the “critical role” UNRWA plays in providing food, water, and housing to Palestinians it serves, the video cuts to a ramshackle apartment building in the Gaza Strip. Off to the left side of the screen, in the front of the building, is a faded flag, which upon close inspection, reveals itself to be a Hamas flag that has been exposed to the elements for several years. Without meaning to, the film gives viewers a clue as to why UNRWA has so many critics — the bureaucracy has become a Hamas stronghold that the terrorist organization uses to store its weapons, promote its agenda, and obtain income for its members.

But the film makes no reference to this reality. In the story told by Zinshtein and Troen, CUFI activists and leaders are fundamentally indifferent to Israel’s security concerns. This is in keeping with the filmmakers’ argument that Israeli Jews are merely characters in Evangelical end-time scenarios.

Scene Three – “So Why Has He Done It?”

The third and final scene in Zinshtein and Troen’s vignette about CUFI heartless attack on Palestinians who rely on UNRWA funds takes place in August 2018. This scene includes snippets of two unseen reporters speaking breathlessly about the U.S. decision to refrain from sending additional funds to the agency after having sent $60 million to UNRWA in January, 2018.

First reporter: “The United States is officially cutting hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the UN agency in terms of helping Palestinian refugees.”

Second reporter: “Now, Donald Trump’s decision to hold back aid for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians has angered many in the Middle East and at the United Nations claiming the move will have devastating consequences. So why has he done it?” (Emphasis added.)

That question “Why has he done it?” was left hanging as if the decision had been made for unexplained and possibly malign reasons.

U.S. State Department Information

Interestingly enough, the U.S. State Department, issued a statement answering that very question. It reads in part:

The Administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA. When we made a U.S. contribution of $60 million in January, we made it clear that the United States was no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA’s costs that we had assumed for many years. Several countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Qatar, and the UAE have shown leadership in addressing this problem, but the overall international response has not been sufficient.
Beyond the budget gap itself and failure to mobilize adequate and appropriate burden sharing, the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.

Agree or disagree with this reasoning, the U.S. State Department answered the very question that the filmmakers posed (and did not answer) in their film.

Policy makers had decided that the U.S. was bearing a disproportionate burden of the cost of maintaining UNRWA and that the definition the agency used to determine who qualified for assistance allowed for the descendants of those Palestinians who lost their homes as a result of Israel’s creation in 1948 and allowed for an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries.”

This is the first piece of data that Zinshtein and Troen withheld from their viewers.

Another Source of Information Ignored – The Bill Itself

During his talk, David Brog spoke in favor of HR 6451, the bill before Congress that CUFI members were called to promote in their visits to their representatives. It was titled, interestingly enough, “UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act of 2018.” The bill’s very title effectively undermines film’s narrative that Evangelicals were looking to pull the rug out from under the Palestinians.

The text of the bill declares that UNRWA was initially charged with assisting refugees who had lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 war, but that in 1950 the requirements for receiving UNRWA aid were changed to include children of Palestinians who were born after the conflict.

“This classification process is inconsistent with how all other refugees in the world are classified,” the bill declares. In these other instances, the children of refugees of conflict are regarded as citizens of the country in which they were born. Not so with the Palestinians, who are kept in limbo as stateless persons by the Arab countries in which they were born.

The bill states that instead of solving the refugee problem, UNRWA “maintains a refugee population in perpetuity.” It also declares that “UNRWA facilities have been used to launch terror attacks against Israel, and UNRWA employees have frequently faced credible charges of working with terrorist groups such as Hamas.”

The bill then states that the U.S. government would restrict its funding support to people who were personally displaced as a result of the 1948 war and who have not become a resident or citizen in another country outside of what was called Mandatory Palestine between 1922 and 1948. It also prohibits any money from being given to refugees who receive “military training as a member of the Palestinian Liberation Army or any organization engaging in acts of terrorism.”

The bill also declares that money withheld from UNRWA in accordance with the policy described above “should be made to the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development for providing assistance to other populations in need in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.”

So much for Zinshtein and Troen’s narrative that Evangelicals were inexplicably trying to withhold funds from Palestinians. CUFI was supporting the reform — not the elimination  — of UNRWA and the rerouting of funds to Palestinians through USAID.

This is the second piece of data that Zinsthein and Troen withheld from their viewers.

Third Source of Information Ignored – Brog’s Speech

Ignoring the statement issued by the U.S. State Department and omitting information from the CUFI-supported bill itself is bad enough, but then there is the dishonest manner in which Zinshtein and Troen reported Brog’s speech.

Here are some of the things Brog said during his talk that responsible filmmakers might have included or at least alluded to:

“We want to say that time has come to define Palestinian refugees the way we define every other refugee group on the planet and support them accordingly. The way UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees to include their descendants in perpetuity politicizes their plight and prolongs this conflict.”
“Congress should support limiting our contributions to UNRWA to the amount necessary to provide aid for the real refugees, the ones who meet the standard definition of refugee.”
“Congress should express support for redirecting the remainder of our UNRWA contribution to USAID so this aid can be provided on the basis of humanitarian, not political criteria.”
“The rest of the aid we give to UNRWA should be shifted to USAID, the United States’ charitable arm abroad, so that we can give that money to Palestinians in need and possibly others in need on the basis of humanitarian criteria on the basis of actual need not through this politicized UNRWA process that is dedicated to maintaining and growing a disgruntled refugee class.”

In their telling of the story, Zinsthein and Troen make it sound CUFI and the Evangelicals it represents want to stop giving the Palestinians money altogether. That is simply not the case.

Summary of Film’s Dishonest Treatment of UNRWA Issue

Zinshtein and Troen engaged in three acts of deception in their film’s treatment of the UNRWA issue. They are:

  1. The film portrayed CUFI’s efforts to reduce UNRWA funding as a heartless, mean-spirited, and irresponsible attempt to reduce overall aid to the Palestinians, when the legislation supported by the organization explicitly called for any funds withheld from UNRWA to be distributed by USAID. In the first version of their film shown in America, the filmmakers altered words uttered by an official from CUFI to achieve this effect. They have since changed the audio to correctly report what was actually said.
  2. The film portrayed efforts to defund UNRWA as working in opposition to the desires of Israeli policy makers without informing its viewers that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the White House to do this very thing. Compare this reality with Friedman’s declaration, “Don’t bother me with your security problems because I’m doing this anyway.”
  3. The film portrays efforts to defund UNRWA as lacking any logical basis, when in fact, proponents of such a policy laid out their explanations in detail in numerous venues all available to Zinshtein and Troen. Instead of addressing these arguments in detail, they pretended these explanations didn’t exist.

In conclusion, Zinshtein and Troen have engaged in numerous acts of deception in their film, “‘Til Kingdom Come.”