Israel rally, co-sponsored by International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, in downtown Nashville on Oct. 27. Photo from ICEJ Facebook.
A coalition of Christian leaders is urging churches, universities and the U.S. government to stand with Israel, oppose Hamas and stand against antisemitic bullying.
The American Christian Leaders for Israel, based in Tennessee, held a press conference on Oct. 26 to spread the message, starting with a series of three initiatives.
Susan Michel, executive director of ACLI, and national director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, said Christians have prayed all around the world and given financially to support relief work in Israel, “but we must also take a stand and speak out.”
Clem Boyd, director of public relations for ACLI, said “now is not the time to be quiet, and that is why we are here.”
A network of over 115 prominent Christian leaders from over 100 organizations signed three letters, because “the wellbeing of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide is important to us, so we wanted to add the strength to our voice.
Two of the letters challenge UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.S. President Joe Biden to oppose further aggression by Hamas and ensure the safe return of the nearly 200 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. The third is addressed to hundreds of university presidents, urging them to deal with the explosion of antisemitism on campus, often in the guise of pro-Palestinian rallies.
“We feel it is important these schools hear from the Christian community, as this should not be just a Jewish issue,” Michel said. “No Jewish student should have to walk across campus and hear a crowd calling out to gas the Jews.”
The letter to universities asks presidents to “commit to combatting antisemitism on your campus and provide security for your Jewish students in light of the recent antisemitic actions seen on many college campuses in the wake of the Hamas attack against Israel.”
The letter stated that a lack of response emboldens those who would perpetrate acts of violence against Jewish students, who have been “feeling hostility, discrimination, and bias for many years, but they now feel the need to censor their identities to avoid threats, intimidation, or attack.” They urge administrators to “not allow hate and hostility to be veiled in a defense of free speech on your campus.”
Among the steps being urged are increased security and safety measures for students, disciplinary action against antisemitic incidents, the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, and offering mental health support services.
The United Nations letter calls for “greater moral clarity and resolve” in condemning Hamas, as the Oct. 7 attack did not involve only Israel, but “citizens of 30 other member states were either killed or held hostage.”
Michel said Guterres chose to blame Israel, rather than condemn Hamas, and “the UN has lost all credibility.”
In addition, the letter called on the UN to “press for stronger, more effective international sanctions on the Iranian regime” and that “Qatar’s emir and senior leadership should be investigated by an international tribunal for aiding and abetting the recent Hamas war crimes.”
Several other leaders discussed how their groups would be mobilizing Christians to defend Israel and the Jewish community.
Star Parker, founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, said what Hamas did can not go unpunished, and to ask Israel to stand down is “a principle we don’t even teach our children.”
She said the narrative of victimology “perpetuates evil,” as someone who sees himself as a victim then rationalizes evil responses as justifiable.
She said a Palestinian state can not happen until there is responsible behavior coming from the Palestinian side. “The Palestinian Authority has consistently turned away from peace. They continue to foster a culture of hate in that region.”
Through Black Community News, which goes to Black pastors around the country, “we are correcting the lies of their own congressional members” and “pushing back against Black Lives Matter,” which has been supportive of anti-Israel groups. They are also “addressing the lies that are coming from the progressive left” and working on challengers to the anti-Israel congressional representatives.
They also plan to go into the district of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a leader of the anti-Israel “squad,” to conduct a seminar making these points.
“The troops are coming,” she said. “We are here for you.”
Juan Rivera, an executive board member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said they signed on behalf of 33,000 Hispanic evangelical churches, who feel a “powerful connection and solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people.”
He explained that there is a “powerful empathy that transcends cultural and ethnic boundaries.” As the Jewish people have a sacred connection to the land of Israel, standing with Israel “is a manifestation of our faith, a way of honoring the Biblical narratives.”
The two groups also have “a shared history of persecution and adversity.”
He said the NHCLC is committed “to building the strongest firewall against antisemitism, and standing with Israel today, tomorrow and always.”
Troy Miller, president and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, spoke of the long history of support for Israel at NRB. Each year, the NRB convention includes a large breakfast program supporting Israel, and “hundreds of our members host annual trips to the Holy Land.” The next convention will be in Nashville in February.
He said NRB condemns “Hamas’ brutal and despicable actions against innocent Israeli civilians and international civilians,” and said they have “no excuse and no justification.”
He said the conflict can be stopped immediately if Israel’s enemies would recognize Israel’s right to exist. That would bring peace to the area.” Until that happens, “we continue to pray for all of those, including the Palestinians who have been placed in harm’s way by Hamas, not by Israel.”
Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, praised ACLI “for your very clear moral stance.”
She said what is happening during this “unprecedented wave of anti-Jewish hate” on campus is not just an effort to justify Hamas atrocities, it is to celebrate them and pledge allegiance.
She said this was entirely foreseeable, with years of “systematic constant demonization and disparagement of the Jewish community, particularly Jewish students for whom Zionism, a feeling of connection to Israel, is part of their identity.” They have been labeled as “evil, as pariahs on campus.”
While administrators hide behind the First Amendment, she said “If you allow antisemitic hate and bias to spread without using your own speech to counter it… this is what you will end up with.”
She also noted that there has been a “very deliberate erasure and denial of Jewish historical heritage” in academia, especially the connection to the land of Israel. She calls it a form of cultural genocide “not only to target Jews, but to actually erase what defines the Jewish people in their unique identity.”
Eliav Benjamin, deputy head of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, thanked the organizations for “a very clear message of support, which is highly needed at this time.”
He reminded that this was not a war Israel wanted, but it is one Israel will win. “Israel has the right to defend itself, we don’t need to apologize for this. We have every right to do everything we are doing, and your support is important in this regard.”
He noted that Israel is doing everything possible to protect civilians while “Hamas is doing everything it can to harm civilians, including their own.”
Benjamin said it is also important to call out Iran, which is “sitting on the sidelines, they are smiling, they are continuing to develop their nuclear program” and training groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
He said that what is happening on campuses “is just mind-boggling… imagine two weeks after Sept. 11, people would be walking around with signs saying ‘I support Al Qaeda’.”
Instead, he said there should be education about neighborly relations, especially in Palestinian areas, “for the next generation of Palestinians and Israelis to live peacefully next to each other.” But first, he said, “let’s make sure Hamas never has the ability to pick up its head again.”
Rivera said that while Jewish communities have been holding events in solidarity with Israel, churches must not just wait on those, and need to be organizing their own events as well.
Michel said they have seminars teaching about antisemitism “ready to go” to churches and campuses. They were hosting a rally in Nashville on Oct. 27, and “we need to be doing rallies all around America like that.”
Benjamin said these displays of solidarity are “really important” and send a strong message to Hamas and to Iran.