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Wednesday, 13 September 2017 07:49

"Christian Media Summit": Israel to Sponsor Evangelical Journalists' Trip to Jerusalem

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JS 0913wrp opt(Photo: Sharat Ganapati / Flickr)Come mid-October, representatives from possibly as many as seventy predominantly conservative Christian media organizations will be heading to Israel for a four-day "Christian Media Summit" in Jerusalem. As Ha'aretz's Judy Maltz recently reported, the conference is aimed at further cementing ties between Christian conservatives and the Israeli government.

According to Maltz, the Israeli government -- which is sponsoring the gathering of broadcasters and journalists, and paying for the participant's accommodations – is "hoping to explain the country and its often controversial policies to this new target audience."

While many issues will be discussed at the first-of-its-kind Summit, it is possible that high up on the list is solidifying opposition to those promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

At the February National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) International Christian Media Convention, in Orlando, Florida, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder and president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN), sharply rebuked Christian supporting BDS. "It is fake theology, like it is fake news!" she said.

"The DNA of NRB is pro-Israel, because it is a biblical DNA," said NRB President Dr. Jerry Johnson. "If you're a scriptural kind of a [Christian] believer of any kind, you're going to be pro-Israel." 

Christian Zionist organizations have been sponsoring trips to Israel for many years. This, however will not be your typical visit to significant historical and religious sites. While participants will visit Gush Etzion — Israel's largest bloc of communities in Judea and Samaria, Bethlehem and Jerusalem's Friends of Zion Museum, the focus will also be on assortment of seminars and lectures, as well as a meet-up with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, "among other dignitaries, during their visit," Maltz pointed out.

Evangelical Christianity is "the fastest-growing faith movement in the world," with as many as "700 million believers" and adding 50,000 new adherents daily, with each new "believer" representing another potential advocate for Israel, David Parsons, vice president and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), told the crowd at the 2017 Herzliya Conference, one of Israel's most prominent annual policy summits. The ICEJ claims it "represents millions of Christians, churches, and denominations to the nation and people of Israel." 

Earlier this year, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the world's largest religious television network, along with Christians in Defense of Israel (CIDI), and Liberty Counsel, produced a series looking at Israel through the eyes of Christians. "The 13-part show, called 'Why Israel Matters,' is aimed at demonstrating to Christians the living embodiment of Biblical promise in Israel," Breaking Israel News' Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz (no relation) reported.

"Even though I have lived with this series for over two years and reviewed the rough cut version, I was still moved by the impact of this powerful story about Jews being drawn to Israel from around the world," Mat Staver, chairman of Christians in Defense of Israel and Liberty Counsel, told the Jerusalem Post. "There has never been a more important time for Christians and others of goodwill across America and around the world to stand in solidarity with the nation and people of Israel," said Staver.

Courting journalists

"We thought that the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem would be a good opportunity to hold such a conference," said Nitzan Chen, director of the Government Press Office. "We hope these journalists will become good ambassadors for Israel and if this conference succeeds, the idea is to hold it every year or two."

The list of invitees "was compiled in consultation with National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), an international association which, according to its website, is comprised of more than 1,100 member organizations representing millions of viewers, listeners and readers," Maltz noted.

The draft itinerary for the conference includes seminars on such topics as: "Reporter's Notebook for Covering Israel and the Middle East," "Resources for Telling the Israeli Story," "Like Dreamers: 50 Years of a United Jerusalem and Divided Israel," and "Israel and the Fight Against Radical Islam."

According to Maltz, "Among the tours that will be offered to participants is one titled 'Co-existence' that includes a trip to the Gush Etzion settlement bloc where Oded Revivi, the mayor of Efrat – one of the largest West Bank settlements – will deliver a talk addressing the following question: 'Are Settlements an Obstacle to Peace?'

"Another tour, which will focus on how Israel uses separation barriers to enhance its security, will include a visit to the controversial wall in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, which has drawn especially fierce criticism among anti-occupation activists for its close proximity to homes and local businesses.

"Most of the scheduled tours, according to the draft itinerary, include a visit to the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, an institution founded by Mike Evans, who was among the first Christian evangelicals in the United States to declare his support for Trump's presidential run."

The last we heard from Evans -- a longtime opponent of the two-state solution and an equally longtime advocate of a more muscular US military policy in the Middle East -- was when his organization sponsored billboards in Jerusalem welcoming President Donald Trump to Israel earlier this year. The signs proclaimed: "Trump is a friend of Zion."

The "Christian Media Summit" appears to be part of a savvy worldwide Israeli government-sponsored public relations campaign. Recently, a delegation of Hollywood producers and executives met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at his Jerusalem residence on Sunday. The delegation included such Hollywood figures such as Adam Berkowitz [no relation], head of the television department at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Daniel Grover, talent agent at CAA; John Landgraf, general manager of FX Network; Christophe Riandee, vice CEO of Gaumont International Television, and Doug Herzog, former president of Viacom Music and Entertainment Group, among others.

Earlier this month, christiandaily.com reported that "Around 70 leaders from several African nations gathered in Jerusalem … for the end of a four-day start-up summit hosted by the Institute for Christian Leadership Development that bore the theme 'Africa Celebrates Jerusalem.'"

Interestingly, many of the American Christians that will be attending the conference already totally support the Israeli government. Nevertheless, there appears to be a feeling within the Israeli government that the time is right to arm Christian journalists with more information supporting Netanyahu. There could be a downside warned hotair.com's Ed Morrissey: "Having the government as a sponsor might create an appearance of being co-opted for the journalists, and Netanyahu's direct efforts to connect with American conservatives could have some political blowback at home."