Christianity Today Publishes Biased Article with Misleading Title about Israel's Efforts to Contain the Coronavirus

Tricia Miller, Ph.D. and Dexter Van Zile

Dear Christian Leaders,

The Christian Leadership Network of CAMERA’s Partnership of Christians  and Jews is taking the unprecedented step of asking all of you to  contact the well-known magazine, Christianity Today (CT), about an  article it published concerning the COVID19 crisis in the West Bank.

We are taking this step because all Christians who care about how the  media covers Israel need to send a message to the editors of CT that  they expect the publication to deal with issues related to Israel and  the Holy Land in an honest, factual and even-handed manner.

As you will see below, we have detected alarming signs that Christianity  Today may be starting down the same path of anti-Israel bias already  traveled by the mainline Protestant community, which was infiltrated by  anti-Israel propagandists in the years after the Six Day War in 1967.  This incursion culminated in mainline Protestant support of the  anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which  continues to this day.

In response to aggressive BDS activism, publications and mission  organizations associated with mainline churches have embraced a  dishonest and one-sided narrative about events in Israel, the Holy Land,  and the greater Middle East. One of the consequences of its alignment  with the BDS movement is this community's inability to respond  effectively to the abuse of Christians in Muslim-majority countries  throughout the world. This not only presents a threat to the credibility  of American churches in particular, but is a strategic threat to the  United States in general.

Evangelicals  need to learn from the self-destructive actions of mainline Protestants  and protect their churches and their country from the virus of  anti-Israel activism that has rendered mainline churches impotent in the  face of anti-Israel and anti-Christian forces. 

IN DETAIL


On March 13, 2020, Christianity Today published an article titled, “Bethlehem Christians Bear Burden of Israel’s Coronavirus Crackdown,” written by Griffin Paul Jackson.

The headline itself is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it  singles out Israel as if it is solely responsible for the  social-distancing measures imposed in the West Bank when in fact, the  Palestinian Authority has also imposed these measures on Palestinians.  Even Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has imposed some  social-distancing measures, including the closing of mosques.

Therefore, the title demonstrates irresponsible journalism because it  implies that the use of legitimate and universally accepted public  health measures is an intentional “crackdown” that specifically targets  Christians in Bethlehem.

Second, the headline is inaccurate because it does not actually  represent the content found in the article. The Christian leaders  interviewed in the story did not condemn Israel for the health measures  taken, but instead spoke fearfully about the impact that COVID19 was  going to have on Christians in Bethlehem. Rather than criticizing Israel  as the title implies, they expressed reasonable and legitimate fear  over the virus itself. 

This is not a small point, because the headline is the kind of item  shared on social media where readers often only see the title and do not  click on the article to read the details. The title's implication that  Israel’s “crackdown” is responsible for the woes of Bethlehem  Christians, in contrast to the content of the article, which makes it  clear that Bethlehem’s Christians are also impacted by decisions the PA  has made, is a blatant example of how a misleading headline promotes  unsubstantiated bias.

Christianity Today’s decision to single Israel out for imposing  legitimate public health measures and its description of these measures  as a “crackdown” is particularly troublesome in light of how the  Coronavirus has been used as a pretext to promote blood libels and propaganda assaults against  Israel. A relatively “soft” or oblique attack on Israel from an  established and respected publication like Christianity Today gives  irresponsible credence to these more virulent attacks.  

CAMERA has confronted Christianity Today on Twitter about this headline  and no change has been made. That’s why we are reaching out to you to  request your help in asking CT to change the headline to accurately  represent the content of the article.

In addition to the headline, there is a problem with the story itself.  With the exception of Mitri Raheb, all the Palestinian Christians quoted  in the article are prominent participants in the Christ at the  Checkpoint movement (CATC). CATC is a leader in the international  campaign to delegitimize Israel and demonize Jewish self-defense through  its conferences, held every even-numbered year since 2010.

Raheb himself is not an organizer of the CATC conferences, but he has been virulently hostile to the Jewish State for a long time. For further information about CATC and the animus it promotes toward Israel, please see these articles.

By relying solely on anti-Zionist Christians for commentary about the  COVID19 virus’s impact on the West Bank, Christianity Today is setting  this community up as the “go-to” source for insight into what happens in  the West Bank. If this practice continues, the magazine’s future  coverage of issues in Israel and the Holy Land can’t help but be greatly  distorted.

To counter the risk of presenting a one-sided, anti-Israel perspective,  Christianity Today could have, and should in the future, interview  people who are less hostile to Israel, such as Naim and Steve Khoury.  (Naim Khoury was interviewed by Fox News in a recent documentary about Bethlehem.) Inclusion of a different perspective would help to insure a less biased report, to say the least.

Christianity Today’s decision to rely exclusively on anti-Israel  propagandists is probably due in part to a desire to stand in solidarity  with Christians who live under difficult circumstances in the Holy  Land. However, by aligning itself with the “plight is right” narrative  offered by anti-Zionist Christians, Christianity Today risks undermining  its ability to speak the truth about the actual source of that  suffering. CAMERA's Tricia Miller, Ph.D., has written about  how Christians endanger their credibility, and the credibility of the  Christian faith they seek to propagate, through uncritical relationships  with Palestinian Christians who promote a fallacious anti-Israel  narrative.   

There are troubling signs that the article about COVID19 in the West  Bank is not a one-of-a-kind event at Christianity Today. The magazine  has hired Jayson Casper, the author of a now deleted, but notorious hit  piece on Israel published by Lapido Media in 2015.

In this article, Casper accused Israel of denying visas to foreign   students attending a “peace studies” program at Bethlehem Bible College  (the sponsor of Christ at the Checkpoint conferences). However, a close  reading of Casper's piece reveals that Bethlehem Bible College told its  international students not to even apply for the visas. So in other  words, Casper accused Israel of denying visas to people who didn’t even  apply for them. CAMERA exposed the problems with this article in a piece  published here.

Troublingly enough, Casper seems to have brought some of his bad habits with him to Christianity Today. When he reported last year on the  DOE investigation of Duke-UNC’s Consortium for Middle East Studies,  Casper made no mention —at all!—of the instigating event, which was  Tamer Nafar’s anti-Semitic stage patter and song, “Mama, I Fell in Love with a Jew." This is a blatant case of media bias through the omission of relevant material.

YOUR VOICE MATTERS - WHAT YOU CAN DO!

  • Contact Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief Daniel Harrell here.

  • After you email him, please email tricia@camera.org to let us know that you made contact.

  • Tweet Christianity Today @CTmagazine.

  • Tweet Andy Olsen, CT’s managing editor here Be sure to include the author’s Twitter handle (@GriffinPJackson) in your Tweets.

When you write and tweet, please make the following points:

  • The headline needs to be changed to accurately portray the content of the article.

  • Christianity  Today needs to guard itself from relying solely on anti-Israel  Christians for its information about events in Israel and the Holy Land.

  • The magazine’s senior editors need to pay close attention to the work of its front-line staffers, especially Jayson Casper.

Finally, please forward this email to your Christian friends and ask them to make their voices heard.

Encourage  your friends to sign up for the Christian Leadership Network newsletter  from CAMERA’s Partnership of Christians and Jews by contacting Tricia  at tricia@camera.org.
 
Thank you very much for your help in this urgent matter!

For the sake of Israel,
Tricia Miller and Dexter Van Zile