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When an American Christian Zionist can’t even say the word occupation or justice

By Daoud Kuttab

You would think that Joel Rosenberg’s own identification is enough to turn off any middle east leader. He prides in his Christian Zionist evangelical ideology; he boasts of his newly adopted Israeli citizenship brought about most likely because his father is of the Jewish faith. He is similarly proud that his two sons have served in the Israel army, one in a special unit.

Yet reading his book, Enemies and Allies, one is taken back by how leaders of major Arab countries, kingdoms, and emirates open the doors for him for repeated visits and audiences with their own top leaders.

Joel, his family, and the different delegations of pro-Israel white evangelical leaders have been invited and have met the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Ironically, these very visits and meetings with Arab heads of state probably helped him to visit the President of the United States at the Oval Office with the help of vice president Mike Pence.

Primarily a sensational NY times bestselling novelist Rosenberg’s books talk of wars and assassinations all conspired by the enemies of the US and Israel and all thwarted by the courageous Israelis and some of their Arab friends and of course with the eminent help of America.

It is not clear how he made it into all those capitals. Is it his sensational anti-radical Islam novels or his strange dual citizenship and contacts with both Israeli and American leaders or simply the perfect timing? Is it the fact that conservative gulf leaders who want something from the anti-Iran Trump administration or the right to buy F35 American fighters, or Sudanese wanting to be removed from the terror list or Moroccans that want Washington to recognize their sovereignty over the Sahara, Rosenberg is the perfect messenger to help those countries improve their standing with Donald Trump and company?

On more than one occasion you get the sense that Rosenberg himself is surprised by his own success. He can’t believe that an American Israeli whose sons serve in the Israeli Army is heading multi visits and meetings with MBS of Saudi Arabia or MBZ of the UAE or being flown by royalty over Jordanian lands. The author himself is often surprised by the convergence of fiction and nonfiction as he walks into a Jordanian palace that was targeted in his novels or in the Oval Office where American policy was being cooked up.

This is not to say that the author is not genuine in his faith and in the messages that he is trying to send to pro-Israeli American evangelicals of the existence of …. Arabs who are nice and generous and actually don’t hate Israel….

Joel Rosenberg also acts as the semiofficial messenger of America’s evangelicals rarely giving an indication that his role as an unelected spokesman of white pro-Israel evangelicals is nowhere close to being a representative one. He talks about the 600 million worldwide evangelicals or the 60 million white American evangelicals as if their political policy and often divergent views of the world as being one and the same as his own. Rosenberg talks on behalf of American evangelicals in absolute terms such as this line of what he told the Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman: “I told him that the vast majority of the 60 million evangelical Christians in the United States love and strongly support the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I wanted him to know how deeply we care about Israel and why this was a deeply held theological—not political—conviction of ours that would never change.” Ironically public opinion reports out of the US show that this so-called evangelical majority is dwindling. Furthermore, the very idea that people “will never change” is rather presumptuous.

But while one can argue about issues of evangelical representation it is hard to take Joel Rosenberg as being serious regarding peace and justice in the Middle East. The author bends over backward and carries out intellectual somersaults to try and vindicate his new friend Mohammad Bin Salman. Does he really think anyone believes him or believes that the brutal murder of the respected Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (who was a professional colleague and friend of mine) can happen by Saudi employees without the crown prince knowing about it?

When it comes to Israel and Palestine the book fails to even tell his readers about the reality facing Palestinians although he talks warmly about his Palestinian friends but says when he and his wife meet with Palestinians, they don’t talk politics? The word occupation appears only twice in his 400 some page book and both are within quotations of a referenced by a British MP. While it is natural as an Israeli American that he mentions Israel 864 times, Egypt 446 times, Jordan 293, and Saudi Arabia 177 the word Palestine is mentioned 13 times, and non by the author, it is either part of a quote or an official name such as US Taskforce for Palestine or the Palestine Liberation Organization. But for a man of peace who mentions the word 475 times, it is shameful that the word justice doesn’t appear a single time in the entire book that documents his and his group’s peace efforts?

What is further infuriating is that this Christian leader who lives in Jerusalem doesn’t let his readers know that there are Palestinian Christians. He mentions only twice the term “Arab Christians” in reference to believers of Christ in Jordan and Egypt but never is the term “Palestinian Christians” appear in his exhaustive study as a Christian leader in the Middle East. In fact, Palestinians whether Christians or Muslims are treated only within the biblical commands that Israel must be kind to its neighbors. Even Palestinian Christian evangelicals are never referred to in the entire book.

Politically the author fails to give a single line about what Palestinian want and even when mentioning the Arab (Saudi) peace plan he commits forgery by saying that it seeks to find a solution to “disputed lands” (a common right-wing Israeli term) and not the correct and internationally recognized term which appeared in the document he was referring to occupied Arab areas. Rosenberg also commits forgery when saying that Olmert offered Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem (unless he means that the village of Abu Dis where some Israeli plans want to have a Palestinian capital) is East Jerusalem? Also, the population of the West Bank (even without east Jerusalem) is 3.2 million and not 2 million.

Never once is the two-state solution mentioned and there is no discussion of an independent Palestinian state or the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people. The West Bank is never mentioned and instead he uses the religious Jewish settler term of Judea and Samaria.

Rosenberg buys the entire Israeli narrative without any question and repeatedly says that the problem is that Palestinians don’t want to have direct talks with Israel when in fact any neutral observers would clearly argue that Israel under Netanyahu and now under Bennet have been the obstacles to peace. They have either lied about wanting to have negotiations (Netanyahu) or have said outright (as current PM Bennet has stated more than once) that they don’t want to meet or talk to the Palestinian leader let alone discuss that idea of a Palestinian state. Rosenberg repeats the three Arab Nos despite the fact that the one saying no now is the prime minister of Israel Neftali Bennett, not the Palestinians.

·        The writer is an award-winning Palestinian journalist.

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