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Crossing the Bridge

Evangelical film misses mark in civil rights movement analogy to Israel

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Posted on: 
1 Feb 2011
Crossing the Bridge

Hot on the heels of the documentary “With God On Our Side,” another new anti-Israel film funded and produced by Evangelicals is making the rounds. “Little Town of Bethlehem” features three protagonists – a Palestinian Muslim, a Palestinian Christian and an Israeli Jew – who have concluded that non-violent protest is the best way to end the bitter Israeli “occupation.”

One of the main characters is Yonatan Shapira, an Israeli helicopter pilot who was one of 26 IAF pilots that refused to undertake missions against Palestinian terrorists operating in civilian areas – as if they operate anywhere else.

Ahmad Al’Azzeh is a Muslim from a refugee camp in Bethlehem who opted for non-violence while studying in Spain.

Finally, Sami Awad is a Christian from Bethlehem who says he first learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a teenager and later traveled to India to study the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

In following the trio, the film seeks to draw a direct parallel between the Palestinian cause and the American civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 60s. The analogy is clear: Bethlehem is Selma, Alabama, and the Palestinians and their leftist Israeli and foreign friends are walking arm-in-arm with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Such comparisons are not new. No less than Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice both drew the same connection in comments about the Palestinian nationalist movement while serving as secretaries of state under US President George W. Bush. Never mind that Dr. King had openly declared his support for the Zionist enterprise. He could do so consistent with his great moral principles because the analogy between the Palestinians and the Jim Crow South actually runs in a completely different direction.

'Little Town of Bethlehem' promo posterIN THE OLD SOUTH, the whites had convinced themselves that they were inherently superior to blacks and thus owned and traded them like chattel. Even the time-honored US Constitution devalued these slaves as less than human, counting them as two-thirds of a person only for purposes of determining representation in Congress.

Such notions of racial superiority had become so ingrained that even the most ignorant, poor white man felt he could lord it over any black man – even those with money and education. For a black man to look a white directly in the eye was a sign of disrespect, and the white was entitled to physically punish the offender. Even if the assault resulted in death, the white merely owed the slave’s owner his market value.

America paid for this glaring injustice with a horrific Civil War, but even that great conflict was not enough. Slavery may have been abolished, but Southern whites refused to give up their sense of superiority over blacks for another hundred years, until Dr. King bravely led a non-violent movement which achieved equality for all Americans.

In the still lingering Israeli-Arab conflict, it is the Muslims who have refused to give up their historic sense of superiority over Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims. For centuries, ordinary Muslims have been taught they follow a superior faith and thus are inherently better than non-Muslims. Christians and Jews falsified their respective scriptures and thus belong to inferior faiths, rendering them dhimmis or second-class citizens. Muslims were free to lord it over these minorities to the point they felt it was their natural right, no matter how poor or ignorant they might be themselves. Much like in the Old South, this unjust system was presented and defended on religious grounds, ordained by Allah no less.

The Zionist movement, however, challenged this belief system. The victory of a rag-tag Jewish militia over much larger Arab forces in 1948 was a theological shock to the Islamic world. How could the lowly Jews go from the nadir of the Holocaust to besting Arab armies on the battlefield in less than three years? Herein lays the root of Muslim attraction to Zionist conspiracy theories and even Holocaust denial. The evil Jews must have lied and manipulated their way to triumph and independence.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved until this Islamist mentality falls. The current slaughter of Christians across the Middle East is further evidence that Muslims refuse to surrender their historic sense of supremacy. It is past time that we all join arm-in-arm to cross that proverbial bridge and challenge Islam’s claim to dominance over infidels.

 Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/
This article first appeared in the February 2011 issue of
The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition; www.jpost.com/ce