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Chief among Wagner’s goals is promoting “Kairos Palestine,” the 2009 appeal by Palestinian church clergy for Western churches to renounce and boycott Israel. The Religious Left in America is not typically interested in persecuted churches around the world, especially if the tormentors are Islamist or Marxist. But Palestinian Christians uniquely attract their sympathy because their plight can be blamed on Israel. The Kairos appeal also likens Israel to Apartheid South Africa, which Sabeel is anxious to propagate in its campaign to make Israel as illegitimate as the old Afrikaner, racist state.
“Kairos Palestine is a hopeful and natural partner for FOSNA and Sabeel worldwide,” Rev. Wagner enthused in a news release. He acclaimed the Kairos clergy for having “been prophetic voices throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States on BDS, particularly with the churches.”
The Kairos movement has spawned supportive caucuses in different Protestant denominations. “United Methodist Kairos Response” recently hosted a reception for delegates to their denomination’s upcoming General Conference. The hostess cited “profits,” “campaign donations,” and “arms sales” as reasons for continued U.S. support of Israel, against which good Methodists must contend. And she insisted that “selective” divestment is aimed only at ending the “occupation” and not at Israel itself. Naturally, this opposition to the occupation never explains how Israel is to completely withdraw from the West Bank when Palestinians refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish democracy.
The Religious Left, with groups like Sabeel and the Kairos movement, spotlights Israeli settlements in the West Bank while claiming it seeks mutual existence between Israel and Palestinians. But there is almost always an underlying discomfort with the whole project of Israel as a Jewish democracy. Rev. Wagner’s 2003 book, Dying in the Land of Promise, seemingly likens the “past one hundred-year process of Zionist occupation in Palestine” to a killer vine killing beautiful rose bushes. “The Israeli occupation and settlement strategies that have taken over most of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights are like invading vines and weeds,” he further, sort of, clarified.
Much of Rev. Wagner’s 35 years’ worth of anti-Israel work obsesses over the supposedly sinister tentacles of Christian Zionism. “Christian Zionists have traded the mantle of the biblical prophets for an idolatry of militarism and the nation state,” he explained in a 2003 Christian Century magazine article. But typically radical Islamists, even apocalyptic Iranian clerics calling for Israel’s incineration, do not arouse anywhere near equal concern.
Groups like Sabeel, with help from clergy like Rev. Wagner, claim to speak both for, and to, Christians. But the ultimate beneficiaries of their campaigns to delegitimize Israel seem to be radical Islamists. And the ultimate victims of what they propose seem to be both Jews and Christians.
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