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The Michael Cherney Foundation
Bridges for Peace and International Christian Embassy


Monday 19th June 2006
Conference Centre
Neethlingshof Estate, Stellenbosc

S. African Christians host pro-Israel parley

Etgar Lefkovits. The Jerusalem Post.
June 2006

CAPE TOWN - Reaching out to Christian supporters of Israel in Africa, a group of conservative Israeli thinkers and the interim head of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus will take part in the first Jerusalem Summit Africa in Cape Town on Monday, in an effort to garner support for Israel at a time of increasing Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Israel sentiment in the continent.

The conference, which is being hosted by the local branches of two Jerusalem-based Evangelical Christian groups, the International Christian Embassy and Bridges for Peace, is expected to attract about 1,000 people, including 300 pastors.

The event, which aims to draw support for Israel by linking the two countries' common confrontation with radical Islam, is based on the model of the Jerusalem Summit, the annual gathering of international right-wing thinkers which debuted in Israel in 2003.

"South Africa is a crucial state for the entire continent and is similar to a swing-state in the US because whatever direction South Africa takes will be taken by the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa as well," said Dmitry Radyshevsky, the executive director of the Jerusalem Summit.

He noted that South African anti-Zionism was not rooted in nationalism and religion but was a remnant of the Soviet era, and the country's long ties with the Soviet-era bloc.

The conference comes just five years after the UN's infamous 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban which turned into an anti-Israel bacchanal.

"South Africans need to be informed that the story of the blacks and the story of the Palestinians are totally different, and that the accusations against Israel of racism, colonialism, and apartheid are a big fraud, and are outrageous lies which are reminiscent of Nazi-era propaganda," he said.

He added that despite South Africa's longstanding pro-Palestinian leanings, he was surprised by the number of black Christian Zionists who were absolutely ignorant of the realities of the Middle East conflict - short of what they see on CNN - and yet support Israel solely for theological reasons.

"Everybody knows the anti-Semites, but they don't know the philo-Semites," said MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party) who has been appointed as the interim chairman of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus in the wake of caucus founder MK Yuri Shtern's battle with cancer.

Elon, who spearheaded ties with the Evangelical Christian world during his tenure as minister of tourism and is well-known within the community, said Israel's Foreign Ministry is still unaware of the full scope of possible ties with Christian supporters of Israel around the globe, especially in unfriendly terrain, such as Africa.

"The best language between Israel and these nations around the world is the language of the Bible, and this is a language which is not utilized in its full potential by the Foreign Ministry," he said. Moreover, conference organizers stressed that what united Israel and Africa was the ever-increasing threat of radical Islam.

"The bloodiest war of jihad is not for the Land of Israel but for the land of Africa," Radyshevsky opined, citing the killings in Darfur, Sudan and Nigeria which have been largely ignored by the world.

Elon added that Israel was fast losing ground in Africa to growing Islamic extremism, at a time when it could be garnering friends.

"By bringing Jews and Christians together in Africa, we can use it as a launching pad to bring Jews and Christians together around the world," said Knesset Christian Allies Caucus director Josh Reinstein.

Israeli participants of the conference include the head of Palestinian Media Watch, Itamar Marcus, whose organization tracks Palestinian media coverage, and Tel Aviv University political scientist Dr. Martin Sherman.

The leaders of the conference do not shy away from expressing their right-wing outlook. Their position, that the formula of land for peace has failed, stands in sharp contrast to the position of the current government.

Yet, they stress, it is in complete sync with the worldview of their predominantly Evangelical supporters around the world.

"There are enough think-tanks, organizations, and forums which stray to the left of the government; we are one of the few that takes a more conservative stand," Radyshevsky said. "People who have an acute revulsion to anything biblical will obviously not support out views," he added. The 38-year-old Moscow-born and US-educated Radyshevsky first conceived of the idea of a Jerusalem Summit, which is funded by the Michael Cherney foundation, while studying at the Harvard divinity school last decade. The increasingly global Jerusalem Summit plans additional conferences in Singapore, London and New Zealand during the course of the year.

ANC boycotts pro-Israel conference

Etgar Lefkovits. The Jerusalem Post.
June 2006

The ruling South African political party boycotted a pro-Israel conference held in Cape Town Monday that was sponsored by South African Christians, the organizers of the event said.

Three prominent Christian members of the governing African National Congress Party, including former Cape Town mayor Normaindia Mfeketo, did not even respond to invitations to attend the conference, said Dave Wilken, deputy chairman of the South Africa branch of the Jerusalem-based International Christian Embassy. The Embassy cosponsored the event together with another Jerusalem-based Evangelical Christian group, Bridges for Peace.
In contrast to the ANC's conspicuous absence, five South African members of parliament from two opposition parties attended the event, as did several legislators from other African countries.

"The message that has come out today is that this government is not friendly at all towards Israel," said Chris Liebenberg, a parliamentarian from South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance.

Liebenberg said the government's aversion to anything Israel-related was so great that it was even willing to forgo Israeli offers of economic assistance.
"How can you refuse such help?" asked Reverend Joe Cloetel, who quit the ANC to join the Democratic Alliance.

The African National Congress, which has strong historical ties with the Palestinians, has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Israel has proposed an array of educational and medical assistance, including one involving Israeli-discovered drip irrigation and another for infant and children's health care.

South African opposition members said the ANC's refusal to come to the conference was symptomatic of the party's general anti-Israel positions since the end of apartheid.

"There is a very strong anti-Israel sentiment prevailing in government," said Steve Swart, an MP from the African Christian Democratic Party.
He cited the government's silence about Iranian threats against Israel, its support for Teheran's nuclear program, an invitation to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to speak at the parliament without any similar invitation being extended to Israel, and an upcoming visit by Hamas officials as the latest examples of South Africa's one-sided policies on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

"We are so pro-Palestinian our credibility is just gone," he said.

Citing a busy schedule, Israel's ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, was also absent from the event. Organizers suggested that the conference's right-wing outlook was likely the real reason the diplomat shied away from the conference.

The first-ever Jerusalem Summit Africa, which aimed to draw support for Israel by linking the two countries' common confrontation with radical Islam, was modeled on the Jerusalem Summit, the annual gathering of international right-wing thinkers that debuted in Israel in 2003.

The Cape Town conference came five years after the UN's 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, which turned into an anti-Israel fest.

"If Jews do not have a right to their land, then the bible is wrong and your story is wrong," Dmitry Radyshevsky, the executive director of the Jerusalem Summit, told a highly supportive audience of Evangelical Christians in a Cape Town suburb.

He warned of a growing tide of radical Islam, which, he said, was winning a political, educational and economic Jihad in Africa.

"The battle for Jerusalem has begun and it is not just a physical battle, which we witness every day on the streets, but a spiritual battle," said Knesset Christian Allies Caucus director Josh Reinstein.

The interim head of the parliamentary lobby, MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), said in his address that Israelis were also facing a spiritual crisis as they veered away from the bible. He was repeatedly interrupted by shouts of "amen" from the enthralled crowd.

"It took many years to get the Israelites out of Egypt, but it is no less difficult to take the exile out of the Jews in Israel," he said.

The Jerusalem Summit Africa conference, which followed last year's Jerusalem Summit Asia in Seoul, epitomized the ever-burgeoning relationship between Israel and Christian Evangelicals over the last several years after decades when such relations were frowned upon by both the Orthodox and non-Orthodox establishment in Israel due to concerns over proselytizing and conflicting theological views.


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