By John Aman
He’s Jewish, but George Soros is no friend to Israel. The radical billionaire told the New York Times in 2006 he is “very critical of Israel.”
That’s an understatement. The Israeli government has blasted the deep-pocketed philanthropist and atheist for “funding organizations that defame the Jewish state.” And former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman says Soros has done “more to vilify the state of Israel … than almost any individual on the face of the earth.”
One of the world’s wealthiest men, Soros has used his philanthropy to steer the American Jewish community away from its traditional support for Israel. He helped launch J Street, a left-wing, Palestinian-friendly Jewish lobby now positioned as an alternative to the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), the long-recognized pro-Israel powerhouse.
And Soros is also using his wealth to distance evangelicals – long the leading pro-Israel constituency in the U.S. – from the Jewish state. For a decade, Soros has been giving six-figure grants to the Telos Group, which takes evangelical influencers on expense-paid tours to Israel and brings “Israeli and Palestinian leaders and activists” to speak in the U.S.
As I show in my new booklet, “Hijacked: How George Soros and Friends Exploit Your Church” (available from D. James Kennedy Ministries), Soros has been an “angel investor” for Telos. He gave it half of its start-up funding in its first three years, a total of $713,500. And Soros pumped another $1.6 million into Telos from 2012 to 2019.
The listed purpose for Soros’ largesse is “to educate U.S. leaders in faith communities … about the reality on the ground in Palestine/Israel.” In plain terms, that means cooling evangelical fervor for Israel.
“Telos Group purports to promote a ‘pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian and pro-peace’ agenda, but the problem is that this slogan has become a cover for broadcasting a lot of misinformation that invariably cuts against Israel,” Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) told JNS.org. “It’s part of a propaganda or cognitive war against Israel.”
Co-founded in 2009 by Todd Deatherage, an evangelical Christian, and Gregory Khalil, an American attorney of Palestinian descent, Telos has taken more than 110 groups to Israel, giving evangelical leaders a decidedly pro-Palestinian perspective. Telos tours have featured speakers like Mitri Raheb and Elias Chacour, severe critics of the Jewish state who dive into the deep end of the anti-Semitic pool.
Raheb, the former pastor of a Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, has advanced the contemptible theory that Jews have no historic association with the land of Israel. And Chacour, the former Melkite Catholic bishop of Galilee, “has frequently drawn comparisons between the state of Israel and Nazi Germany,” writes Tricia Miller, a senior analyst for CAMERA.
“Experts” like these make a pronounced impact on high-profile evangelicals. Lynne Hybels, co-founder of the influential megachurch Willow Creek Community Church, has taken over 100 Willow Creek staffers and leaders on Telos tours to “Israel/Palestine,” the Telos Group’s loaded term for the Jewish state and the disputed Palestinian territories. Hybels has disparaged Israel for its “occupation of the West Bank and the continuing blockade of Gaza,” which she calls “a violation of human rights” – accusations that echo Palestinian talking points.
Likewise, Relevant magazine founder Cameron Strang offered his readers a heavily slanted picture of “Israel/Palestine” in his “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” 2014 cover story, published after his Telos-guided visit to the Holy Land. Strang’s account gave readers – without comment or correction – this bit of blatant misinformation from PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi: “Palestinians are the descendants of the early Christians. We are probably the straightest line to original Christianity.”
This would be news, no doubt, to the apostles – all Jewish – who struggled at first with the idea of gentile followers of Jesus. It also shoehorns the Palestinians into the first century despite their invention as a people in the late 1960s.
Google’s “Ngram Viewer,” which maps the appearance of unique terms in books from 1800 to the present, documents the Palestinians’ late arrival. A search for “Palestinian state” or “Palestinian people” turns up almost no hits before the late 1960s, when the number shoots upward.
But it’s not just evangelical elites who sour on Israel after Soros-funded Telos tours. The rank-and-file do, too. A 2017 excursion left Katie Kallam, the daughter of an evangelical pastor, disenchanted with the Jewish state. “I didn’t realize how much of our defense budget goes to Israel,” Kellam told Jewish Currents. “It was jarring to learn how complicit I am as an American.”
Of course, Israel is the lone democracy in the Middle East, a pro-Western state and strong U.S. ally. It’s also surrounded by enemies who want it destroyed. But reasons like that for aiding Israel may not be heard on Telos tours.
Perhaps that’s why Telos Group co-founder Todd Deatherage told Jewish Currents it’s “easy to almost flip people” from sympathy for Israel to sympathy for Palestinians.
Telos, which leverages evangelical celebrities to reach into the evangelical community, may be eroding support for Israel among younger evangelicals. A recent survey registered a 42% drop since 2018 in support for Israel among evangelicals aged 18-29. Some say the drop is not that steep, but it’s still cause for alarm.
George Soros might consider it a return on investment. Dubbed “one of Israel’s most dangerous and powerful enemies in the Western world,” Soros is at least getting his money’s worth.
John Aman is Director of Communications at D. James Kennedy Ministries and author of the new booklet, “Hijacked: How George Soros and Friends Exploit Your Church,” a print companion to the new D. James Kennedy Ministries documentary, “How the Left is Stealing Your Church.”
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