Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has "expressed appreciation" for the work of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). He has every reason to laud the work of CMEP and its executive director, Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon: CMEP was one of the signatories of an anti-Israel plan created at a strategic conference co-hosted by the PA and the Carter Center to guide American "Christian" organizations in their anti-Israel activism. Pictured: Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon — the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) — is charming and disarming. Her friendly smile, calm demeanor, and quiet passion for her topic is engaging. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Palestinian Authority (PA)/Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) appears to have selected her as the face of their strategic "Christian" anti-Israel lobby — even sharing, on the PLO's social media, a piece in which Cannon blames Christian Zionists for the rise in antisemitism and hate crimes.
Cannon seeks to disguise her true agenda (pro-PLO/PA and anti-Christian Zionism) beyond strategic coded messaging. Her friends at the PA are fully aware that directly confronting Christian supporters of Israel with their genuine agenda would probably be unfruitful. The PA seems to have become alarmed by the increased influence of Christian Zionism, which consists of genuine Christian theological support for Israel, and of Christian Zionists in particular. The PA has apparently decided to shift strategies. Its latest initiative is apparently to use their "Christian" lobby — and various organizations that lobby creates — to infiltrate Christian pro-Israel communities through a carefully crafted narrative designed to appeal to Christians' love for all humanity and desire to pray for the Middle East. The PA's end goal, apart from displacing Israel, is both to dilute Christians' pro-Israel beliefs and their influence, and to convert Christians outright to the PA's narrative and cause. The tools of infiltration include speeches, media, and trips.
When Mae Cannon spoke at Christ at the Checkpoint Conference USA in October 2018, she took issue with Dexter Van Zile, a Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), who has written about her work. Van Zile recounted, "A few minutes into her [Cannon's] talk, she defended CMEP and her leadership of the organization — which has been harshly critical of Israel. 'And they say my goal is to get you to pray against the Jewish people, which just for the record it's not,' she said. 'Don't believe what Dexter Van Zile says about me.'" The prayer point may be a sensitive point for Cannon as it is so very close to pulling back the curtain and exposing her pro-PLO/PA and anti Christian Zionism agenda.
"'Tip of the spear': The US Christian movement praying for Trump and Israel" was the title of an article by Azad Essa in the Middle East Eye (MEE), a London-based, anti-Israel website that has been linked to both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Essa, in the March 24, 2019, MEE piece, stereotyped the theologically and racially diverse base of Christian Zionist support by portraying them as white, evangelical racists and bigots. Essa then quoted Mae Cannon:
"[Cannon] told MEE that some Christian fundamentalists are growing increasingly entrenched in their ideas because they feel 'threatened'. 'We are seeing an increase in anti-Semitism, a rise in hate crimes as a result,' Cannon said."
According to Essa's reporting, Cannon linked the rise of antisemitism and the rise in hate crimes to Christian fundamentalist supporters of Israel feeling "threatened."
As Cannon, CMEP, the rest of the PA's "Christian" lobby, and the PA itself feel increasingly alarmed by the rise of — and influence of — Christian Zionism, they have been increasingly seeking to gaslight Christian Zionists who pray for Israel. In fact, the PLO Department of Public Diplomacy & Policy's Facebook page shared the MEE piece by Essa that quotes Cannon. In it, Cannon accused Christian Zionists of causing an increase in antisemitism and hate crimes — and, in the context of the article, inaccurately implied that Christian Zionism feeds into white supremacy, thereby allegedly increasing antisemitism.
In this MEE piece, Christian Zionists' concerns about Islamic extremism became Christian Zionists being afraid of Muslims. The article went on to quote two men who apparently laid the responsibility for the horrific massacre at the New Zealand mosque at the feet of Christian supporters of Israel, and claimed that white supremacists are coming from "these right-wing Christian narratives":
Likewise, [Donald] Wagner ["a professor of religion and Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago"] says that the recent massacre of 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand "demonstrates the severity of this [white supremacy and Christian Zionism] issue". "Many of these [white supremacists] are coming out of these right-wing Christian narratives," Wagner said. [Jonathan] Brenneman ["a Palestinian-American Christian working for the Mennonite Church USA"] agrees: "At its core, it [Christian Zionism] is an extremist ideology, but it is so widely held in the US, and so bizarre to those who aren't part of it, that Christian Zionist beliefs are largely overlooked."
Revealingly, the MEE article is like a puzzle, with quotes that seem purposely vague; the puzzle is only clear when all its pieces are put together in order. Thus, according to Cannon, Wagner and Brenneman's narrative — which was shared by the PLO — it is Christian Zionists who are responsible for the severity of white supremacy, the horrific white supremacist attack on New Zealand's Muslims, and by extension, the increase in antisemitism.
While certain white supremacists have long used Christian terminology as a convenient and deceptive cloak for a racist, antisemitic agenda, Christian scriptures stand in direct opposition to white supremacy — its ideology, agenda, and actions. Unfortunately, then, when an actual white supremacist used Christian terminology in his manifesto and murdered and injured Jewish individuals in the Chabad of Poway synagogue during an antisemitic attack, CMEP did not address the attack directly. The closest the organization came to a statement was including in its CMEP email bulletin a quote from a piece — shared in the bulletin — that mentioned the attack as part of a larger discussion of rising "anti-Semitic incidents." CMEP also tweeted the piece. Unlike CMEP's October 2018 statement after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, when it condemned antisemitism, there were no tweets, no Facebook posts, no statements denouncing the antisemitic attack on the Chabad of Poway or expressing sympathy for those injured and murdered... only continued advocacy for the Palestinian Authority's agenda.
In spite of the MEE article's radical views and libels of Christian Zionists — as in allegedly promoting white supremacy — CMEP did not distance itself from the MEE piece. A CMEP email bulletin touted Mae Cannon's contribution to the piece — even originally crediting her for writing the piece before correcting its mistake.
CMEP and Mae Cannon's media hits are not limited to libeling Christian supporters of Israel. Using the platform of the Middle East Monitor, which — like the Middle East Eye — reportedly has ties to Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood, Cannon also sought to lobby Israelis directly ahead of their recent election "whether to continue down the present road or change direction." "The organisation I lead," Mae Cannon wrote, "Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), has long been a friend to Israelis." Regrettably, a serious review of the history and activities of Cannon and CMEP illustrates that her statement is demonstrably false.
For instance, in her Middle East Monitor piece, that was friendly to the idea of trying to destroy Israel economically, Cannon claimed:
"Opposition to the occupation among Americans, in general, is growing, paradoxically as opposition to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and other ways of expressing anti-occupation views are also increasing. The anti-occupation view is not opposition to the existence of the State of Israel."
In contrast to her claim, researchers have demonstrated time and again that those behind the BDS movement ("the anti-occupation view") are explicitly opposed to the existence of the State of Israel. Recently, even Germany's parliament branded the BDS movement as antisemitic. The resolution that the Bundestag passed flatly stated: "The argumentation patterns and methods used by the BDS movement are antisemitic."
Spreading misinformation about those who wish to obliterate Israel by strangling it economically and who hold "anti-occupation views," however, is hardly CMEP's only problematic activity. CMEP has also worked hand in glove with the PA and the PLO — the same entities that have suppressed the free speech of Palestinians and that have arrested Palestinian journalists for criticizing the government. In November 2017, Mae Cannon led a CMEP delegation trip of CRNCA (Christian Reformed Church in North America; CRNCA is a member of CMEP) leaders as part of a Middle East tour. On November 2, 2017, these "Christian" leaders were treated to a "lunch in Ramallah," which,
"... took place at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority to honor the British citizens who walked from Great Britain across Europe over the past four months to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people on the [100th] anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
"'The delegation of people walked from the United Kingdom to Palestine to apologize for the tragic consequences of the Balfour Declaration on the Palestinian people,' said Shannon Jammal-Hollemans, racial justice team leader for the CRCNA..."
These "Christian" leaders were specifically visiting the headquarters of the PA to apologize for the Balfour Declaration — a historic declaration of support for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Jewish ancestral homeland. During the luncheon, these CRNCA leaders met and took a picture with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Abbas "expressed appreciation for CMEP's work."
President Abbas has every reason to laud the work of Mae Cannon and CMEP. CMEP, it turns out, was one of the signatories of the Atlanta Summit document — an anti-Israel plan created at a strategic conference co-hosted by the Palestinian Authority and the Carter Center to guide American "Christian" organizations in their anti-Israel activism. Mae Cannon signed the follow-up document at the Jerusalem Conference. While both documents seek to erode support for Christian Zionism, the Jerusalem Conference document even more explicitly names and targets Christian Zionism, and claims that Christian Zionism and "fundamentalist Christian teachings" have "damaging consequences."
When Cannon addresses Christian supporters of Israel, she may not explicitly be urging them to pray against the Jewish people. But through her words and actions, she is arguably saying and doing much worse. Does her audience know that she is accusing Christian supporters of Israel of increasing antisemitism and hate crimes? Does her audience know that she is writing and promoting Palestinian propaganda in media outlets? Do they know that she is working closely with the Palestinian Authority to implement the PA's strategic plan for targeting Israel by chipping away at Christian support for Israel through eroding support for Christian Zionism? Most likely they do not: Cannon's hidden agenda is disguised by a carefully constructed facade — one that claims simply to be introducing her audience to multiple narratives and perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As Craig Sanders explained in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
On Jan. 10, Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon discussed her recent book, A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land, at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Cannon, who considers herself an advocational academic—mixing her academic career with strong advocacy work in the United States and Middle East—is currently the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a broadly ecumenical organization with members from 28 different denominations across the theological spectrum.
During her talk, Cannon argued that there are not two narratives regarding the situation in Israel and Palestine, but only one true dichotomy: those who are for peace and those who are not. To those who only care about the State of Israel, Cannon remarked, 'If you can't care about the Palestinians for their sake, care about them for the sake of Israel.'
Cannon dove into her academic background to unpack the history of restorationism, the Zionist Christian ideology that the Jewish people needed to be restored to the land of Israel in order to facilitate the second coming of Christ. U.S. allegiances and relationships throughout the Middle East are deeply rooted in this theology, she said, citing the current evangelical-backed administration as an example....
A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land seeks to educate Americans, mainly Christians, by providing an accurate history of events in Israel and Palestine and explaining how the restorationism theory is theologically incorrect. Her book brings in Israeli and Palestinian voices to provide multiple viewpoints on the single narrative of the land....
The Jan. 10 talk concluded with a vibrant opportunity for questions and answers. One question arose again and again in multiple ways: as individuals, what tools could we employ to change U.S. policy in the Middle East? Cannon urged attendees to talk to members of Congress, observing that if they believed they could vote differently on Israel, they would. [Emphases added.]
Thus, Cannon's intent for the book becomes clearer. Her book is simply a means to infiltrate Christian communities through the "multiple narratives" facade and under the guise of education while instead, it implements the PA's "Christian" lobby strategic plan for influencing the American Christian public to turn against support for Christian Zionism. The current goal is shifting the balance of power so that Congress, specifically, buys into the PA's political and legislative agenda as pushed by the PA's "Christian" lobby.
CMEP has demonstrated its desire to lure Christian supporters of Israel to embrace a less pro-Israel narrative while simultaneously accusing those same supporters for the rise of antisemitism and hate crimes. In concert with these efforts, Mae Cannon and the rest of the PA's "Christian" lobby are methodically implementing the PA's strategic and political agenda. One key focus is to shift the American public's view away from anti-Zionism being regarded as antisemitism.
The PA's "Christian" lobby seems to have set its sights on Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. His March 25, 2019 speech at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)'s annual event clearly articulated his belief that "anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism." Writing in Tablet Magazine about the Soviet Union's anti-Zionism and antisemitism, Izabella Tabarovsky expressed similar sentiments: "In practice, the distinction between Soviet anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism often proved a distinction without a difference. The tropes were the same, albeit with a new set of labels." Now the "anti-Zionism is antisemitism" position flies in the face of the PA's "Christian" lobby's attempts to normalize anti-Zionism and to shift the public's perspective on anti-Zionism from it being antisemitic to it being acceptable and laudable.
Cannon recently penned a piece at Religion News Service (RNS) on antisemitism with the objective of combating the "anti-Zionism is antisemitism" position and replacing it with the "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism" narrative. While the piece mentioned the threat of "ancient Christian tropes of anti-Semitism" and "white nationalists," she conveniently failed to mention the threat that radical Islamic extremism and terrorism pose to the Jewish community and the State of Israel. Cannon constructs her own definition of antisemitism to give political cover to anti-Zionists:
"Beliefs that are detrimental and could lead to physical harm against Jews constitute anti-Semitism. Not every problematic belief manifests anti-Semitism. One can be inaccurate and wrong, and not be anti-Semitic. Nonetheless, we must be informed and attentive to when anti-Semitic sentiment, rhetoric or actions exist. In our criticism of Israeli policies, may we not compromise in also calling out violations of human rights and acts of violence by other individuals, groups and nation-states. Activists and advocates must not muddy the waters between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israeli policies." [Emphases added.]
For Mae Cannon, the Palestinian Authority, and the rest of the Palestinian Authority's "Christian" lobby, it is critical that they shield their anti-Zionist activities from being condemned as antisemitic. Thus, they are strategically working to spread the "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism" narrative through both advocacy work in churches and through op-eds in the news media.
To have the public buy into CMEP's opposed-to-antisemitism and "friend to Israelis" facade, however, CMEP needed to add more plaster to the facade. Whereas back in October 2018, CMEP released a statement condemning the antisemitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue, now, in March 2019, CMEP released a different statement — on antisemitism. The political motivation behind it was clear not only in the statement's text but also in an email blast to their supporters:
"Our statement against the politicization of anti-Semitism and calling out the double-standard attacks on Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Congresswoman, was a critical time for CMEP to go on the record standing firm in opposition to all forms of bigotry, racism, and anti-Semitism. We will be staunch in our commitment against such accusations being used as political weapons." [Emphases added.]
CMEP's statement illustrated Izabella Tabarovsky's warning in a recent Tablet piece: "Today, the often-voiced idea that today's far-left anti-Semitism is merely 'political' and therefore benign is rapidly losing its already-thin credibility." CMEP's foremost concern seems both to be fighting back against the "anti-Zionism is antisemitism" position and protecting the Palestinian Authority's political agenda so that it can continue to advance it in the halls of American government. Another CMEP email stated:
"Just last month we issued a strong statement condemning anti-Semitism, while also opposing its weaponization against those criticizing Israeli policy. CMEP's statement was rooted in our organization's stated opposition to anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian words and actions." [Emphasis added.]
While claiming to oppose anti-Jewish and anti-Christian words and actions, Mae Cannon and CMEP have been providing cover to those who express anti-Israel and anti-Jewish tropes, and simultaneously libeling Christians who support Israel. The Middle East Eye piece's anti-Christian alternate reality libels Christian Zionists as contributing to antisemitism. In contrast to CMEP's political posturing, Tabarovsky's Tablet piece articulates:
"Anti-Semites recognize anti-Semitism no matter what side of the aisle they live on. It is no accident that Holocaust denier David Irving expressed admiration for the self-described anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn and white supremacist David Duke did the same for Ilhan Omar. This approval should cause the far left to ask itself some difficult questions about the role its own tropes may play in the murders executed by the far right, in the ongoing wave of hate crimes against Jews being committed by non-white assailants in New York and other cities, and in the mainstreaming of openly anti-Semitic discourse behind the fig leaf of anti-Zionism."
To give their "friend to Israelis" narrative more credibility, CMEP also selectively condemned a particularly horrific Hamas terror attack. After remaining silent in the wake of many Palestinian rocket and stabbing attacks on Israeli citizens, CMEP decided to condemn one particular Hamas rocket attack — allowing Mae Cannon to claim in her Israeli election piece, "We [CMEP] have also been critical of Hamas terrorism and the Palestinian Authority's withholding of resources from its own people." Considering Cannon's and CMEP's well-documented cozy relationship with the Palestinian Authority and long history of not consistently condemning terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, such claims would be laughable if they were not such a transparent attempt to dupe the American public and their representatives regarding Mae Cannon's and CMEP's true agenda.
How does a person and entity pay lip service to supporting Israelis and claim they are not opposed to praying for Israel while simultaneously strategizing behind the scenes with the enemies of the Jewish State on how best to stealthily attack Israel and its Christian allies? The ancient book of Numbers describes a similar figure — Balaam. After blessing Israel with his lips, Balaam worked with Israel's enemy, Balak, to seek to destroy the fledgling Jewish people. While Cannon pays lip service to opposing antisemitism and to being a "friend to Israelis," she leads CMEP in strategizing with Israel's enemies on the best way not only to undermine Christian Zionism but also — at the behest of the Palestinian Authority — to target the PA's putative enemy, the State of Israel, in the halls of the government of the United States — arguably, Israel's greatest ally. While Balaam and Balak are long dead, their spirits live on in and through the work of Mae Cannon, CMEP, the Palestinian Authority, and the PA's entire "Christian" lobby. With "friends to Israelis" like these, who needs enemies?
Joshua Joseph is an American foreign policy and Middle East analyst.
 Azad Essa has "reported for Al Jazeera English" and "written for The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Guardian, Middle East Eye, among others." As the executive editor of The Daily Vox, Essa — in a piece titled, "We aren't shy to take a position on Palestine" — accused Israel of being a "coloniser and an occupier" and stated "now is probably as good a time as any" for South Africa and Israel to end their relationship.