Israeli government finds a welcome audience with Christian journalists
Published 9:42 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017
JERUSALEM — Israel’s nationalist government may be unpopular with Western liberals and much of its domestic press corps, but it has found a close friend among the world’s evangelical Christians and their media outlets.
The government this week is hosting a first-of-its-kind summit for Christian journalists, featuring softball questions, mutual admiration and a welcome respite for embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His outreach to evangelical leaders reflects striking tactical parallels to his close ally and fellow media basher, President Donald Trump.
About 130 journalists from some 30 countries are participating in the four-day summit, which ended Wednesday. The world’s largest broadcasters, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, Daystar, Trinity Broadcasting Network and God TV, were all represented.
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Nitzan Chen, the director of Israel’s Government Press Office, said he believed the summit was long overdue, and that planners chose the 50th anniversary celebrations of Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem as a fitting occasion for the conference.
For many years, Israel has held a summit for Jewish media outlets, cultivating those journalists as unofficial “ambassadors” to help promote Israel’s image abroad, he said. “Using the same logic,” it decided to reach out to Christian media in what he hopes could also become a regular event.
The summit’s agenda included meetings with top Israeli politicians, most from the nationalist side. Palestinian speakers barely appeared on the schedule.
Sessions included discussions on archaeology and Jewish-Christian relations, but also “radical Islam” and alleged media bias, legal “warfare” and Palestinian “incitement” against Israel. While Israel’s West Bank settlements are largely vilified in the West, participants were invited to visit one.
The media summit extends what has become a warm relationship between Israel and its evangelical supporters.
Local charities raise millions of dollars from Christian friends around the world, and evangelical Christians make up a sizeable segment of the tourism industry. Last week, thousands of Christians gathered in Jerusalem for an annual celebration and parade coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.