“Jews for Jesus” Falsely Accused Online

Every Jewish home around the world knows the name “Jews for Jesus”. It has become the familiar go-to term that rises immediately to mind when Jewish friends and relatives encounter Messianic believers they don’t yet understand. “He’s a Jew for Jesus!”

A recent article published by Jerusalem Online (JOL), a website featuring news from Israel and the Middle East, errantly accused the organization Jews for Jesus of allying itself with anti-Zionist terrorist groups in Israel. The article constitutes a gross misrepresentation of the truth. In a Jews for Jesus press release, David Brickner, Executive Director, says “These are flat out lies. No representatives of Jews for Jesus were ever interviewed for this so called news story. It is simply not true and I ought to know.”

In a smoke screen of confusion, the JOL article offhandedly claims there was a “pact between Jews for Jesus and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-linked Musalaha“. Musalaha is a ministry that organizes activities to promote reconciliation between Palestinian and Israeli believers

The document alluded to as a “pact” is in fact The Larnaca Statement, which was produced at a conference of thirty Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews who gathered in Larnaca, Cyprus in January for four days of prayer, fellowship and study. Neither Jews for Jesus nor Musalaha hosted the conference. It was hosted by the Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation of Israel/Palestine (LIRIP).

According to a press release issued by the conference organizers, the Larnaca Statement was issued and signed by the conference attendees “affirming their unity as believers in Jesus and calling on their communities to join them in reconciliation initiatives” in the midst of conflict and division in the Land of Israel. It does not favor one political or theological viewpoint of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict over another, and it in no way supports terrorism. The statement is available in full online.

While Jews for Jesus Scholar in Residence, Richard Harvey, was a co-chair of the conference and Salim Munayer of Musalaha participated on the LIRIP steering committee, the conference organizers specified that all conference attendees were invited as individuals only and not as organizational representatives. In addition, all participants signed the Larnaca Statement as a matter of personal conscience and not as signers for their respective organizations.

Jews for Jesus was not involved with the conference and did not underwrite Mr. Harvey’s conference-related expenses in any way. The Larnaca Statement can in no way be characterized as a “pact” between Jews for Jesus and Musalaha or between their staff members.

A major portion of the JOL evidence focuses on Facebook posts quoting Jews for Jesus staff members David Minsky and Chaim Birnbaum in an interchange with Father Gabriel Naddaf of the Nazareth based Christian Empowerment Council. According to Jews for Jesus, the quotations mentioned in the article grossly misrepresented the staffers’ viewpoints. JOL’s interpretation of the online exchange was that Minsky and Birnbaum, loyal IDF soldiers presently serving their country in the military reserves, were defending Hamas’s anti-Israeli terrorist behavior.

Jews for Jesus describes the online interchange as follows: Naddaf asserted in a post that Salim Munayer of Musalaha had praised Hamas’ terror tunnels and supported terrorism. He based his conclusion on a statement Munayer had made in response to a question about the terror tunnels in Gaza. Munayer was explaining the historical development of the tunnel’s original use for getting food through to Gaza and then its later use for terrorism. Dan Sered, Israel Director of Jews for Jesus, explains: “From our staff members’ understanding (Minsky and Birnbaum), when they saw that Munayer’s words had been misrepresented and twisted in the Facebook post, they stepped up in defense of a brother in Messiah. They did not consult anyone in our organization beforehand. All they said was that Musalaha is NOT a terrorist organization and Salim is not a terrorist. Such statements are the truth.”

Sered also states: “We stand with Israel and the United States position that Hamas is primarily to be considered a terrorist organization, and we do not in any way support terrorism, the Gaza tunnels, the murder of innocent civilians, nor rocket fire aimed at the Israeli people.”

Jews for Jesus staff members and volunteers in Israel have crossed paths with Musalaha in past years to participate in reconciliation-related events that have taken place amongst Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians in the larger Israeli Body of Messiah. Beyond that, Jews for Jesus has not had and does not presently have any organizational ties with Musalaha.

Another false accusation was made against a Jews for Jesus staff member for speaking at a church in the UK, which supposedly has anti-Israel and anti-Semitic associations because of statements made by its pastor. Sered explains that the staff worker spoke at the church before the pastor made the comments, for which the pastor was disciplined by his own denomination. In addition, Sered says, “Our staff are always delighted to share a message from the Word with churches worldwide and are always willing to speak about the work that is happening in our organization globally.”

Sered continues, “Our organization is a one issue organization and that is to share the Gospel with our Jewish people. The Bible calls us to be ambassadors of reconciliation, thus we applaud the efforts of Arab and Jewish believers in Messiah who desire to be united as brothers and sisters. We do our best to walk in this unity, but in no way support terrorism, “theological” or otherwise.”

It is clear that the JOL article is inflammatory, its premise is unsubstantiated, and its motives are solely to slander and falsely implicate the organization Jews for Jesus, in the hopes of casting a negative light on the whole Messianic community in Israel. May this not happen. May the truth of this story be known without distortions. Likewise and most importantly, may the truth of God’s word be known among our Jewish brethren without distortions.

UPDATE March 6, 2016: added direct quote “pact between Jews for Jesus and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-linked Musalaha”, and edited original paragraph concerning the Facebook exchange of Minsky and Birnbaum.