by: Ilse Strauss, News Bureau Chief
Europe presents Israel with a distinct paradox. There’s fierce support and equally fierce opposition; endless prospects alongside endless trials and great opportunities offset by great challenges. Harnessing the potential, promises and pitfalls emanating from the 44 countries comprising the world’s second smallest continent to side with Israel is no small feat. Yet the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) has taken on that task, recently reestablishing its European office to channel the support of Bible-believing Christians to turn Europe for Israel.
The IAF has a long and fruitful history of garnering global backing for the Jewish state. Founded in 2007, the umbrella organization maintains an unparalleled network of 50 national Israel Allies Parliamentary Caucuses comprising 1,200 leading legislators in their respective national governments on six continents.
What sets the IAF apart from a plethora of others campaigning for the same cause is its use of faith-based diplomacy in the pro-Israel lobby. Josh Reinstein, IAF president, summarizes the approach as “Christians taking their biblical support for Israel and turning it into real political action.” It entails leveraging the Christian support within a nation for the legislative efforts of members of the IAF caucuses—elected pro-Israel parliamentarians in their countries—to effect change by ensuring political support for Israel, fighting discriminatory or false legislation and growing the relevant nation’s bilateral relationship with Jerusalem.
The results speak for themselves, holds Reinstein. “Today, faith-based diplomacy is the most effective weapon in Israel’s diplomatic arsenal. It’s the reason why we have national embassies in Jerusalem, why we have observer status in the African Union and why we have anti-BDS legislation in a number of nations. Faith-based diplomacy is crucial to the State of Israel. And the IAF is the only organization that deals with it.”
Moreover, the reestablished IAF European office is the only organization active on the continent that leverages Christian political support to influence Israel-related policy in the individual nations and across the continent as a whole, utilizing faith-based diplomacy as the tool.
The European arena is a uniquely charged, challenging one. “Europe is the number one trading partner with Israel and has lots of influence on Israeli policy,” says Reinstein. “At the same time, we’re seeing tremendous antagonism come out of Europe, more than other parts of the world.”
Modern-day Europe’s anti-Israel track record is disturbing indeed. The European Union’s Middle East policies are advancing its bias against Israel, while the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe habitually includes anti-Israel sentiments in its resolutions. The European Commission pressures its member states to refrain from moving their embassies to Jerusalem and charges Israel with occupying Judea and Samaria, violating international law. Funds from European countries and even the European Union are funneled to Palestinian terror organizations—all while remaining mum about Palestinian indoctrination and incitement to terror. Among the local populations, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement gains ground with its narrative that pits Israel—the overpowering aggressor that tramples on human rights and destroys livelihoods—against the hapless Palestinian victims. And in what Reinstein calls a “practice that represents the ugly face of anti-Semitism in Europe today,” legislators are pressured to implement discriminatory labeling policies targeting only Jewish Israelis exporting Israeli goods from Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights—while ignoring other disputed territories worldwide.
The IAF is not new to this neighborhood or its challenges. It has existing caucuses in 16 European countries, including the EU, that have scored a number of pro-Israel victories in their respective governments. The reestablished office, headquartered in the Netherlands, has now picked up the baton to advance the effort.
Functioning from a centralized hub, the office will strengthen the current caucuses, form four new caucuses in Bulgaria, Croatia, Moldova and Serbia and develop caucuses in pan-European institutions. This will result in a cohesive network spanning most European countries poised to take coordinated political action and drive campaigns on the national and continental levels.
“What the reestablished office will do is to unite the caucuses and focus on victories in the EU and throughout Europe regarding anti-Israel sentiment,” explains Reinstein. “Instead of just being the finger, we aim to be the fist, bringing all the caucuses together on European-centered initiatives for a stronger impact.”
Addressing the bias of labeling Israeli goods is first on the office’s 2023 agenda. Other topics include turning the tide against BDS, blocking financing to Palestinian terrorist groups, exposing the unjust framing of Israel as an occupying state acting against international law, establishing Jerusalem as its undivided capital and disseminating accurate information to decision makers, especially during times of crisis.
To ensure that the office remains relevant to its target audience, IAF has invited Bridges for Peace and nine other major Christian organizations to serve on its advisory board. “We’ve always worked with grassroots Christians who support Israel,” holds Reinstein. “It is Christians who put pressure on Christian leaders to put pressure on political leaders to stand with Israel. So, by working with our Christian partners like Bridges for Peace, we’re able to harness these organizations’ support in different countries. Also, because there’s a base of operation for these Christian organizations, we can mobilize faster with the help of our partners. Moreover, it enables us to seek council from organizations who have been involved in pro-Israel activity in real time. That’s why we’ll have quarterly meetings with the Christian advisory board to obtain advice to see how we can do better and be more effective.”
Judging by the impact of IAF’s faith-based diplomatic approach internationally, Europe can look forward to a lot. Reinstein ascribes the success of the approach to two reasons, one practical and the other spiritual.
“On the practical side, as our former President Reuven Rivlin said, there are 15 million Jews and 1 billion Christians, but together we are 1 billion and 15 million. We have the ability to affect change in so many countries because of the unparalleled influence of Bible-believing Christians. We have access to churches, state leaders, country leaders and political leaders because there is such a big Evangelical Christian population in so many countries.”
“We can’t forget the spiritual perspective though. Faith-based diplomacy works because it is biblically correct. I think it’s more important to be biblically correct than politically correct. We believe in the fulfilment of prophecy, and now the time where Jews and Gentiles work together to partner in the fulfilment of prophecy has come upon us. And whenever Jews and Christians work together on behalf of Israel, we see great success.”
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