JERUSALEM—Has Mike Evans damaged relations between the Evangelical Christian world and the Jewish State of Israel with his vitriolic and profanity-laced attacks against Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett and the millions of Israeli Jews who support the ‘change government’ that appears poised to assume power in coming days?
Many Israelis and Evangelicals this week have sharply criticized the American founder of the Friends of Zion Museum and long-time personal friend of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, with some accusing him of anti-Semitism and “crossing the line” of appropriate behavior, as ALL ISRAEL NEWS reported yesterday.
But Evans, in Israel for just 24 hours, fiercely rejected such concerns.
In a rambling press conference held Monday in a Jerusalem hotel – because he said he was “kicked out” of the Knesset where it was originally supposed to be held – Evans compared his rampage against Bennett and his supporters to the efforts of righteous Gentiles such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie ten Boom who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
“You think they damaged relationships for standing up for the Jewish people against Jew-haters?” Evans asked reporters.
“I showed you these demonic attacks,” he said, referring to the recent “cyberattack” against his pro-Israel Facebook page with anti-Semitic speech that ended with Facebook shutting the page down.
“You only have to believe one of them…such attacks get Jews killed.”
EVANS DOUBLES DOWN ON DEFENSE OF NETANYAHU
Evans mentioned multiple times that he represents 77 million Christians and claimed that he personally speaks for “ten percent of the world’s Evangelicals.”
And he doubled down on his insistence that only Netanyahu is suited to lead Israel, arguing that efforts by millions of Israelis to form a new government led by Bennett will put Israel in mortal danger.
Evans insisted that only his friend could unite Evangelicals to stand with Israel and that without Netanyahu at the helm, Evangelicals will abandon the Jewish state in large numbers.
“Bibi Netanyahu is the only man in the world who unites Evangelicals,” he said.
“If Bibi Netanyahu goes in the opposition, we Evangelicals – my 77 million Evangelicals – will go in the opposition with him. We’ll still support the State of Israel, but we’re not going to have the same position we’ve had because we won’t have trust. And trust is everything.”
Evans was asked whether he could verify that all of those who have clicked “like” to his Facebook page actually agree with his angry personal attacks on Bennett, incoming Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and their supporters, but he repeatedly refused to respond directly.
AN APOLOGY, BUT WAS IT ENOUGH?
Evans kicked off the press conference by diving into his childhood, recalling how his “racist” father – whom he said hated blacks and Jews – constantly beat him, “and when I’m talking about abuse, I’m not talking about a slap.”
Evans’ mother was Orthodox Jewish and his father, he said, called Evans a “bastard” child, claiming his wife had slept with someone else.
Then, Evans abruptly changed subjects.
“I want to personally apologize to Naftali Bennett because I used some very harsh statements and some very rude language, and that wasn’t right,” Evans said, referring to the blistering letter he sent to Bennett last week, which ALL ISRAEL NEWS published in full last Friday, at Evans’ request.
“Mr. Bennett has actually been a very strong Zionist … and for that he deserves my respect and I didn’t give him that respect you deserve.”
“So I needed to get that out of the way,” he said.
In the letter, Evans told Bennett, a combat veteran of an elite IDF special forces unit, that he was not a true Zionist.
“You betrayed the very principles that a generation gave their blood for and died for,” Evans wrote. “You want to be in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood and Leftists. God have mercy on your soul.”
He called Bennett “a bitter little man” and said, “I will fight you every step of the way,” insisting that “you have lost the support of Evangelicals 100 percent.”
Evans did not, however, address the highly controversial column he wrote for the Times of Israel on Friday.
“I told my wife when I married her that there was another woman in my life,” Evans wrote. “I had to be with her a lot. Her name was Israel….I’ve always been thrilled and proud of this beautiful, attractive, seductive Princess Israel. But right now, I’m not. I’m horrified. I’m seeing a display that is nauseous. It’s sickening for me as a person who has devoted fifty years of my life to build support for the State of Israel.”
Evans first likened the political movement to replace Netanyahu to a “political striptease.”
Then he likened the movement to the horrors of the Holocaust and the crucifixion of Jesus and called Bennett’s supporters “rabid dogs.”
“How shameful this seduction is!” Evans wrote. “I can smell the ashes of Auschwitz and see the blood of a multitude of souls who gave their lives to birth the Jewish state. These fools who think they’re legends in their own minds are willing to carve up the bird to vent their spleen only on one man they despise.”
“If they keep up this pathetic, political striptease act, this theater of the absurd, I’ll spend the rest of my life fighting them all, mobilizing millions of Evangelicals to join me in the fight. I understand how the Holocaust happened. German Jews were busy insulting each other, drunk on the wine of pride. They did not see the smoke of Auschwitz rising because they were more German than they were Jews.”
Seth Frantzman, a Jewish Israeli reporter and long-time editor for the Jerusalem Post was stunned and incensed by Evans’ column.
“Reading the Evans’ piece was shocking and offensive,” he told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “In a decade here in media I don’t think I saw an article as offensive as that one, except some of the inflammatory rhetoric on the extreme left.”
“Israel-Christian relations are based on a complex and sensitive history and must be rooted in mutual respect and understanding,” Frantzman said. “Insults and degrading language directed at Israeli leaders, offensive comments about the Holocaust, and insinuations that support for Israel can be used as a threat, or withdrawn, have no place in those relations.”
“Israel wants support,” he added, “but not at the expense of being told that the Israeli voters don’t decide their future.”
Various Israeli and Evangelical leaders and journalists called Evans’ column “anti-Semitic,” “disgusting,” “pathetic” and “absolutely crossing the line.”
Will Evans’ press conference persuade them to forgive him and move on?
EVANS CLAIMS BENNETT-LAPID GOVERNMENT WILL BE THWARTED AT LAST MOMENT
The press conference was originally supposed to be held at the Knesset, but Evans said “we got kicked out” because of the “election going on.”
The election was actually held on March 23.
While Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most seats, they failed to form a majority coalition.
It was the fourth time that Netanyahu was unable to form a government in two years.
This is why the “change bloc” was formed and why Bennett is positioned to replace Netanyahu, to avoid dragging Israel into a fifth round of elections in less than three years.
Evans said that he had spent the day speaking with Knesset members, four of whom he claimed were ready to bolt from the “change bloc” and collapse the anti-Netanyahu government at the last moment.
Talk of “Bibi Netanyahu’s [political] death was greatly exaggerated,” he said.
In a somewhat odd statement for someone who claims to be so close to Netanyahu, Evans told reporters that he has not spoken to Netanyahu in the last year, and that the prime minister “doesn’t know what I’m saying.”
Netanyahu is currently on trial for three separate charges of corruption.
EVANS BLASTED BENNETT AND LAPID FOR INVITING AN ARAB PARTY TO JOIN THEM
Evans blasted Bennett and Lapid for including left-wing and Arab parties in the coalition, particularly the Ra’am party, which is the Israel branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Yet, Netanyahu himself courted this very party and its leader, Mansour Abbas, for months to join his own coalition.
When asked whether he would support a Netanyahu-led government if Bibi teamed up with an Arab party, including Ra’am, Evans said yes, he probably would.
But he said he fears that anti-Zionist, post-Zionist and Arab leaders are going to make Israel vulnerable to external threats.
“You’re gonna wave a white flag of surrender – not a blue and white flag – a white flag, because you’re so blinded by your hatred, by your petty politics and your obsessions with power that you can’t see the trees for the forest,” he warned.
“If you surrender the core foundation of your nation, which is Zionism, to appease Jew haters, you will do it at Israel’s peril.”
A GROWING NUMBER OF EVANGELICALS ARE DISTANCING THEMSELVES FROM EVANS
Despite Evans’ claims that he represents 77 million Evangelicals who think like him, ALL ISRAEL NEWS has spoken with a growing number of Evangelicals leaders who are distancing themselves from Evans’ remarks.
“All the Evangelicals I know are committed to stand with Israel and in solidarity with the Jewish people because God commands us to and we love Him and we want to honor His Name and His Will,” said Rosemary Schindler Garlow, a descendant of Oscar Schindler, who saved Jews during the Holocaust. “Our commitment to Israel is not based upon who is the prime minister. It is based on the everlasting covenant in the Holy Scripture, made by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with the Jewish people.”
Her husband, Pastor Jim Garlow, said Israelis should not believe “reports which suggest that American Christian Evangelicals are wavering in their support of the Jewish homeland.”
“Furthermore, I recognize that we, as American Evangelicals, do not have the right to dictate to Israeli citizens whom they should choose to be their prime minister,” Garlow told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “I have been extremely grateful for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I respect and admire him profoundly. However, my commitment to Israel is not conditional on whomever is prime minister. I stand with Israel and with the Jewish people. Period.”
National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI), condemned Evans' interference in Israeli politics and his Times of Israel blog in which he used “anti-Semitic tropes” which “disqualify him as a friend of Zion.”
“The whole point of Zionism is for Jews to maintain a state where they make their own decisions regarding their future. It is simply not acceptable for a non-Israeli citizen to declare who should — or should not be — the country’s prime minister,” said NCLCI President, Tricia Miller, Ph.D.
Ward Simpson CEO of God TV, said he and his staff “have noticed no sentiment among our supporters around the world, that they would stop supporting Israel if Prime Minister Netanyahu were replaced.”
“Believers in Jesus stand with Israel out of loyalty to the God of Israel, not any particular person or personality,” Simpson said. “We believe that they respect the will of the Israeli people in the Middle East’s only functioning democracy.”
Below is a recording of the full press conference.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS