Saturday, November 10, 2007

Anti-Israel propagandist touring US churches

The traditional covered dish dinner of the small town American church has changed. Along with the pot roast and macaroni and cheese, you may now be served a helping of anti-Israel propaganda delivered by a professional propagandist. These propagandists are insinuating themselves into the mainstream via the grassroots, attending regularly scheduled suppers and meetings to deliver a carefully crafted anti-Israel message. It has now become commonplace within many churches in this country to view Israel in only the most negative terms, and to dismiss all Christian support for Israel as a form of fundamentalism. In fact, it has become difficult to discuss the issue at all within many churches unless you adhere to the views of people like Janet Lahr Lewis.

Janet Lahr Lewis is a professional anti-Israel activist who (according to her bio) worked for Sabeel's main office in Jerusalem for 10 years and has since served as the executive director of Friends of Sabeel for two years, in which position she runs their international outreach operations. She has also achieved a level of prominence within the United Methodist Church, which is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S. Her UMC profile lists her as the UMC "liaison between ecumenical groups and Israel and Palestine"... Janet is the main contact for ... United Methodist visitors who wish to follow the recommendation of the General Conference to spend a significant amount of time in the area with (Israeli and Palestinian) Christians." In other words, the United Methodist Church has installed a strident anti-Israel activist as their primary contact person for groups wishing to conduct fact-finding tours of Israel and the Palestinian territories under church aegis. (More here in this piece on Sabeel)

Lewis, who worked as a civil engineer and "troubleshooter" at a Old Cast Stone Products in Thompson, OH, says she received a calling on a visit to "the Holy Land". According to the bio she posts on the official website for United Methodist missionaries:

“After taking a typical Holy Land tour and seeing the devastating consequences of the ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, I experienced not only a ‘call’, but rather an undeniable ‘push’ to go back to that not-so-holy land and do whatever I could to help bring about ‘freedom for the oppressed,’” Janet recalls. She sold her house in the U.S. and volunteered for several years, first in the Galilee, then Bethlehem where she “lived with my neighbors under the heavy hand of injustice and military occupation.”
I'm not sure how that bio corresponds to the more than 12 years working directly for Naim Ateek at Sabeel, but, putting that aside, the main point is clear: she is the most senior United Methodist missionary in Israel and she is an outspoken partisan for the Palestinians against Israel.

I was wondering what she's been doing lately , so I googled her name and found that she's on a peculiar type of speaking tour. One targeting small town Methodists with her slick, well-honed message. Lewis has been a woman on a mission of late, going from church to church on a tight schedule, spreading her message of opposing the existence of Israel in the name of peace. On September 26, she hosted a conference with Naim Ateek in Bethlehem. (read here) After that, both his and her U.S. tour began. He went to the Sabeel conference in Boston, and she went on a speaking tour of small town America.

On September 30, Lewis spoke at the Angola, Indiana United Methodist Church, which describes her as "the missionary this church supports" (by which they must mean they send her funds).

On October 25, she addressed the Reno, Nevada First United Methodist Church: "News from Holy Land": "Lewis has served in the Holy Land since 1994, coordinating relations between ecumenical groups and their hosts. She is an educator, organizer, journalist and worship leader, working towards a peace for Palestinians and Israelis."

She was in California for a meeting with the good people of Chico, California's Trinity United Methodist Church on October 27. More here, this time featuring an "Arabic Dinner" (in a covered dish?).

On November 2, Lewis "gave the message" at a worship service and an "in-depth presentation of her work" at a potluck dinner at the St. Thomas United Methodist Church of Glen Elyn, Illinois. "Come and learn a little about one place where the church is at work in the world."

From November 2: Wesley United Methodist Church, Naperville: Announcements:

"UM Missionary in Israel/Palestine to Speak at Wesley; Friday, Nov. 2 @ 8 pm
The End the Occupation (ETO) group has invited Janet Lahr Lewis to come to speak at Wesley after their monthly potluck, at 8 pm on Friday, November 2.
Janet Lahr Lewis is a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church and is serving as a liaison between ecumenical groups in Israel and Palestine. Come and hear the story that isn’t told in the American press about life in the occupied territories and the justice of the Palestinian cause. You may wish ~ are welcome ~ to come to the ETO potluck which precedes her presentation at 7 pm."
Then this notice of another event from a local Illinois paper:

"Nov. 4: Good Samaritan United Methodist Church will feature missionary Janet Lahr Lewis at 10 a.m. Nov. 4 at the church, 960 W. Army Trail Road, Addison. She will describe her Mission of Peace in Palestine and Jerusalem. Donations for her work will be taken and a luncheon will follow. For details, call (630) 543-3725."

Then this from the Downers Grove Illinois First United Methodist Church calendar:

"Tuesday, November 6, 2007: Stories from the Holy Land: Janet Lahr Lewis
Time : 7:00pm to 9:00pm Description: Janet is a UM missionary working in Palestine, sponsored by our Conference. Location: Chapel Hall Organizer: Jonathan Dean"

Then this from Fairview United Methodist Church of Ohio's Miami Valley area:

Monday, Nov. 12 at Fairview UMC, Dayton, 7:00 p.m. Reception following.
828 W. Fairview Avenue, Dayton, OH 45406 Ph: (937) 274-2178

Tuesday, Nov. 13 at Aldersgate UMC, Huber Heights, 7:00 p.m. Soup Supper at 6:00 p.m.
5464 Old Troy Pike in Huber Heights, OH Ph: (937)-233-8151.

Janet Lahr Lewis, a missionary through the General Board of Global Ministries, serves as the Coordinator of Friends of Sabeel-International at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, Palestine. Friends of Sabeel support the work of Sabeel-Jerusalem by promoting nonviolent solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Janet's responsibilities are numerous. She circulates updates about developments in the ongoing crisis and suggests courses of action people can take to address it. She educates visitors, organizes conferences, develops media campaigns, offers worship opportunities, hosts delegations to the area and oversees other special events.

“Christ calls us all to be ministers of justice,” she observes. “Through my work with the Palestinian Christian community, I will be able to answer this call by working for a just and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis, so that reconciliation and healing can occur.”

A native of Cleveland, OH, Janet earned an associate degree in civil engineering and architectural design from Lakeland College and has studied theater arts at Texas Christian University. Prior to her current assignment, she worked for twelve years with
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. She has also worked closely with Archbishop Elias Chacour, a prominent Palestine Christian peace activist.

The United Methodist Women geographic mission study for 2008 is on Palestine, so this is an excellent opportunity to receive current, first-hand information about the area. We invite you to join us for these presentations.
There was this fund-raising appeal from the November newsletter of the First United Methodist Church of Bloomfield, Indiana:

November Outreach Spotlight:
What it is: The United Methodist Church liaison in Jerusalem is a ministry established in 1987 at the request of Palestinian churches. Janet Lahr Lewis has recently succeeded Rev. Sandra Olewine in this mission, serving as Coordinator of Friends of Sabeel-International. Friends of Sabeel is a network of international organizations that promotes nonviolent solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With seemingly endless challenges in the Middle East, it is important that we continue to support this vital United Methodist mission. Please consider making a donation by cash or check in this month’s yellow mission envelope. Make checks payable to FUMC with Missionary in Jerusalem on the memo line.

What it means:
“After taking a typical Holy Land tour and seeing the devastating consequences of the ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, I experienced not only a ‘call,’ but rather an undeniable ‘push’ to go back to that not-so-holy land and do whatever I could to help bring about ‘freedom for the oppressed,’” Janet recalls. She sold her house in the U.S. and volunteered for several years, first in Galilee, then in Bethlehem where she “lived with my neighbors under the heavy hand of injustice and military occupation.” “Christ calls us all to be ministers of justice... Through my work with the Palestinian Christian community and Sabeel, I will be able to answer this call by working for a just and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis, so that reconciliation and healing can occur.”
-Janet Lahr Lewis
And this notice of fund-raising from the ground up: The Lake Villa, Illinois United Methodist Church collected $26.85 in pennies for Lewis between April and September. (They had a collection bucket in the back of the sanctuary).

That's just what I found in a brief google search, so I assume I'm missing most of her speaking engagements. Too much information? Why am I boring you with this trivia? Grassroots organizing can shape debates and influence policy-making virtually unseen. The religious anti-Zionism of Sabeel, Janet Lahr Lewis' message, is intrinsically anti-Semitic and is aimed at delegitimizing the state of Israel. This very extreme message is working its way into the mainstream because professional propagandists like Lewis are given a forum in American churches. That's how public opinion is being shaped from the ground up.

During the Great Depression, Father Coughlin spun a yarn about Jewish bankers taking control of the world. Father Coughlin proved that a virulently anti-Semitic message can be made acceptable to millions of American Christians given the right climate. He used the mass-media to spread his hatred, so everybody knew what he was saying when he said it. Sabeel activists like Janet Lahr Lewis are largely flying beneath the radar, helping to frame the debate and shaping future generations outside the awareness of the mass media. That's how the divestment campaigns have gotten as far as they have. In spite of the fact that they haven't yet succeeded, they have become part of the mainstream debate. That is, in and of itself, a sort of success for Sabeel. They can wait for the political climate to change to see if the ideas they're planting will grow.

So now these ideas are promoted in small town churches, by people respected and liked within their communities. That is why Janet Lahr Lewis' speaking tour is important.

We must not let a new generation of anti-Semitic demagogues put a friendly, acceptable face on bigotry.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Janet Lahr Lewis


Julius Martov said...

Thank you for that blog entry. Two other Christians worth investigating with extreme anti-Zionist politics,
Charles E. Carlson and Eileen Fleming. Recently spoke at the rancid, "No More Wars For Israel, " conference in Orange County, Ca. Organized by the Willis Carto neo-Nazis.
>...In a church hall, the conference convened featuring an impressive line-up of speakers, including:

Eileen Fleming, author, videographer and human rights activist, who interviewed and videotaped Mordechai Vanunu, the famous Israeli whistle-blower who exposed the fact that Israel has many nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and Israel kidnapped him and put him in prison for 18 years for this courageous act of the highest order of morality. The conference was dedicated to Mr. Vanunu. Find out more about him and how to help with his legal fees at Fleming’s website:

Michael Collins Piper, noted author of many outstanding books and journalist for the American Free Press:

Mark Glenn, author, human rights activist and organizer of the conference on “No Wars for Israel”. His website is

Charles Carlson, director of Strait Gate Ministries, spoke about the dangers of Christian Zionism in particular. His website is

Dr. Kaukab Siddique, editor of

Dr. Hesham Tillawi of spoke about the abuse of the word “anti-Semitism” and the need to neutralize the stigma of the word and focus on the real issues of equal rights for all regardless of religion, ethnicity, race or gender.

Phil Tourney, a survivor of the 1967 attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli jets and torpedo boats, a treacherous act which was hushed up by the US government up until just a few years ago. He told the spellbound audience his personal experience in full, chilling detail of that horrendous day, and the ensuing forced cover-up by the US government which doubled the pain and anguish which he and the other survivors had to endure. Their website is: Watch documentaries about it on

Ellen Mariani, widow of a man who was killed on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 911, who has sought a public trial rather than accept “hush money” from the government. She discussed the ways in which the government and lawyers conspired to thwart a trial to bring the Truth to the forefront. For more info on 911 Truth:

Wendy Campbell, of MarWen Media, spoke about “Something Is Rotten in the State of America: Israel”, discussing the need for the US to break all ties with the apartheid state of Israel and to stop fighting immoral wars on its behalf.

There were other speakers as well. In a few days a video clip of much of the conference will be available on various websites including Currently there are some radio interviews with participants at the protest in front of the Marriott Hotel in Irvine at [Also at]

Joanne said...

What struck me most was the language used by Lewis or others in their descriptions of her. If one were to just read the material that you gleaned from the Internet, one would think that she was concerned for the Israelis almost as much as for the Palestinians. The anodyne language makes her appear to be a peace activist supporting dialogue and mutual understanding between the Arabs and Israelis, as if she were a member of Peace Now or the One Voice movement.

This is probably why many members of these churches will go listen to her in the first place. If she advertised herself as a follower of Sabeel, as a proponent of replacement theology, and as as opponent to the existence of the state of Israel, she probably wouldn't get such a warm reception.

One can only hope that, however misleading her "bio's" may be, her the audiences at these churches will be perceptive enough to see what's going on once she begins to speak. I hope that they'll be critical enough and skeptical enough to understand that she is presenting them with propaganda, not with the fair findings of a disinterested witness. I hope they have the good sense to give her a fair hearing but then keep their own counsel. Somehow, I'm not optimistic.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Joanne's comments. I think we would all do well to observe what Janet Lahr Lewis says about herself, rather than what Adam Holland would like to put in her mouth. Being opposed to policies of the current U.S. Administration does not make a person anti-American, no matter what some may say. Neither does opposition to current policies of the government of Israel toward Palestinians make us anti-Semites or anti-Jewish - although perhaps it puts us in opposition to political Zionism.
Let the fair-minded and perceptive listen to what is actually said, rather than to others' interpretations of it.

Julius Martov said...

Palestinian 'cultural exchange' backfires in Connecticut

Anonymous said...

Dwyer is wrong. opposition to Zionism - self-determination for the Jewish people - IS anti-Semitism.

Adam Holland said...

I agree with the anonymously posted comment regarding opposition to the existence of Israel being rooted in anti-Semitism, as I do with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Franklin Littel who said essentially the same thing. The anti-Israel ideology becomes especially poisonous in the realm of religion, which can encourage arrogance, self-righteousness and rationalization. These can be expressed explicitly, as by the Islamists, or subtly, as by Christian advocates of supersessionism ("Replacement Theology") such as Sabeel. (Read Franklin Littel.)

What I say in response to Rev. Dwyer (who by the way is a Methodist minister in Germany and is connected with the United Methodist missionary organization) is this: those who claim to advocate peace and reconciliation cannot advocate the elimination of one side in the conflict. That applies equally to Israel and her enemies. For someone to advocate the "one state solution", or oppose the existence of Israel, and still claim to advocate peace, constitutes hypocrisy, disinformation or both.

I apply those standards universally and so should Rev. Dwyer and Ms. Lewis.

(I have offered Rev. Dwyer an opportunity to elaborate his opinions on this site should he care to, but he has refused. The offer still stands.)

Janet Lahr Lewis and Sabeel have advocated the one state solution, and supported the second intifada, which was the Palestinian leadership's violent response to the culmination of the peace process. How can they legitimately be considered advocates of peace?

Those of us who advocated peace for years and years only to have suicide bombers respond by blowing up seders and killing grandmothers have some questions that humanitarians like Sabeel should answer.

Anonymous said...

I got a good laugh out of your article, especially since it is so untrue; even the part that "on Sept 26...[I] hosted a conference in Bethlehem when I was actually here in the U.S. By the way, I work in both Israel and Palestine, (and have not worked for Sabeel for the past year) it would hardly be correct to say that I am calling for the demise of a country where many of my Jewish friends live, and where the United Methodist Church supports several insitutions and organizations. Since you have obviously never heard me speak first hand, I invite you to come and hear for yourself. You will find that I fully recognize Israel's existence, as does the Palestinian Authority as witness my millions with the famous "handshake on the Whitehouse Lawn". I also recognize the existence of the Palestinian people and their right, according to 4th Geneva conventions and international law, have a right to self-determination, which the Israeli government refuses to recognize. Human rights are good for ALL people, Israelis, Palestinians, Sudanese, Cambodians... and should not be a right reserved for only one people. I invite you to become less paranoid and to become more open-minded towards others. Perhaps you will realize that we live in a global world now where we must learn to live with recognizing the beauty of our difference. You might make more friends and have no need to be so defensive. May God bless you with an open mind and a loving heart.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Holland,

I have only recently discovered your note about my "refusal" to elaborate my point of view. It was not my purpose to espouse a point of view, but simply to suggest that it would be fair to listen to persons' own presentations of their views rather than to ascribe other views to them. Rather than to "refuse" to elaborate, it was my intent to respond in a way that indicated I was satisfied that I had said all that I needed to say. That continues to be my sole reason for posting.

I am sorry if you have found obsolete web references to me. I have been living in New York City since April of last year and am, indeed, a church bureaucrat!

Holding a Ph.D. in church history, I am also well aware of Christian anti-Semitism and the various other forms of racism which cause dominant but fearful cultures to see the source of evil in their defined enemies without differentiating sufficiently the contours and nuances of individual experience, opinion and actions. I live full of regret for institutional and individual racism in our world, including the anti-Jewish versions.

I hope for the day when all cultures may be able to overcome racism.

James Dwyer

Anonymous said...

Delete this entry from your blog or face lible charges for defamation of character.

Adam Holland said...


Do you mean "libel"? "Lible" isn't a word. Also, libel isn't a crime, so I don't know how I'd be charged. Maybe you mean to threaten that I'll be held liable for defamation of character. Why? If anything in this piece is erroneous, I'd be more than happy to correct the record. I've allowed Ms. Lewis and one of her supervisors space to respond, and I'd be willing to allow them more if they'd like it.

Anonymous threats of litigation are much less effective than those with signatures. Why waste your time?

Adam Holland said...

? גִּבְעָתַיִם‎

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this background on Janet Lahr Lewis. She's up to her old tricks, recently proposing a boycott of Holocaust museums.


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