Interview choice

Tucker Carlson’s ‘pastor from Bethlehem’ is ‘the high priest of antisemitic Christianity’

Munther Isaac justified Oct. 7 attack and is on the board of an organization calling Judaism a ‘dead letter”


Rev. Munther Isaac poses for a portrait next to a Christmas nativity scene with a the symbolic Baby Jesus in a manger of rubble and destruction to reflect the reality of Palestinian children living and being born today, at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, West Bank , Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023.

When Tucker Carlson said he wanted to know how the government of Israel treats Christians, he opted against interviewing Israeli Christians, choosing instead to speak to a Palestinian Christian pastor who founded an anti-Israel organization and justified Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Munther Isaac, the pastor featured in a 40-minute interview with Carlson that aired on X on Tuesday, gave a sermon on Oct. 8, 2023, in which he said the attack — a day prior — in which 1,200 Israelis were slaughtered by Hamas was a logical outcome. 

“What is happening is an embodiment of the injustice that has befallen us as Palestinians from the Nakba until now,” Isaac said in the sermon, using the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” that Palestinians use to mark the creation of Israel in 1948 and displacement of some 750,000 Palestinians. “Frankly, anyone following the events was not surprised by what happened yesterday… One of the scenes that left an impression on my mind yesterday, and there are many scenes, is the scene of the Israeli youth who were celebrating a concert in the open air [the Nova music festival] just outside the borders of Gaza, and how they escaped. What a great contradiction, between the besieged poor on the one hand, and the wealthy people celebrating as if there was nothing behind the wall. Gaza exposes the hypocrisy of the world.” 

On Christmas Eve last year, Isaac, the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, delivered a sermon in which he said that “if Jesus were to be born today, he would be born under the rubble in Gaza.” Jesus, who was Jewish and not Palestinian, a term that was only officially used for the region by the Romans a century later, was born in Bethlehem, which is near Jerusalem and not where the war is currently taking place. Bethlehem is currently under Israeli military control, but civilian matters – such as official religious tolerance – in the city are the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority.

Isaac is a board member of Kairos Palestine, an organization launched in 2009 whose founding document makes antisemitic statements, such as engaging in replacement theology to deny the Jewish people’s historic connection to Israel. The Kairos Document calls the Torah a “dead letter…used as a weapon in our present history in order to deprive us of our rights in our own land.” The document also states that “Christian love invites us to resist,” and describes the First Intifada, a campaign of attacks on Israelis as a “peaceful struggle.” The Kairos home page currently describes the war in Gaza as a genocide, and the organization supports boycotts against Israel. 

Isaac is also the director of the Bethlehem Bible College’s biannual “Christ at the Checkpoint” annual conferences, meant to promote Palestinian nationalism among Christian leaders, or as they put it “challenge evangelicals to take responsibility to help resolve the conflicts in Israel-Palestine by engaging with the teaching of Jesus.” Its manifesto states that “the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.” While the conference’s manifesto states that it opposes antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel, it also describes current Israeli policy as “discrimination or privileges based on ethnicity” stemming from “worldviews that promote divine national entitlement or exceptionalism.” 

Among the antisemitic statements made at the conference over the years, collected by NGO Monitor, an organization that researches the activities and funding of nonprofits relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict, are: “If God wanted the Jews to have the land…I didn’t want that God anymore!” “If you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu [through a DNA test], you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.” “Jews who reject Jesus Christ are outside the covenant of grace and are to be regarded as children of Hagar,” as opposed to Abraham and Sarah. The final quote is from Stephen Sizer, a British pastor who has engaged in Holocaust denial and blaming Israel for 9/11. 

Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, said that “those of us who track these things know that Munther Isaac has long been the high priest of antisemitic Christianity; sadly, he spreads his hate from the city of Jesus’ birth.” 

“Since Oct. 7,” Moore added, “Isaac seems to have graduated from being an anti-Zionist Lutheran preacher to a terror sympathizer. There’s really just no other way to describe him.”

Jonathan Elkhoury, a Christian Lebanese refugee granted Israeli citizenship, said he was “appalled and ashamed” at Carlson’s choice to invite Isaac onto his show, preferring “rhetoric of lies and misinformation about Israel or its treatment of minorities” rather than “a voice that speaks about Christian life in the Holy Land.”

“Tucker Carlson should have taken his platform more seriously, and not invite political activists, in the disguise of a religious robe, to support the ongoing dehumanization of Israelis and the denial of the right of Israel to exist,” he said.

In his introduction to the interview with Isaac, Carlson said that Christians suffer disproportionately in wars in which the U.S. supplies weapons. 

However, the Christian population in the West Bank and Gaza declined significantly in recent decades since coming under Palestinian control, amid pressure from the PA and attempts to Islamize the city, in addition to difficulties relating to Israel’s security control of the area experienced by Palestinians regardless of religion.

Elkhoury said that when Israel had control over Bethlehem, the city had a population that was over 60% Christian. After the 1993 Oslo Accords, which gave the PA control of the city, the number of Christians has since declined to about 12%. 

There were 3,000 Christians in Gaza when Israel withdrew from the coastal enclave in 2005, a number that fell to about 1,100 as of last year, he said.

“Hamas prevented Christians [from] celebrat[ing] their holidays freely under its control since taking power, and Christians under the PA have faced many ongoing threats and attacks,” Elkhoury said. “The last one of them was an attack on the Jacob’s Well monastery in Nablus by a Palestinian mob last January.”

Israel’s Christian community, which is about 2% of the country’s population, has been rising steadily for the past few years, and is the only growing Christian population in the Middle East. Arab Christians are also the most educated population group in Israel, with a higher percentage of university graduates than Jewish or Muslim Israelis. 

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said Carlson’s take on Israel’s treatment of Christians is “nonsense,” calling the former Fox News host “a cowardly, know-nothing elitist who is full of shit.”

“Tucker’s MO is simple: defend America’s enemies and attack America’s allies,” Crenshaw wrote on X. “There isn’t an objective bone left in that washed up news host’s body. Mindless contrarianism is his guiding principle…He uses his platform to sow doubt and paranoia and false narratives.”

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