Christian Friends of Israeli Communities

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Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) is a Christian Zionist organisation that supports illegal settlement in the occupied territories:

CFOIC Heartland enables Christians to connect with the Jewish communities (settlements) in the heart of Biblical Israel. Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) is not occupied territory. It is the birthplace of the Jewish people.[1]

According to the CFOIC website the organisation was launched in the wake of the Oslo accords in 1995:

Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC Heartland) was established in 1995 as a Christian response to the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993. Christians around the world were deeply troubled by Israel’s major territorial concessions and felt compelled to stand with the people of Judea and Samaria.[2]

CFOIC was reportedly launched by businessman Ted Beckett.[3]

CFOIC has close ties with the Dutch Christian Zionist organisation Christians for Israel. A spokesperson for the latter has described CFOIC as Christians for Israel's 'daughter organisation'.[4]

Biblical Right

CFOIC believes that historic Palestine belongs to the Jewish people on the basis of biblical prophecy:

The Biblical region of Judea and Samaria was given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, forever, 4000 years ago. Because of sin, disobedience and lack of belief, most Jews were driven from the land around 70 AD. However, there were always some Jews living in the Land and Jews around the world have prayed to God three times a day, each day, to return His people to Zion. The prophets foretold the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of the Land in the latter days. (Ezekiel 36, Amos 9 to mention a few). In 1948, Israel was reborn as a sovereign nation and in 1967 the “West Bank” was reunited with the rest of the nation in the prophetic, miraculous Six Day War. Although Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria for 19 years and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip during the same period, there was never any attempt to form a Palestinian State at this time. The land remained barren until the Jews returned to cultivate it. This is truly the fulfillment of prophecy.[5]

Oslo Accords

The CFOIC website describes the launching of the organisation following the signing of the Oslo Accords:

In 1993 and again in 1995, Israel transferred significant territory to the Palestinian Authority, in accordance with the Oslo Accords. Israel entered into this so-called peace process in the hopes that territorial withdrawal would ultimately bring peace and prosperity to an area that has known so much killing and bloodshed. Many political and religious leaders, however, warned that the withdrawals ran counter to God’s plan for the Jewish nation and would only weaken Israel in future confrontations with her enemies. Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) was established in 1995 in response to the Oslo Process. Christians around the world were deeply troubled by Israel’s major territorial concessions and felt drawn to the people that stood on the forefront of Israel’s territorial battle – the people of Judea and Samaria. CFOIC provided a much-needed vehicle for Christians to become better informed about events in Israel, particularly with regard to the Jewish communities in the heartland of Biblical Israel, to visit these areas and become personally connected to the people living there, and to provide practical support for vital community needs.[5]

Settlements

CFOIC has provided assistance to the following settlements in the occupied West Bank:

Beit Hagai, Yair Farm, Hemdat, Ma'ale Efrayim, Karnei Shomron, Kokhav Ya'akov, Mitzpe Dani, Halamish (Neveh Tzuf) Ofra, Shadmot Mehola, Shani-Livne, Yitav, Alon, Mateh Binyamin, Gevaot, Karnei Shomron, Nofei Nehemia, Rechelim, Sde Boaz, Yakir, Bat Ayin, Beit Yatir, Gush Etzion, Kfar Adumim, Masua, Nokdim, Tomer, Nofei Prat, Immanuel, Barkan, Har Brakha, Netiv HaGdud, Fazael, Elazar, Kedumim, Susya, Naama, Ma'ale Levona, Rimonim[6] [7] [8] [9]

It has also supported numerous projects in the Jordan Valley and has provided assistance to what it describes as 'refugees' from abandoned settlements in the Gaza strip such as Gush Katif.[10]

It has been reported that CFOIC funds settlements in the Palestinian city of Hebron.[11]

In 2003 it was reported by the Associated Press that CFOIC had donated $200,000 to the building of settlements in the West Bank.[12]

In an article for Corporate Watch, Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper suggested that the projects chosen by the charity, especially those in the Jordan Valley, may be undertaken for strategic purposes:

Reading through the list of projects the charity is currently fundraising for, it becomes obvious that a lot of them are chosen for strategic reasons. For instance, there are a growing number of projects instigated in the Jordan Valley which is an area under threat of ethnic cleansing by the Israeli military. Whilst their projects in the valley might sound harmless enough – they include petting zoos, gyms and youth clubs – the aims are not. In the pitch for donations to the Argaman youth centre the charity states that “Argaman, like many of the Jordan Valley communities, is vital in securing Israel’s eastern border”.[13]

Kimberly W. Troup, secretary and treasurer of CFOIC, has explicitly stated that CFOIC's ostensibly humanitarian work aims to prevent Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories:

the more that we build, the more that we support and encourage their right to live in the land, the harder it’s going to be for disengagement, for withdrawal.[14]

In 2007 the Israeli government suspended building plans in the settlement of Maskiot in the West Bank, CFOIC 'allegedly raised money to build temporary structures at the site.'[15] [16] It appears that CFOIC funds settlement activity even where such activity is deemed illegal by the Israeli government:

An example is Nokdim in Judea, for which CFOIC have asked $12,700 “to complete the landscaping around their brand new playground” (Troup 2012). It emerged in 2011 that the new park being built on unused land in the middle of Nokdim (playground included) was being built on private Palestinian land, and it was deemed illegal under both Israeli and international law (Tali Shapiro 2011). From looking at maps of Nokdim, there is only one playground in the very small settlement and it is likely that CFOIC are attempting to fund the completion of an illegal playground on Palestinian land. This demonstrates the high level of controversy behind CFOIC work in the West Bank and the relationship between Christian Zionists in America and the settlement movement.[17]

CFOIC encourages its supporters to visit Biblical sites in the occupied territories and offers help with arranging such tours.[18] The organisation maintains a separate website called Tour Israel Heartland to facilitate these visits.[19]

CFOIC have purchased bullet proof vests, two-way radios and beepers for use by Israeli settlers.[20]

Through its Adopt a Settlement programme CFOIC has reportedly twinned more than forty American churches with Israeli settlements. It has also extended the programme to Canada.[21] [3] Reportedly participants receive updates from CFOIC on Middle East developments. These materials are then used to write to editors, journalists and American politicians. [22] [3]

CFOIC provides surveillance cameras for Yakir, a settlement in the West Bank's Samarian Mountains.[23]

Iran

In a 2009 press release CFOIC described Iran as 'an existential threat to Israel and to the entire free world.'[24]

Jerusalem

In September 2005 CFOIC Vice President, Sondra Oster Baras, attended a gathering between American evangelists and members of the Christian Caucus of the Israel Knesset titled 'Enter His Gates Unity Conference'.[25] Attendees signed a document, 'The Jerusalem Accords' which called for 'the immediate moving of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and committing themselves to promoting Judeo-Christian values and together facing the threat of Islamic terrorism.'[25] Knesset members present included co-chairs of the Christian Allies Caucus Yuri Shtern and Yair Peretz along with Binyamin Elon, Gilad Erdan, Gila Gamliel and Eliezer Sandberg. American attendees included John Hagee, Jack Hayford, Steve Munsey and Kay Arthur. The accords were written by Yuri Shtern and Josh Reinstein. Also present were Esther Levens, director of the National Unity Coalition for Israel; Richard Booker, director of the Institute for Hebraic Christian Studies; Becky Brimmer, director of Bridges for Peace; David Parsons of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; and Christine Darg, director of Women on the Walls.[25]

Education

In August 2014 it was reported that CFOIC, with funding from the office of the Israeli Prime Minister, had organised a summer seminar for young Christian Israeli Arabs in Haifa:

The program is designed to help young Israeli Christian learn more about their own Christian identity as well as Israeli history.
“When I first came up with the idea for the program, I was modeling it on the Mechina pre-military programs that Jewish youth often attend during their gap year between high school and military service,” said Sondra Oster Baras, director of the Jewish-Christian group Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC), BreakingIsraelNews.com reported.
Baras explained that she quickly realized that many Israeli Christian youths do not have a firm understanding of Israeli history or their own history.
“Not only are they lacking in a solid understanding of Israeli history; they have never been given a framework in which to explore their Christian identity and how that relates to Israel,” she said.
Baras added that she is working with Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest and leader of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, which seeks better integration of Christians into Israeli society by encouraging their enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces...[26]

Media

CFOIC maintains a presence in social media with a twitter account, facebook page and youtube channel. Through its online store CFOIC sells a range of books and DVDs propagating its message.[27]

Proselytising

According to Kimberly W. Troup CFOIC does not attempt to convert Jews to Christianity (a common source of tension between Christian Zionist and Jewish Zionist groups).[28]


Finances and Funding

Prior to December 2010 CFOIC received some funding from the UK based World Action Ministries (WAM). The organisation severed its connections with CFOIC after the latter's activities in the occupied territories was brought to the attention of WAM. [29] Reportedly CFOIC received £35,397 via WAM.[30] CFOIC now receives its UK donations via Stewardship Services (UKET) an evangelical Christian charity based in Essex. In spite of CFOIC not itself being a registered UK charity it is possible to claim Gift Aid by donating through Stewardship Services.[31]

In August 2013 Corporate Watch contacted Stewardship Services to ask why they were aiding illegal settlements. In their response Stewardship Services defended their activities by claiming that funds sent to CFOIC were used solely for purchasing school lunches for children from poor backgrounds in the illegal Israeli settlement of Kochav Yaakov.[32]

CFOIC raises some of its funds through emailing subscribers to its email newsletter.[33] It also utilises crowd funding through firstgiving.com.[34]

CFOIC's Vice President, Sondra Oster Baras, has claimed that CFOIC largely depends on a large number of small donations:

Our major donors are themselves organizations or ministries or churches, but they themselves have raised those moneys in small amounts - $5, $20 from a lot of people - and put it together, so it's very much grass-roots.[35]

However, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, donated $550,000 to CFOIC between 2009-2012.[36]

Revenue and Assets of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities in $[37]
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total 2008-2012
Total Revenue 138,764 176,194 196,465 333,977 409,316 491,332 1,354,454 816,343 707,975 907,942 623,620 6,156,382
Net Assets 9,144 22,157 16,665 37,854 29,311 29,149 19,470 38,769 23,669 50,845 136,027 413,060


_____________________

People

Directors (circa 2013)

Margy Pezdirtz (President) | Sondra Oster Baras (Vice President) | Ray Sanders (Board Member) | Patricia Skewes (Board Member) | Bart Nuboer (Board Member) | Kimberly W. Troup (Secretary and Treasurer)

Former Staff

Diane Cudo (North American Director)

Contact

Addresses Circa 2015:

CFOIC Heartland – Israel International Headquarters
P.O. Box 752
Ginot Shomron,
Karnei Shomron
Israel
Tel. / Fax: 972-9-792-0958
e-mail: sondra@cfoic.com

(Though the CFOIC headquarters address is given as being in Israel it is in fact based in the Israeli settlement Karnei Shomron in the occupied West Bank.)

CFOIC Heartland – U.S. North American Headquarters
P.O. Box 50833
Colorado Springs,
CO 80949
USA
Tel: 800-647-3344
Fax: 719-683-2041
e-mail: kim@cfoic.com
CFOIC Heartland – Germany Christliche Freunde Israelischer Siedlungen
Tubizer Str. 20
D- 70825 Korntal-Muenchingen
Germany
Tel: 0711-8386393
Fax: 0711-8386339
e-mail: cfis.deutschland@web.de
CFOIC Heartland – Holland
Marktplein 6
Oldemarkt 8357 AZ,
Nederland
Tel: (0) 561-451905
Fax: (0) 33-2460412
e-mail: swan@fampoot.com
General email: info@cfoic.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CFOIC
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CFOIC
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/cfoic

Notes

  1. CFOIC Website What is Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) Heartland?. Accessed 23 April 2015.
  2. CFOIC Website Background Information. Accessed 23 April 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Michael Freund, 'Because the Bible says so', Jerusalem Post, 20 September 2002
  4. David Cronin, 'NETHERLANDS: DUTCH CHRISTIAN GROUP BACKS ISRAELI SETTLE-MENTS', IPS - Inter Press Service, 27 July 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 CFOIC Website What is a Settlement?. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  6. CFOIC Website Children and Youth Projects. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  7. CFOIC Website Emergency and Security Projects. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  8. CFOIC Website Community Projects. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  9. CFOIC Website Community of the Month. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  10. CFOIC Website Gush Katif Employment Project. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  11. Michal Lando, 'Sailing down the Hudson with Hebron in their hearts. Cruise 'n' Shmooze fund-raiser for 'Beit Hashalom' draws 250', The Jerusalem Post, 22 June 2007
  12. Malcolm Foster, 'Christian Zionists criticized by fellow believers for campaigning against Mideast "road map"', Associated Press International, 25 July 2003
  13. Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper, '‘Charity’ and Ethnic Cleansing: Christian Friends of Israeli Communities', Corporate Watch, 8 March 2013, accessed 27 April 2015
  14. Jim Rutenberg, Mike McIntire, Ethan Bronner , 'Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank', New York Times, 5 July 2010, accessed 28 April 2015
  15. Jim Rutenberg, Mike McIntire, Ethan Bronner, Isabel Kershner, Myra Noveck, 'Tax-Exempt Funds Aiding Settlements in West Bank', The New York Times, 6 July 2010
  16. Mohr, Samuel, 'Understanding American Christian Zionism: Case Studies of Christians United for Israel and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities', Journal of Politics & International Studies, Vol. 9, Summer 2013, accessed 27 April 2015.
  17. Mohr, Samuel, 'Understanding American Christian Zionism: Case Studies of Christians United for Israel and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities', Journal of Politics & International Studies, Vol. 9, Summer 2013, accessed 27 April 2015.
  18. CFOIC Website Visit Judea and Samaria. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  19. Tour Israel Heartland Website Tour Israel Heartland. Accessed 28 April 2015.
  20. Joshua Brilliant, 'Evangelists strike a chord with Israelis', United Press International, 27 November 2003
  21. Shindler, Colin, 'Likud and the Christian Dispensationalists: A Symbiotic Relationship', Israel Studies, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 2000 pp. 153-182, accessed 28 April 2015.
  22. Shindler, Colin, 'Likud and the Christian Dispensationalists: A Symbiotic Relationship', Israel Studies, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 2000 pp. 153-182, accessed 28 April 2015.
  23. CFOIC Website Yakir Surveillance. Accessed 13 October 2015.
  24. preachology.com Say Yes to Israel. Accessed 28 April 2015.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Staff, 'US evangelists, MKs of Christian Caucus, sign 'J'lem Accords, The Jerusalem Post, 11 September 2005
  26. jns.org, 'Young Israeli Christians complete first-ever summer seminar', jns.org, 28 August 2014, accessed 27 April 2015
  27. CFOIC Website Products. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  28. Eric Boehlert, 'Divided over "The Passion"', Salon.com, 21 August 2003
  29. Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper, 'British organisation ends relationship with charity supporting Israeli settlements', Corporate Watch, 11 March 2013, accessed 27 April 2015
  30. Tom Anderson, Georgia Clough, Therezia Cooper, Jack Curry, Pete Jones, 'Targeting Israel Apartheid', Corporate Watch, January 2013, accessed 27 April 2015
  31. Corporate Occupation Website Supporting the ministry of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities. Accessed 27 April 2015.
  32. Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper 'UK charity admits collecting money for project in illegal Israeli settlement', Corporate Watch, 14 August 2013, accessed 27 April 2015
  33. Mohr, Samuel, 'Understanding American Christian Zionism: Case Studies of Christians United for Israel and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities', Journal of Politics & International Studies, Vol. 9, Summer 2013, accessed 27 April 2015.
  34. FirstGiving Website Margy Pezdirtz for CFOIC Heartland. Accessed 28 April 2015.
  35. Sondra Oster Baras, 'SHOW: All Things Considered 9:00 PM EST NPR', National Public Radio (NPR), 12 June 2009
  36. Data compiled from filings of Form 990s 2002 - 2012.
  37. Data compiled from filings of Form 990s 2002 - 2012.