Monday, May 18, 2009

Brigitte Gabriel: A Lebanese Christian Journalist Battles for Israel

Brigitte Gabriel: A Lebanese Christian Journalist Battles for Israel

By Deena Yellin

Brigitte Gabriel lectures worldwide about Israel's valiant quest to preserve the ideals of democracy and human rights, she writes books defending Israel's right to exist and has founded an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the threat radical Islamic fundamentalists pose to Israel and Western civilization. She insists that the only way to defeat Muslim extremism is to stand up to it. "The more concessions you make, the more they will pick on you," she said.

Surprisingly, Gabriel is not Israeli. She's not even Jewish. She is a Lebanese Christian.

In fact, the mother of two has even received death threats because of her staunchly pro-Israel views, which she professes loudly and often.

Gabriel didn't always sing Israel's praises. Growing up in an Arab country, she was raised in a culture that espoused that Jews were evil and Israel was the enemy. "I was told that the only time we will have peace in the Middle East is when we kill all the Jews and drive them into the sea," she recalled.

Growing up in Southern Lebanon, that's what many children were educated to believe. But as Gabriel grew older, she encountered experiences that led her to change her mind for good.

In 1975, the Muslims and Palestinians declared a Jihad on the Christians in Lebanon, massacring thousands of Lebanese Christians. At age ten, Gabriel saw her childhood home destroyed. Her family moved to a bomb shelter, where they remained for the next seven years. To stay alive, Gabriel had to eat grass and crawl under sniper bullets to get water from a spring.

The bomb shelter was hit by mortar shells in 1982, leaving her mother badly wounded. She was taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment. Gabriel accompanied her.

For her mother, the visit to the hospital was a life-saving experience.

For Gabriel, it was a life-altering experience that would change the way she took in information and the way she would believe the news as conveyed through the news media.

When Gabriel entered the emergency room, she was shocked by what she saw around her: hundred of wounded people, Muslims, Palestinians and Christians being treated by Israeli doctors. The doctors treated everyone according to their injury, not according to their background, said Gabriel, who was in disbelief at the time.

"They didn't see religion, they didn't see political affiliation, they saw people in need and they helped."

Had she been a Jew at an Arab hospital, she said, she would likely have been thrown out to die.

She became friendly with the relatives of the Israeli soldiers in the hospital and, as she grew to know them, she was impressed with their ardent desire for peace and ability to reach out to the enemy.

For the first time in her life, she experienced a human quality that she realized her culture would not have shown their enemy. "I experienced the values of the Israelis who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments."

It dawned on her then that she had been sold lies by her country about Jews and Israel. "I was betrayed by my country and rescued by 'my enemy' Israel, the Jewish state that is under attack for its existence today."

She had to return to Lebanon to care for her aging parents but vowed that someday she would return to Israel. Two years later, she moved to Israel and, in 1984, began working there as a journalist.

Rising quickly to the position of news anchor for World News, an evening Arabic news broadcast for Middle East Television, she covered the Israeli security zone in Lebanon and the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank.

She married an American journalist and moved to the U.S., where she launched a TV production and advertising company.

After September 11, she founded American Congress for Truth, "I experienced the values of the Israelis who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments." a non-profit educational organization devoted to motivating Americans to take action against terrorism and the threat radical Islamic fundamentalists pose to Western civilization. While 9/11 had a dramatic impact on most Americans, it struck a particularly sensitive chord with her. "It reminded me that the entire world is threatened by the same radical Islamic theology that succeeded in annihilating the 'infidels' in Lebanon."

Her inside information enlightens unsuspecting Western-thinking audiences. She has appeared on news and radio shows. She lectures all over the world, speaking in several different languages.

Today, she has a sister organization called ACT for America, also a non-profit political activism arm that has grown to 60,000 members and 270 local chapters across America.

Her books, part memoirs and part instructional manuals, "Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America" (St. Martins Press) and "They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It" (St. Martin's Press) were New York Times Best Sellers.

Although Gabriel speaks to many audiences throughout the world, she finds that her biggest fans are Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians, "who understand the reality of Arab hatred and don't care about political correctness," she said. "They stand up and cheer for anyone who states the case for the protection of Israel without apologizing for their love of Israel."

And what about her former neighbors back home in Lebanon? Most of them secretly applaud her efforts. Secretly, because if they expressed support for her or for Israel in public, they may be punished by the authorities. "Lebanon was torn and ruined by Muslim radicals. Even though the Christian Lebanese says things against Israel in public, inside their homes they cheer Israel on, hoping Israel will crush the Islamic fanatics. They would never dare express these views in public out of fear of death threats. They write me letters and thank me for speaking out, telling me that I am their voice."

No comments: