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Ed Webb

Countering Christian Zionism in the Age of Trump | MERIP - 0 views

  • As Christian Zionists—Hagee is the founder of the main US Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Jeffress regularly preaches the ideology on Fox news—the two men’s remarks reflect their belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. This belief centers around the idea that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture. Not all will benefit from this end of times scenario: While Christians will be saved and “live forever with Christ in a new heaven and earth,” those adhering to other Israels who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell.
  • Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians—including those who are Christian—is either ignored or perceived as required to achieve the end result. In this vein, Christian Zionists consider Israel’s expansion into the West Bank via illegal settlements a positive development and even support Israeli expansion into Jordan’s East Bank.
  • Jeffress, for example, once said that Judaism, Islam and Hinduism “lead people…to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and Hagee suggested in a 1990s sermon that Hitler was part of God’s plan to get Jewish people “back to the land of Israel.” Yet when questioned about the decision to include such speakers in the ceremony’s lineup, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said, “I honestly don’t know how that came to be.”
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  • About a quarter of US adults identify as evangelical Christian, and 80 percent of them express the belief that the modern state of Israel and the “re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel” are fulfilments of biblical prophecy that show the return of Jesus is drawing closer. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, argues that Christian Zionism is now the “majority theology” among white US evangelicals.
  • the US media and political analysts often approach the Israel lobby as if it were composed solely of Jewish supporters, whose numbers are in fact far smaller than Christian Zionists—AIPAC only boasts 100,000 members, for instance, compared to CUFI’s reported five million—and who are also deeply divided on US policy on Palestine-Israel
  • Not only do other lobby groups, such as CUFI, wield as much or more influence as AIPAC (financial and otherwise), but AIPAC, as MJ Rosenberg wrote in The Nation, “is not synonymous with Jews.” Of its 100,000 members, he explained, “most are Jewish but…many are evangelical (and other) Christians.”
  • Activists argue that while Christian Zionism may be a broadly held belief, it is not deeply held. “For most people who espouse this theology, it’s not the center of their belief,” Jonathan Brenneman, a Christian Palestinian-American activist, told me. “When people are confronted with the reality of what is going on in Palestine, the theology often falls apart.”
  • While the specific tenets of today’s Christian Zionism emerged in the nineteenth century, the movement’s ideological roots go back centuries, to the era during which Christianity became part of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the third century AD, stretching to the Crusades and then European colonialism—all cases in which plunder was accomplished under the cover of Christian ideology, namely the idea of the righteousness of Christian domination over non-Christian land and people
  • evangelist John Nelson Darby, who through missionary tours across North America popularized the end of times narrative and Jews’ role in it. In 1891, fellow preacher William Blackstone petitioned US President Benjamin Harrison to consider Jewish claims to Palestine “as their ancient home”—five years before Theodor Herzl’s call for a Jewish homeland. Subsequent influential evangelists, such as Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, preached how the first telltale sign of the world coming to an end would be Jews returning to the Holy Land. Scofield’s widely read 1909 annotated Bible proclaimed these tenets.
  • Falwell and fellow Christian Zionist preachers like Pat Robertson of The 700 Club emphasized the idea that God will only support the United States if the United States supports Israel. “Robertson has described hurricanes and financial prosperity in the US as related to the US position on Israel,” said Burge, “and Falwell used to say that if America backs away from supporting Israel, God will no longer bless America.”
  • Christian Zionism’s merging of religion and politics has been the driving force behind its more recent influence on US policy. While Trump does not purport to hold evangelical beliefs, he carefully caters to his white evangelical base, gaining their support through the US embassy move and support for religioni annexation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, as well as through the choice of Mike Pence as vice president.
  • A 2017 poll by Lifeway Research, for example, demonstrated the generational divide. Only nine percent of older respondents considered the “rebirth” of Israel in 1948 as an injustice to Palestinians, while 62 percent disagreed and 28 percent said they weren’t sure. Among younger evangelicals, nineteen percent said that Israel’s creation was an injustice to Palestinians, 34 percent disagreed, and almost half weren’t sure.
  • “Christian Zionism is an extremist ideology, but it’s also incredibly broadly held and is part of a larger Christian package of belief,” he said. “Most people who hold it don’t realize they’re holding really hateful beliefs; it’s very much based on ignorance and insularity.” Brenneman adds that such beliefs are rarely challenged, particularly because the mainstream media plays into them by emphasizing, among other tropes, the idea that Israel is always in grave danger from the Palestinians or surrounding Arab states. The result: When Christian Zionists learn of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, their belief system is vulnerable to disruption.
  • “The vast majority of people in the American church want to honor God and are pursuing the goodness of the world,” Cannon told me. “They are open to their mind being changed, but their underlying concern is they think if they shift their political perspective, they won’t be faithful to theology.” Cannon says using the example of Israeli settlements is productive in this regard. “It’s straightforward to show people that they are not following the basic Christian tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’ if they are supporting those who build a settlement on Palestinian farmland that’s been in that family for decades or a century,” she said. “The current realities speak for themselves. We show them that they can honor God while advocating for Palestinian rights, too.”
  • “Christian Zionism is not just the John Hagee’s of the world, but is found in Protestant mainline churches, including those that have divested from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation,” he said. “It’s a more nuanced and diffused theology found at the level of hymns as well as in the pulpit.” This phenomenon is also part of what liberation theologian Marc H. Ellis calls the “ecumenical deal” between Christians and Jews, in which mainline Christians are silent on Israel’s abuse of Palestinians to repent for Christianity’s historic anti-Semitism.
  • Abuata says the Christian movement for Palestinian rights has grown significantly in the past decade, noting that 10 years ago he wouldn’t have been welcomed into 80 percent of the mainline Christian denominations and churches with which he now coordinates.
  • While Christian Zionism has certainly internationalized in recent years, growing in popularity in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Abuata says the movement countering Christian Zionism has as well.
Ed Webb

Is Israel a 'Jewish and Democratic' State? - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • The description of Israel as “Jewish and democratic” appears initially not in the Declaration of Independence — as is often thought — but in two 1992 constitutional laws pertaining to freedom of professions and dignity of all humans. Since that time, this has become the most common phrase describing the essence of Israel. But this formulation, originally intended to help resolve various tensions, has in itself become a source of problems. By its very phrasing as Jewish and democratic — joined together by the article “and” — the immediate assumption is that the two aspects are inherently contradictory and that Israel could hope for nothing more than a problematic compromise between the two. 
  • Both left and right perceive Jewish and democratic as conflicting adjectives. They are wrong.
  • In seeking to understand Israel, the question then is not whether there is an inherent tension between Jewish and democratic, but whether there is an inherent tension between Jewish values and liberal values. The answer of course is, it depends.
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  • many of those both on the left and right of Israel have forgotten how to argue for liberal values from within Jewish traditions and texts
  • It is in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, in which the word “democratic” does not appear, that the new state’s aspirational values were best presented stating that “it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of Israel, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of Israel, conscience, language, education and culture.” These were the values chosen for the state, considered not only desirable but grounded in Jewish tradition.
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