The Christian Zionist Movement and Jewish Confusion

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

Most people who regularly visit this blog know that I am Jewish. While I am not what one would call a pious Jew, being a Deist in outlook, I have always been very proud of my ethnicity and of the religion, which plays a central part in it. From their infancy, my children were immersed in Judaism both through education and by our family regularly taking part in Jewish Rituals, including regular Synagogue attendance. Where I part personally from normative Judaism is that I view the Torah, The Five Books of Moses, as primarily allegory with some real history thrown in. To me it is a work of some wise and some not so wise men, not the writings of God. I believe and have seen demonstrated in many families though, that the Torah and its 613 Commandments can serve as blueprint for living a fulfilling life.

The issue becomes complicated when it comes to my feelings about Israel. To me the existence ofI srael is a necessity for Jews to have a future in this world and if it comes to it, a final haven to make our last stand. I am an American first, so I would not willingly emigrate away from the country of my birth, unless those who hate Jews come to power. Contrary to the opinion of many, Jews are far from being a homogeneous ethnicity/religion. One cannot for instance refer to being an Orthodox Jew with any precision of description since that movement is in itself splintered on many details of interpretation. This is true of the other main branches of Judaism: Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionism. Perhaps it is because there is no central Jewish religious authority speaking for all Jews, as much as organizations like ADL, AIPAC, et. al. would claim to, that the range of Jewish opinion is so wide on so many subjects.

This brings me to an article I read at the titled: “The New Christian Zionism and the Jews”. Its’ thesis is that many Jewish supporters of Israel and the current Israeli government have allied themselves with Christian Fundamentalists whose “love” for Israel and Jews come from the wish to fulfill the prophecies of The Book of Revelations, where in fact Jews not willing to accept Jesus, will die in a horrid holocaust.  This trend has been one disturbing me for a long time. I have watched Jews and Israeli’s embrace Fundamentalist Christian support, in what to me is a shortsighted and irrational policy. This could be justified by saying that a country takes its allies where one can get them. Sometimes what seems an example of realpolitik is merely an instance of dangerously narrow opportunism, as I will elaborate. 

“In late October, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel spoke at a Christians United for Israel (CUFI) event hosted by the controversial Christian Zionist John Hagee at hisCornerstoneChurchinSan Antonio,Texas. Internationally broadcast on GodTV, Hagee presented $9 million in donations to 29 Israeli andU.S.Jewish organizations. Hagee is one of the world’s most successful televangelists and a prolific author who prophesizes that apocalyptic wars and the migration of Jews to the holy land will help trigger the return of Jesus and his thousand-year reign on earth.

Wiesel joins a long list of Jews and Israelis who show no discomfort at being in the center of someone else’s apocalyptic religious vision. Making common cause with Christian Zionists are the lobby group American Israel Political Action Committee, which hosted Hagee as a conference keynote speaker in 2007, and Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who attended a CUFI summit last July.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, a very different kind of “pro-Israel” gathering was taking place.J Street, the “pro-peace, pro-Israel” lobby group, was holding its first national conference with panels featuring American, Israeli and Palestinian speakers. Hundreds gathered in the ballroom of the Washington D.C. Grand e wayHyatt for the conference, whose program explicitly stated thatJ Streetaims to challenge “right-wing Christian Zionists” – the very people Wiesel was addressing.”

The above was the opening of the article I linked below it and it is the centerpiece of this post. My assumption is that you would read it, so I am writing this as if the full discussion has been laid out, in the interests of brevity. The current Israeli Government headed by Bibi Netanyahu is I believe wrong in its approach to the settlement of the ongoing conflict. Their power base is an amalgam of Orthodox Jews and settlers on the West Bank, which is pretty much the same thing. The aims of this government date back to the founding of the Likud Party and Menachem Begin. This party skewed Israel away from its original heritage and moved it towards a more nationalistic stance, which also was one embracing a philosophy that was economically/politically conservative. They actively sought and received the support of the more extreme elements of Jewish Orthodoxy, that except for the crucial issue of Jesus, are philosophically akin to Christian Fundamentalists. In my opinion, Likud’s rise to power reflects the same kind of public attitude that also brings Republican’s to power in the U.S..  That is a false perception of strength through militancy and an economic system favoring Corporate interests disguised as freedom.

Begin, in the 70’s began building settlements in the West Bank as a means of justifying the perpetual occupation of these areas. Through the years this policy has continued, despite the fact that world opinion sees the only viable solution being a “two state” result. Two discrete states represent to me the only viable answer to this ongoing conflict and the only one that really coincides with I believe to be Jewish values. I further feel that it is the only way to ensure Israel’s future viability, since no characteristically Jewish State can exist with apartheid.

The agenda of the fundamentalist Christians, however, is to encourage no viable solution, but to encourage the ongoing violent struggle. This is of course to bring on  the “Glorious End Times” and Jesus return. They are for the existence of Israel only up until Armageddon and then God help those Jews who don’t see the light and convert. As an outsider to Christianity, The Book of Revelations has always seemed to me to be the demented vision of a Christian persecuted by the Romans. Written perhaps 150 years after Jesus it is notable for its’ bloody and turgid style, which is at odds with both the Gospels and other writings of the Christian Canon. It was included in the Canon though at the council of Nicaea, 320 CE, because it serves as a bogeyman tale to keep the faithful in line. It presents a wholly different Jesus than the being presented in the Gospels.

Given the ends these Fundamentalists seek, it is actually suicidal for Jews and Israeli’s to share the same bed with them. It is in the best interests of the Israeli’s, Palestinians, U.S., and world peace to resolve this conflict in a viable fashion. Given the views of these Christian Fundamentalists, a peaceful solution would be a terrible idea and in their minds delay God’s Plan. The inconsistency of believing in an all-powerful God whose “plans” and schedules are affected by Humankind is not apparent to them in their delighted rush to bring on the Rapture and thus bring the “faithful believers” into Heaven.

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

80 thoughts on “The Christian Zionist Movement and Jewish Confusion”

  1. If my understanding is correct, peace is not an option.

    Then I’m left only with deciding for myself.

    I choose peace. If I can’t have that, I choose death.

  2. There were so many interesting and varied replies to this piece that rather than getting into specific answers I think I need to elaborate briefly on my entire concept of the history of this conflict and the dynamics that make it so difficult to resolve.

    The first point I would urge is that historically there is no purity on either side of this conflict, merely the crush of ethnically divergent people to achieve something of value to them in life. The history of each nation in this world has been one of succeeding ethnicities/cultures/tribes displacing and being displaced from land. What indeed was the European claim to America that impelled their settlement against the wishes of those who lived there? From the settlers viewpoint it was vital that they escape their lot in their native lands and find a place of opportunity where they could raise their living standards and/or escape the wrath of their given state. The Native Americans saw invasion and oppression. Both sides had valid points.

    The Jewish history has been one where they’ve been invaded, oppressed, displaced and had the central writings that gave them cohesion co-opted by two religions who have become multitudes. Since the failure the of Bar Kochba revolt 132-135 CE, Most were forcibly displaced from their homeland. In every land in which Jews dwelt afterward there were short periods of normality, followed by longer periods of oppression/expulsion. To be a Jew for 2,000 years was never to be able to feel safe if you were perceptive and to falsely believe you had finally found a home if you were unwary and naive.

    Contrary to current belief though, there was always a Jewish presence in their homeland, though Jews had been expelled from Jerusalem, renamed “Aelia Capitolina” after the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE. Jews and other ethnicities in Palestine, a name of Greek origins, were subject to the whims of various conquering Empires and ruled from afar up until the defeat of the Ottomans in WWI.

    We know from historical sources such as, Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” (1869) that the entire area was a sparsely populated and desolate desert. From the 1850’s on there were Zionist ideas running rampant throughout the Jews in the Diaspora and the start of emigration to Palestine. This was finally given voice in 1895 by Theodore Herzl and the idea took hold, with much Orthodox resistance and emigration to what was to become Israel increased.

    The arrival of Jewish settlers which really began in the 1870’s saw a rebirth of the economy of the land as farming techniques learned in Europe were reapplied to the land and a small prosperity began to take hold. This began to draw in other Arabs from the rest of the Mid-East, who went where there were opportunities to be had. There had always been a minority of Christians also who had either remained in, or emigrated to the land of their Savior. After WW I Britain held the land under an agreed mandate.

    By the 1920’s Oil had become the most important fuel source in the world and Oil Companies, who evolved into the infamous “Seven Sisters” became some of the most powerful corporations in the world and so the Mid-East became an area of vital importance to the industrialized nations. Britain, with US and French compliance established the Saud Family in Oil rich Arabia, since they were willing partners to the “Oil Cartel”, thereby replacing the hereditary rulers, the Hussein family, to what was to become Jordan.

    Before and after WW II the Jewish flow into this land multiplied for obvious reasons. The Zionist movement welcomed them and the surrounding Arab powers pressure the British government to stop the inflow. Jewish leaders resisted to varying degrees and indeed “The Irgun” a minority of militants utilized terror tactics to harass the British.
    There were more moderate forces representing the majority of Palestinian Jews, led by Socialist David Ben-Gurion, who relied more on diplomacy and passive resistance.

    It must be remembered that the Jews fleeing the NAZI’s prior to the war were barred from emigration to many countries, including our own. This gave a clear message to all Jews that the Zionists were correct and that we indeed needed a homeland if only to ensure our future safety. All the rest is history as has been said. I will stop here with my historical perspective because I literally have the beginnings of a book, were I to be more thorough in exposition. My current belief is as follows.

    The US historically is not and never has been Israel’s friend in the ME. Our role has been to ensure that Israel doesn’t upset the “oil applecart” and thus we imposed restraint upon its’ activities, via the
    “friendship”, intimidation and through bribery.

    During the “Cold War” the USSR trying to gain influence over the strategic affluence of oil reserves backed the Islamic calls for Israel’s destruction. Israel was literally between a “rock and a hard place” and so clung greatly to the US “friendship”.

    The Saudi’s and other despots of the area have a twofold vested interest in continuing this conflict perpetually and secretly need Israeli existence. This is because it is a great distraction from the misery felt by their own oppressed people and therefore necessary for these despots to maintain their power through distraction.

    The Palestinians, many of who were also not originally from the region, were very badly treated by their Arab brethren when they left Israel during its war of independence. The terms and conditions of their leaving and why, are much more nuanced than many believe.
    Indeed, the PLO was headed by Yassir Arafat, an Egyptian by birth.
    He came to his role as the nephew of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who spent WW II as a guest of Hitler in Berlin.

    The behind the scenes story in this whole conflict is not as obvious as those on all sides would make it. It is definitely not a struggle between “good” and “evil” since the nuances are so many. Let me talk from my own perspective as to the “end game” though in this statement I am representing only my own opinion and surmise.

    “Never Again” is more than a slogan. Jews learned during the Shoah that their own strength of arms and their intelligence, is all that can save them as a people (ethnicity/religion). I believe that this will get resolved in a more or less peaceful manner because of an unspoken issue. Israel has more than 150 Nuclear bombs and they will not be driven into the sea. Overrunning Israel would mean they would use them and the ME would be unusable for thousands of years. No one
    will take the chance. The issue is when the Israeli’s will replace Bibi with someone who will drop the macho posturing, stand up to the
    Right Wing Fundamentalists and remove the settlements.

    However, it mustn’t be forgotten that the other side too must drop its’ posturing and accept the fact of Israel’s existence. This too is problematic, in light of the recent independence movements, since the Saudi’s know that the time of their reckoning is also coming close.

  3. The trillion dollar question. Is peace the prerogative, or a Jewish homeland?

    I don’t believe it’s possible to have both.

    If time proves me wrong, I will readily acknowledge it.

  4. “The radical evangelicals view the Isrealis are sacrificial shock-troops who’s expansion into the “biblical Isreal” will pave the way for baby Jebus’ return.”

    “The Isreali right looks at these evangelicals (rubes) as a source of cold hard cash, additonal sympathy with the American electorate, and additonal clout with conservative christian members of Congress.”


    I think you have the essence of the situation. To elaborate a little my concern is that the Israeli’s use these “Rubes” at their own peril. The only viable end to this mess is a two-state solution and neither side mentioned in your quotes above has the foresight to realize that it is the only path away from destruction.

  5. Swarthmore mom, thanks for the Tikkun link. An interesting piece. Seamus, you raise a good point, but it is still a dangerous game in the long run. Some recent commentators have wondered whether the hard embrace of Bibi and his allies of the US right will backfire on Israel. At present, there is a large bi-partisan consensus in the US to support Israel, and rightly so. But if Likud and their allied insist on supporting people like Glen Beck and his allies, while simultaneously attacking prominent Democrats (and we can start with Netanyahu insulting Obama on his last visit to the US), then you could easily end up with a situation where one party support Israel, the other says, why bother, they only attack me and support my political opposition. That would fracture the bi-partisan consensus, and Israel would be the loser for it.

    And anon — wow. First of all, they aren’t scare quotes if you are actually quoting someone. And tetchy! I was not trying to “to peacock how superior” I was. I was providing what I thought might be useful information for people interested in the issues being discussed on the blog. Your response was not only over the top, your subsequent responses to Glen were full of homophobic slurs. I am surprised the moderator of these comments did not delete them as offensive posts.

    And you have wondered about differing reactions of people to the Holocaust. Different people often react differently to the same stressors, and what was suffered in the Holocaust is unimaginable to us. We can only begin to reach the emotions through some of the narratives that have come down to us. In my immediate extended family, there are survivors who carry their scars deeply, but are bright, engaging people. And there are those who carry their pain on the surface, bitter and angry at the world. It is hard for us to say how these experiences might have been transferred or manifested in Finkelstein.

  6. As I see it, the fundamentalist Christian right wants all Jews in one place so God can stomp them all with one boot. That’s not the kind of ally I’d want.

  7. I don’t think the Isreali right’s embrace of these nut-balls is short-sighted or naive. Both parties view the other as a someone to be exploited.

    The radical evangelicals view the Isrealis are sacrificial shock-troops who’s expansion into the “biblical Isreal” will pave the way for baby Jebus’ return. At which point all the jews will burn in hell forever. All bullshit and racist make-believe.

    The Isreali right looks at these evangelicals (rubes) as a source of cold hard cash, additonal sympathy with the American electorate, and additonal clout with conservative christian members of Congress. All of this having become more important as traditonally sympathetic parties in the U.S. (liberal jews, and liberals in general) began to sour somewhat towards what was in the past a more democratic Isreali state (mostly as a result of the Gaze and Wesy Banks settlements).

    Since the Jebus freak’s scheme is based on racist fantasy, and the Isreali’s is based upon political and economic reality, I’d have to say, “point Isrealis”.

  8. It is called show me the faith of the money of the people that back me and I tell you about my “god”…….

  9. I have seen quotes called “scare quotes” before, on this blog, but only on this (Turley’s) blog. Is it a reference to scare-crows, or … what. I have never understood what it means, or is supposed to mean.

  10. Frankly,

    Read again what I wrote. I am curious what is special about Norman Finkelstein’s parent’s experiences that leaves him bitter when their experiences do not seem dramatically different from that of so many other Jews whose children are nowhere near as bitter.

    If anything needs clarification, why would the WWII experiences of his parents leave him bitter with *Israel*?

    There is indeed enormous reading comprehension fail on this blog. I assume it is typical when so many readers are lawyers that naturally they have no ability to read others with respect or empathy and no ability to apologize for their dumbassery.

    One only looks at Gene’s contributions to this thread to see this, and now your own.

    If you can read Mike’s post, then my two poss afterward’s, then your post, and my response my thanks to you, and interpret in my post that I am being glib, well, you’re a hopeless dumbass.

  11. Interesting post. I find myself asking the same questions. I believe in God, yet I am rational and realize for the greater part of civilized western history the church has been the means by which the upper class influenced the working class. A person’s inner conflict and guilt is heightened when one looks to the church for guidance during stressful times. Has your Church accepted your views? I’m assuming they read your blog.

  12. last I checked Haaretz was not part of the American debate over the ME but a sign of how stunned our media is in reporting.

    Anon – if you really wonder how losing ones family like that could lead to bitterness you are more soulless than I suspected. My guess is you are trying to be glib & failed badly. Its a miracle that there are some people who could live through that and not be bitter and angry.

    Yes many liberals and progressive are angry but they are not leading the country into a blind canyon – they are being dragged into it against their judgement and consent. We had 40 years of examples of progressive leadership. 40 years of prosperity and growth. that was followed by 30 years (so far) of anti-progressive leadership that has gotten us to where we are today with every indication it is going to get much worse.

  13. Awwww. Is that the best you have to offer, anonymous troll?

    I object to you whining about “scare quotes” when you use them yourself, hypocrite.

    Try again.

    As to stomping me? ROFL

    You’re a regular legend in your own mind, aren’t you?

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