God’s Foreign Policy: Christian Zionism
You are seeing the King of the South come together with lightning speed. . . Can you imagine what Israel faces with Iran, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Russia coming after them? The prophet Ezekiel clearly predicted this battle thousands of years ago and you are watching the players get into position with lightning speed. â€¨â€¨Jesus said: “When you see these signs, lift up your head and rejoice.” --- John Hagee, Founder, Christians United for Israel (CUFI)
Christian Zionism has been around since the 1600s, when England’s deeply religious King James I was studying a book of bible commentary that suggested that the End of Days would take place in what was then Palestine. A pre-condition of the final battle of Armageddon, he read, was that 12,000 members of each of the twelve Hebrew tribes must return from the diaspora to Zion.
Now, four hundred years later, when John Hagee, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee talk about the “ingathering,” they are speaking a coded language that refers not just to the return of the Jews to Israel, but also to the Christian Zionist yearning for the battle they believe it prefigures. Within their eschatological vision lies the very potential for Israel’s undoing, for it is a vision fueled by a deliberate intent to incite sufficient hatred to set the Muslim, and ultimately the entire world on fire. And thanks to the efforts of John Hagee, the founder of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas and of his million-member Christian Zionist lobby (CUFI), the final battle may well come in the form of a nuclear holocaust that Christian Zionists both desire and encourage.
Pastor Hagee is the best known of the many Christian Zionists on the scene today. He has spent decades raising millions of dollars to bring Russian and Ethiopian Jews to Israel’s disputed territories. In so doing, he has gone a step further than Christian Zionists before him: By providing the means to settle religious Jews on the precise lands that must one day be ceded to Palestine if there is ever to be peace, he creates nearly impossible conditions for a two-state solution.
From Hagee’s perspective, these are lands that God gave to the Hebrews, the Chosen People, and therefore they rightfully belong to them. Having built his career and legacy on Genesis 12:3; that God , promised to bless the man or nation that blesses the Chosen People, Hagee put together a multimillion-dollar empire preaching Christian support for Israel. The size of his CUFI following alone makes him an important political player. It also makes him one of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s and The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC’s) best friend.
Whenever issues regarding the division of Jerusalem or the return of land in the disputed territories come up, John Hagee and other leading Christian Zionists call on an army of ready foot soldiers to exert immediate pressure on their political representatives. Lest you think that End-Timers are a fringe group, a 2004 Newsweek Poll found that 55% of Americans believe in the Rapture, the moment in which godly, born-again believers are whisked up to be with God in the blink of an eye. Add the fact that 42% of Americans believe that Israel was irrevocably deeded to the Jews by God, and there are more than enough demographic reasons for politicians to support Israel, even when that support might not be in the best interests of the United States.
What is also of grave concern is the passive acceptance by American Jews of Christian Zionism. Far too many Jews know little or nothing about the Christian Zionist agenda. All they know is that Jewish Federations, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and other institutional Jewish groups have chosen to embrace Christian Zionists, giving them legitimacy in Israel as well as in the United States. The tragedy of this ill-conceived interfaith marriage is not that the love isn’t real—it’s real enough in its own way—but that one day, when the greater world fully understands the alliance between the Hagees of the world and the Jewish community, it will no doubt turn traditional Christians against Jews, thus powering the very anti-Semitism they seek to avoid.
There exists a circular nature to the relationships between Christian Zionists, AIPAC, certain members of the U. S. Congress, and the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The voting bloc those members represent is influential enough to break down any general congressional will to stand up to Israel even when her actions sabotage efforts to build a much-needed peace. It is why Netanyahu was able to slap Vice President Joe Biden so soundly on his diplomatic face when, in 2010, Israel welcomed him with the announcement of the planned construction of 1600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East Jerusalem, even though the U.S. had sought a freeze on all such building. It is also why, despite the fact that 61% of Israeli Jews and 79% of American Jews support a two-state solution, the chances that Israel will cede enough contiguous land to create a Palestinian state are rapidly dwindling.
In this light, Christian Zionist interference can hardly be seen as good for Jews, especially once the political role of Christian Zionism with regard to U.S. foreign interests is more widely understood. On its own, Hagee’s interference within the disputed territories is contrary to Israel’s and America’s interests. Owing to demographics, the window for a two-state solution is fast closing—as the growth of the Arab population outpaces that of Jews, Israel will either have to cede its Jewish identity or become an apartheid nation. Unfortunately, should anyone offer advice or criticize Israel’s actions, they are instantly—and often wrongly—accused of being anti-Semitic or self-loathing Jews.
It is understandable from a psychological perspective that the Jewish people, with their long history as victims of persecution, would welcome their Christian Zionist defenders. When John Hagee offers the Jewish people the support of fifty million evangelical Christians, it is more than seductive; it is irresistible.Hagee generally stays true to his word not to evangelize the Jews, believing it to be “fruitless, inasmuch as God has blinded them to the identity of Messiah.” But with this sleight of hand he conceals the elephant in the room—the underlying Christian Zionist “truths” that those who do not take Jesus as their personal savior shall be doomed for eternity, and that Jewish ownership of Palestine is a prerequisite to the realization of their eschatological vision.
It would behoove those Jews who are taken in by Hagee’s “love” to dig deeper and find out what Christian Zionists say about them behind their backs. From stating that today’s Jews are not "spiritually alive” to suggesting that God intentionally put Hitler on earth for the purpose of hunting down the Jewish people so as to fulfill the biblically mandated “ingathering” of Jews to Zion, Hagee shows himself to be rooting for Israel and not the Jews themselves.
Additionally, despite the vast gulf between Jews and Christian Zionists on all issues other than Israel, it takes but one nihilistic comment from Iran’s President Ahmadinejad for Jews to retreat to a siege mentality. Speak to the leaders of institutional Judaism and you won’t hear reason, you’ll hear fear. But in today’s hair-trigger world, the Faustian friendship between the two players stands to ultimately engender the very anti-Semitism Jews so fear - - should religiously driven politicians embroil us in a nuclear confrontation, the Jewish/Christian Zionist alliance will come to light and the world will blame American Jews for their self-interested participation.
In a complicated public relations dance, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization whose primary concern is anti-Semitism, has switched his position on Hagee and Christian Zionism so often he must suffer from whiplash. In 2005, he urged major Jewish organizations to stand up to the Christian Right, which, he warned, wants to establish a theocracy in the United States. After much back and forth with his colleagues, he ceased his public criticism.
Then, in 2008, in answer to Hagee’s comment that God had sent Hitler in order to hasten the ingathering of the Jews in Zion, Foxman retracted his support again, calling for Jewish organizations to put the alliance on hold. “It’s now necessary for us to look at the totality of (Hagee’s) views.” After a series of letters between Foxman and Hagee, Foxman flipped once again, “American Jews should not be apologetic or defensive about cultivating Evangelical support for Israel. The need for support by an Israel under siege is great. Fortunately, Evangelical support is overwhelming, consistent, and unconditional.”
Around the same time, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, then president of the Union of Reform Judaism, offered a very different perspective on Jewish consideration of Christian Zionism. Speaking at a conference of Reform rabbis in Cincinnati, he said, "On Israeli-Palestinian politics, John Hagee and the CUFI are extremists . . . In expressing contempt for other religions and rejecting territorial compromise under any and all circumstances, their views run against the American grain." Yoffie’s speech should have sent the rabbis in attendance home to tell each of their 900 congregations that allying with Christians Zionists would ultimately prove damaging to the Jews and to Israel. That did not that happen.
Five years later, it’s the spring of 2013 and Hagee purports to have abandoned his virulent Islamophobia. Whether Rabbi Yoffie sincerely believes this or he has been pressured to support the alliance with Hagee, Yoffie has taken him at his word and thrown in with the Christian Zionists. One would think that Yoffie has to know that, even with Hagee’s toned down language, his End Times desire for the final war between Muslims and Christians has never diminished.
American Judaism has been complicit in Christian Zionism’s dangerous actions. To be seen holding political hands with Christian Zionists to the detriment of U.S. foreign policy will one day most certainly oil the engine of Jewish persecution.
The danger of a John Hagee is that he is just politically connected enough to coax the world toward a self-fulfilling nuclear apocalypse. The geopolitics of the Arab region, complex and difficult as they are, demand that cool, clear heads prevail, heads that are neither Biblically nor Koran-ically driven. In 1947 when Truman cited the Book of Deuteronomy as the basis for Israel’s creation, then-Secretary of State George Marshall was outraged that an American president based such an important policy decision on the Bible. In the circular spin of history, today’s institutional Judaism finds itself aligned with a people whose idea of foreign policy is based on the Book of Revelation.
Rabbi Barry Block of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio spoke wisely in 2006 when he said, “The extreme religious right has the privilege to lobby for its beliefs. Let them do so, as they wish, as Christians, without the involvement of the organized Jewish community. Let us keep far away, with our eyes open. For our own future as Jews in America. For our souls. For Israel.”
Should Christian Zionists like John Hagee, along with Israel’s influential and unreasonable right wing, continue to have their way, voices like those of Block, Steinitz, Olmert, Dagan, and Kerry will be lost and Israel will indeed be cursed. Quite simply, it must be understood that Christian Zionists’ goals are counter to a realistic peace in the Middle East.
While Hagee’s efforts appear to be helpful to some, in the long run, they are like poisoned apples. If Christian Zionists are allowed to continue to scuttle peace negotiations, Jews will finally see the true cost of their Faustian bargain.
That is, unless the heretofore-silent Jewish and Christian majorities find the will to take back their voice and reclaim their once historically respected high road. To do that though, Jews in both Israel and the the United States will have to find the political courage to look the John Hagees in the eye and say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ Only then can diplomacy possibly have a chance.