The love that dares not speak its shame
The American Right claims to 'love' Israel. In this take Cliff Baxter asks if it is a love that dares not speak its shame: lust for money, power, oil, and armament sales. Cliff applauds the statement by the Jerusalem bishops criticising the increasing power of Christian Zionism as a barrier to peace in the Middle East. He says accepting the embrace of Conservative Evangelicals poses problems of principle for Jews and Israel, in return for a short-term payoff. The Christian Right's view of Israel derives from a double-edged theological position. Following a classic anti-Jewish stance it regards Jewish people as spiritually blind for rejecting Jesus. As Gershom Gorenberg wrote in the International Herald Tribune on 14 October 2002: 'It regards Israel's existence as proof that biblical prophecies are coming true – heralding an apocalypse in which Jews will either die or accept Jesus.' Presidents Ronald Reagan believed and President George W. Bush does too, in Christian Zionism, which holds that conversion of Jews will precipitate the Second Coming of Jesus. Baxter regards this as 'Raptural rubbish'. He says if we love someone, we accept them and leave them alone. He points to the establishment of modern Israel owing much to British Nonconformist politicians such as David Lloyd George. Their successors, the Christian Zionists, see a wonderful opportunity to make a quick arms buck, destabilise the Arab world, convert the Jews and precipitate the return of Jesus. Not a bad day's work.
One would think at first glance that any Christian support for Israel is a good thing.
After all, for two thousand years Jews have been a persecuted people. Much of that persecution has derived from Christianity.
It is only in recent times that has been found objectionable. No longer do Catholics pray for the conversion of the 'perfidious Jews'. The encyclical, Our Time – Nostra Aetate, almost half a century ago, was a turning point.
On Good Friday when reference is made to 'the Jews' we consider the matter in much greater depth.
Typecasting is no longer acceptable even at Scriptural level.
The shadow of the Sho'ah or Holocaust in the twentieth century still hangs over us all like the pall of smoke from the concentration camp crematoria.
Who could deny such people a homeland? Are they not our elder sisters and brothers in Faith? Do they not need Christian support?
We have to look hard at what that 'support' may be.
Is it derived from the American Right which is happy to provide three billion dollars a year so that Israel can buy American weapons of mass destruction? The Right, which for years banned Jews from golf clubs, country clubs, university and school boards, has for many years been in love with the notion of 'Israel'.
It's been very convenient. Hatred of Israel has brought turmoil, confusion, and massive spending on armaments in Arab oil-producing countries. There's not much danger of Arabs getting rid of their 'oil puppets' in such a bellicose situation.
Just read this recent story from Al Jazeerah to understand the feelings on the other side...
Riot police have fired tear gas and beaten up an Aljazeera journalist in Khartoum as opposition party supporters demonstrated against a recent rise in petrol and sugar prices, witnesses said.
[Source: Sudan police beat up protestors, Al Jazeerah]
Who is winning in this lose-lose situation?
Al Jazeera is running a poll asking who won the war in Lebanon.
The perceived enemies of Israel are in real strife. Nor can the people living in those nations have much hope for change.
Muammar al-Qadhafi, the leader of Libya, has said that he will not let anyone "steal power from the people" and has urged supporters to "kill enemies" who call for political change.
[Source: Qadhafi rules out political change, Al Jazeerah]
If the American Right 'loves' Israel why is it prepared to allow it to continue to be its small, well armed sheriff fighting a losing battle in the Wild West of the Middle East, finding itself in an increasingly precarious situation? 'Jews prepared to die for America' would not be a popular slogan in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Nor would 'Jews sacrificing for Petroleum'.
A love that dares not speak its shame...
This is a love that dares not speak its shame.The shame is the love of money, of oil, of power derived from arms manufacture by the 'merchants of death' as Pope John Paul II described them.
In the forefront of selling this evil 'love' is the Murdoch global media empire described by Richard Neville as The Life and Crimes of a Global Goebbels
At the heartless heart of a fake love for Israel is Christian Zionism.
This has been roundly condemned by the Jerusalem bishops who say that in its extreme form, the Christian Zionist program identifies the Gospel with "the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism" and is "detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel.
Declaration by Bishops on Christian Zionism...
The statement, signed by Catholic Latin Patriarch, Cardinal Michel Sabbah (pictured), and leaders of the Syrian Orthodox, Episcopal and the Evangelical Lutheran churches in Jerusalem, directs its attack at a belief among some Christians that the defence of the State of Israel is in accordance with Biblical prophecy.
The "Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism" describes Christian Zionism as "a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel."
It is worth reading the statement in full:
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9)
How did Christian Zionism assume such a powerful position in the world?
The rise of Christian Zionism accelerated during the 1970s religious revival in the United States, where 86 per cent of people are estimated to practise a religion compared with 48 per cent in the United Kingdom.
Many Evangelicals and religious conservatives regard the creation of Israel in 1948 as proof that biblical prophecies are coming true.
They see the return of Jews to their Promised Land as a fulfillment of the prophecies and a portent of the Second Coming of Christ.
There's a catch — the Jews will have to recognize Him as their Messiah or they've had it.
Evangelicals argue that one of the preconditions for the Second Coming is for the Jews to return to their homeland, and some insist that the Jews need to be converted first, hence the slogans such as 'Jews for Jesus'.
Leading Evangelical Pat Robertson says, 'The future of this Nation (America) may be at stake, because God will bless those that bless Israel.'
Jerry Falwell, another leader of Evangelicals, has said, 'Right at the very top of our priorities must be an unswerving commitment and devotion to the state of Israel.'
The six million Jews in America are only 2.5 per cent of the population.
The Christian Zionists and like-minded groups in the Moral Majority or Christian Coalition are estimated make up a staggering 18 per cent of the electorate.
President Ronald Reagan was a committed Christian Zionist.
Since quitting alcohol and finding God in 1985, President George W. Bush is continuing in the tradition.
Bush is said to read each day a devotional text from My Utmost for His Highest, one of the Top Ten of religious best-sellers in the US, by Oswald Chambers, an obscure Scottish preacher who died in 1917.
The depth of Evangelical feeling for Israel can easily be seen by watching a tele-vangelist any morning. Across America there are prayer breakfasts, rallies with cheer leaders, conferences and Christian Zionist services in conservative fundamentalist churches.
But it's a double-edged sword.
Instead of being supportive, it follows a classic anti-Jewish stance.
It sees Jews as spiritually blind for rejecting Jesus, it sees Israel as proof that biblical prophecies are coming true. They herald an apocalypse in which Jews will either die or accept Jesus.
Some of the history of how the State of Israel was created...
It's not all that surprising when it is realized that the establishment of the State of Israel was the culmination of Protestant Nonconformism, steeped as it was in the Old Testament values preached in kirk and chapel.
The House of Commons did not debate the decision to form a Jewish homeland. Instead, it was decided behind closed doors at 10 Downing Street by the War Cabinet of which seven of its ten members were Nonconformists. David Lloyd George had long been determined to build a Jewish homeland within the British Empire.
The establishment of modern Israel in 1948 received wide public support as people realized the depth of misery and the extent of the horror inflicted upon Jewish people by the Nazis. Books such as Exodus increased awareness of the official hard-heartedness towards desperate Jews looking for a place to put their head.
Forgotten, however, were the rights of Arabs who had fought and died to help the British Empire to defeat the Ottoman Empire.
We are paying the price for this betrayal in our own times.
I am not saying that the Arabs are the good guys, so you can forget straw man arguments.
But driving them into desperation in places like the Gaza Strip, herding them into prison camps and creating a climate where a suicide bomber is a hero, and taking yet another step towards a major war, and possibly the end of the world, cannot be defended unless you are a Rapturist, and there are plenty of them, from Teheran to Washington.
As for the Jews in Israel that the Christian Zionists love so much they want to convert them and thus precipitate the Second Coming all I can say is that if you love someone, you accept them and leave them alone. The Jerusalem bishops are right to sound a warning.
Suggested further reading: Hamilton, Jill (2004) God, Guns and Israel: Britain, the First World War and the Jews in the Holy Land. London: Sutton Publishing. It is also available in a pb $17.95
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