Israel's Most Hated Friend
By Alana Goodman
According to Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish community is currently facing a “dire threat”-- and no it’s not Mel Gibson after a few cocktails. It’s Christian Zionism, a group of Christians who support the Jewish state.
The Christian Zionists are truly Israel’s most hated friends-- and the movement has recently begun growing in size. Last year, Christian Zionists raised millions of dollars for Jewish causes, and used their considerable political power to lobby politicians on behalf of Israel. As if that wasn’t enough, they also gave tons of support to the Israeli tourism industry.
Jews aren’t just going to take this “threat” lying down.
Joe Lieberman is the most recent casualty of the Jewish war against Christian Zionism. Once the sweetheart of the Jewish community, the Orthodox Senator has seen his favorability rating dwindle to an embarrassing 37% after befriending Rev. John Hagee, a prominent Christian Zionist leader.
Rev. Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, is about as well-received by the Jewish community as a Bobby Fischer radio interview. Though he has devoted the last few decades of his life to Jewish causes, he only has a 7% favorability rating among American Jews (that’s just 2% higher than Rev. Jeremiah “Jews-are-Satan” Wright!). The organization “Jewish Voice for Peace” calls Rev. Hagee a “hate-monger” and a group called “J Street” bullied Sen. John McCain into cutting ties with him last winter.
Recently, hundreds of Jewish leaders also teamed up to denounce Christian Zionism and its supporters in a petition, calling them “bigoted,” “extremist,” and “anti-Semitic.”
Prejudice is certainly one of the reasons why Christian Zionists are disliked-- but Jews are the ones who are prejudiced against Christian Zionists. Many Jews are wary about trusting Christians because of historical reasons. On top of that, most Christian Zionists are evangelicals-- a group that Jews tend to look down upon as fundamentalist, Right-wing, bitter, and ignorant.
Politics aside, Jews have a religious and moral obligation to protect the safety of Israel. Everyone who helps support Israel should be appreciated, despite their religious beliefs, political ideology, or education level.
Unfortunately, it is difficult for many Jews to be appreciative of Christian Zionists when they are bombarded with false and slanderous information about the movement. Some of this misinformation is purposely distributed by anti-Christian Zionists groups, but much of it is caused by confusion.
The most common argument that I hear against Christian Zionists is that they only support Israel because of the “End of Days” prophecy. The End of Days prophecy is a Christian belief that the Second Coming of Christ can only happen once the Jews are in Israel. According to the prediction, in the days before the Second Coming most Jews will either die or convert to Christianity. Because of this, many Jews believe that Christian support for Israel is just a round-about, extremely complicated way for Christians to finish the job of the Inquisition.
Of course, the reason most Jews are angered by this isn’t because they actually think the Second Coming is going to happen. They are upset because they think that the Christians think it is going to happen-- which means the Christian Zionists have “bad intentions.”
But let’s not wish all the Christian Zionists into the cornfield just yet. While I can’t account for whether or not they have “bad” thoughts, the idea that they support Israel simply to speed up the Second Coming just doesn’t hold up. Christian theology clearly states that mankind has no control over the timetable of the Second Coming, so helping Israel isn’t going to make Christ pick up the pace. As Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein said, “The notion that evangelicals are extending themselves this way because it’s part of some sinister theology is the biggest lie that Jews believe today.”
Although fictional, phantom-conversions-that-will-never-happen worry some Jews, others are concerned about more realistic conversions in the here and now. Christian Zionism is often described as a Trojan horse for evangelical proselytizing.
This is a legitimate concern, since spreading the word of Christ is mandated in the New Testament. According to Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, the founder of a group called “Jews for Judaism,” proselytizing is the “hidden agenda” of the Christian Zionists. “There is irrefutable evidence that many evangelicals who support Israel have implemented a new ‘soft-sell’ approach to proselytizing Jews for conversion,” he wrote in an article.
It’s true that Christian Zionism is made up of many evangelicals who want to convert Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and anybody who doesn’t accept Christ. Evangelicals are like frat guys-- as long as you have a pulse, they’ll go missionary on you. However, proselytizing is not the reason they support Israel.
As David Brog says in his book Standing With Israel, “There is simply no evidence to connect the [Christian Zionist’s] zeal for evangelism to their support for Israel…This argument presumes that Christians-- millions of them-- have agreed to a plan that they are now implementing church by church across America…in order to harvest Jewish souls at some point down the road. Why hasn’t someone leaked the memo to the press? Or has this grassroots plan to convert the Jews been orchestrated by a sleeper cell?”
Some Christian Zionists, like Rev. Hagee, even refuse to proselytize Jews. Rev. Hagee told the Houston Chronicle that “I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah, which is the word of God, has a relationship with God and will come to redemption…I’m not trying to convert the Jewish people.”
So I’m sure you’re wondering, “If Christian Zionism isn’t a harebrained scheme to convert the Jews, then just what the heck is it?”
Well, Christian Zionism is based on a belief that Christians have not replaced Jews as G-d’s Chosen People. Their theology is summed up by Genesis 12:3, which reads: “I will bless those who bless [the Jews], and I will curse him who curses [the Jews].
As the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, a Christian Zionist leader, once said, “I personally believe that G-d deals with all nations in relation to how these nations deal with Israel. I think history supports this…I therefore think America should without hesitation give total financial and military support for the State of Israel. My political support for Israel is unconditional.”
Christian Zionists also believe that Israel is an important military ally, and they are appreciative of Judaism for giving them the Old Testament, Jesus, and the prophets.
But even some Jews who understand the motives of the Christian Zionists have problems with the movement. Throughout the years, some Christian Zionists have made incendiary and indelicate remarks that drew accusations of anti-Semitism.
For example, Jerry Falwell famously said that he believed the Antichrist would be Jewish. This statement has been broadcast by his detractors as anti-Semitic, when in truth, he was just stating a common theology. Christians believe that the Antichrist will trick the world into believing he is the Messiah; since the Messiah is required to be Jewish, it’s logical that the Antichrist would be Jewish as well.
More important than Rev. Falwell’s handful of offensive statements were his decades of solidly pro-Israel action. When accusing him of anti-Semitism, many of Falwell’s critics overlook his lifetime of support for the Jewish people, which offers more than enough proof of his true feelings.
Leaders of all religions have made statements that seem offensive to others, but these comments aren’t meant to be hateful. As Rev. Falwell said, “Both [Jewish and Christian beliefs] are matters of interpretation based upon the views that each has derived from the Book of Books, the Bible.”
Rev. Hagee has also received charges of anti-Semitism. Throughout the years he has made countless boneheaded statements, including one where he said that Hitler was sent by G-d to bring the Jews into Israel.
While these comments may be insensitive, they are not anti-Semitic. Anti-Semites don’t preach daily about the importance of kindness to the Jewish community, or donate millions of dollars to Jewish causes. When put into the proper context, it becomes obvious that Rev. Hagee did not say these statements in malice.
Admittedly, Christian Zionists aren’t the most tactful speakers. And sometimes they just can’t control their urge to proselytize. I’m not asking you to let them baby-sit your nephews-- I’m just asking the Jewish community to give them the respect that they have earned. It’s true that beggars can’t be choosers, and Israel certainly doesn’t have hordes of potential supporters banging at her door.
Christian Zionists may have some faults, but we can’t waste time waiting for a “perfect” friend of Israel to come along. There are too many people who hate the Jews unconditionally, and not nearly enough who love us the same way.
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