By Tammy Obeidallah
It is common knowledge that many so-called Christians throw unconditional, unyielding support behind the Jewish state. Known as Christian Zionists, or more recently “Israel-firsters”—indicating their degree of loyalty over and above the interests of their own country—it is estimated they are over 50 million strong in the United States alone. By stripping biblical passages out of their proper context and ignoring historical perspective, Christian Zionist leaders have convinced the masses that Jesus Christ will return when all Jews are gathered in Palestine, even if it means the systemic destruction of the Palestinian people.
Questions remain how such a blatantly un-biblical doctrine hijacked an entire segment of the Christian community; moreover, how the doctrine came to be so widely accepted not only in churches but in the halls of political power.
It has been argued that Christian Zionism originated as a spin-off of secular Zionism; that Christians were co-opted by political Zionists in order to gain support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Ironically, Palestine was sixth on the list for such a homeland at Theodor Herzl’s First Zionist Congress in 1897, behind locales including Argentina, Uganda and Turkey. It was in fact the Christian Zionists who were orchestrating the takeover of Palestine from the beginning.
The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891-1948 by Paul C. Merkley provides startling evidence that the poisoned theology of Christian Zionism predates Herzl, long considered the father of Zionism. In fact, Herzl received a tremendous amount of support from William Hechler, the son of Anglican missionaries and author of an 1893 pamphlet entitled “The Restoration of the Jews to Palestine According to Prophecy.” It was Hechler who arranged meetings between Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm II, promoting the Zionist ambition to usurp Palestine among world leaders.
Early support for Zionism among United States policymakers was manifested through a handful of misguided religious nuts who manipulated leaders by flattering their sordid egotistical fantasies. According to Merkley, President Harry S. Truman compared himself to Cyrus, the Persian king who allowed Jews to return to Palestine in ancient times after the Babylonian captivity, although Zionist sympathies have run deep in America since its foundation.
The Puritans drew a parallel between themselves and the Children of Israel, escaping religious persecution in Europe just as the ancient Hebrews were led out of Egypt. America was their “Promised Land,” making way for the doctrine of Manifest Destiny (that it was God’s divine will for the new country to stretch from sea to sea) that justified the abhorrent treatment of Native Americans. By the same token, Christian Zionism justifies the killing and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to this day. Plymouth Brethren minister John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) popularized the doctrine under the name “dispensationalism,” which was further spread by the Scofield Reference Bible published in 1909. That edition contained copious footnotes instructing readers how to interpret Bible verses and prophecy centered around the re-establishment of Israel as a modern nation-state.
Thus the Zionist heresy was mass marketed to a largely ignorant populace who are convinced they do not have enough sense to read the Bible for themselves. Today, support for Israel has gained momentum through apocalyptic preaching by televangelists who make large profits for supporting Israel. They have co-opted Christian laypeople into thinking they can bring about Christ’s return, ending suffering on earth.
It would be scary enough if such ideas were confined to churches, but Zionist Christians have organized political lobbies such as Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Arguably, they have considerable influence over US foreign policy, particularly effective with neo-conservatives as witnessed during the George W. Bush administration. Numerous Christian groups encourage Jewish immigration to what is now called Israel through financial contributions while assisting ultra-orthodox Jewish groups to promote settlement expansion on Palestinian land.
Not only do Zionists distort biblical history, they spread lies about more modern events as well. Proponents of Israel will often pander the tired Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini obfuscation in an attempt to connect all Palestinians to Adolph Hitler. Husseini was imposed upon the Palestinians in 1921 by the British Mandate’s first high commissioner, a British Jew named Herbert Samuel. Husseini was selected over the rival Nashashibi candidate and favored by the Zionist Commission. Husseini allied with Hitler to oppose the British, falling into the trap as so many others who have believed “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
In this manner Christian Zionists have the ability to reach outside their own cult and snag more secular (although nonetheless misguided) individuals by linking Arabs—particularly exploiting the blood connection between Husseini and late President Yasser Arafat—with the epitome of “anti-Semitic” evil. These same “Christians” are poised to use the anniversary of the September 11 tragedy to accuse Muslims of celebrating the attacks. In reality, the end of Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, coincides with that date this year. Meanwhile, Florida pastor Terry Jones, leader of the innocuous-sounding Dove Outreach Center, is encouraging Christians to burn a Qur’an on September 11.
Although emboldened by all the media attention, proponents of these views are fortunately far from mainstream Christianity. The problem is that Christians who do take seriously Christ’s message of love are reluctant to gently—or not so gently—correct those hate-mongers masquerading as Christians. We must be willing to take back our faith by outspokenly refuting the heresy of Christian Zionism and its hateful manifestations both at home and abroad.
– Tammy Obeidallah contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.