The recent death of Jerry Falwell can serve as an opportunity to reflect on the growing Christian Zionist (CZ) movement and how such a movement is related to other establishment pro-Israel groups such as The David Project, ADL and AIPAC. To be clear, there is a Faustian bargain being forged, for short term political and financial gain, Israel and the American Jewish establishment are willing to engage with people such as John Hagee of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) “who is contemptuous of Muslims, dismissive of gays, possesses a triumphalist theology and opposes a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
This bargain also entails muzzling – American Jewish leaders who have been critical of CUFI sponsored local “Nights to Honor Israel” say they have been pressured into silence.
“The pressure has been enormous,” said a prominent Jewish leader who said he was contacted by local community officials after he raised questions about a local Christians United For Israel (CUFI) event. “I can’t even talk about it now; I feel a real sense of intimidation because people in our own community are saying I’m opposing something that’s good for Israel, that I’m hurting Israel.”
In terms of Falwell specifically, although their relationship has not been seamless, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has called Falwell a “towering figure of the religious right” and a “dear friend of Israel”
The fly in the ointment, beyond the occasional “oopsy” anti-Semitic utterances, eg, “the antichrist is probably a Jewish man alive today,” (condemned by Foxman of the ADL), is that the relationship between the Christian Zionists (like Falwell, Pat Robertson and Hagee) and Jews is roughly that of Germany to the Soviet Union before Germany invaded its ally. Christian Zionists believe that as one large piece of the Apocalypse endgame, a unified Jewish state must exist over all of what is now Israel and Palestine and that a new temple must be built on temple mount. The important take home point is that within the framework of Christian Zionist belief is the notion that at the time of Christ’s second coming, Jews will be offered a choice to convert to Christianity or immediately be condemned to hell or some reasonable facsimile.
Although this might give some Jewish/Isreali individuals and organizations pause, these would not be Bebe Netanyahu (who has publicly been seen “conferring” with Falwell) or AIPAC or the David Project. Indeed, The David Project is working closely with CUFI in order to develop campus outreach training programs throughout the country, of which, Cal State Bakersfield is the first. The David project takes this so seriously that they actually have a Christian outreach manager that is helping with educational materials. The Jerusalem Post following suit has just inaugurated a new website, The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition. And the Israeli tourism agency regularly advertises on Christian right radio stations. Notwithstanding concern expressed within and without the Jewish community on the ultimate goal of such CZs (such as the deep seated anti-Semitism inherent in such a religious world view),
“The State of Israel finds the Christian community an important base of support, and we cooperate with them on many projects,” said David Saranga, Israel’s consul for media and public affairs in New York.
One needs to ask what kind of friends these CZs actually are. When Sharon unilaterally pulled out of Gaza, notwithstanding the myriad complexities and negatives of the action, it was Pat Robertson who warned that letting any area of the ancient land of Israel go would incur God’s wrath and that Sharon’s stroke was one way god was expressing this wrath.
The close relationship between mainstream Jewish groups and John Hagee’s CUFI may be helping to drive away younger Jewish Americans (from any interest in Israel) in droves.
The question posed by Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism is:
“And so whom do we offer to these young people as a spokesman for Israel? John Hagee… . If our intention was to distance our young adults from the Jewish state, we could not have made a better choice ….. Let’s consider if in return for temporary financial benefit, we are alienating those who will be our leaders and donors tomorrow.”
Putting aside for the moment any religious issues, the CZs act like a giant sea anchor, along with typical right wing/mainstream US Jewish groups (AIPAC, AJC, etc) in retarding progress towards any of the foundational problems besetting the region. If we continue the Faustian tableau we can just imagine the Devil’s glee at collecting on the bargain.
(Cecilie Surasky helped with the writing of this article)