Christian Zionists Feel The Cold after The Passion

This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain…A lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.

This was Billy Graham’s notorious assessment of American Jews to Richard Nixon back in February 1972. Graham survived the storm when the remarks became public knowledge in the 1990s because of his support for Israel. Now, with debate over The Passion, some Jewish commentators are saying that perhaps they can do without the support of Christian Zionists who claim to be pro-Israel but who have aligned themselves with Mel Gibson’s movie. This comment by the Rev. Ted Haggard, head of the National Association of Evangelicals, caused particular annoyance:

There is a great deal of pressure on Israel right now and Christians seem to be a major source of support for Israel. For the Jewish leaders to risk alienating 2 billion Christians over a movie seems shortsighted.

This attitude has led to both conservative and liberal criticism of Christian Zionists. First, Rabbi Smuley Boteach, writing in the Jerusalem Post:

The Passion has forced upon politically conservative Jews like myself a horrible choice: either betray Jewish interests by pretending that a movie making the charge of deicide is no big deal and playing sycophant to the much larger Christian market by praising the film – a choice all too many high-profile Jewish conservatives have made; or be told that you are endangering Israel by undermining Christian support for the Jewish state.

But I reject the choice between the interests of the Jewish people versus the interests of the Jewish state. Any Christian friend whose support can so quickly evaporate when we object to being falsely portrayed as god-killers in a movie is hardly an ally.

From a liberal angle we have Knesset member Yossi Sarid, writing in Haaertz:

Without supportive surroundings, Gibson, who is not exactly known as a modern-day Shakespeare, would not have dared make this movie.

Within these surroundings are to be found the best friends of Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Beni Elon, Nathan Sharansky and Effi Eitam, who are fighting fiercely, as we all know, against anti-Semitism. Sharon, Netanyahu, Elon and their friends have long entered into a blood pact, of ketchup, with the more anti-Semitic Christian groups in America, who pretend to be sworn friends of Israel.

Their friendship is conditional; for the evangelists, the return of the Jews to their land, especially to the Greater Land of Israel, free of Muslims, is a precondition for a complete Christian redemption, which includes, among other things, wiping out the Jews as a people. These evangelicals see the redemption of Israel as a crucial foundation in the return of the messiah Jesus Christ. This is the only reason they encourage Israel and donate a lot of money to it, mainly to the messianic streams within the Jewish state, who view the settlements as the start of the redemption.

Indeed. Christian Zionists go on about their love for Israel and Jews, but their enthusiasm is based on romantic stereotyping rather than reality. Jews who prefer to live outside Israel are seen as going against God’s will: increased anti-Semitism is God’s way of dropping a hint that they should be on their way. Christian Zionists are deaf to Israelis who criticise their government, who investigate human rights abuses, who don’t want the Occupation to continue, or who refuse to serve in the Israeli army (and as for gay Israelis – “pigs defiling the Temple” according to one Christian Zionist newsletter I saw). Christian Zionists insist that the Occupation must continue, no matter how many Israelis or Palestinians will suffer, for no other reason than that the Apocalypse is inevitable. Israeli politicians have indulged all this for a long time – books by fantasists like Mike Evans (China has built a road across the Middle East so North Koreans can invade Israel!) are adorned with photos of the author meeting senior Israeli figures, both Likud and Labour. Perhaps The Passion is blowback.

UPDATE (10 May): Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, one of Israel’s most highly respected halakhic authorities, has declared that Jews should not accept funds from the Fellowship of Christians and Jews. See my entry for today.

3 Responses

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