Attempts to weaken support for Israel

Ed Lasky:

A new strategy seems to be emerging that seeks to weaken American support for Israel.

While there has been much attention given to challenges Israel faces on college campuses, in the media, and increasingly in the halls of Congress, the historically solid and vitally important support given by Evangelical Christians towards Israel is now being threatened. How is this happening and who are the actors?

Evangelicals support Israel for a variety of reasons, among them a belief that Israel is a fellow democracy with which we share a common Western culture and that we value as a friend. Israel has also been victimized by Islamic terrorism, as have we. Israel is also a strategic ally in the war against Islamic radicalism- a lone Western outpost in a faraway land that gave birth to two major religions: Judaism and Christianity-the foundation of Western civilization.

However, the core reason that Evangelicals have an affection for the Jewish people and a strong desire to protect Israel is found, unsurprisingly, in the Bible.

What may surprise people is that the foundation of this support has nothing to do with end-of-days scenarios or the desire to convert the Jews. Instead, there is a belief that God has a covenant with the Jewish people and with Israel. Christians have a religious mandate to support Israel. Throughout the Bible there is language that calls upon Christians to honor and cherish the Jewish people. A key section is found in the very first book of the Bible: Genesis. The promise of Genesis 12:3 is that

"he who blesses Israel will be blessed, and he who curses Israel will be cursed".

To people who interpret Israel to mean the Jews - such as evangelical Christians - Genesis becomes an exhortation to both Zionism and philo-Semitism. (see this Q and A with author David Brog for a further explanation of the basis of Christian Zionism). There is also a feeling of sympathy for the Jews-given the tragic history of Christian anti-Semitism in Europe.

Efforts are now underway to erode this base of support. While it is unlikely that there is a concerted effort among the foes of Israel, they do seem to be operating from a common playbook. The tactics seem to rely on a few simple but potentially perilous ideas. One avenue of attack is to question the theology behind the Biblical mandate to "bless the Jews". Another is to portray Israelis as oppressing Christians in an attempt to evoke imagery from the Bible regarding the trials and tribulations of Jesus. In so doing, they are attempting to weaken the sympathy that is one of the hallmarks of Christian Zionism.

There is much more. I think those attempting such an argument are unlikely to get any converts. For some Christians the argument in support of Israel's claim to the land is much simpler. The Bible says God gave the land to Israel. If you believe in the Bible then that is the end of the argument. It is the strict constructionist view and it is the one many conservative Christians believe.

There is also the weakness of the contra claim. The Muslims claimed the land by conquest in the seventh century, and then made up a story about Mohammad going to heaven from the area around the Temple Mount. Historically we know this is a false claim since Mohammad never came to that mountain. The claim fits a pattern of Muslims appropriating to themselves sites that other religions deem important. In India, for example, they would put a mosque on a Hindu religious site and then deny that site to the Hindu. The ruins of the Parthenon in Greece are the result of Muslims converting it to a mosque and using it as an ammo dump that exploded during a battle. In some ways it is as if they are a real estate worshiping cult that sees no conflict with their rejection of idol worship.

While the two sides in Israel both view the other as squatters the Israelis clearly have the older claim with a title document (the Bible) that many view as unassailable. Islam's claims appear to be based on adverse possession.


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