Israel's Christian fundamentalist friends

Israel's Christian fundamentalist friends
Comment: Christian Zionists groups are on the rise in the US, a fillip for the Israeli political class as support falls among Jewish-American liberals, says Alex Doherty.
4 min read
17 Jun, 2015
Israel's political class are aware of falling support among Jewish-Americans [Getty]
Binyamin Netanyahu's open repudiation of the two-state solution during the recent Israeli elections drew criticism from even Israel's closest allies.

Compounding Israel's difficulties, in recent months a number of European parliaments have voted to recognise the state of Palestine, disregarding the noisy objections of the Israeli government and other apologists for Israeli occupation.

Meanwhile the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is causing increasing alarm amongst Israel partisans in the United States. It was reported this month that Sheldon Adelson, an American casino mogul and major Republican Party donor, convened a meeting with other prominent Israel advocates on how to combat the threat of increasing international isolation represented by the BDS movement.

Continued US support for Israel far outweighs any of Israel's other alliances in importance. And, in spite of the obvious mutual disdain between Barack Obama and Netanyahu, there is little reason to expect the strategic alliance to end any time soon.

The lobby problem

However, Israel does face a serious problem within the US. Although the so-called Israel lobby is by no means the decisive factor in maintaining the alliance between the two states, it is not without significance.

The maintenance of the lobby, and the continued flow of funds from Americans to Israeli Zionist organisations depends in large part upon the existence of a Jewish-American population broadly sympathetic to the Zionist project.

Unfortunately for Israel Jewish support for Israel is declining, especially amongst young American Jews. That decline is attributable to the difficulty Jewish Americans (who mostly vote for the Democratic Party) experience in trying to square their liberal convictions with support for the gang of racist hooligans that make up Israel's political class.

As Israel's traditional constituency within the US gradually erodes, Israel is likely to become increasingly reliant upon constituencies that are less troubled by the depredations of the Israeli military and the settlement project.

One such constituency is the network of fundamentalist Christian Zionists. Christian Zionist support for Israel is grounded in the belief that the migration of Jews to historic Palestine portends the second coming of Christ.

For instance the Christian Friends of Israeli Communities - a US organisation that aids illegal settlements in the occupied territories - offers the following description of the current situation in the Middle East:

"The Biblical region of Judea and Samaria was given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, forever, 4,000 years ago. Because of sin, disobedience and lack of belief, most Jews were driven from the land around 70AD...

"The prophets foretold the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of the Land in the latter days…. In 1948, Israel was reborn as a sovereign nation and in 1967 the "West Bank" was reunited with the rest of the nation in the prophetic, miraculous Six Day War.

     Christian Zionist support for Israel is grounded in the belief that the migration of Jews to historic Palestine portends the second coming of Christ.

"Although Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria for 19 years and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip during the same period, there was never any attempt to form a Palestinian State at this time. The land remained barren until the Jews returned to cultivate it. This is truly the fulfillment of prophecy."

One of the most significant Christian Zionist organisations is the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews founded in 1983. In its early years, leaders of key Zionist institutions such as the Jewish Agency for Israel avoided open alliance with the fellowship and its president, Yechiel Eckstein.

However in 2007 the agency took the remarkable step of accepting Eckstein's membership of the agency's 26-member cabinet. The appointment was the fellowship's reward for its commitment to donate $45 million to the agency.

The biblical prophecy

The two organisations collaborated in 'aliyah' operations (enabling Jewish migration to Israel) but in March the fellowship chartered its first 'Freedom Flight' outside of the auspices of the agency.

Migration to Israel is of course of tremendous importance to Christian Zionists who believe it helps to fulfil biblical prophecy. While a naive person might suppose that such operations are simply responding to a genuine desire on the part of diaspora Jews to migrate to Israel, organisations such as the fellowship take a far more proactive role.

For instance, the fellowship has offered financial inducements to Iranian Jews to encourage them to make aliyah. Operation Exodus, a UK-based Christian Zionist organisation that operates in the states of the former Soviet Union, describes visits made by its personnel to Jewish communities in the former Soviet states as 'fishing trips'.

An interesting insight into how they view those members of the Jewish diaspora that they claim to be helping.

Whatever their qualms about the ideology of Christian Zionism, Israel's leaders may in the coming years have little choice but to accept a more prominent role in Israel-advocacy on the part of Christian Zionist organisations.

Those wanting to gauge the effectiveness of the international Palestine solidarity movement might do well to pay close attention to the deepening involvement of Christian Zionism in Israel.