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The hardcore Christian Zionism of Israel’s favorite British colonel

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He’s the former British army officer who’s the toast of pro-Israel propaganda groups around the world. One of them has termed him the “voice of reason” for defending Israeli conduct in war.

But recent reports suggest former Colonel Richard Kemp is also a religious fundamentalist motivated in his ideological support for Israel by a hard-line Christian Zionism.

In July, Kemp spoke at the Christians United For Israel annual summit in Washington, DC. A report on one right-wing site said he had “delivered an impassioned defense of Israel that brought many in the room to tears.”

“Kemp began by revealing his own Christian faith,” claimed the report on Frontpage Mag (the site is run by David Horowitz, a key figure in America’s Islamophobia industry).

Speaking to the dead

Kemp also reportedly told his Christians United For Israel (CUFI) audience that he had communicated with the dead. According to the Frontpage Mag report, he had “that morning, spoken to Orde Wingate … ‘I spoke to him this morning at Arlington [military cemetery]’.”

The late British officer infamously led the Special Night Squad, a militia used to crush Palestinian rebels who fought against the British occupation in the 1930s. According to one history of the British occupation of Palestine, Wingate had “a passionate pro-Zionism born of the religious tenets he had absorbed as a member of the Plymouth Brethren” – a conservative Evangelical denomination.

The squad was mostly populated by Zionists with the British “knowing that they were simultaneously members of Haganah,” the militia which would in 1948 play the leading roll in ethnically cleansing 750,000 Palestinians. At the same time, “Arabs caught with arms were routinely prosecuted, and some hanged” while Haganah training and arming “had been winked at” (A. J. Sherman, Mandate Days, John Hopkins University Press: 1997, pp. 121, 151).

Kemp reportedly told his audience Wingate was “the greatest Christian Zionist in Britain.”

Kemp posted an earnest-looking photo on Twitter of himself posing at Wingate’s graveside a few days after his CUFI appearance (seen at the top of this article).

When The Electronic Intifada contributor Ben White took to Twitter to point out this strange incident, Kemp replied that he had “got more sense out of him than I’ve got out of many living Maj[or] Gen[eral]s” and that Wingate “sent … his regards.”

on Twitter

on Twitter

on Twitter

Occupiers stick together

A veteran of British occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, since leaving the army, Kemp has become an author and motivational speaker.

He has been described by the London correspondent of Israel’s Haaretz as “a favorite of the British pro-Israel lobby.” One Israeli army propagandist wrote he was an “almost lone voice in defending the actions of the” Israeli army during its 2008-09 assault on Gaza.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed by Israel in that attack, the vast majority civilians. But Kemp saw fit to defend Israel’s actions.

In 2009 he spoke at the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of UN Watch, a pro-Israel lobbying outfit. There he claimed Israel:

did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare … Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

This is a common theme of Kemp’s, one that has always been typical of Israeli army propaganda: that it is the “most moral army” in the world.

In a 2011 speech to the We Believe in Israel conference in London, with the Israeli ambassador sitting in the front row of the audience, Kemp outlined more of his strange ideas.

There is a “global conspiracy of propaganda aimed at the total de-legitimization of the state of Israel,” he stated, seemingly referring to movements of solidarity with Palestine like the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. He also called it an “evil conspiracy of de-legitimization.”

He continued with another favorite Israeli propaganda theme – its opponents must all be Nazis: “it is no surprise, of course, that such a campaign has great popularity in the Arab and wider world, any more than Goebbels’ twisted propaganda succeeded in persuading so many Germans to his murderous cause.”

He also cited the same UN Human Rights Council he addressed in 2009 as an example of the “anti-Israel conspiracy.”

More recently, during Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza in November last year he “returned to Tel Aviv to observe” that attack and “sat down for an exclusive interview” with the Israeli army website.

Huge CUFI membership

CUFI claims on its website to be “the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States with over one million members.” Its Facebook page has more than one million subscribers “liking” it.

Its membership is overwhelmingly drawn from America’s powerful Evangelical Christian churches. AIPAC, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, by contrast, is more based in the Washington policy establishment and Congress.

While AIPAC tends to get more scrutiny because of the sway it has in Washington, its mass membership base is much smaller than CUFI’s. Over “100,000 citizens from across the country work with AIPAC staff,” its website claims, somewhat ambiguously. It has 40,000 subscribers on its Facebook page.

In common with other forms of Zionism, Christian Zionism has a long history of anti-Semitism.

The idea that the Jews of Europe were an “alien” presence in their home countries was a common one for British imperialists like Arthur Balfour – the minister whose infamous declaration arrogantly agreed to hand Palestine over to the Zionist movement.

Such anti-Semites decided that they didn’t want Jews in the country, and instead they should be sent to Palestine. After all, didn’t the divine word of God in the Bible prove “the Jews” were from Palestine?

Christian Zionism today

The modern successors of such pernicious doctrines are Zionist Christian fundamentalist groups – foremost among them CUFI.

CUFI says it aims to “educate Christians on the Biblical and moral imperatives to support Israel and to build Christian support for Israel throughout America.” It receives support from many top Israeli and American politicians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the keynote address via video link this year, as he has also done previously.

One attendee wrote online that Netanyahu glowingly endorsed CUFI’s founder: “his dear friend of many years John Hagee.” And yet this fundamentalist Evangelical preacher is also an anti-Semite.

Like many Christian fundamentalists, Hagee blames Jews for their own persecution over the centuries, seemingly because they have not “accepted” Jesus.

In 2006, the same year CUFI was founded, it came out that Hagee wrote in one of his books that Hitler had been a “hunter” sent by God to persecute the Jews so they would have go “back” to Israel:

God then sent the hunters. The hunter is one who pursues his target with force and fear. No one could see the horror of the Holocaust coming, but the force and fear of Hitler’s Nazis drove the Jewish people back to the only home God ever intended for the Jews to have – Israel. I stand amazed at the accuracy of God’s Word and its relevance for our time.

This is the sort of end-times theology that on one hand considers “the Jews” to be “God’s chosen people,” but on the other believes that all Jews will have to convert to Christianity to save themselves from the coming destruction of the final days.

This is the kind of organization that Kemp, Israel’s “voice of reason,” has seen fit to associate himself with.

I wrote to Kemp several weeks ago, asking what kind of Christian Zionist he considers himself, if he believes in the kind of end times theology as pastor Hagee and about other issues raised in this article. I received no reply.

Comments

I wonder why Christians never mention the Treaty of Beersheva, found in Genesis 21:22-24? According to that pledge, the Jews should treat the Palestinians with honesty and kindness.

This is what you call mythically challenged. Also, probably involves major investments in the armaments industry and/or drugs.