Religious extremism is at the heart of US support for Israel

Christian Zionist pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee led prayers at the opening ceremony of the US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem last month. (White House/YouTube)

One of the most important elements of the Israel lobby in the United States is right-wing Evangelical backing – or Christian Zionism.

The fanatically anti-Palestinian group Christians United For Israel, CUFI, claims to have more than 4 million members. It was founded in 2006 by a Texas mega-church televangelist, Pastor John Hagee. It now has smaller branches in the UK and Canada.

Hagee has a profitable line in supposedly prophetic books which promote extremist apocalyptic visions about the “end times.”

With attention-grabbing titles like Four Blood Moons, the books have a sci-fi or fantasy quality to them. Indeed, they are of course mostly fictional, even if their author would claim otherwise.

His upcoming book explicitly appeals to the lucrative fantasy blockbuster audience, titled as it is: Earth’s Last Empire: The Final Game of Thrones.

He also cashes in on the modern “prosperity gospel” trend among those Evangelicals who purport to show how Biblical prophecies and principles can lead to actual, literal wealth for his readers and congregants, in titles like “Decisions that Produce Wealth” and “The Power to Get Wealth.”

Hagee, then, is a modern-day snake oil salesman. As such, he is an appropriate fit for the state of Israel.

Hagee’s CUFI plays an important role in rallying Evangelical support for Israel in the US. It also claims that one of its aims is to fight anti-Semitism across the world.

Anti-Semitic creed

But in fact Hagee’s doctrine is one of the most fanatically anti-Semitic religious creeds in the world today.

Leading Palestinian intellectual Joseph Massad has made a convincing argument that Zionism’s origins actually lay in evangelical Protestant millenarianism rather than in any Jewish tradition.

At its heart is an anti-Semitic theology which aims to rid Europe of its Jewish communities and “gather” them in Palestine in anticipation of the End Times. There – so this eschatology has it – when the Messiah, Jesus, returns, the majority will convert to Christianity before the final judgement of God. The rest will be doomed to hell.

Christian Zionism sought to bring about this “return” to the “Land of Israel” in very practical terms. In reality, most Jews opposed Zionism as a fringe movement, and never sought to live in Palestine. European Jewish communities are just that – Europeans mostly descended from converts to Judaism.

The dangerous and racist mythology which drives groups like CUFI is therefore a useful tool of the Israel lobby in the eyes of cynical Israeli politicians and their Zionist supporters in the West.

Because despite its empty claims to be fighting anti-Semitism, CUFI’s theology is very much based in anti-Semitic ideas. Hagee himself infamously preached that Hitler was “a hunter” sent by God to drive Jews “back” to Palestine so that the divine plan to “return” the Jews to the Land of Israel could be played out.

Such demented ideology is a major driver of anti-Semitic hatred against Jews.

But it causes little problem for Israel and its supporters. While the re-emergence of Hagee’s Hitler sermon during the 2008 presidential race embarrassed John McCain into renouncing Hagee’s endorsement, the pastor continues to be courted and indulged by both Israeli and US politicians.

Racist logic

At the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem in May, Hagee gave the closing benediction, praying in front of a who’s-who of Israeli and American politicians.

The crowd included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog (of the so-called “Labor” party), Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, former US presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and former senator Joe Lieberman.

During his prayer, Hagee claimed that Jerusalem is “the eternal capital of the Jewish people”. This description – a common claim by such Zionist fanatics – is worth thinking about: while superficially philosemitic, it is, in effect, anti-Semitic.

As the Palestinian intellectual Omar Bargouhti – the co-founder of the BDS movement – puts it: neo-Nazis claim that Jews are sub-human while Zionists claim that Jews are super-human – both agree that Jews are, somehow, not human.

The philosemitism of Christian Zionism is actually a subtle form of anti-Semitism.

The obvious implication of Netanyahu’s baseless claim to be not just the prime minister of Israel but the “representative of the entire Jewish people” and of Hagee’s claim that Jerusalem is the “eternal” capital not just of Israel but of “the Jewish people” is that “the Jews” do not really belong to the many various countries in which they were actually born and brought up, but “really belong” – on some sort of mystical, metaphysical level – in Israel and Israel alone.

The long term aim is to drive Jews out of their ancestral homelands and into Palestine where they are compelled into the role of settlers in the apartheid colony of Israel. It is a racist, anti-Semitic logic.

This is something that Zionism has had a degree of success in achieving over the last 70 years. But the project has been a failure in that most Jews do not live in Israel, and show little interest in ever doing so – especially American Jews.

Fiery pits of hell

Another extremist American pastor to attend the embassy opening ceremony was Robert Jeffress. The Evangelical gave a prayer in front of the assembled politicians and embassy staff in which he described Jerusalem as “the city that you [God] named as the capital of Israel 3,000 years ago.”

He went into full-throated political-religion mode, gushing over Trump, and thanking God “every day that you have given us a president who boldly stands on the right side of history, but more importantly stands on the right side of you, oh God, when it comes to Israel.”

But Jeffress is also an extremist anti-Semite Christian Zionist.

As reported by the New York Times, he once said during an interview on a Christian TV channel that Jews, Muslims and Mormons are all going to hell.

“Islam is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell,” he said. “Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He continued: “Judaism – you can’t be saved being a Jew. You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest Jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ. They all said Judaism won’t do it. It’s faith in Jesus Christ.”

In a 2008 sermon, he was more direct: “Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism – not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell … Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”

Israeli politicians like Netanyahu are no doubt aware of the hateful ideology of such allies. But as long as these allies are committed to political support for the state of Israel and defending its crimes, they do not care.

On the surface, this should make little sense. After all, in the fever dreams of Hagee and Jeffress, would Netanyahu – a Jew – not end up in the fiery pits of hell should he refuse to convert to faith in Jesus during the last days of judgement?

A settler-colonial movement

It makes more sense when you consider another historical fact: Zionism is not a movement for Jewish self defence, it is a movement for settler-colonialism.

If the global Zionist movement deems it useful to promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (as Israeli intelligence services admit to having deliberately done) and hateful, anti-Jewish Christian theologies, then so be it, goes their thinking.

After all, the goal of Israel is to bring Jews to the land of Palestine and turn them into settlers – human fodder that can be used to displace the indigenous people. Zionism has never had as one of its real goals the protection of Jewish communities outside of Israel.

If anything, the opposite is true. Israeli leaders constantly sensationalize threats to Jewish life in Europe, to encourage migration to Israel. Many Iraqi Jews claim that attacks on their community were actually a plot by Israeli agents to drive them out of the country and head for Israel. Before the rise of Zionism, and the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, Jewish citizens of Iraq lived in relative prosperity and harmony with their fellow citizens of other religions.

Despite the warm words of Christian Zionists about Jews being “God’s chosen people,” there is no escaping the feeling that behind this veneer of philosemitism, there is a distinctly anti-Semitic core at work.

In the final analysis, the effect of Christian Zionism is anti-Semitic – it is bad for Jewish communities as well as bad for the indigenous people of Palestine.

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So, Hagee's written a book on "The Power to get Wealth." I'm no theologan, but isn't it usually Satan who promises worldly wealth and success?

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A I recall, according to the Gospel Jesus was waylaid by Satan in the desert. Old Nick took him up on a mountaintop and showed him the world, promising that all would be his if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesus told him to get stuffed.

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Thank you for a clear and in depth analysis of the anti-Semitism at the heart not only of Christian Zionism but of Israeli Zionism. Jewish people internationally need to be in solidarity with all the oppressed, thus in solidarity with Palestine. Israeli leadership is in league with the biggest and most dangerous capitalist and imperialist nation, the U.S. I have been an anti-Zionist Jew and activist for the rights of Palestine for decades. I am upholding the values that I learned, to defend the underdog and fight shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed.

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To claim they are going to "Build the THIRD Temple" is proof they know nothing of Christianity.
To claim the Third Temple is yet to be built is to Deny Jesus Christ.
Jesus "The LAMB of GOD" was the FINAL sacrifice (accepted by God) by the Temple Priests.
Jesus "REARED UP" the Third Temple, HIMSELF, in three days. JOHN 2:20 King James Bible "Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?"
No matter how you look at it .... The THIRD Temple has already BEEN "built"
Mathew 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
The Second (third?)Temple veil was DESTROYED as Jesus died, the LAMB of GOD sacrificed on the Cross, and the THIRD TEMPLE was "reared up" on the THIRD DAY, Easter Sunday. JESUS is the THIRD TEMPLE if you are a CHRISTian.
and then .....
Per Peloubet's Bible Dictionary 1925 there (ALREADY) were THREE physical Temples in Jewish history:
FIRST Temple built by Solomon, for a little more then 400 years, from @ B.C. 1000 to B.C. 588. From Solomon to the Babylonian exile.
SECOND Temple Zereubbabel's or the Temple of the Return, built with the aid of the Prophets Zechariah and Haggai, lasted nearly 500 years years, from it's completion B.C. 515 to B.C. 20. We see by the description of Ezra 6:3 that this Temple was about one third larger then Solomon's.
THIRD Temple Herod's Temple lasting only @ 90 years from B.C. 20 to it's destruction by Titus, August A.D. 70. "JOHN 2:20 King James Bible “Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?”"
The whole area or platform was called the Temple. Solomon made it about 600 feet square, containing 12 acres. This area ,according to Josephus, was nearly doubled when Herod built the THIRD temple.
King Herod the Great spent 30 years refurbishing Zorobabel’s temple (the second temple) just in time Jesus

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"rapture" is actually a vicarious form of suicide. "rapture" is an extremely SELF-ABSORBED way of saying "I am SO perfect" and anyone I dislike will be LEFT BEHIND to suffer(feel bad because I am gone) but I will revel in heaven. HUMBLE? These idiots will go to hell just for their arrogance.
One of the major problems America faces is a large population of religious fundamentalists who have become as fanatical in their own way as any Middle Eastern Ayatollah. At present, they are caught up in their own version of the myth of the end of the world, and hope that by working to bring it about, they'll get to sit at the right hand of their diety and to hell with everyone else
So fervent is the belief of the mythoholics that they are ready and willing to sacrifice money, children, civil rights, freedom, even life itself (so long as it is someone else's) to bring about the final rapture and end of the world. Never mind that the story of the Rapture appears nowhere in the Bible, but was the invention of a Civil War veteran, Cyrus Scofield. Never mind that the present-day charlatan selling this belief might be a child molester and makes money off of these fables; the seekers (and there is one born every minute) do so want to believe!
“The Incredible Scofield and His Book” written by Joseph M. Canfield, reveals the following:Cyrus Scofield is a small time politician and career criminal. In 1873, he is forced to resign his position as a District Attorney because of crooked financial transactions that include accepting bribes stealing political contributions, and securing bank notes by forging signatures. Scofield then serves jail time for forgery charges. A heavy drinker, Scofield later abandons his wife and two daughters. His wife finally divorces the drunken crook in 1883. As so many con-men do, Scofield will then claim to have “found Jesus”. He is ordained as a Minister and then claims to have a Doctor of Divinity degree, but this degree is never verified.

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What does it mean, to be a Jew of America? It's a question that's entirely avoided, by American Jews, through Zionism. If America isn't our homeland, then we're not fully responsible for homeland America. We get the full rights, without assuming the full responsibility. Zionism, thus, is a political 'bargain'. Such a deal!--but one that leaves us spiritually malnourished; because love-of-country feeds the soul of the patriot. America's Jews have shed blood in every American war--on both sides of her Civil War--and have buried generations of bones in American soil; these, at least--but in addition to much good work--has earned us the right to claim membership among the peoples of America, and oneness on our American homeland--were we take our stand; not on any foreign shore. Zionism is an insult, to our precious American identity.

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Stupid does as stupid is. Nothing is more bizarre, strange, and weird than delusion and idiocy. The US government is packed with religious control freaks, nuts, and kooks. The TRUTH IS the way. LIFE is about living. Keep it simple. Keep it REAL. Love life. On the other hand, ENORMOUS amounts of money are made in conjunction WITH changing experience from what was natural. If we walk away from reality, reality walks away from us. The preoccupation (and the obsession) with DEATH also involves dissatisfaction with life and the living. WAR is seen as even desirable. This life is held to be so bad, in fact, that "God" had to nail his "son" up on a cross in order to die an excruciatingly painful and slow death. This is their divine and holy Christian belief, and an imaginary "God" is the ultimate in delivering salvation, love, AND death. Hence, the delusional statement of many people in the USA: "You know that EVERYTHING happens for a reason." It's nuts. It's sick. Religion is superstitious, deceitful, and negative lunacy. IT'S A NIGHTMARE. "Christians" (whatever that REALLY means is unclear, in fact) refer to themselves as children of "God". It is time to grow up. That is definitely clear. In fact, the TRUE GENIUS is legitimately regarded as the guardian of the species. It is time to grow up and face reality and the facts. Truth and reality walk hand in hand WITH LIFE, and ULTIMATELY, with love as well.

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Excellent article. Just one quibble: "Zionism has never had as one of its real goals the protection of Jewish communities outside of Israel." Not quite. Herzl's thesis in his magnum opus, The Jewish State, was that Jews everywhere would benefit from the existence of a Jewish state. He based this on contemporary European ideas and ideologies about etho-national states that, in his view, suggested that a "people" lacking a state would always be persecuted wherever they lived. Jews were seen in Europe as "rootless cosmopolitans" whose presence in other states but with no real property (due to racist laws) was seen as an unpredictable factor and innate threat to other states. Hence anti-Semitism resulted from Jews' statelessness. Herzl believed that, by having a state to represent them, Jews everywhere could escape this racism. He believed that the Zionist movement would draw Jews to the Jewish state, but he didn't expect all Jews to return to Palestine.

Of course, other Zionist thought differed on this point. Bringing Jewish immigrants to Palestine was necessary to building a Jewish state and was pursued from the 1920s with ruthless energy. Ben Gurion is sometimes quoted as discounting Jewish lives in Nazi Germany if they didn't come to Palestine. And the disparaging Hebrew term "galut" (exile) later became part of Zionist discourse in referring to the alienated, culturally hamstrung, spiritually suffocated life Jews are supposed to have in diaspora. Since 1952, the World Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund have operated together to bring Jews to Israel.

Still, the Jewish diaspora (tfutzot) is valued by Israel for Habara (propaganda / lobbying) purposes. Israeli government officials have sometimes urged Jews in Europe to move to Israel, on grounds that they live in perpetual risk, but this isn't pushed in the USA. A healthy global Jewish diaspora, especially in the USA, is a strategic interest of Israel.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.