Loving Israel, Demonizing Jews

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January 18, 2010

Pat Robertson created a furor with his claim that Haiti’s disasters are a result of a “deal with the devil.” This follows a long list of claims by Robertson that tragedies are God’s judgment on nations and individuals, including his 2006 claim that Ariel Sharon’s stroke was retribution for “dividing God’s land.” While much of the world has responded in horror, Robertson’s controversial statements expose beliefs that are commonly held in certain sectors of the evangelical world. This includes the belief that entire communities, religions, ethnic groups, and nations are controlled by demons and therefore cursed.

Battling Demons to Build a Christian Utopia

A sector of the evangelical world has become obsessed with battling demons. In this worldview evil is not an abstract concept or internal struggle, but caused by literal demons which must be driven from communities and the nation. It is believed that when these demons are removed from society, a perfected state can be achieved in which disease, poverty, corruption, and social ills will be miraculously cured. It is the ultimate faith-based initiative, intended to advance the hands of the prophetic clock and bring about the Millennium or 1000-year Christian kingdom on earth.

The literal demonic forces which must be defeated to bring about this utopia include the demons that cause homosexuality and those that block non-Christians from converting to this particular brand of Christianity. Other Christians are also seen as part of the problem. Roman Catholics and Protestants who are not “born again” are said to be under the control of malicious spirits which block them from true belief.

One would expect that this wave of Christian nationalism would seem a serious threat to Jews, but numerous Jewish leaders are promoting the global advancement of this ideology because this same sector of Christianity is the domain of Christian Zionists.

Promoting Christian Nationalism Worldwide

The reason for embracing this movement can be seen in the words of Dmitri Radyshevsky, CEO of Jerusalem Summit, an international forum that works with politicians and religious leaders around the globe to promote Christian Zionism. Interviewed during the Jerusalem Summit event in London in January 2007, which was described as “seeking to rekindle the faded force of Christian Zionism in the United Kingdom,” the Jerusalem Post reported,

“Radyshevsky, a Moscow-born Harvard Divinity school graduate, noted the irony that an Israeli Jew was calling for Christian revival in Europe, but said that it was part of a common struggle against radical Islam which required both Jews and Christians to believe in the moral right of their Bible-based values. ‘Either it will be a fundamentally Christian Europe or a Europe of Islamic fundamentalists,” he opined.’”

The Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus and International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ) helped coordinate a Jerusalem Summit in Germany including meetings with members of the German Parliament and a gathering of the Saxon Christian Friends of Israel. At the Holocaust memorial event Radyshevsky stated, “Today, the best way to remember the Holocaust in Germany would be a determined effort of German politicians and the entire society to check radical Islam, which is a reincarnation of Fascism…”

This push for Jews and Christians to join together in a shared “biblical Zionism” has also resulted in organizations like Worldwide Biblical Zionists (WBZ). WBZ was founded as a joint effort by World Likud and its evangelical arm, World Evangelical Zionists, to provide resources to help Christian Zionists make aliyah. This includes a center to provide assistance with “investments, jobs, housing, education, military training, community service, and tools you’ll need to make Israel your home.” WBZ also promotes the concept that political support for Israel should be based on biblical grounds.

Several leaders in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government participated in the WBZ inaugural event on November 16, 2008 including Gideon Sa’ar, current Minister of Education; Ayoob Kara, Deputy Minister of Development of the Negev and Galilee; and Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Information and Diaspora Affairs, and Gila Gamliel, Deputy Minister in the Office of Prime Minister. Much of the outreach in the United States has been done by Sagiv Assulin, the Knesset Leader of the Young and evangelical Joel Bell, who heads both the WBZ and Frontline Israel, a television ministry in Sha’ar Benjamin.

The push for politicians to embrace biblical Zionism has made Israel an international wedge issue for breaking down separation of church and state, thus alienating supporters of secular democracy worldwide. If Sen. James Inhofe can declare that Israel must retain certain land because “God said so,” then we can assume that “God said so” becomes valid justification for any domestic and foreign policies. Jews who applauded Inhofe’s support for Israel on biblical grounds risk forfeiting their right to object to other Christian prophecy based legislation.

Viewed as the only hope in a race against Islam, Christian nationalism undermines religious pluralism. Exacerbating this danger, Christian Zionism has evolved into something very different from when Menachim Begin and Religious Right leader Jerry Falwell formed a partnership in the 1970s.

Changing Role for Jews in the End Times Drama

My recent article “The New Christian Zionism and the Jews”, published in The Public Eye, explains theological changes in Christian Zionism that resemble historic patterns of disillusionment which follow ecstatic millennial embrace of Jews. These changes also follow a dramatic growth in the Pentecostal and Charismatic sector of Christianity, now over 500 million worldwide.

Especially at the international level, Christian Zionist activism is increasingly dominated by “independent charismatics,” who are not part of traditional Christian denominations. Charismatic refers to the belief that Christians must be “born again” and “Spirit-filled.” The latter describes receiving “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” such as speaking in tongues, faith-healing, prophecy, and the ability to expel demons and perform other supernatural “signs and wonders” in preparation for the end times.

These charismatic Christian Zionists are rapidly abandoning traditional fundamentalist beliefs which expect a “Rapture,” or escape to heaven, immediately prior to the reign of the anti-Christ and the wars of the end times. In the new view, Christian Zionists expect to remain on earth and battle the anti-Christ and his demonic hordes themselves.

The role of Jews in that narrative has also changed. Previously, a remnant of unconverted Jews was required to survive the horrors of the “second or final holocaust,” in order to repent of Judaism and accept Jesus at his second coming. This has been a common narrative throughout many decades of Christian Zionist literature. Richard Booker, who has spoken at events sponsored by the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, states in his book Blow the Trumpet in Zion, “The persecution the Jews will experience in the near future will be the worst they have ever known. It makes me sick to think about it, but the coming tribulation for the Jewish people will far exceed the Holocaust.” The back cover of this book includes in its list of topics “Why Christians Should Love Jews.”

In the current charismatic narrative, only converted or Messianic Jews are required to fulfill the end times prophecy. There is no requirement for “unsaved” Jews to survive the end-time cleansing of evil. Messianics and converted Jews will join with Christian Zionists to fight the demonic forces of the anti-Christ. In this scenario, Jesus does not return to earth until a Christian Israel calls out to him.

This belief has initiated a wave of aggressive and very sophisticated proselytizing efforts including new seminaries and schools designed to train charismatic Messianics to work as missionaries in Jewish communities in Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, and the U.S. Christian Zionist organizational leaders are involved in this missions effort, including some who have been honored by Jewish leaders for their pro-Israel activism.

One New Man - in Yeshua

One shorthand for this charismatic end times narrative is “One New Man in Yeshua (Jesus)” - a rallying cry now heard from Singapore to Kenya, and from Zambia to Brazil. Heralding the joining together of Jews and Christians as “One New Man” is celebrated at “The “Feast of Tabernacles” events held around the globe, including the annual Jerusalem event sponsored by ICEJ. John Hagee describes this Christian version of Sukkot as a rehearsal for the arrival of the Christian millennial kingdom. When Elie Wiesel spoke at Hagee’s church in October, the service was double billed as a Christians United for Israel event and the church’s Feast of Tabernacles). Hagee’s church did not hold it during Sukkot, as is customary, but simultaneous with the opening of the J Street conference.

Biblical Zionists” provide vocal and enthusiastic supporters for Israel. Visiting the Knesset for a Christian Zionist event, Apostle Zilly Aggrey of Nigeria declared his country would be blessed only if it blessed Israel. Along with the “One New Man” slogan, the following scripture from Genesis 12:3 is now the most repeated phrase in Christian Zionism; “I will bless them that bless you and whoever curses you I will curse.”

Pawns in an End Times Drama

For many Jews, the goal of Zionism and the formation of a Jewish state was to remove Jews as pawns in the apocalyptic fantasies of others. But partnering with Christian Zionism promotes exactly the opposite. Millions are again obsessed with the role that Jews and Israel must play in order to bring about a utopian kingdom based in a “greater Israel.” Jews who participate in advancing the drama are embraced, while those who do not are demonized as the source of evil in society and an impediment to fulfilling prophecy.

Over the last year blatantly anti-Semitic signs have been seen at “Tea Party” political gatherings, including a poster claiming “Obama takes orders from the Rothchilds (sic).” Banners from that same event showed pictures of Auschwitz victims and compared health care reform to the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel was one of the Jewish leaders who spoke out against this abuse of the memory of the Shoah.

Anti-Semitism emerging at these rallies seems to starkly contrast with the Hebrew singing, Israeli flag-waving Christian Zionists who Wiesel addressed at John Hagee’s church. However, overt anti-Semites and Christian Zionists share strikingly similar conspiracy narratives and obsessions.

From the same pulpit at which Wiesel spoke, John Hagee has claimed that “the Rothschilds” are part of an Illuminati/Federal Reserve conspiracy to intentionally deflate the American dollar. One example is his 2003 apocalyptic sermon series “Iraq the Final War,” the same series in which Hagee declared that the anti-Christ will be “partially Jewish as was Adolph Hitler.” Hagee’s bio states that his television and radio broadcasts reach 190 nations, part of a Christian Zionist marketing empire that far exceeds the reach of the blatant anti-Semitism disseminated by white supremacist groups.

Jews as Superhuman and Subhuman

Overt anti-Semites have for centuries claimed that Jews exert supernatural control over society. In the Medieval era Jews were accused of causing droughts, crop failures and other natural disasters. Today, Jews are again being portrayed as collectively causing hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism attacks, illness, and more, but this supernatural is framed as pro-Israel. In these claims, God punishes innocent people around the world with tragedy when government policy alters from the course that Christian Zionist believe that God has planned for Israel and Jews.

Christian Zionists such as John P. McTernan’s, author of As American Has Done to Israel, have written entire books documenting disasters they claim to have befallen the U.S. due to policy in conflict with “God’s plan for Israel.” McTernan’s book suggests that citizens of New Orleans who drowned in their attics during Hurricane Katrina died because of the removal of the Gaza settlers, who also fled to their rooftops. William Koenig’s Eye to Eye claims natural disasters, misfortunes of presidents, and even the D.C. sniper are consequences of trying to “divide the land.” Koenig was one of the keynote speakers at a joint conference of World Likud and World Evangelical Zionists held in Texas in preparation for the formation of Worldwide Biblical Zionists. Other speakers featured in the promotional material included Danny Danon and Morton Klein.

This widespread belief, that God is punishing those who would trade land for peace, has been applauded in some Jewish circles. What happens when entire nations become consumed with the belief that it is the Jews in their midst who are the source of such calamity? If Jews have this kind of control over the destiny of others, how long will it be until this control is credited to some greater power other than God? The superhuman portrayal of Jews in Christian Zionism easily gives way to the subhuman portrayal of Jews of overt anti-Semitism.

The net result of this obsession is that we are being stripped of our humanity.

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