The relationship between Jewish advocacy groups and conservative Christian groups hasn’t always been rosy. In 1994 the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published a report that admonished the religious right for its intolerance and bigotry. But now the ADL welcomes the very same religious right with open arms into the pro-Israel alliance. The partnership seems rooted in a common concern for stability and democracy in the Middle East. But the reason most Christian Zionist organizations support the Jewish state has nothing to do with the cause of peace and security.
The Christian right’s support for Israel centers around Biblical revelation on the apocalypse. These groups rely on Biblical prophesy, which exhorts that conflict in the Middle East, and the existence of Israel, hastens the Day of Judgment and the Second Coming of Christ. And what is the fate of Jews in this scenario? Those who do not convert to Christianity are banished to hell. This should give pro-Israel Jewish groups pause.
But it gets worse. Because of their apocalyptic creed, the views of many pro-Israel Christian groups tend to be extreme and counter to the interests of peace. Since the Bible prophesizes endless conflict in that region, Christian Zionists such as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (a stickler for calling the West Bank “Judea and Samaria”), and evangelist Pat Robertson are only all too happy to support policies like the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and the expansion of Israel’s borders from the “Nile to the Euphrates.”
This is particularly disconcerting because the current administration is more influenced by its conservative Christian base than overwhelmingly Democratic Jewish voters on the subject of Israel. Bush’s Middle East policy, as a result, has become considerably hard-line, negatively affecting the prospects for peace in the region. In The Right Man, Bush speechwriter David Frum’s account of the Bush presidency, the president seems only too willing to toe the Christian Zionist line: “If Bush had a political worry, it was his own political base: conservatives, both religious and secular” writes Frum. “‘What do you think our folks think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?’ Bush asked Rove one spring day. Rove answered, ‘They think it’s part of your war on terror.’”
The Christian Zionist approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is echoed by other administration officials and conservative Republicans. Last year Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld not only played down the idea of settlements being an obstacle to peace, but also questioned the very legitimacy of the land-for-peace doctrine that has been the framework for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians since the Oslo Accords.
Senator James Inofe of Oklahoma perhaps best encapsulated the Christian Zionist agenda on the floor of Congress on March 4 of last year: “I believe very strongly that we ought to support Israel…because God said so…Look it up in the Book of Genesis…This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.”
Clearly, the religious right does not have Israel’s best interest in mind. The ADL and other Jewish groups should not and cannot sacrifice their principles for the added political clout and power the Christian Zionists may provide. One half of the alliance wants peace, the other wants the literal destruction of the world.
—Erol N. Gulay is an editorial editor.