Over the last couple of months, everyone once again attempted to take sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hamas, acting under insidious and aggressive tactics, used an emotionally charged court case as a reason to wage a large assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip. More than 4,000 rockets later, of which many misfired and ended up hurting Palestinians, we are seeing a lull in hostility. However, as Israelis and Palestinians are clearing the rubble from this horrifying violence, there is an age-old conflict arising in the United States and around the world.
As the rockets were still flying, I was disturbed at how freely some advocated for more violence. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Anti-Defamation League recently came out with a preliminary report that shows a massive uptick in reported “possible anti-Semitic incidents.”
As Christians, our commitment to a gospel-centered life often translates to keeping the “Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other,” to cite the late Karl Barth. While some believers have responded to rising tensions by exercising the biblical mandate to pray for Israel, some Christians have taken up the banner of anti-Zionism. In place of prayers for the protection of Israeli citizens from rockets and the liberation of Palestinians in Gaza from Hamas, anti-Zionist Christians respond by condemning Israel’s right to defend itself. They spread conspiracy theories and condemn other Christians for standing with Israel.
Determined to promote false and outlandish claims, the greatest stretch of logic in these arguments is the idea that Christian Zionists are anti-Semitic. Though not new, this conspiracy theory makes the notion that Elvis faked his death seem tame. Anti-Zionists purport that Christian Zionists, and groups like Christians United for Israel (CUFI) “consider Jews useful only insofar as they trigger the end of days.” A gross mischaracterization of Christian Zionism predicated on fabricated quotes and misinformation.
As John Hagee, the founder of CUFI had stated time and again, “The vast majority of Christian Zionists and evangelicals do not believe there is anything we can do to hasten the second coming of Jesus. Our theology is clear that we humans are utterly powerless to change God’s timetable.” The notion that eschatology is a major driving force in Christian Zionism is ludicrous, and it shows that proponents of this theory know little to nothing of Christian Zionists. Christian Zionism is a movement based on the principles of Christianity, which instructs believers to love their fellow man and be peacemakers. Christian Zionism, at its root, revolves around those tenets of peace, agape love and hope. It is why I support the Jewish right to self-determination in their indigenous homeland, a right that I believe all people deserve.
Among the litany of conspiracy theories, an accusation that anti-Zionists love to hurl at Christian Zionists is that we care little for our Christian brothers in Palestine because we support Israel. This is far from true. The fact is that Christians—and Christian Zionists, in particular—are persecuted by the terrorist groups and radical individuals in Palestinian-controlled areas. Christians pray for their brethren, do humanitarian work for Palestinians and hold great compassion for the Palestinian people. The idea that Christians are ignoring what their brethren go through is just as outlandish as the conspiracy theories that opponents of Christian Zionism promote.
This then begs the question: If Christians do care deeply about Palestinians, then why do they support Israel? The answer is that Christian Zionists recognize that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have proven unwilling to stop terrorism against Israelis; are incapable of being tolerant towards the Jews and many Christians in the region; and refuse to accept any solution offered. With this in mind, Christian Zionists see Israel as the greatest chance for peace in the region. After all, that’s the goal of Christians. Peace, rather than war, is a great ally when spreading the gospel.
Christians unfamiliar with the situation in the Middle East are fed lies about what it means to be a Zionist. Beyond the conspiracy theories, Christians are told that it implies that they overlook all of Israel’s transgressions. However, any country made up of people is imperfect, and it would be folly to overlook imperfections. Christians are told that being a Zionist means that they only care about the Jews and that it’s wrong to ignore the Palestinian plight. This is foolishness, and not at all a thought lurking in the minds of Christians. The holy scriptures instruct Christ-followers to love their fellow man. Christians want peace for Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a stable region so that everyone can achieve a better way of life.
The arguments against Christian Zionism have little substance and revolve around conspiracy and accusation. The objective of anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic groups is the destruction of Israel. This antithesis to what it means to be a Christian has no place in the church, and that is why the Christian Zionist movement will continue to fight against it.
Nathanael Harris is a 2020-21 fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.