Transforming Americas Israel Lobby: The Limits of Its Power and the Potential for Change
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Reporting indicates that it was suppressed after pressure from the lobby on the government of Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera. Watch all four parts here and here. What the program presents is shocking. The Lobby — USA , which features an undercover journalist who won the trust of key pro-Israel operatives and who videoed revealing meetings, demonstrates beyond question the lengths to which the Israelis and their supporters in the United States will go to prevent a change in American thinking about the beleaguered Palestinians.
The effort aims to smear Palestinian students in the United States and pro-Palestinian American activists and political candidates who criticize Israeli policy as anti-Semites and enablers of terrorism. Establishment news operations, such as the Washington Post , are also implicated. I could not do justice to the program even in a long article. Instead, I will urge readers to watch it in its entirety — and think carefully about what it means.
As one critic of Israel asks on the program, if Russia or Iran or China were doing what Israel and its American friends are doing, most people would be outraged. This is hardly the first time that Israel and friends have been caught covertly and overtly trying to influence discourse and even elections here through smear campaigns against activists, writers, and political candidates, but this is certainly among the most flagrant and elaborate examples.
In the leaders of a European and nominally Jewish movement, Zionism, unilaterally declared the existence of the State of Israel, which they proclaimed the nation-state of all Jews everywhere , a status recently reaffirmed by the Israeli Knesset. The UN General Assembly recommended partitioning Palestine into a larger Jewish state and a smaller Palestinian state, but it had no power to actually create the state of Israel. It so happened this state was built on land taken by force from the long-standing majority indigenous Palestinian population, most of which was Muslim and Christian.
Hundreds were massacred, three-quarters of a million were driven from their homes , and the remainder were subjected to martial law for two decades, before being given third-class citizenship with no power to improve their legal status. Arab nations half-heartedly tried to assist the overwhelmed Palestinians, although the king of Jordan worked with Israel to divide the spoils.
“The Edge of the Abyss”: The Origins of the Israel Lobby, –
Almost 20 years later, the rest of Palestine was taken through warfare, producing what are known as the occupied territories in the West Bank, with its apartheid-like regime, and the Gaza Strip, which is nothing more than an open-air prison under a cruel Israeli blockade. And if some non-Jews remained, the state could not be a liberal democratic state, with equality under the law, for obvious reasons. All this was aided from the start by European Christians who, apparently guilt-ridden over how the Jews of Europe had been tyrannized, culminating in the Nazi genocide, opted to assuage their guilt with the land, blood, and liberty of the innocent people of Palestine, long the plaything of colonial powers.
Since that time, Israel has repressed the Palestinians in a variety of ways, depending on whether they are in the state as it existed in ; the West Bank, which was seized during the June war; or the Gaza Strip also called the Gaza Ghetto , also seized in that war. They believe that human history follows a predetermined divine script, and they and Israel are simply playing their assigned roles. Evangelicals' eschatological view of the Bible gives them a proprietary interest in Israel. In a way, they think the Holy Land belongs to them as much as it does to the Israelis.
Every year thousands of evangelicals take what amounts to a religious pilgrimage to Israel to "walk where Jesus walked" and see for themselves places they have read about in the Bible. But as Israel — the key element in the apocalyptic scenario — seems always in danger, they increasingly want to do what they can to protect it, to make sure that it will be where it is supposed to be to carry out its unique role in the end times.
Well-educated, Darby graduated from Trinity College with honors. After a flirtation with numerous Bible societies and conferences in Dublin, he sought and obtained ordination at the new Anglican parish in Calvary in Since , he had been meeting with a number of like-minded dissenters and even regular Anglicans in Plymouth, England. Darby made a number of missionary visits to North America in the s and s promoting his message.
As Timothy P. Since they place the Second Coming before the Millennium, dispensationalists are called premillennialists. In the twenties, many fundamentalists considered dispensationalism a non-negotiable part of Christian orthodoxy. To that end, they joined hands with American and Israeli Jews in providing political and practical support for the State of Israel.
Beginning in the s, they traveled to Israel in great numbers, and founded dozens of groups at home to lobby for Israel in Congress, the State Department, and the news media. They also provided humanitarian aid to Israel and assisted Jews from the former Soviet Union and other places who wanted to immigrate to the Holy Land. On the American side, evangelicals realized that they needed to become more hands-on in their support of the Jewish State due to the increasing pressure on Israel to make peace with its neighbors by giving up occupied territory. Often this support resulted in a strong advocacy of the policies promoted by the more hard-line forces within the Jewish state.
The more the evangelical-Israeli relationship developed, the more blatant political evangelical support for Israel became. Many evangelical leaders were honored by the State of Israel. The evangelical-Israeli relations had become so close that no Israeli Prime Minister since Menahem Begin would think of making a trip to the United States without checking in with leaders of the New Christian Right.
Ronald Reagan was influenced in forming his Middle East policy by evangelical premillenialist views. In April a 3,strong pro-Israel meeting, attended essentially by evangelicals, was addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bush, a committed evangelical Christian himself, was influenced by conservative evangelical values and agendas.
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In addition to extending political and financial aid, he seemed at times to be reluctant to initiate diplomatic moves that might upset evangelical supporters of Israel. They warned that evangelicals would turn against the President if he supported the road map. Wright, Jr. When he became a leading Presidential candidate, Obama found support from George Soros, a multibillionaire promoter of groups that have been consistently harsh and biased critics of the American-Israel relationship.
In some of his speeches, he talked about how Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel but qualified it by saying that ultimately it would be up to both parties in any final negotiation. All these public statements were taken by supporters of Israel as signs that he did not truly support Israel. While he repeated the strong U.
“The Edge of the Abyss”: The Origins of the Israel Lobby, 1949–1954
At the gathering, Gaylord convinced a number of evangelical media personalities and pastors of large churches to support the new state by scheduling Holy Land tours. The Jerusalem Conference on Biblical Prophecy marked the beginning of a great wave of evangelical tourism to Israel, which over time became the foundation on which the strong relationship between Americans and Israel was built. To promote policies favorable to the interests of the Jewish State, pro-Israeli evangelicals created a multitude of lobbies.
It also helps new immigrants to Israel get established. But the ICEJ is better known for its annual Feast of Tabernacles conference and celebration which attracts about five thousand people from all around the world. On the other hand, the Embassy provides welfare services, distributing money and goods to new immigrants as well as other needy Israelis.
As a lobby, the ICEJ works hard to squelch diplomatic efforts to trade land for peace by supporting the rights of Israelis to establish settlements anywhere they choose in the West Bank and Gaza. As a rule, liberal Christians have no contact with the Embassy and many of them reject its messages and its activities, which they view as one-sided.
Most of these churches have Arab constituencies, sympathize with Arab national feelings, and have expressed support for the Palestinian cause. They see the International Christian Embassy and evangelical Christians in general as offering one-sided support for Israel. In addition, there was in the United States a remarkable shift in Israeli political strategy. One of the earliest pro-Israel organizations created by American evangelicals under the auspices of the NCR was Christian Concerned for Israel, which eventually changed its name to the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel.
It raises complex issues and important theological problems. Though they denounced anti-Semitism as an awful sin, in the s, dispensationalists were especially susceptible to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and actually used many similar arguments themselves, including the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Quoted by Rabbi James Rudin, a American Jewish Committee survey indicated that a quarter of the Jews polled believe that most, or at least many, of the evangelicals in the United States are anti-Semitic.
They suspect their real motives and resent their interpretation of Bible prophecies assuming that after most Jews have been destroyed by the Antichrist, the survivors will have to accept Jesus. They will be restored to their ancient land and serve as the central nation in the millennial kingdom. On the other hand, as they have refused to recognize Jesus as their Messiah, their character reflects obnoxiousness and rebellion. Their road to glory is paved with suffering and destruction. While the Israeli government eagerly accepts public support of evangelicals and courts the leaders of the New Christian Right, many Jews bitterly condemn Christian proselytism and try their best to restrict the activities of missionaries in Israel.
In the long run, their apocalyptic agenda has no room for Israel as a normal country. They believe that Jews can find Jesus while keeping their Jewish identity, with all its customs and beliefs intact. In their view, Judaism and Christianity are not incompatible.
While they show their support for Jews by affirming Zionist aspirations, they tell them that Jesus is their true Messiah. The reason for this attitude is that Israel considers it essential to show to the world that it respects religious freedom. Only a Jewish minority thinks that the rebuilding of the Temple is actually necessary, but it is much supported by American dispensationalists.
Thus, the Temple Mount Faithful, an organization that claims that the Muslim shrines had to be removed and a third temple had to be constructed on the site of the Dome of the Rock and the Alqsa Mosque, has more popularity among American evangelicals than among Israeli Jews. Mearsheimer and Stephen M.
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Walt count the reinforcement of hard-line attitudes in Israel and the United States. Under the Bush Administration their support yielded fruit. The tendency is for most evangelicals to idealize Israel and believe that it can do no wrong. Arabs, Palestinians and Iranians have been demonized because they are considered as the enemies of the State of Israel, and therefore the enemies of God.
Not all evangelicals take an uncritically pro-Israel position.
In this letter, which was published in the New York Times in July , thirty-four prominent evangelical leaders, many of whom were the heads of Christian charities, ministry organizations, denominations, seminaries and universities, urged the president to proceed confidently and forthrightly with the peace initiative he had just proposed.
It can also mean to reject the notion of a Greater Israel that encompasses the occupied territories. Not surprisingly, prominent Christian Zionists immediately blasted it as misrepresenting mainstream evangelical beliefs. But for prophetic reasons, many evangelical Christians seem unable to entertain the possibility that Israel may be at fault in one way or another.
Conservative evangelicals need to consider whether believing in Bible prophecy allows them to turn a blind eye on injustice. Do the ends justify the means, just because the ends have supposedly been prophesied? Bebbington, David W. Brog, David, Standing with Israel. Clark, Victoria, Allies for Armageddon. Dehmer, Alan, Unholy Alliance.