Christian Zionism

Name of the Book: The Politics of ApocalypseThe History and Influence of
Christian Zionism
Author: Dan Cohn-Sherbook
Publisher: Oneworld Books, Oxford
Year: 2006
Pp: 221
ISBN: 13:978-1-85168-453-3
Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand

Christian Zionism

Christian Zionism, a variant of Christian fundamentalism, is today a major
global force to reckon with. Christian Zionists are a key player in American
(and to a lesser extent, Western European) politics. Firm backers of Zionism,
Israel and Israeli expansionism, they are also one of the principal
fountainheads of Islamophobia on the global scence. The origins,
development and politics of Christian Zionism are brought out in
considerable detail in this well-researched, balanced and very timely book by
the noted activist scholar Dan Cohn-Sherbook, himself a Jew, and Professor
of Judaism at the University of Wales.
Approximately a tenth of the American population is a devoted member of the
cult of Christian Zionism, the author observes. ‘It is the fastest growing
religious movement in Christianity today’, he notes (p.xi). Many followers of
the cult are from the middle and upper-middle classes, followers of
televangelists who wield enormous political and economic clout. Christian
Zionists are impelled by an imperialistic vision, of Jesus’ impending arrival
on earth, when he shall, so they believe, wipe out all his enemies (all
non-Christians, presumably) and establish his global dominion, with his
capital at Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Christian Zionists believe that they, as
allegedly God’s chosen people, will be spared the horrors of the global war
that shall precede Jesus’ advent, and will be miraculously wafted up to
heaven, where they shall watch the final destruction of the world.
Christian Zionists believe that Jesus can only return the world once the Jews
colonise Palestine. This belief is based on the contentious claim that God
had granted this land to the progeny of Abraham, through Isaac, that is the
Jews, for eternity. This land is not restricted to the present borders of the
state of Israel. Instead, Zionists, both Jewish and Christian, believe that a
vast swathe of land, stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, today
inhabited by millions of Arab Muslims and Christians, belongs rightfully to the
Jews, and so must be ethnically ‘cleansed’ of non-Jewish presence. Hence
the justification they offer for their genocidal project aimed at the Arabs.
Hence, too, their consistent backing to Israel, their generous funding of
Jewish settlements in Palestine, and their enormous pressure on successive
American governments to adopt rigorously pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian
policies.
The author traces the origins of Christian Zionism to the changing attitude of
Christian groups towards the Jews following the Protestant Revolution. The
early Catholic Church justified the witch-hunt of the Jews, labeling them as
alleged Christ-killers. However, numerous Protestant sects, while equally
vehemently anti-Jewish, believed that the Jews needed to colonise
Palestine before Jesus would re-appear in the world to save it. This was, and
still is, by no means a generous acceptance of the Jews. Rather, they
believed, as Christian Zionists today do, that only those Jews who accepted
Jesus as the Messiah would be saved. The rest would ally themselves with
the Anti-Christ and would be defeted by Jesus and his forces and,
consequently, would be sent off to eternal damnation in the fires of hell.
From the seventeenth century onwards, the author shows, numerous
European, and, later American, Protestant churches began evolving
schemes to settle the Jews in Palestine. This was also seen as a convenient
way of getting rid of the Jewish presence in Europe. They petitioned various
European powers to back this scheme. By the early nineteenth century,
numerous British administrators had been won round to this idea, impelled,
no doubt, also by a motive to undermine the Ottoman Empire, which at that
time controlled Palestine, and by a deep-rooted aversion to Islam.
Increasingly, the author shows, Christian Zionists began to join hands with
secular Jewish Zionists, whose plans to settling Jews in Israel had nothing to
do with any messianic hopes, but, rather, arose as a response to the
centuries’-old persecution of Jews by European Christians. (In contrast, the
author rightly notes, ‘In Arab lands, Jews had flourished for centuries []
[while] in European countries Jewry had been subject to oppression and
persecution’ (p.44).
Ties between secular Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists to pursue the
common project of Jewish colonization of Palestine, the author writes, were
strengthened by the support given to Theodore Herzl (b.1860), the Hungarian
Jew who is regarded as the father of modern-day Zionism. The author traces
the course of this close collaboration down to the present-day, describing
the strong political and financial links between Christian and Israeli/Jewish
Zionists and also the enormous clout of the Zionist lobby in American political
circles.
The author clearly indicates that Christian Zionism, based on a virulently
anti-Islamic agenda, is a major hurdle to peace not just in West Asia but
globally, too. Indeed, some Christian Zionists even ardently wish (and work
for) a final global war, in the belief that this would accelerate their hoped-for
wafting up to heaven and the subsequent arrival of Jesus. At the same time,
and this gives some cause for hope, the author also discusses critiques of
the Zionist imperialist project by progressive Christian and Jewish groups
and also by orthodox Jewish Rabbis, who are opposed to Zionism on the
grounds that, as the author puts it, ‘It [is] forbidden to accelerate divine
redemption through human efforts’.

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