Those that are regular readers of this blog, know that I think and write often about the Israeli/Palestine conflict. I thought I had a deep knowledge of this subject and was really surprised when I learned about the importance of the Christian Zionist movement.
About seventy million evangelist born-again Christians in the United States believe that the gathering of the Jews in their biblical homeland is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Christ. The original homeland includes Samaria and Judah which is inconvenient since this is where the West Bank/Palestine, is located. About 40% of all tourists to Israel or, the Holly Land as these particular tourists call it, are born again Christians. They spend a few weeks traveling around Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and visiting biblical sites. They never visit Tel Aviv where I live part of the year. If they did, they would be shocked to see what has become of the “People of the Book” in one of the hottest cities in the world (think Miami Beach with smart people.) It’s full of great restaurants that never close, sexy soldiers in bikinis at the beach, and they have their own as well as gay pride parades.
The End of Days, Armageddon and the Rapture
This part of the post is a bit difficult to write. I am trying to respect the religious views of all people and frankly, all religions including mine are full of what I think is fantastical thinking. However, I do have to list some key concepts because they actually affect the political situation in Israel and Palestine. So the basic concept of Armageddon is that armies in the region, led by some really bad dudes (think ISIS), attack the Israeli’s in the North of Israel at a place called Megiddo. I have been there to Meggido, it is a beautiful area which was important thousands of years ago because of its location. Not much is happening there now. It is hard to imagine that this is where the “End of Days” will begin. Armageddon is a Greek word derived from the Hebrew “Har Megiddo” or the Mountains of Megiddo. They believe the armies are led by the antichrist who attack the Jews who are almost wiped out by these evil forces. Jesus has to come back to earth to defeat them and save his people, the Christians.
Evidently, those that are Born Again get to go to heaven, and those that are not are sent to hell. This is called the Rapture. Jews are given a special opportunity: they can finally accept Jesus as the true son of God and the Messiah and be reborn, or go to hell with the rest of their friends. About a third of the Jews admit they have had it wrong for the last 2,000 years and fly up to heaven. Now there are no Jews left which has been the goal of some other folks in the past.
Influence on Israeli Politics
If I ask you what the most powerful lobby group is in the USA supporting Israel, you would probably say APAC. This is what I would have said until last Sunday when I was watching an episode of Vice on HBO. It turns out that the largest support for Israel comes from the Christian Right. Not only do they support Israel per se, but they are against an independent Palestinian State.
Netanyahu understands this very well. He knows that much of this support could vanish if there was a political settlement with the Palestinians which created an actual non-Jewish State in the ancient homeland of the Jews. While the Jewish Lobby, APAC, does not make direct contributions to individual members of Congress, the Christian Right does.
The Settlers and the Christians
The Settler movement also understands the motivations of the Christian Right very well. Not only do they benefit from the political support of these American Christians, but they also get direct economic support from the many tourists that visit them. They even provide free labor to help construct them. By the way, much of the support that the Christians provide to Israel is tax deductible.
Effect on the Two State Solution?
The situation is very complicated between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Settlements are just one of many issues. It is a very important one and the one that draws a lot of negative attention to Israel. The Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem, and Israeli security are others. I am very doubtful that there will ever be a Palestinian state. The Christian Right is not the only force supporting the Settlements, but it is a very important force and one that is generally, poorly understood.
Now that I have learned about this, I will try to factor this into my future posts on the topic of Israel and Palestine.
Jesus and the Settlements
Frankly, I don’t know much about the teachings of Jesus but I am pretty sure he can not really be blamed for the problems between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians. That honor belongs to the British.