Crossing Swords with Christian Zionism


Challenging Israel is a dangerous thing. The charge of antisemitism, in light of millennia of Christian anti-Judaism, historical European antisemitism, and in the aftermath of the Nazi genocide, if it sticks, has the power to derail careers and reputations in the academic world like no other accusation. Antisemitism is the singular most potent defence at Israel’s disposal and at the disposal of Israel’s supporters against all forms of political and academic criticism levelled against the State of Israel, and it is used liberally. Having said this, antisemitism is real and not all accusations are false. Israel is a serial violator of international law and human rights, and it has accrued more United Nations resolutions against it than any other country. While anti-Semites will leap on any opportunity to attack Israel, it remains true that Israel must be the subject of criticism.

At present I am seriously considering researching a postgraduate dissertation on the role American Evangelical Christian Zionist organisations have in funding and supporting the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Before even this idea came to mind – largely with the help of my academic supervisor – my thoughts on the settlement process, as a criminal and colonially expansionistic Israeli scheme, have already attracted accusations of antisemitism. Some defenders of Israel have gone so far as to suggest that the removal of the settlements would be ethnic cleansing, and have pointed to my thoughts as proof of my support for another Jewish genocide.

One year ago my friend and colleague in the Anglican Church of England, Rev. Stephen Sizer, the author of the 2006 book Christian Zionism: The Roadmap to Armageddon?, was the subject of an episcopal censure unparalleled in the history of his church. Following a complaint from the Board of Deputies of British Jews stating that a post he had made to his Facebook account was “unquestionably anti-Semitic” his ecclesiastical ordinary, the Right Reverend Andrew Watson, the Bishop of Guildford, gave him the simple and brutal choice: Write and speak nothing else about Israel, Zionism, or the Middle East, directly or indirectly, past or present, or leave the church. Sizer’s post was a link to a website questioning Israel’s possible involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Yes, 9/11 conspiracy is problematic. A quick Google search will bring up thousands of clearly anti-Semitic pages spouting the most chaotic nonsense about Jews and ZOG conspiracies. It’s no secret that the internet is populated by a lot of lunatics, but bearing in mind that the 11 September saga is replete with unanswered questions and grey areas, and the fact that both British and CIA reports reveal that the State of Israel has been the only country to steal nuclear secrets from the United States, there are questions worth asking – and all questions should be asked.

If questioning Zionism is a dangerous task then challenging Christian Zionism, the largest, best funded, and most religio-politically fundamentalist branch of Zionism, is infinitely more perilous. It is all the more dangerous because its influence – advocating the agency of God in Israel’s present history – reaches deep within the Church and to every level of US and British government. As I continue to consider writing on Christian Zionism I would like this to be my ‘if I die’ note. I am neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel. Zionism, I am told, is a broad school, and so I’ll clarify that I am against those Zionisms that support Israel’s flouting of international law and human rights. I am against the illegal settlements because they are hurting innocent Palestinians and robbing them of the nation they have every right to defend. I am against the settlements and Israel’s breaches of the terms of the Balfour Declaration, of the Geneva Conventions, and of over sixty UN resolutions because all of this is ultimately bad for the security of Israelis, and indeed the global community.


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