Tenets of Christian Zionism
Christian Zionism can be defined by the unquestioning support for the Zionist colonial project, from the violent establishment of the Israeli regime in 1948 to continued Jewish settlement in Palestine, as part of one’s faith as a Christian. Christian Zionists’ support for Jewish settlement in Palestine is a precursor to their own (the Church’s) salvation, not that of Jewish people; they actively seek an end of times in which Jews and other non-Christians will be destroyed while they ascend to heaven. This ideological commitment aligns Christian Zionists with Israeli governments and their colonial and belligerent policies toward Palestinians, Iran, and other adversaries of the Israeli regime.
Though many Jewish Zionist leaders acknowledge the cynical nature of an alliance with Christian Zionists, their support is ultimately welcomed as it advances the Israeli regime’s political goals and shields it from critique.
Christian Zionism and US Policy Toward the Israeli Regime
The culmination of decades of growing Christian Zionist political influence was a 2016 White House whose alignment with the far right among both Zionists and white supremacists was seamless. In addition to Pence and Pompeo, Trump appointed Steve Bannon as chief strategist. Bannon, who declared himself a Christian Zionist, also called his news site, Breitbart, “the platform for the alt-right” and was celebrated by white nationalists. David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel under Trump and a known funder and supporter of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, also enjoyed ties to Christian Zionist leadership.
The result was an administration that opposed international consensus on illegal settlements in the West Bank; moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, declaring it Israel’s “eternal capital”; made an unprecedented diplomatic visit to a settlement funded by Christian Zionists; reneged on the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a more aggressive and pro-Israel stance against Iran; signed enormous military arms deals with Saudi Arabia and advanced normalization between Israel and the Gulf; withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council citing “anti-Israel bias;” and did away with any regard for Palestinian demands and self-determination in the so-called “Deal of the Century.” Trump left office having solidified US support for right-wing religious ethnonationalism in Israel and for the illegal settlement enterprise; unsurprisingly, annexation of Palestinian land also increased during his term.
White Supremacy and Christian Zionism
The ties between Christian Zionism and white supremacy date back to the early European Christian Zionists. Though British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s 1917 declaration that his government would support the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine might on the surface appear to have been benevolent toward Jews, it was, in fact, steeped in white supremacy and antisemitism. Indeed, Balfour’s support of Zionism originated in a desire to stem Jewish immigration to Britain.
It should therefore come as no surprise that while contemporary white supremacists declare a desire for Jews to leave “white societies” for Israel, they also proclaim admiration for Zionism and its manifestation in the Israeli state. This was as true in Balfour’s time as it is today.
It is perhaps the notion of exceptionalism that best articulates and links these dangerous ideologies. The idea that one group is superior to another and deserves certain rights at the expense of “outsider” groups—whether white and Christian versus Jewish, Black, Muslim, and otherwise in the case of the Richard Spencers in the US, or white and Jewish versus Palestinian in the case of Christian Zionism, Zionism, and Israel—is one that begets violence and oppression.
Recent polling suggests that support for Israel among younger evangelicals is decreasing. The task for activists for Palestinian rights will be to educate and bring alienated social justice-oriented evangelicals together to work against Israeli settler colonialism, theocracy, and apartheid.
- Civil society organizations that support Palestinian rights should conduct outreach among young evangelicals and evangelicals of color to make connections between them and progressive groups, such as those advocating for Black Lives Matter, Indigenous rights, and police accountability. This outreach must necessarily stress the ties between Christian Zionism, white supremacy, ethnonationalism, and antisemitism.
- Civil society organizations should educate progressive and mainstream Christians about the growing Israeli right-wing religious fascist animosity toward Christians and its relationship to ethnonationalism and apartheid more broadly.
- Alternative pilgrimage and ethical tourism to Palestine for Christians—such as Friends of Sabeel Witness Trips or Eyewitness Palestine delegations—must be encouraged.