To Allies with Charity
I have seen especially among left-wing Jews an aversion to the support the state of Israel receives from the Christian Zionists, evangelical Christians who stand with Israel out of a firm belief in the chosenness of the Jews. Quoted in the post Zionisms on the blog Judeosphere, from October 20, 2006:
Gorenberg points out the contradiction in the use of the term Zionism by these Christian leaders, who, he says, are “seeing the Jews as actors in a Christian drama leading toward the end of days”. By contrast, says Gorenberg, “real Zionism, as a Jewish movement, is a movement aimed at taking Jews out of the mythological realm and making them into normal actors in history, controlling their fate and acting for pragmatic reasons connected to the here and now. So what’s called Christian Zionism is actually very distant from Zionism”.
Some Jews are, as that quote shows, offended by being supported as instruments on the way to an un-Jewish goal; some other Jews have warned of the danger that the evangelical Christians, after having been on our side in driving off the Muslim threat, could gather all the Jews in Israel for forced conversion to Christianity (G-d forbid). I wish to address here those questions, as well as the general question of seeking alliances, namely how far we can go that way, and the related theological question of trusting in G-d rather than in man.
The first argument is an argument to offense in the face of Christian belief: as Gorenberg says, it is offensive for Jews to consider Zionism a Christian prelude rather than a Jewish goal. To which I reply: what could possibly be done about that? If the Christian Zionists disbelieved in the eschatological timetable of their New Testament, they wouldn’t be Christian Zionists, they’d be Jewish Zionists or secular friends of Israel or some other kind of supporters of ours. In this age of nebulous postmodernism, which assumes “fuzzy logic” for all people—and is thus one of the causes for many people’s inability to come grips with the threat of Islam—strongly held belief, arrived at by truthseeking, is to commended, even if it is wrong, for it can be debated on the common ground of reason. The Christian Zionists are open about their being Christians, and that’s good—unlike the deceptive “Jews for Jesus”, who with their very name mislead Jews as to their goals.
The painful memories of Jewish–Christian religious relations over the ages consist of three principal wrongs: 1) forced conversions; 2) child kidnapping (as in 19th-century Russia, for example); 3) enticement through discrimination (making it attractive for Jews to convert for admittance to high office, for example). In all of that history, Jewish leaders have voiced little concern about conversion of adult Jews through missionary activity, because it is patent that any adult Jew with a minimal knowledge of his heritage could not be swayed by the arguments of a religion whose first adherents were not the fathers of all the following adherents. The Jewish claim to objective historical truth is unsurpassed among the religions. Therefore, what the Christians believe about the End of Days should be of no concern to Jews. As long as there is no physical threat, and no preying upon the young or upon ignorant adults (I say this not in disparagement but as a fact—a lot of Jews grow up with hardly any education of their heritage nowadays), Christians should cause no offense nor raise fears on the Jews.
Which brings me to the second reservation of Jews about Christian Zionism: that, at the successful end of the struggle with Islam, the Jews, all gathered in Israel, would find themselves as if in a concentration camp, given by the same Christians the option to convert or die.
My knowledge of Christian scriptures, including their eschatological parts, is slight, so I can’t say how much of a foundation in reality this fear has. I think the evangelical Christians of today are the firmest in denouncing the theology of supersessionism (the blasphemous belief that G-d has gone back on His word and canceled all His promises to the Jewish people and transfered them to all believers in Jesus instead; evangelical Christians believe that they are sharers in G-d’s promise to the Jews—a belief that can be debated but is surely not blasphemous like supersessionism, which makes G-d a liar) and the often resultant anti-Semitism. In contrast, the Eastern Orthodox church has not renounced supersessionism as far as I know, and is still a purveyor of hatred toward the Jews in all its lands (and of dhimmitude too). And the anti-Christian Left has taken anti-Semitism all aboard itself, enthusiastically recovering the torch from the fallen Far Right of old. On that note, I wish to opine that attacks on Christianity in the West are today (unlike in the past) a grave concern for Jews, because anti-Christianity is a covering for left-wing attacks on the spiritual foundations of Judaism just as anti-Zionism is their cover for attacks on Jews and their sovereign state physically.
But back to the fear of end-times Christian forced conversion of Jews: even if it’s possible, it’s still in the room of speculation. No human has, or can be expected to have, sight so far into the future, to such deep layers of events. I think of those people, wakeful of the Islamic threat and not into conspiracy theories, who nevertheless are obsessed with seeing plays with plays, feints with feints, hands moving hands moving hands. Their speculations twist like a mass of spaghetti, with suggestions to pay the most attention to China rather than Iran because Iran is a proxy for North Korea and North Korea is a proxy for China, and you get the drift. Those speculations have no conclusive evidence going against them, but then they’re not helpful either, because they’re attempts at looking at a make-believe crystal ball.
I know that there is before our eyes the threat of Islam, a threat evidenced by both words and deeds of its perpetrators, requiring, therefore, willful blindness to ignore. Whereas, if I am wrong about the relatively far-future threat of Christian forced conversion of Jews, then I would be no more blameworthy than an observer in 1916 failing to predict the events of World War II. Even if I were fairly convinced of a future religious Christian threat to Jews, what good could I do with it? I certainly wouldn’t snub the Christian Zionists because of a hunch when my clear sight acknowledges the absolutely real threat posed by the Muslims and the indisputable fact of enemies gathering upon the Jews all over the world. I care about the near and clear future; G-d will answer us if we should come to a state of having no one on our side, whether in the near or in the far future. I’ll come to that issue afterwards.
I have explained why I see no reason to shun the support of the Christian Zionists. In the course of posting on this blog, I have called for alliances of Jews with other groups as well, though in a less religiously motivated way than with the Christian Zionists. The alliance with the Christian Zionists is much bolstered by belief in common scriptures; a Jewish alliance with Hindus in India and Buddhists in Thailand, for example, does not have this element, yet is still warranted, because driving away the Islamic threat in order to be able to enjoy long-term peace is a shared interest of us all. Also, a point I have made on this blog many times, Genesis 16:12 is a prophetic call for all nations to unite against Islam, the spiritual spawn of Ishmael. But what about nationalist groups like the British National Party and Vlaams Belang (in Belgium)? They have recently approached the Jews of their lands to an alliance against the Muslim immigrants. Are they to be heeded?
In so far as those parties strive to rid their countries of the shariah-mongers who wish to remake them in their image, I support those parties. However, my support of them is pretty much limited to sentiment, rather than extending to moral solidarity as toward, for example, the Buddhist Thais. For the BNP and Vlaams Belang have a goal which I do not identify with: the restoration of national purity, involving the elimination of multiculturalism. But a point I’ve made in quite a few posts (such as my essay on Gandhara, from September 20, 2006) is that multiculturalism in and of itself isn’t the problem, just its current implementation. I have no problem with seeing a black man carrying the contest for Sweden in the Olympics, and I have no trouble with seeing a Japanese theater next to the Opera House in Berlin; I am against exemption of, for example, a cannibal from imprisonment according to Western law on the excuse that “that’s his culture”, or of a Muslim man who has stoned his daughter to death for adultery because “his religion says that should be done, and he must be allowed to practice it freely”. The goal of nationalistic parties goes beyond my criticisms of multiculturalism and therefore I cannot identify with them. If hatred of Islam were my only drive, I could support an alliance with any Marxist that happened to be exceptional in being against Islam rather than for it like most of his brethren; but a liberal (truly liberal, not as in the American political term) worldview opposes Islam not per se but because of its being contrary to human liberty, and that precludes allegiance to other such ideologies, however much they may be opposed to Islam.
With all this talk of setting up alliances, one might ask—legitimately, as this blog strives to present an Orthodox Jewish view—if this is not a case of trusting in man instead of G-d. My first response is that, if G-d enjoins humans to ally with one another for a cause, then following His command is trusting in Him. So the aforementioned verse, Genesis 16:12, is to be followed in trusting G-d’s promise that an alliance of all non-Muslims against Islam would finally bring Ishmael’s reign of terror upon his brothers down. Another response is that I do not so much rely on the alliances as I derive hope from them: the last few years, of seeing the flagellation of Israel in world opinion, culminating in the demonization of Israel in the last Lebanon War, together with a steady falling of the mask of anti-Zionism to reveal clear anti-Semitism, have been depressing to any Jew whose ancient conscience still beats in him; even just a few supporters in this dark world can give us the assurance that the eclipse of G-d’s light is not total.
I do not, cannot, trust in the alliances as I trust in G-d. As the recent words of Condoleezza Rice show, even the most friendly of governments toward Israel cannot be taken for granted to be on our side. As poster JCO put it on Rapture Ready, a Christian Zionist forum:
It grieves me to see my nation vow to help parcel off Israel's God-given covenant lands in the name of (false) peace, but it's all a part of God's plan to have Israel turn to Him and only to Him, and not to look to friends or alliances for deliverance. But does that make it right for the U.S. to be involved in this? I don't think so. Sadly, Israel still hasn't learned. It's a nation that still believes its alliances are of primary importance.
The alliance with the USA is far from being like the alliance with Egypt in Jeremiah’s day; it is valuable, and should be tried to be kept alive, being an alliance born of and sustained by numerous commonalities, not least of which is the belief in G-d’s promises. However, even the better leaders of our age have to make sacrifices to the god of Political Correctness; and if the American Left should gain the upper hand, the USA will be Europeanized in its stance toward Israel and the Jews as well. Then it will be time for nothing but the tachanun (prayer of beseeching).
It all ties to the point I made about not knowing the exact details of the future: cultivating the alliances when there’s still a chance, trusting in G-d’s promise for a worldwide revolt against Ishmael, but not taking any of them for granted, and recognizing that there may come a day when we will be as our forefathers in Egypt, having none but HaShem capable of getting us out of the strait. May our salvation come soon!