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Dangerous liaison: Israel and fundamentalist Christians

Four US presidential candidates identify as fundamentalist Christians and reject of the creation of a Palestinian state

On 14 May, Pope Francis officially recognised Palestinian statehood in a new treaty. The Palestinians refer to this day, 14 May, as Nakba Day or the Day of the Catastrophe when nearly a million Palestinians were forced from their homes and villages into exile. Nakba Day, in the Gregorian calendar, is the day following Israel’s declaration of independence and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Pope Francis’ motive in the recognition of Palestine serves at least two purposes. Clearly and most importantly it recognises the Church’s support for the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own. Perhaps of equal importance is the Catholic Church’s distrust and suspicion of the ascendant fundamentalist Christian Zionists, their political power in the US and their fanatical support of Israel. The fundamentalist Christian Zionists are adamantly opposed to a Palestinian state that would prevent the recreation of a biblical Israel and end Israel’s indispensable role in their fantasy of biblical end times.

What the Christian Zionists and fundamentalists are set upon is the reconstruction of biblical Israel, which by itself is a myth unsupported by historical or archeological research. Once the elusive Kingdom of David, encompassing all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza is restored, Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah, will return to earth with legions of angels, and battle the collective forces of evil at Armageddon. There is no certainty as to just where Armageddon is, although once the battle is joined it should be easy to spot. Once Jesus defeats the forces of evil, including a newly added evil bunch - the Libyans - peace, prosperity and congeniality will reign on earth.

Conservative Christian television preacher Pat Robertson once suggested in a television broadcast that Ariel Sharon had suffered a stroke and Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated because they were willing to pursue a policy of a two-state solution, which would have divided the ancient Biblical Kingdom of Israel.

The US faces a division entirely separate from the vast disparity of income, wealth and race that confounds the country that, it seems clear, will not be managed. There is the equally insoluble dilemma of religious intolerance and bigotry advanced by delusional Christian fundamentalists and encouraged by the hypocrisy of opportunist politicians. 

Present in the audience for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress in March were two influential men of common yet distinctly different purpose, each equally crucial to Netanyahu. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnet, and Pat Boone, the aging entertainer and prominent spokesman for the religious right. Boone clearly eclipses Adelson in the influence he holds over the American electorate.

Boone considers Netanyahu a personal friend. At Netanyahu’s speech Boone wore a tie on which the flag of Israel with the Star of David was conspicuous. Boone told a reporter at the speech that Netanyahu was aware that evangelical Christian Zionists were “Israel’s staunchest supporters, who number in the tens of millions in the United States”.

Boone became a pop icon in the early fifties by covering, or re-recording, rhythm and blues songs by black artists to appease a white teenage audience. An entertainer of modest talent, he turned the original energy, vibrancy and sensuality of the music into dreadful, listless and bland pop for a white, largely teenage audience, unfamiliar with the originals. 

Christian Evangelicals make up 30 to 50 percent of the voters throughout parts of the US, primarily in the south and far west of the country. Boone is extremely influential in rallying their support for particular candidates, including presidential candidates. He is equally influential in rallying support for Israel.

Boone is now a sponsor of a campaign by Orthodox Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the head of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ). The IFCJ has begun a massive fundraising campaign in the US to raise money it claims will go to relieve destitute elderly people in Israel. The IFCJ raised nearly $115 million in 2014. The new campaign directed by mail through purchased mailing lists claims that attacks from Gaza and suicide bombers have killed and crippled thousands of Israelis. The letter says that Israel’s resources have been drained, and the Israeli government can no longer care for the old and feeble.

(There have been 3,728 Israeli citizens killed in terrorist attacks from 1948 to 2014. Four Israelis died as a result of terrorist attacks in 2014. There were 24 Israelis wounded by terrorist attacks in 2014. Palestinian deaths during the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2014 alone numbered 2,310 with 10,895 wounded.)

The fundraising letter also features an endorsement by Netanyahu.

Rabbi Eckstein’s 2012 salary is published as the fifth-highest salary paid in the top 25 compensation packages of all nonprofit organisations. He is paid $1.2 million annually, plus expenses. Compensation paid to two of Rabbi Eckstein's daughters and a son-in-law amounts to over $250,000.

Christian-Zionist fundamentalism as a political movement has grown exponentially in size and political sophistication over the past 15 years. The Christian-Zionist fundamentalists equate the support of Israel with honouring God. God’s blessing of America, they reason, cannot be separated from America’s backing of Israel.

A Public Policy Polling (PPP) national survey conducted between 20-22 February 2015 of Republican voters found that an astonishing 57 percent of Republicans want to dismantle the constitution and establish Christianity as the official national religion. Only 30 percent oppose making Christianity the national religion.

Jesus Christ, despite his teachings of forgiveness and tolerance, in the fundamentalist Christian-Zionist belief will be uncharacteristically unforgiving and vengeful upon his return. According to their belief, Jesus will kill three-quarters of the Jews following the battle of Armageddon for their failure to believe in his divine mission during his first appearance and for their complicity in his crucifixion. The remaining quarter of all Jews will be spared because they will convert to Christian fundamentalism at the last moment. The fundamentalists will be transported immediately to paradise and enjoy an eternity of bliss once the carnage is done. This wholly anthropomorphic nonsense by the fundamentalists encourages the deity to extract vengeance upon innocent Jews as they would wish it.

Four of the leading presidential candidates for the Republican nomination for president - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Florida Senator Marco Rubio - identify themselves as fundamentalist Christians and share their rejection of the creation of a Palestinian state. They are equal obstructionists to the idea of a peaceful resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The fundamentalists, despite their self-serving psychotic beliefs, have made remarkable gains in the political power structure of the US. It is alarming that they are able to claim as their own these leading Republican candidates for the party’s nomination. None believe in the two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, consistent with the end-days fantasy of the fundamentalist Christian Zionists.

- Morgan Strong is a former professor of Middle Eastern History, and was an advisor to CBS News' Sixty Minutes on the Middle East.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: On 14 May, Pope Francis officially recognised Palestinian statehood in a new treaty (AFP)

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