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Contentions

On Christian Zionism

According to a new poll, fully 82 percent of American Christians believe they have a “moral and biblical” obligation to support Israel. This support crosses denominational lines: 89 percent of evangelicals and 76 percent of Catholics agree with the statement. Fully half of all Christians are against any division of Jerusalem, as opposed to 17 percent who support it.

This data creates a difficult question for Rabbi Eric Yoffie, leader of the Reform movement in Judaism, who recently engaged in a nasty public exchange with the evangelical Rev. John Hagee. Hagee supports Israel, opposes the division of Jerusalem, and generally takes positions than can be labeled, in Israeli terms, as right-wing. Yoffie, a diehard fan of the peace process and a supporter of dividing Jerusalem, told his followers that an alliance with Christian Zionists like Hagee is intolerable, and that Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel, is “extremist.”

There is nothing new in American Jewish discomfort with Christian Zionism. It stems, I think, from a fear of proselytizing and latent anti-Semitism, which today makes almost no sense at all. I can understand liberal Jews opposing conservative Christians on American political issues. They really do have differing views on what America should look like. But to reject an alliance with Christian Zionists on the grounds that they don’t support the particular peace-process policies that most Reform Jews do, or that some such Christians entertain the belief that in the end times all Jews will convert, is to blind oneself to the basic strategic struggle that the Jewish state faces. In liberal terms, it is intolerant. In Zionist terms, it is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

By placing his commitment to particular political positions ahead of support for Israel itself, Yoffie risks becoming the chief critic of Israel’s most consistent and influential allies in the world. Why on earth?


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