As Israel’s violent conflict in Gaza dominates the news, the term “Zionism” has become a commonplace in discussion. Most recently, for instance, the United States House of Representatives passed measures by wide margins affirming Zionist principles and denouncing anti-Zionism as antisemitism.
In this episode of Old-Fashioned Democrat, I sat down with Jory Micah, a controversial pro-Palestinian podcaster, to question why a huge part of Zionism remains mysterious in the discussion. While much attention has been paid to Jewish Zionism, Jewish Zionists could not by themselves uphold Israel’s position in the Middle East. What group other than Jews is feeding the strength of global Zionism?
Demographic Reality: Most Zionists are Not Jews
There simply are not many Jewish people in the world. If you only count Jews with a Jewish mother, as most traditional communities define membership in the community, then there are roughly 15 million Jews. This is a tiny fraction of the world’s population of 8 billion. If you count Jews who have been born to interfaith marriages, the number rises to about 25 million. But if you only count Torah-following Orthodox Jews, the number is only 15% of the 15 million, or just over 2 million. Among the Orthodox Jews a significant percentage are anti-Zionist for reasons I’ve discussed in past articles.
Even this small community is not monolithic. Many of the most vocal protestors against Israel are in fact Jewish people, as evidenced by the disruptive actions of Jewish Voices for Peace. The latter group has taken over highways, railway stations, and bridges to protest against the genocide in Gaza. Aside from these pacifistic Jews, we must also count secularized Jews who have assimilated into progressive communities and do not prioritize Zionism at all; the observant Torah-believing Jews who object to Zionism’s violations of scripture; and the observant Jews who may support the basic idea of Zionism but cannot endorse what the modern state of Israel has turned Zionism into.
Christian Zionists are the Main Power Source for Israeli Zionism
The mystery can be solved by looking past Judaism to Christianity. Zionism could not command such an enormous following in the Western powers were it not for Christian Zionists. As I discuss with Jory in this podcast, the Christian Zionists are more numerous, more united, and more emphatic than their Jewish counterparts.
Consider the recent statements by famous Christian politician Michele Bachmann on the Charlie Kirk Show, in which she alleges that all 2.2 million residents of Gaza, even the children, are dedicated to their “industry” of terrorism with “more tunnels than the New York subway.” She states all 2.2 million Gazans must be forcibly relocated to another location so that the Gaza Strip can be turned into a “national park.”
Charlie Kirk is unfazed by such shocking racism and responds not by rebuking Bachmann but rather by telling her that the United States should mimic Israel’s immigration policies, presumably treating Latin American migrants the way that Israel treats Palestinians.
Kirk has recently proclaimed his recommitment to Christianity and has worked widely with Christian pastors.
Both Jory and I see Christian Zionism as particularly distressing because of its perfect compatibility with antisemitism and racism. Kirk states aloud what is usually relegated to dog whistles: namely, that white Christian nationalists feel attracted to Israel because they envy the Jewish state’s ethnonationalist practices, including genocide, and wish to apply the same exclusionary logic in the United States.
Why are Christians Drawn to Zionism?
Unless they are hypnotized by a distorted interpretation of the Bible, Christians generally flock to Zionism because they tend toward white nationalism and see modern Israel’s political style as the model for what they want in the US.
This nationalism has nothing to do with any part of scripture and is merely the byproduct of white racists’ impossible demands: they expect the entire globe to give its resources willingly to the developed economies so that white people can enjoy the most comfortable lifestyle in world history, yet they also expect that the races of the global south will stay in the south and allow whites to remain the majority in the global north.
This childish wish turns to rage when reality reveals such demands as impossible.
If you want lithium and cobalt for your fancy cell phone batteries, then you will have to deal with nonwhite races who inhabit the places where lithium is mined. Eventually the commerce and entanglement will set off a chain reaction resulting in nonwhite peoples knowing about consumer paradises like the United States or Western Europe and desiring to migrate there.
The upheavals of the 1900s gave globalization a stigma in much of the developed world. Despite all their best attempts at genocide, ethnic cleansing, colonialism, racial profiling, apartheid, segregation, and occupation; the white nations of the north could not stave off the guilt that came with centuries of racial abuse. Now in most of the West there prevails a strong conviction that such racial inequity is wrong. There is even a stigma borne by people who try to justify the inequity openly.
Israel’s prominence in the news has revived the white racist dream.
Israel brazenly says it is the homeland for one ethnic group, Jews, which can shift between being a culture and a religion, thereby allowing the nation-state to enforce a theological and racial purity simultaneously. Outsiders have been simply kicked out and placed under intense police surveillance to ensure that they can never reverse their expulsion. To keep the victims of their dispossession from rising up against them, Israel periodically bombs, slaughters, and starves them. They do so with no guilt whatsoever, cultivating a blatantly racist rhetoric that demonizes Palestinians and casts them as barbaric beyond any repair, therefore brushing aside any “moral equivalency” and giving Israel carte-blanche to treat them as they would so many cockroaches.
Periodically Israel’s criticism-proof shield breaks down. People in the West start to notice that the Jewish state is getting away with racism that would earn the righteous condemnation of any other ethnic group. The response from Israel and her Jewish supporters is gall and intransigence combined with redoubled efforts to assert the same racist claim over again, now seasoned with the allegation that questioning their racism is racist because of Holocaust history. (World War II’s atrocities were caused by Israel’s current allies in the white West and therefore cannot justify what Jews are doing to Palestinians in the Middle East. )
When pressed, Israeli defenders point out that 20% of Israel is Arab. They know the percentage by heart because they are familiar with the demographic discipline exercised by Israel. The country’s leaders have openly stated that they will never allow non-Jews to reach critical mass or endanger the Jewish majority. In 2018, during debates about a new direction for Israeli civil rights, the country’s justice minister said: “There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.” She added, however, that maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel and acting democratically “must be parallel and one must not outweigh the other.” See Revital Harel’s article in Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2018-02-13/ty-article/justice-minister-israels-jewish-majority-trumps-than-human-rights/0000017f-e76d-d97e-a37f-f76d21180000.
How one can violate civil rights to maintain a Jewish majority while still acting democratically is a conundrum for the ages.
Rather than outrage, Israel’s repulsive and genocidal racism inspires mass envy in Christians like Michele Bachmann and Charlie Kirk, who are quick to tell us that America would be better if Americans managed their borders the way Israel does. Since they cannot openly promote white nationalism in America yet, they have to cosplay as Jews for a while.
(I suggest people read the Aeneid to see how Romans did this. Romans reinvented their own origin story to cast themselves as descendants of the defeated Trojans, which allowed them to perceive their warlike expansionism as the restorative entitlements of underdogs.)
Christian Zionism Coexists with Antisemitism
Israel’s Jewish supporters have accommodated themselves to an alliance with white Christian nationalists, for whom admiration for Israel in no way implies a wish for Jewish people to remain an influential group in the United States. In fact, many white nationalists have complained on sites like Gab about the influence of Jews in American politics for years.
The groypers emerged as a fringe group early during the Trump years, constantly merging their grievances against “globohomo” with badgering of conservative leaders about their corrosive subservience to the interests of wealthy Jews; from this chaos sprang the now famous Nick Fuentes. Fuentes attended the heavily publicized dinner with Kanye West and Donald Trump.
To advance Israel’s interests in their mind is a two-for-one deal: It indirectly strengthens the American case for white Christian nationalism and also encourages Jews to leave the United States and go live in Israel, thereby removing them from American life.
Yet the problem of Christian Zionism goes even deeper. Even if many Christian Zionists want to mimic Israel without the Judaism, how can they get the scripture to justify their support of the modern Jewish state?
The Scriptural Delusion behind Zionism
They can’t, unless they lie about scripture. And that’s where it gets very ugly. The Christian Zionists’ misapplication of specific verses like Genesis 12:1-3 is arguably the most damaging error since the “curse of Ham” in Genesis 9 was used to justify the Atlantic slave trade for hundreds of years.
As Jory points out, the tragedy is most acute among inerrantist evangelicals like the Southern Baptists, who normally take the authenticity of scriptures seriously.
The scriptural case for Christian Zionism relies upon early scriptures in the Old Testament, like Genesis 12, which claim that Abraham’s descendants will be blessed so highly that anyone who curses them will in turn be cursed.
Jory brings up the Scofield Bible, a late 1960s translation that intentionally inserted the term “Jewish” into that chapter in English. The compilers of the Scofield Bible sought to legitimize modern Israel by making Christians believe that the occupants of the modern state of Israel are the same as the descendants of Abraham named in Genesis 12.
The blessing in Genesis 12 goes as follows:
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.[a]
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”[b]
Following this, in Genesis 13, when Abraham splits from his nephew Lot, he is told this as well:
14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring[a] forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.
Abraham’s blessing from God comes before there is any Israel at all (Israel is the name of his grandson Jacob), and about 1,500 years before it would make sense to refer to the group “Jews.”
The term “Jewish” only makes sense in the very late years of the Hebrew monarchy, perhaps the seventh century before Christ, after the northern tribes have all been conquered and scattered. At that point Judah, the largest and most powerful tribe, continued around Jerusalem.
King David came from the tribe of Judah, followed by his son Solomon. But during David and Solomon’s reign all twelve tribes were still Israel–not a kingdom of Judah alone.
For those who are not fluent in Biblical timelines consider this:
Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph goes to Egypt and befriends the pharaoh (see an earlier article about this). While in Egypt, Joseph calls his kin to join him. They spend four hundred years in Egypt, mostly as Hebrew slaves to the Egyptians.
Moses is born and leads the Hebrews out of slavery. They spend 40 years in the desert wandering. After Moses dies, Joshua’s generation spends about 30 years conquering the Holy Land.
Accounting for all these narratives in the first six books of the Bible, Joshua dies roughly 470 years after Joseph’s migration to Egypt and roughly 500 years after Abraham’s blessing from God in Genesis 12-13.
A period of “judges” lasts roughly 430 years before the emergence of the first king, Saul. So Saul would begin his reign about 930 years after Abraham’s blessing.
Saul reigned forty years and was replaced by David, who ruled in the tenth century before Christ. If we peg David’s rule to the early 900s BC and then confirm the timeline from there, we can postulate that Abraham received his blessing from God at some point in the 1800s BC. Almost two thousand years pass between the moment of this blessing and the total expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.
David and his son Solomon ruled over a united Israel. Solomon died about 931 BC, roughly 1,000 years after Abraham received his blessing.
After Solomon died, the kingdom of Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms. All the tribes except Benjamin and Judah were in the northern kingdom. These northern tribes included Gad, Dan, Nephtali, Issachar, Reuben, Simeon, Asher, Nebulun, Ephraim, and Manasseh. The tribe of Levi became the priests distributed throughout the tribes. Ephraim and Manasseh were both from the tribe of Joseph, which split into two. “Gilead” sometimes appears as a label for the small number of Israelites who settled east of the Jordan River and were separated from the rest.
As the above paragraph indicates, Judah was a small portion of the total Israelite population and their land was a small fraction of their terrain; even if Judah lasted longer and was the house of David, Solomon, and Jesus Christ, the name “Jew” cannot be superimposed on all of Abraham’s Hebrew descendants.
The northern kingdom fell to Assyrians in 722 BC, over 1,250 years after Abraham received his promise.
The southern kingdom became known as simply Judah, which turns into the root for “Judaism” and “Jewish.” Judah fell finally in 587 BC, over 1,400 years after Abraham’s promise.
As will be explained below, Abraham’s “offspring” founded Christianity in 33 AD, around 2,000 years after he received his promise.
Abraham’s offspring also founded Islam in 610 AD, over 2,500 years after Abraham’s promise.
In relation to the foundation of modern Israel, consider the time span. Abraham’s promise came roughly 3,948 years before the founding of modern Israel. The lines from Genesis 12-13 have to be read in the context of all the other holy writings that appeared in the interim.
The Text Refers to Abraham’s “Offspring.” Good Luck Figuring Out Who Is Included in That Today
It gets even more complicated.
Clearly the scriptures indicate that Abraham will found something with his “offspring.” They will achieve a kind of political greatness that will delight God and bring light and prosperity to the world.
Abraham is told that these blessed descendants would be extremely numerous–like the grains of sand around him. That must give us pause if we want to link the blessing to today’s Jews, who are very small in number compared to others who claim descent from Abraham.
As Jory and I point out, when Abraham receives this word, he does not have children yet. He will go on to have Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael will be the ancestor of the Arabs (and Ishmael is promised a great nation to come from him also in Genesis 21).
The Qu’ran will be given to the Arabs (in Arabic). Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, will be built close to the site where history says God saved Ishmael and his mother by causing a spring of water to appear in the desert.
Isaac, Ishmael’s brother, will father Esau and Jacob. Esau sells his birthright for a mess of pottage, then fathers the Edomites; but Jacob does not sell his birthright and is renamed Israel.
While Calvinists focus a great deal on this split between Jacob and Esau, we must not equate Esau’s selling of his birthright to Ishmael, who did not sell his birthright and who was promised a great nation of descendants in Genesis 21.
Of Israel’s twelve sons, one–Judah–will be the ancestor of the tribe of Judah.
Judah becomes the ancestor of David, and also of Jesus Christ. In the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, Jesus urges his disciples to go and baptize throughout the nations, in essence adopting people everywhere in the world into the blessings of his birthright, as long as they believe in him.
These complications mean that it is impossible to read Genesis 12-13 as a mandate for Christians to honor “Jewish” control of the land mapped for ownership of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The lost tribes of Israel are still the descendants of Abraham, and we don’t have a clear sense of where they are. Many would suggest that they are more likely the Palestinians than the people claiming to be Jews in Israel today. The Ashkenazi Jews in Israel today have complicated ancestries that include many non-Jewish groups that swept across Europe in the almost 3,000 years since the collapse of the northern kingdom (Samaria) in 722 BC.
Even if we could say that Jews today are the equivalent of ancient Israel, something I would never accept, we still cannot assume that they encompass the descendants of Abraham blessed in Genesis 12-13. Ishmael and Jesus Christ also count as Abraham’s descendants.
What if we go by who’s practicing the faith of Abraham’s offspring? If practicing Judaism allows people with minimal claim to Abrahamic blood descent to say they are the people blessed in Genesis 12-13, then Muslims and Christians can point to their religious practices and say they are the figurative “descendants” of Abraham as well.
Jewish people have no Biblical claims to impose an exclusive Jewish state on the holy land, and Christians and Muslims have no scriptural reason to obey their wishes about who can and cannot live there today.
The New Testament and the Qu’ran are equally illegitimate in the eyes of Jews. Christianity did not exist until 1,000 years after the reign of David, and Islam did not come to exist until 1,600 years after the reign of David. There is simply no way to pluck out the “Jews” from this passage of Genesis and say that Christians have to side with them in their territorial disputes even in the face of murder, theft, and abuse of other Abrahamic descendants.
To the extent that the ancient Hebrews are promised the holy land during Moses’ exodus, they are promised it conditionally. It is not unconditional. As I explained in a previous article, God denies Moses passage across the Jordan River because Moses took it upon himself to bang a staff against a rock instead of waiting on God. The allegory here is powerful. God may promise the land, but he who takes it upon himself to seize it is showing a lack of faith in God and will be denied the very land he seeks.
Moreover, as explained in a previous article, the lines from Deuteronomy make it clear that the Torah and the land are given the ancient Hebrews simultaneously. They go together and carry a joint obligation, to care for the land God has given, but to do so within the lawful bounds of the Torah. As Jory points out, modern Israel has blatantly violated the Torah in every way imaginable. The party revelers at the Nova Festival were dancing and frolicking on the Sabbath. (That is not to justify the terrorist attack on October 7, but to point out that Israel is not a Torah-led nation.) Israel essentially coveted the land inhabited by Palestinians, stole it from them, bore false witness against them, and then murdered Palestinians repeatedly to keep them from taking the land back.
Let us not forget also that in Exodus, Moses includes among his laws the order to treat foreigners living among the Israelites kindly and not to oppress them.
There are prophecies about the end times that include references to God gathering all the Jews in the holy land just before Christ comes a second time to take his chosen to heaven. But no serious Christian would claim that modern Israel is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that nobody knows the hour or the day of his second coming. He says he will come like a thief in the night. He also warns against false prophets who claim to know the hour and the day. Seventy-five years into the founding of Israel, it is pretty clear that this modern state is just one more chapter in world history that gives us no clues about when the end times are going to arrive.
We certainly cannot promote policy preferences to Christians and excuse the genocidal terrors of modern Israel on the slim hope that the second coming will take place tomorrow.
Why? Why? Why do Christians buy the Zionist poison?
The pro-Palestinian left has botched its response to Christian Zionism mostly because secular leftists who sympathize with the Palestinians have no idea what is actually preached in evangelical churches.
As I discuss with Jory Micah, when I do hear pro-Palestinian leftists discuss Christian Zionism, they invariably cite the apocalyptic motivation for support of Israel. They say, “Christian Zionists support Israel because they want Jesus to come back and they think all the Jews have to return to Israel for that to happen.”
This is a vast misreading of Christian Zionism. Most Christian Zionists support modern Israel because of the blessing given early in the Old Testament – mainly the lines from Genesis 12-13 discussed above. They think that modern Israel is the same as ancient Israel and that they are all “the Jews” and the Jews are God’s chosen people. They believe that if they do not bless Israel, they will not be blessed.
The leftist assumption that a kooky apocalyptic superstition girds Christian Zionism flatters many assumptions among secular liberals. It convinces them that Christian Zionism is actually antisemitism, since a longing for the end times would mean longing for the moment when unbelievers would be thrown into the fire by Jesus Christ. Jews who do not accept Christ still count as unbelievers. This misreading of Christian Zionism allows liberals to feel superior to Christians who are cast as gullible fanatics who hate Jews as much as the terrorists do.
It is crucial that pro-Palestinian people learn about the broader reasons for Christian Zionism instead of relying on a cliché of backwoods preppers who want the Jews to gather in Israel so they can all be killed in a blaze of glory. I have simply never in all my years as an evangelical heard a preacher preach that. I am sure some do but it is not the mainstay of Christian Zionism.
Christian Zionism thrives also because megachurch pastors often compromise themselves financially and socially with Israeli enterprises. Israel controls access to many holy sites and uses this access to extort support from Christian pastors who want to lead pilgrimages or maintain contact with archaeologically important sites in the holy land. In some cases Christians may want to have a foothold again in that region similar to what they sought in the Crusades. For the time being, they need to stay in the good graces of powerful Israelis. Some pastors became mercenaries in the pulpit while others internalized their compromises and started believing the false theology to avoid cognitive dissonance.
Concerned about global uncertainties? Prep like a pro with premium, shelf-stable, freeze-dried cuts from Freedom First Beef! Save 15% with code STOCKUP. Be ready for anything! Order now at freedomfirstbeef.com.