Terrifying Alliance Between End Times Christian Zionists And Trump

Terrifying Alliance Between End Times Christian Zionists And Trump

Terrifying Alliance Between End Times Christian Zionists And Trump

Terrifying Alliance Between End Times Christian Zionists And Trump2020-10-05PopularResistance.Orghttps://popularresistance-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/2020/10/christianzionists-e1601923943924.jpg200px200px

Above photo: Televenangelical pastor John Hagee attends a Christian United For Israel (CUFI) summit in Jerusalem, on March 8, 2010.Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images.

How “Christians United for Israel” is shaping Trump administration foreign policy—and the 2020 contest.

On Sep­tem­ber 13, evan­gel­i­cal pas­tor John Hagee stood before San Antonio’s Cor­ner­stone Church — which seats 5,400 peo­ple and is tele­vised to mil­lions more — and told con­gre­gants how to vote on Novem­ber 3. In the forth­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion let every bible-believ­ing Chris­t­ian go vote the bible,” he said, to the cheer­ing and applause of a tight­ly packed crowd of mask-less wor­shipers (On Octo­ber 4, news broke that Hagee has been diag­nosed with Covid-19). He con­tin­ued, Take Amer­i­ca back from the god of social­ism that now threat­ens the very sur­vival of this nation.”

Hagee was refer­ring to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in all but name, a sig­nif­i­cant endorse­ment from some­one whose sphere of influ­ence extends far beyond his mega-church and its relat­ed school sys­tem. Hagee is the founder of Chris­tians Unit­ed for Israel (CUFI), an orga­ni­za­tion that claims 9 mil­lion mem­bers (a num­ber that may or may not be inflat­ed) and may be more influ­en­tial with the right than the well-known Amer­i­can Israel Pub­lic Affairs Com­mit­tee (AIPAC). CUFI has tremen­dous reach among U.S. church­es and exerts pro­found sway over the white evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian base that turned out en masse for Trump in 2016. Chris­t­ian Zion­ism,” the polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy that ani­mates the orga­ni­za­tion, is premised on an end-times prophe­cy which CUFI trans­lates into a bloody, con­fronta­tion­al for­eign pol­i­cy that has made stun­ning strides over the past four years.

And this ide­ol­o­gy is being used to mobi­lize a large base ahead of a cru­cial elec­tion. In mid-Octo­ber, the orga­ni­za­tion will be show­ing its new doc­u­men­tary Nev­er Again?” in 800 the­aters — in addi­tion to church­es—across the coun­try, a move that crit­ics say is like­ly aimed, at least in part, at encour­ag­ing U.S. church­go­ers to sup­port Trump. As Hagee and oth­er Chris­t­ian Zion­ists have used their perch­es to mobi­lize sup­port for Trump, the pres­i­dent has show­ered them with pol­i­cy wins, from the mov­ing of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to vio­lent bel­liger­ence towards Iran. Dur­ing an intense elec­tion sea­son that has been upend­ed by news of Trump’s Covid-19 diag­no­sis, it is impos­si­ble to ful­ly grasp the con­tours of the 2020 con­test, or the glob­al role of the Unit­ed States under Trump, with­out under­stand­ing this pow­er­ful polit­i­cal force.

What’s under­re­port­ed is the mas­sive size of the Chris­t­ian Zion­ist vot­ing bloc and how much Trump is rely­ing on it as a prospect to retake the White House,” says Ste­fanie Fox, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of Jew­ish Voice for Peace (JVP), a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion that oppos­es the Israeli occu­pa­tion. That has been the rea­son and ratio­nale for Trump’s very promi­nent anti-Pales­tin­ian agen­da from day one.”

Jonathan Bren­ne­man, a Pales­tin­ian-Amer­i­can orga­niz­er with Friends of Sabeel North Amer­i­ca (FOS­NA), a Chris­t­ian orga­ni­za­tion that advo­cates for the rights of Pales­tini­ans, puts it this way: After Trump was elect­ed, Chris­t­ian Zion­ism might be the main frame­work the major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans think of Pales­tine with. Chris­t­ian Zion­ism is in the air we breathe.”

What is Chris­t­ian Zionism?

The mod­ern polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy of Chris­t­ian Zion­ism is, in most cas­es, premised on the prophe­cy that the migra­tion of Jews to Israel is a nec­es­sary pre­req­ui­site for the sec­ond com­ing of Jesus Christ. Upon the rap­ture, Jews will either con­vert to Chris­tian­i­ty or go to Hell, accord­ing to this belief sys­tem, which is most close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with evan­gel­i­cal, charis­mat­ic or pen­te­costal strains of Chris­tian­i­ty. In a Feb­ru­ary 2018 ser­mon, Hagee put it this way: God has a set time to do every­thing, and Israel is God’s prophet­ic clock for doing it. Rec­og­nize this fact: that God’s clock only moves when the Jew­ish peo­ple are in the land of Israel, and when they are in the land, the clock starts ticking.”

In prac­tice, this polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy as exer­cised through CUFI has meant unbri­dled sup­port for Israel as a Jew­ish state,” align­ment with the most far-right polit­i­cal forces in Israeli soci­ety, and back­ing of the eth­nic cleans­ing and killing of Pales­tini­ans. While strains of Chris­t­ian Zion­ism vary, Hagee holds that the rap­ture will be pre­ced­ed by a cat­a­clysmic war, a belief that makes him enthu­si­as­tic about con­flict and con­fronta­tion with Pales­tini­ans, as well as with Iran and its allies. In 2005, Hagee declared that it is time for Amer­i­ca to embrace the words of Sen­a­tor Joseph Lieber­man and con­sid­er a mil­i­tary pre­emp­tive strike against Iran to pre­vent a nuclear holo­caust in Israel and a nuclear attack in America.”

The anti-Pales­tin­ian, anti-Semit­ic and anti-Mus­lim ethos embed­ded in the Chris­t­ian Zion­ism of groups like CUFI is well doc­u­ment­ed. It applies bib­li­cal prophe­cy to a mod­ern nation state and trans­forms a 70-year strug­gle for polit­i­cal and human rights into a myth­ic, ahis­tor­i­cal, world-end­ing reli­gious con­flict,” says JVP’s Fox. That’s super dehu­man­iz­ing to Pales­tini­ans, Mus­lims and Jews, but also is extreme­ly dan­ger­ous when you are using the tools of state­craft to basi­cal­ly pur­sue the end of the world.”

This ide­ol­o­gy is often dressed up as phi­lo-Semi­tism, or extreme love of Jews. (Élan Carr, the State Department’s Spe­cial Envoy for mon­i­tor­ing and com­bat­ing anti-Semi­tism, boast­ed at an event in Tel Aviv in 2019 that the Unit­ed States is still the most phi­lo-Semit­ic coun­try in world his­to­ry.”) But crit­ics note that lurk­ing beneath this sup­posed ado­ra­tion is a pro­found instru­men­tal­iza­tion of Jews. Chris­t­ian Zion­ists essen­tial­ly think all Jew­ish peo­ple are car­i­ca­tures of the ancient Israelites — a car­i­ca­ture they asso­ciate, in turn, with the mod­ern state of Israel — and that the loy­al­ty of all Jews is, or should be, to Israel,” says Ben Lor­ber, a research ana­lyst for Polit­i­cal Research Asso­ciates, a social jus­tice think tank. Tied in with this, there is a pal­pa­ble sense in which they despise Jews in the dias­po­ra, espe­cial­ly lib­er­al Jews.”

Hagee has caught crit­i­cism for some of his overt­ly anti-Semit­ic mes­sages. In a late-1990s ser­mon, he argued that Hitler had enact­ed God’s will by expelling Jews from Europe and forc­ing them to Israel. Then god sent a hunter,” he preached. A hunter is some­one with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.” Hagee has main­tained that the speech was mis­char­ac­ter­ized and tak­en out of con­text, but he deliv­ered it again some­time between Sep­tem­ber 24, 2005 and Jan­u­ary 1, 2006,” accord­ing to a Huff­in­g­ton Post report. Mean­while, a sim­i­lar mes­sage has echoed through­out his oth­er work. In a 2006 book Jerusalem Count­down, Hagee said Jews bear the blame for anti-Semi­tism because of an old curse on the ancient Hebrews, result­ing from idol wor­ship. And in a show of pro­found dis­re­spect to the West Africans hit hard­est by the Ebo­la cri­sis, Hagee said in 2014 that the dis­ease was an exam­ple of God pun­ish­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma for divid­ing Jerusalem.”

Taher Herza­l­lah, an orga­niz­er with Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine, a group that has par­tic­i­pat­ed in inter­faith efforts to mobi­lize against CUFI, told In These Times it is impor­tant to also pay atten­tion to the anti-Mus­lim racism is built into the orga­ni­za­tion’s teach­ings. They use this counter-ter­ror­ism nar­ra­tive,” he says. It’s this idea that there is this Islam­ic hea­then, that we have to pro­tect Israel from the Islam­ic world, that Israel is a bea­con of light in a region of dark­ness. You hear that kind of racist lan­guage a lot.”

While CUFI isn’t the only Chris­t­ian Zion­ist orga­ni­za­tion, it is the most pow­er­ful, and it appears to exert con­sid­er­able influ­ence over a base that is already high­ly favor­able to its goals. A Life­Way Research poll con­duct­ed in Sep­tem­ber 2017 found that 80% of evan­gel­i­cals believe that the estab­lish­ment of the mod­ern state of Israel in 1948 and migra­tion of Jews there were ful­fill­ments of Bible prophe­cy that show we are get­ting clos­er to the return of Jesus Christ.”

CUFI, how­ev­er, has its crit­ics among pro­gres­sive Chris­tians, who argue that the orga­ni­za­tion is not a nat­ur­al out­growth of Chris­tian­i­ty, but a cyn­i­cal polit­i­cal project that is using Chris­tian­i­ty to jus­ti­fy a bel­liger­ent and vio­lent for­eign pol­i­cy. U.S. empire has always tried to use Chris­tian­i­ty to jus­ti­fy its hor­rif­ic set­tler colo­nial­ism,” says Rochelle Wat­son, orga­niz­er with FOS­NA. You can see a mod­ern-day ver­sion of that with CUFI. Yes, this is about the right and Trump and a shared polit­i­cal project, but it’s also part of such a long continuation.”

A Chris­t­ian Zion­ist for­eign policy

Align­ment with CUFI’s strain of Chris­t­ian Zion­ism is one of the con­stant threads through­out Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy actions and procla­ma­tions. On a Rosh Hashanah call in mid-Sep­tem­ber, Trump told Amer­i­can Jew­ish lead­ers, We love your coun­try,” an implic­it asser­tion that all Jews are Israelis, con­sis­tent with both a com­mon Chris­t­ian Zion­ist axiom and an anti-Semit­ic dual loy­al­ty trope. (Trump has made sim­i­lar state­ments in the past.)

But more impor­tant than words, Trump has gone even beyond the usu­al bipar­ti­san, uncon­di­tion­al U.S. sup­port for Israel. In 2018, at Trump’s cer­e­mo­ny mark­ing the mov­ing of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem — a clear provo­ca­tion against Pales­tini­ans and gift to the far-right gov­ern­ment of Ben­jamin Netanyahu — Hagee gave the bene­dic­tion (Hagee claimed in a ser­mon to have coun­seled Trump to under­take this move). Close Trump asso­ciate and evan­gel­i­cal pas­tor Robert Jef­fress — who has unleashed anti-LGBTQ invec­tives and said Jews are going to Hell — deliv­ered the prayer. In August 2020, at a cam­paign ral­ly in Oshkosh, Wis­con­sin, Trump declared that he moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and rec­og­nized Jerusalem for the evangelicals.”

The embassy move wasn’t the only ges­ture Trump has made (and impor­tant­ly, is a cause that, at least in the­o­ry, has been tak­en up by Democ­rats — includ­ing Joe Biden — long before Trump’s tenure). In March 2019, Trump signed a procla­ma­tion rec­og­niz­ing Israel’s annex­a­tion of the Syr­i­an Golan Heights, and in Jan­u­ary 2020 for­mal­ly unrolled his so-called deal of the cen­tu­ry,” which would fur­ther entrench Israel’s eth­nic cleans­ing, dis­pos­ses­sion and occu­pa­tion of Pales­tini­ans. Trump’s much-trum­pet­ed Abra­ham Accords” nor­mal­iz­ing rela­tions between Israel, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates and Bahrain, in their name direct­ly imply that the Unit­ed States is a Chris­t­ian coun­try that is enter­ing into agree­ments with coun­tries of oth­er Abra­ham­ic reli­gions. Hagee was resplen­dent upon their sign­ing: Anoth­er his­toric day as we watch the sons of Abra­ham come togeth­er to sign the Abra­ham Accords with Israel, Bahrain and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates,” he declared on Twit­ter. Yet, as Pales­tin­ian-Amer­i­can schol­ar Noura Erakat point­ed out, the agree­ments reflect a geopo­lit­i­cal alliance among repres­sive regimes to expand the U.S. sphere of influ­ence in the Mid­dle East,” in part to pro­tect weapons flows, and comes at the expense of Yeme­nis, Pales­tini­ans and all peo­ple sub­ject to these repres­sive governments.

The influ­ence of Chris­t­ian Zion­ism on the Trump administration’s for­eign pol­i­cy goes beyond Israel and Pales­tine. CUFI is an enthu­si­as­tic cheer­leader of ratch­et­ing up of ten­sions with Iran, prais­ing Trump’s Jan­u­ary 2020 assas­si­na­tion of Major Gen­er­al Qassem Soleimani, the com­man­der of Iran’s Quds Force and a rank­ing offi­cial of Iran, which near­ly brought the Unit­ed States into direct war with the coun­try. CUFI has been a vocif­er­ous sup­port­er of Trump’s max­i­mum pres­sure” sanc­tions against Iran, which have dev­as­tat­ed peo­ple in Iran and wors­ened Covid-19 deaths. It also sup­ports U.S. sanc­tions osten­si­bly tar­get­ing Hezbol­lah, which have made Lebanon’s mul­ti­ple, over­lap­ping crises far worse.

Lara Kiswani, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Arab Resource and Orga­niz­ing Cen­ter, a grass­roots orga­ni­za­tion, cau­tions against view­ing these poli­cies as sole­ly the result of the influ­ence of one orga­ni­za­tion. Instead, she says, it’s impor­tant to iden­ti­fy the shared inter­ests around white nation­al­ism and eth­no-nation­al­ism. CUFI is part of that equation.”

There’s a long his­to­ry of the coa­lesc­ing between right-wing forces under Zion­ism,” says Kiswani. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has not only embold­ened white nation­al­ists and the Chris­t­ian right domes­ti­cal­ly, but also part­nered with oth­er enth­no-nation­al­ist states like Israel. Mean­while, there is also a shared inter­est between the eth­no-nation­al­ism of Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu and a white Chris­t­ian base,” she argues.

Some say this polit­i­cal part­ner­ship is also premised on some­thing both com­mon and mun­dane in U.S. pol­i­tics: Trump’s efforts to mobi­lize a base in sup­port of him­self. I’m not going to try to get inside Trump’s head,” Steven Gar­diner, assis­tant research direc­tor for Polit­i­cal Research Asso­ciates and author of a new report on Chris­t­ian Zion­ism, told In These Times. But it’s clear from his actions that what­ev­er his beliefs are, he’s pan­der­ing to the Chris­t­ian Zion­ist base, and going above and beyond the kind of sub­stan­tive sup­port for Israel that comes in the ongo­ing finan­cial and mil­i­tary sup­port and mil­i­tary alliance in the region.” Gar­diner includes Trump’s bel­li­cose poli­cies towards Iran with­in this larg­er trend. For the Chris­t­ian Zion­ist world,” he says, Iran is the new dev­il in play for them.”

This does not mean, how­ev­er, that Trump is not also try­ing to cur­ry favor among more bipar­ti­san pro-Israel forces like AIPAC (CUFI most­ly draws its sup­port from the right). Accord­ing to Gar­diner, AIPAC has been more or less non-par­ti­san, or at least will­ing to ally them­selves with any­one who could con­ceiv­ably be an ally of Israel. Chris­t­ian Zion­ists, on the oth­er hand, fore­ground the very acts that are going to antag­o­nize not just Amer­i­can lib­er­als, but lib­er­al Jews in the dias­po­ra in particular.”

In terms of mobi­liz­ing vot­ers,” Gar­diner con­tin­ues, It’s the Chris­t­ian Zion­ists that are going to get them­selves into hun­dreds of church­es, not AIPAC. If you’re a good’ politi­cian, you can do two things with the same action: appeal to AIPAC and Chris­t­ian Zion­ists. There’s no rea­son you would­n’t.” AIPAC, for its part, has allied with Chris­t­ian Zion­ists, and had Hagee speak at its 2007 sum­mit. And both AIPAC and CUFI have ral­lied around sim­i­lar and over­lap­ping aims, includ­ing the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of the Pales­tin­ian-led Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions movement.

While it is dif­fi­cult to know what Trump actu­al­ly believes, and there are reports that he has mocked his Chris­t­ian sup­port­ers, it is unde­ni­able that he’s filled his admin­is­tra­tion with staunch Chris­t­ian Zion­ists. Speak­ing at CUFI’s 2019 sum­mit, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence rat­tled off the Trump administration’s hawk­ish record to resound­ing applause and trum­pet­ed his close rela­tion­ship with CUFI. Address­ing the group’s sum­mit in 2017, Pence declared, For my part, like all of you, my pas­sion for Israel springs from my Chris­t­ian faith.”

CUFI mobi­lized aggres­sive­ly in sup­port of Mike Pompeo’s con­fir­ma­tion as Sec­re­tary of State. The bipar­ti­san vote in favor of the nom­i­na­tion comes on the heels of a rig­or­ous grass­roots and lob­by­ing cam­paign waged by the Chris­t­ian Zion­ist group,” boasts a state­ment from the orga­ni­za­tion. Pom­peo has, in turn, sig­naled his stal­wart sup­port for this bloc. At the recent Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion, Pom­peo deliv­ered his speech from the roof of the King David hotel in Jerusalem, earn­ing him the Wash­ing­ton Post head­line, Pompeo’s Chris­t­ian Zion­ism takes cen­ter stage.”

Fight­ing the Right

CUFI’s inner work­ings and expen­di­tures are shroud­ed in secre­cy. As San Anto­nio Cur­rent reporter San­ford Nowl­in has point­ed out, while the Cit­i­zens Unit­ed for Israel Action Fund — CUFI’s lob­by­ing arm — files 990 forms with the IRS, CUFI is includ­ed under Hagee’s church and offers no such dis­clo­sures. As a result, the action fund’s lob­by­ing expen­di­tures appear to be much low­er than groups like AIPAC on paper, but it is dif­fi­cult to know how much CUFI spends to wield polit­i­cal influ­ence. In August, jour­nal­ist Aiden Pink report­ed that CUFI was award­ed near­ly $1.3 mil­lion in Feb­ru­ary 2019 for 10 week-long pil­grim­ages to the Holy Land, each con­tain­ing 30 of what Con­cert doc­u­ments call influ­en­tial Chris­t­ian cler­ics from the U.S.’” Accord­ing to the report, CUFI did not ful­ly dis­close those funds.

But all indi­ca­tors sug­gest that the pow­er­ful machine of CUFI itself is push­ing a right-wing polit­i­cal pro­gram in the lead-up to the pres­i­den­tial election.

CUFI is mobi­liz­ing their mas­sive base to turn out for Trump and his anti-Pales­tin­ian, anti-Jew­ish, anti-peo­ple of col­or agen­da, and so their roll­out of the film series across the coun­try through con­gre­ga­tions is 100% aimed at vot­er turnout and ril­ing up the base and look­ing to Trump as a source of anti-Pales­tin­ian pol­i­cy that will help them pur­sue their end times view of the world,” says Fox, ref­er­enc­ing the upcom­ing screen­ing of CUFI’s doc­u­men­tary, which the orga­ni­za­tion says is about the hor­rors of anti-Semi­tism and the pow­er of sur­vival and redemption.”

Bren­ne­man, for his part, finds it dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish between CUFI’s advo­ca­cy for Trump and its gen­er­al sup­port for a right-wing pro­gram. CUFI’s over­all project has always been a polit­i­cal project — about push­ing right-wing pol­i­tics through in the name of Chris­tian­i­ty,” he says.

To oppose this polit­i­cal effort, FOS­NA is mobi­liz­ing its base to demand that local the­aters pull the CUFI doc­u­men­tary. Bren­ne­man under­scores that while Chris­tians have a par­tic­u­lar respon­si­bil­i­ty to denounce CUFI, all peo­ple of con­science should be wary of CUFI’s pow­er, and chal­lenge it.”

There is no short­age of oppor­tu­ni­ties to do so. In addi­tion to the film screen­ings, there are Hagee’s overt remarks to help get Trump elect­ed. In 2019, he told Mark Levin of Fox News, If this next elec­tion is not a reelec­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump, our coun­try is going to go into a social­ist tail­spin.” Beyond explic­it endorse­ment, his church part­ners with and pub­licly lauds the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. In June 2020, as the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic and relat­ed pover­ty and food cri­sis rav­aged San Anto­nio, Hagee’s Cor­ner­stone Church issued a press release announc­ing it had dis­trib­uted 12,500 food box­es, total­ing over 300,000 pounds, as part of the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion’s Farm­ers to Fam­i­lies program.”

CUFI has a vast out­reach appa­ra­tus that includes cam­pus orga­niz­ing, a prayer net­work, trips to Israel and more — but this has not inoc­u­lat­ed the orga­ni­za­tion from steep oppo­si­tion. CUFI’s 2019 sum­mit was met with bois­ter­ous protests led by an inter­faith coali­tion. And Wat­son says FOS­NA hopes to do more in the future to reach broad­er pro­gres­sive Chris­t­ian move­ments” that might not be aware of the harms done by CUFI.

A key part of this, she says, is rais­ing aware­ness among Chris­tians who might not know about the group’s hate­ful pol­i­tics. FOS­NA is work­ing with Black for Pales­tine, a grass­roots effort, to reach out to Black church­es specif­i­cal­ly. In Decem­ber of 2019, 477 Black cler­gy and activists signed an open let­ter argu­ing the time is now for Black church­es, cler­gy, faith lead­ers, and laypeo­ple to cast aside the pol­i­tics of Chris­t­ian Zion­ism and link arms with our Pales­tin­ian neigh­bors and their allies in the glob­al move­ment for free­dom and justice.”

Jew­ish Voice for Peace, for its part, is work­ing to counter this bloc in the upcom­ing elec­tion. We have made this assess­ment that white evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian Zion­ists are a mas­sive vot­ing bloc and are help­ing pave the way for Trump’s reelec­tion, and a dri­ving for­eign pol­i­cy in Israel and Pales­tine,” says Fox. The group is plan­ning to focus on oust­ing Rep. Michael McCaul (R‑Tex.) and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham (R‑S.C.) — both sup­port­ers of CUFI — and hopes to use this cam­paign to raise broad­er aware­ness about the harms of Chris­t­ian Zionism.

As a Jew­ish group,” Fox says, our pri­ma­ry focus is on edu­cat­ing those who are not part of the bloc to under­stand what is going on and what is dri­ving U.S. pol­i­cy — to edu­cate our own base and fel­lows of con­science. At the same time, we are in deep part­ner­ship long term with groups like FOS­NA that are seek­ing to do the work inside of Chris­t­ian community.”

Both are nec­es­sary,” she says. CUFI is absolute­ly bring­ing their all to the fight.”

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