Zionism — as defined by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Jews — is the Jewish movement for self-determination in the ancestral Jewish land, the Land of Israel (Israel-Palestine today). It can also be described as Jewish nationalism. It’s worth noting that self-determination is a basic tenet of international law. The fact that Jews come from the Land of Israel should not be debatable; it is easily proven through 3000+ years’ worth of archeology, DNA science, historical record, and Jewish culture.
The name “Zionism” comes from a historical event known as the Return to Zion, which took place in 538 BCE. In 1897, in response to virulent, deadly antisemitism, Jewish representatives traveling from Europe, Central Asia, Southwest Asia, and North Africa congregated for what is known as the First Zionist Congress. At the end of the Congress, the representatives agreed: “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel] secured under public law.”
Beyond the concept of Jewish self-determination in Israel, you’d be hard pressed to find anything else at all that Zionists agree with. Zionism is a wide movement, ranging from religious Zionism to labor Zionism to green Zionism and many, many others.
It’s true that Zionism, in practicality, had devastating effects for Palestinian Arabs. But it’s insincere not to consider these effects in context, including the rising (antisemitic) Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism during the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Arab riots of the 1920s and 1930s, the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Southwest Asia and North Africa, as well as the 1947 Palestine Civil War (which the Zionists did not start), and the 1948 Arab (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia) invasion of Israel.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Tanakh, also known as the “Hebrew Bible,” is a specific text consisting of the sacred mythologies, laws, and spiritual beliefs of a specific tribe (the Jewish People) in a specific region of the world (Southwest Asia). For more on this, please see my posts WHEN JEWS BECAME JEWS, THE JEWISH PEOPLE ARE A TRIBE, and JEWS & INDIGENEITY: A CONVERSATION WITH NATIVE JEWS.
Yes, it’s true that the first Christians were Jews. But not only did most Jews not “claim” said Christians, as evidenced by the infighting between Jews and Christians during and after Jesus’ death, but it only took a couple of centuries for a massive empire (i.e. the Roman Empire) that had long oppressed Jews to not only adopt Christianity but also murder Jews in the name of Christianity. In other words: our sacred text was taken from us by those who long oppressed us and then was used as an excuse to oppress us even further. This Christian oppression of Jews — including genocide and ethnic cleansing — has carried on for the past 2000 years.
And that’s without even delving further into the way that the very concept of the “Old Testament” misrepresents the Tanakh (e.g. representing Judaism as “unfinished”), or the antisemitic motives behind many of the Gospel writers (see my post NO, THE JEWS DID NOT KILL JESUS). While I respect whatever faith you choose to follow, if you are Christian, I believe it’s responsibility to grapple with the fact that the Tanakh was appropriated from us and was then used to hurt us for 2000 years.
JUDAISM VS CHRISTIANITY
Christians are people who follow the religion of Christianity. Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, also known as Jesus Christ (for more on this, I recommend my recent post NO, THE JEWS DID NOT KILL JESUS). Christians can belong to any race, ethnic group, tribe, or nationality.
Jews are an ethnoreligious group, nation, and tribe descended from the ancient Hebrews and Israelites in the region of the world now known as Israel/Palestine. Unlike Christianity, which is a universalizing religion, Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish People, based on the ancient beliefs, traditions, mythology, and laws of the Jewish tribe(s) (for more on this, I recommend my posts JEWS & INDIGENEITY: A CONVERSATION WITH NATIVE JEWS, THE JEWISH PEOPLE ARE A TRIBE, and WHEN JEWS BECAME JEWS).
There are some 15 million Jews in the world, forming only 0.2% of the world population. There are some 2.3 *billion* Christians in the world, forming 31% of the world population. Christianity spread worldwide through imperialism, colonialism, and proselytism. The Jewish *People* (rather than faith) spread worldwide because we were forcibly displaced from our ancestral homeland.
The term “philosemite” translates to “Jew-lover” or “Jew-friend.” The word was coined in Germany in the 19th century as a pejorative slur to describe people with a “positive prejudice” toward Jews (in other words: to be a “Jew-lover” or a “Jew-friend” was considered a shameful, negative quality).
While loving or being friendly to Jews sounds like a positive thing, philosemitism almost always inevitably crosses over to fetishisation. Not only that, but both antisemites and philosemites believe the same antisemitic tropes; the difference is that philosemites think these tropes are a “good thing.” For instance, Donald Trump has expressed his belief that Jews are wealthy, but unlike “regular” antisemites, he thinks that this supposed wealth is a positive attribute.
According to historian G. Daniel Cohen, philosemitism “can indeed easily recycle antisemitic themes, recreate Jewish otherness, or strategically compensate for Holocaust guilt.”
There are many problems with philosemitism — such as the fetishisation mentioned above, which reduces Jews to an idea or a character, rather than real, breathing people — but perhaps the most glaring is that it continues to perpetuate antisemitic tropes that have gotten Jews killed for 2000 years.
Christian Zionism, which I will discuss in the next slide, is deeply intertwined with philosemitism.
Christian Zionism is the belief that the return of Jews to the Land of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy. Many Christian Zionists also believe that the gathering of all Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. Jews will then be faced with the choice of converting to Christianity or death.
Christian Zionism has nothing to do with Jewish sovereignty and self-determination in our ancestral land; if anything, it’s quite the opposite, as Christian Zionists believe Jews must abandon our entire identity and become Christians.
In the United States, 80% of Evangelical Christians are Christian Zionists, believing that the establishment of the State of Israel fulfilled a Biblical prophecy and is a prerequisite for the return of Christ. Considering Jews overwhelmingly have no desire to convert to Christianity or bring about the Second Coming of Jesus, it comes as no surprise that surveys have found American Jews deeply, deeply distrust Christian Zionists.
Christian Zionism sees Jews and the State of Israel as a means to an end. It’s an exploitative movement with no regard for Jewish autonomy, sovereignty, identity, safety, or beliefs.
Christian Zionism has its roots in the 19th century. In 1884, a man named William Hechler formed a committee of Christian Zionists to aid with the resettlement of Russian Jews in Palestine, following a deadly wave of pogroms in the Russian Empire. In 1884, Hechler wrote a text titled “The Restoration of Jews to Palestine According to the Prophets.” Some years later, Hechler befriended Theodor Herzl and even arranged for Herzl to have an audience with Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German Emperor and King of Prussia.
The Christian Zionist movement, however, was hardly mainstream until the late 1970s, when an American pastor, Rev. Jerry Falwell, formed an organization called the Moral Majority, with the purpose of mobilising conservative Christians to register to vote for conservative candidates. One of the founding principles of the organization was “support for Israel and Jewish people everywhere.” By the 1980s, the Moral Majority had some six million members. They are credited for putting Ronald Reagan in office.
Falwell was a televangelist, and in 1980, he went on television in front of millions of viewers and stated, “I firmly believe G-d has blessed America because America has blessed the Jew*. If this nation wants her fields to remain white with grain, her scientific achievements to remain notable, and her freedom to remain intact, America must continue to stand with Israel.”
While the Moral Majority was disbanded in 1989, 80% of American Evangelical Christians continue to support Christian Zionism.
*the United States has a long history of institutional antisemitism, so don’t even get me started on the inaccuracy of that statement.
JEWISH-CHRISTIAN ZIONIST RELATIONS
While Christian Zionists have donated large sums of money to Israel and have helped with tasks such as the absorption of Soviet Jewish refugees in Israel, surveys show that Jews majorly distrust Christian Zionists for a variety of reasons, such as (1) Jews are uncomfortable with the fact that Christian Zionists “support Israel” for messianic purposes (i.e. the Second Coming of Jesus), something that Jews do not care for or believe in; (2) Evangelical proselytisation of Jews; (3) many Jews do not wish to ally with people who persecuted us for 2000 years; and (4) the fact that, other than Israel, Jews and Christian Zionists have virtually no other common political views.
For instance, 83% of American Jews believe abortion should be legal in all/most cases, whereas only 33% of Evangelical Christians believe abortion should be legal in all/most cases. Around 77-81% of American Jews support same-sex marriage, whereas only 23% of Evangelical Christians support same-sex marriage. 71% of Jews voted Democrat in 2020, while only 24% of Evangelicals did.
Even regarding Israel, Jews and Christian Zionists generally have very different views. After Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon fell ill following the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Christian Zionist pastor Pat Robertson said that “his illness was divine retribution for giving up part of Biblical Israel.”
Christians United for Israel, or CUFI for short, is the largest conservative pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States. Founded in 1975 by Dr. David A. Lewis, it currently operates under the leadership of Pastor John Hagee and boasts over 7 million members. Its stated goal is to “provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry, or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues.”
It’s important to note that CUFI’s support for Israel, however, is entirely conditional. In 2006, Hagee stopped donating to Hadassah Medical Center in Israel because it offers abortion as a medical procedure.
Even more damning, Hagee is an antisemite. For example, he has stated that Hitler came from a lineage of “accursed, genocidally murderous half-breed Jews.” He believes that the reason Jews have been persecuted throughout history — including the Holocaust — is that we have disobeyed G-d. In other words, he blames Jews for antisemitism. In fact, he believes the Holocaust was ordained by G-d because many Jews “ignored Herzl.”
Hagee believes that the anti-Christ will be a “partially Jewish homosexual.”
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