The Liberal Rejection of Christian Zionists

by Matthew M. Hausman (August 2012)

Although Evangelical support for the State of Israel is on the rise, liberal Jews tend to regard Christian Zionists with intense distrust. There are certainly valid reasons for initial suspicion in light of the history of Christian antisemitism and missionary excess, but progressive discomfort has little to do with this history. Rather, it stems from the association of conservative Christians with values that conflict with the liberal political agenda. Ironically, liberals are perfectly comfortable with “policies of inclusion” that accommodate Arab-Muslim interests opposed to the very existence of a Jewish State, and have no problem dialoguing with Islamists who promote religious intolerance, antisemitism and a rejection of western values. They apparently prefer the political company of Islamists who deal in doctrinal Jew-hatred and taqiyya (i.e., religiously-mandated dissimulation to deceive “infidels” and advance the cause of jihad) than of those Christians who actually support Israel for reasons of history and justice.

Not all Christians who support Israel do so because they believe the Jews must return to their homeland in order to be converted and usher in the “Rapture.” Indeed, many of them have come to support Israel because they acknowledge the validity of Jewish history, belief and practice. Some Evangelical faith communities, including Premillennial Dispensationalists, accept Hebrew scripture on its own merit without the need to recast the text in Christological terms. Members of the Apostolic and Pentecostal denominations, for example, are conversant with Jewish history and are strict textual literalists. They understand that Jewish identity has national, ethnic and religious components, that the Jews’ ancestors originated in the Land of Israel, and that Jews continued to live there even after the Dispersion. They also recognize that Jewish identity is intertwined with the ancient homeland.

Moreover, not even all Evangelicals are philosemites or supporters of Israel. Groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, for example, have long targeted Jews for theological attack and missionary harassment. Not surprisingly, these denominations are limited in their understanding of Jewish history and text to the point of ignorance. Then there are those Christians who claim to support Israel, but who do so only because they believe the Jews must return to their homeland as a prerequisite to Armageddon and their ultimate conversion in the end of days. Although these Christians claim that Hebrew scripture supports their apocalyptic vision, their eschatology is predicated on a perversion of Jewish textual sources and has no basis in Tanach.  

Liberal Jews have difficulty accepting support from conservative Christians, regardless of their motivations, although they continue to maintain alliances with mainline Protestants who are clearly anti-Israel. Despite their endorsement of policies that seem antisemitic, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, among others, are deemed politically acceptable because of their allegiance to liberal priorities. Though the reflexive antipathy of these denominations for Israel is rooted in classical antisemitism and replacement theology, liberal Jews are loath to criticize them because they are ideological fellow travelers. In fact, these churches’ positions on Israel are often similar to those of left-wing organizations like J Street and the New Israel Fund, whose policies and actions show a cynical disregard for Israel’s security, sovereignty and continuity as a Jewish state.

Perhaps even more troubling, however, are the liberal compulsion to dialogue with Muslim groups that have Islamist connections and the left’s affinity for political Islam in general. This attraction is bizarre considering that Sharia is incompatible with the democratic principles, egalitarian values, and individual rights and freedoms that liberals claim to hold dear. However, those who advocate such dialogue generally know little about Islamic doctrine, having abdicated any responsibility to perform due diligence before entering into questionable political alliances. Instead, they accept as true the taqiyya that is recited to them by the very people they should be vetting. This is about as useless an exercise for evaluating Islamist claims of moderation as employers performing background checks by simply asking prospective employees if they’ve ever been arrested, and then accepting their word when they say they have not.      

Those who argue that Islam is a religion of peace display little or no understanding regarding its history of conquest and subjugation. They seem unaware that Islamist doctrine eschews democracy and has no respect for freedom of speech or religion, or that relations with “infidels” are predicated on theological supremacism and dissimulation. Likewise, they refuse to acknowledge that Sharia prohibits permanent peace with a Jewish State (or any dhimmi nation), or to question a Palestinian narrative that is based on myths, distortions and lies, and which constitutes a repudiation of Jewish historical claims.   

The myth of Islamic tolerance is regurgitated without question by partisan naïfs who fail to understand that jihad continues to influence relations with the non-Muslim world. With no objective knowledge of Islamic text, they apologetically define jihad as “inner struggle,” ignoring that its sole purpose is the expansion of the faith – whether through cajolery, deception or force. They ignore the devastation and destruction that jihad brought to India, Europe, Africa, the Mideast and Asia, where Muslim invaders subjugated indigenous peoples, destroyed their sacred places, and exterminated those who refused to submit to Islam.  

Secular apologists make no effort to undertake critical study of the Quran, Ahadith, or Islamic commentaries, which make no pretense regarding the meaning of jihad. According to “The Reliance of the Traveler,” the term “jihad” refers specifically to war against the “kuffar” (non-Muslims), and is derived from the word “mujahada,” which means warfare for the purpose of spreading the faith. Traditionally, it has no other meaning. (The Reliance of the Traveler is the classic manual of religious law certified by the decisors of al-Azhar, the most authoritative institution in the majority Sunni sect.) Of the forty-one references to jihad contained in the Quran itself, all but one regard it as an obligation for expanding the borders of Islam – by force if necessary. Historically, subjugated minorities in the Islamic world existed at the discretion of dictatorial overlords who were obligated to coerce submission to Islam by force if all other methods failed.  

Jews were specifically designated for horrific treatment in Muslim society, where they were often confined to ghettos and denied basic human rights. Since the early Islamic period, when Jews were forced to wear distinctive clothing and were often physically branded, they have been subjected to harassment, pogroms and massacres. The “Golden Age of Spain” was not so golden for Jews living under Muslim rule, but was characterized more by the experiences of Maimonides and his family, who chose exile from their native Cordoba in 1148 when the conquering Almohads gave the Jewish community the choice of conversion to Islam or death. 

In spite of this history, and despite the antisemitism ingrained in Islamic society, liberal Jewish organizations continue to portray conservative Christians as a greater threat, and to establish relationships with Muslim groups that have never clearly repudiated doctrinal intolerance. In 2008, for example, the Union for Reform Judaism (“URJ”) announced an alliance with the Islamic Society of North America (“ISNA”), claiming that the latter had renounced terrorism. ISNA has never recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, however, and reported incidents at its annual conferences suggest that its “renunciation” was perhaps equivocal at best. Moreover, ISNA was one of many organizations identified by government prosecutors as “unindicted co-conspirators” in U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a criminal prosecution of an Islamic charity with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Other organizations on the unindicted co-conspirator list included the Council on American Islamic Relations (“CAIR”), the North American Islamic Trust (“NAIT”), and the Islamic Association for Palestine. 

No less alarming are the relationships forged with such groups under the guise of “interfaith dialogue” by institutions like the Jewish Theological Seminary (“JTS”), the bellwether of American Conservative Judaism.  In October 2010, JTS participated in a program entitled, “Judaism and Islam in America Today: Assimilation and Authenticity,” which included a panel moderated by a representative of ISNA. Though ISNA’s background was made known to JTS, it nevertheless proceeded with the program, without any discussion of the surreptitious Islamist influences found in some Muslim groups claiming to be moderate. Unfortunately, this failure seems to reflect a wider policy of downplaying the existence of doctrinal antisemitism. 

Ignoring the issue of whether it is even appropriate for rabbinical students to study at a Christian seminary, it would seem irresponsible to partner with an institution that maintains relationships with groups reported to have Islamist ties. The participation of JTS in programs at such an institution suggests that it has little understanding regarding core elements of doctrinal Islam, including anti-Jewish hostility and the mandate to engage in dissimulation (taqiyya or kitman) with “infidels.” A real learning opportunity would be to engage in analytical deconstruction of such programs, but in order to do so JTS would need students or faculty with adequate Arabic language skills and critical knowledge of the entire corpus of the Sunna, including the Quran, Ahadith, Sirat, and all other Islamic commentaries. 

The Anti-Defamation League has also engaged in interfaith apologetics by devoting resources to condemning “Islamophobia,” even though law enforcement statistics show that there are very few incidents of discrimination – and virtually no violence – against Muslims in America. While the ADL is also concerned about the dramatic increase in antisemitic violence, it ironically seems to ignore the role of doctrinal Islam in nurturing and spreading Jew-hatred. Instead, the ADL persists in exhorting against an anti-Muslim bias that statistically seems not to exist, going so far as to cooperate with CAIR in lobbying against proposed legislation in Florida that would have provided state constitutional protections against the adoption of foreign laws, including Sharia, by state courts. Similar to JTS, the ADL seemed unconcerned about its involvement with a group identified as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Holy Land Foundation trial.  

A common strategy for those who downplay the Islamist threat is to claim that Christian radicalism is far more menacing. Such comparisons, however, are intellectually dishonest. If Christian radicalism can be identified with anti-abortion extremism, a review of law enforcement statistics shows that attacks on abortion clinics are not comparable to Islamist terrorism, and often involve criminal mischief or crimes against property. Though there have been arsons and bombings directed at property and, since 1993, eight murders in the U.S., anti-abortion activities pale in number, frequency and severity to the acts of terrorists who kill and maim Jews, Israelis, Westerners, and even their own people, and who routinely target men, women and children. Moreover, extreme violence against abortion providers is generally condemned by American Christians, whereas terrorism against Jews and the West is lauded throughout the Arab-Muslim world. To say that harassment of abortion providers is the same as Islamist terrorism is a faulty syllogism at best.

Matthew M. Hausman is a trial attorney and writer.

To comment on this article, please click here.

To help New English Review continue to publish interesting articles such as this one, please click here.

If you have enjoyed this article and want to read more by Matthew M. Hausman, please click here.