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All aboard the Bandwagon

How Christian anti-Zionism affects Jewish mission

According to the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks, a “tsunami” of anti-Semitism is sweeping Europe. A poll conducted in early 2007 revealed that 59% of all Europeans regard Israel as the primary threat to world peace. Another poll revealed that almost one in five Italians believe the state of Israel should cease to exist. It would appear that Rabbi Sacks’ tidal wave of Jew-hatred is linked to anti-Israel sentiment.
The Feminist writer Phyllis Chesler observes in her book The New Anti-Semitism that “There’s something unbalanced, erotic, and disturbed about the level of anger that anti-Zionists bring to bear on the subject of the Jews and the Jewish state … Jews and Zionists are blamed for 9/11 in Chinese as well as in Arabic. Nobel Prize winners, European and American academics, anti-globalization activists, and Jews on the Left have all condemned Israel for daring to defend itself, while remaining menacingly silent about the suicide bombings of Israeli civilians.”

Christians who hate the Jews?

In an article that appeared in The Spectator, Melanie Phillips labelled anti-Zionist churchmen “Christians who hate the Jews”. Ms Phillips is not alone in thinking that exclusive condemnation of Israel is an expression of anti-Semitism. The writer and broadcaster Howard Jacobson observed in an article in The Independent newspaper on the fortieth anniversary of the Six Day War, as Britain’s University and College Union was urging a boycott of Israeli academics: “If anti-Semitism is repugnant to humanity, then it is no less repugnant to single out one country for your hatred, to hate it beyond reason and against evidence, to deny it any understanding and – most odious of all – to seek to silence its voices.” In responding to the defensive mantra: “Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism”, Jacobson wrote: “It is a false syllogism which goes Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic; I am a critic of Israel; therefore I am not an anti-Semite.”

As more and more prominent churchmen single out Israel for condemnation, how can Jewish people be expected to listen to the story of Jesus? If the Church joins with those who would make the Jewish state responsible not only for the loss of Jewish lives at the hands of Palestinian terrorists but also for the deaths of non-Jewish civilians in the United States, Europe and Iraq, are the Jews not entitled to think that Christians hate them?

What if…

I am occasionally approached by pro-Palestinian Christians who, when they know I work with a Jewish mission, want me to know how bad the Israelis are. My standard response is to say that if the Jewish people are so wicked, that is all the more reason to share the gospel with them. That usually takes the wind out of their sails but the sad reality is that when Christians believe the Jewish people are intrinsically evil and that Israel presents the greatest threat to world peace, they are unlikely to support Jewish mission.

What, I wonder, would Israel’s evangelical denouncers do if the nation was forced by international pressure to pull down its security fence without conditions, to withdraw to pre-1967 boundaries without any concessions being required from the Palestinians, to allow a right of return for all Palestinian refugees to areas now populated by Jewish Israelis, to compensate those returnees at the expense of Israeli taxpayers and to then respond “proportionately” to the deluge of Palestinian terror that would inevitably follow? What would evangelicals who accuse the Jewish state of ethnic cleansing do if another holocaust were perpetrated on the Jews, this time on their own soil? There would be wringing of hands, no doubt, after the Jews had resumed their proper role on the world stage as victims rather than as a people able to defend themselves. But how could the Church ever hold up its head, look Jewish people in the eyes and tell them of the love of Jesus?

The Church in Germany is still reeling from the Holocaust and many German Christians still feel unable to reach out to German Jews with the gospel. If the Church in the West fails to speak up for Israel as it failed to speak up for the Jews of Germany in the 1930s, how can it ever expect the Jewish people to listen to the story of Jesus?

A few good men

As the people of God, the Lord requires that we “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God”. It is the duty of Christians to love all human beings, including Israelis and Palestinians. We must criticise when criticism is due but if the Church is perceived to be “against” any people, culture, community or group, it will be severely hindered in its witness to those people, cultures, communities and groups.

We are familiar with Edmund Burke’s maxim: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. The Holocaust occurred because too few good people spoke up for the Jews when they were made the scapegoat for Germany’s economic ills. If Christians in this generation fail to speak up for the Jewish state when its government and citizens are routinely demonised and when the international community makes light of the Iranian president’s threat to wipe Israel off the map, we may end up as witnesses to an even greater holocaust in which our Messianic colleagues and friends perish. If we do not speak up for Israel and the Jewish people, how can we expect them to listen to us when we try to share Messiah with them? If we do nothing when the rest of the Church is turning against Israel, we may well help to increase Jewish enmity towards the Messiah. Instead of saving Jewish people we will be helping to consign them to a conflagration beyond the most deranged fantasies of Adolph Hitler or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Mike Moore
This article is an edited version of a paper presented at the LCJE International Conference, 2007. The full text can be found at www.lcje.net.

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