If your place of worship facilitates speakers who inculcate ill-will towards fellow beings, please speak up, it is a place to seek peace and not ill-will. Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, Temples have all inadvertently allowed such men to speak. Save sanctity of the place.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Politics of Apocalypse

Name of the Book: The Politics of Apocalypse—The
History and Influence of Christian Zionism

Author: Dan Cohn-Sherbook
Publisher: Oneworld Books, Oxford
Year: 2006
Pp: 221
ISBN: 13:978-1-85168-453-3

Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand

Christian Zionism, a variant of Christian
fundamentalism, is today a major global force to
reckon with. Christian Zionists are a key player in
American (and to a lesser extent, Western European)
politics. Firm backers of Zionism, Israel and Israeli
expansionism, they are also one of the principal
fountainheads of Islamophobia on the global scence.
The origins, development and politics of Christian
Zionism are brought out in considerable detail in this
well-researched, balanced and very timely book by the
noted activist scholar Dan Cohn-Sherbook, himself a
Jew, and Professor of Judaism at the University of
Wales.

Approximately a tenth of the American population is a
devoted member of the cult of Christian Zionism, the
author observes. 'It is the fastest growing religious
movement in Christianity today', he notes (p.xi).
Many followers of the cult are from the middle and
upper-middle classes, followers of televangelists who
wield enormous political and economic clout. Christian
Zionists are impelled by an imperialistic vision, of
Jesus' impending arrival on earth, when he shall, so
they believe, wipe out all his enemies (all
non-Christians, presumably) and establish his global
dominion, with his capital at Jerusalem. Meanwhile,
Christian Zionists believe that they, as allegedly
God's chosen people, will be spared the horrors of the
global war that shall precede Jesus' advent, and will
be miraculously wafted up to heaven, where they shall
watch the final destruction of the world.

Christian Zionists believe that Jesus can only return
the world once the Jews colonise Palestine. This
belief is based on the contentious claim that God had
granted this land to the progeny of Abraham, through
Isaac, that is the Jews, for eternity. This land is
not restricted to the present borders of the state of
Israel. Instead, Zionists, both Jewish and Christian,
believe that a vast swathe of land, stretching from
the Nile to the Euphrates, today inhabited by millions
of Arab Muslims and Christians, belongs rightfully to
the Jews, and so must be ethnically 'cleansed' of
non-Jewish presence. Hence the justification they
offer for their genocidal project aimed at the Arabs.
Hence, too, their consistent backing to Israel, their
generous funding of Jewish settlements in Palestine,
and their enormous pressure on successive American
governments to adopt rigorously pro-Israel and
anti-Palestinian policies.

The author traces the origins of Christian Zionism to
the changing attitude of Christian groups towards the
Jews following the Protestant Revolution. The early
Catholic Church justified the witch-hunt of the Jews,
labeling them as alleged Christ-killers. However,
numerous Protestant sects, while equally vehemently
anti-Jewish, believed that the Jews needed to colonise
Palestine before Jesus would re-appear in the world to
save it. This was, and still is, by no means a
generous acceptance of the Jews. Rather, they
believed, as Christian Zionists today do, that only
those Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah would be
saved. The rest would ally themselves with the
Anti-Christ and would be defeted by Jesus and his
forces and, consequently, would be sent off to eternal
damnation in the fires of hell.

From the seventeenth century onwards, the author
shows, numerous European, and, later American,
Protestant churches began evolving schemes to settle
the Jews in Palestine. This was also seen as a
convenient way of getting rid of the Jewish presence
in Europe. They petitioned various European powers to
back this scheme. By the early nineteenth century,
numerous British administrators had been won round to
this idea, impelled, no doubt, also by a motive to
undermine the Ottoman Empire, which at that time
controlled Palestine, and by a deep-rooted aversion to
Islam.

Increasingly, the author shows, Christian Zionists
began to join hands with secular Jewish Zionists,
whose plans to settling Jews in Israel had nothing to
do with any messianic hopes, but, rather, arose as a
response to the centuries'-old persecution of Jews by
European Christians. (In contrast, the author rightly
notes, 'In Arab lands, Jews had flourished for
centuries […] [while] in European countries Jewry had
been subject to oppression and persecution' (p.44).

Ties between secular Jewish Zionists and Christian
Zionists to pursue the common project of Jewish
colonization of Palestine, the author writes, were
strengthened by the support given to Theodore Herzl
(b.1860), the Hungarian Jew who is regarded as the
father of modern-day Zionism. The author traces the
course of this close collaboration down to the
present-day, describing the strong political and
financial links between Christian and Israeli/Jewish
Zionists and also the enormous clout of the Zionist
lobby in American political circles.

The author clearly indicates that Christian Zionism,
based on a virulently anti-Islamic agenda, is a major
hurdle to peace not just in West Asia but globally,
too. Indeed, some Christian Zionists even ardently
wish (and work for) a final global war, in the belief
that this would accelerate their hoped-for wafting up
to heaven and the subsequent arrival of Jesus. At the
same time, and this gives some cause for hope, the
author also discusses critiques of the Zionist
imperialist project by progressive Christian and
Jewish groups and also by orthodox Jewish Rabbis, who
are opposed to Zionism on the grounds that, as the
author puts it, 'It [is] forbidden to accelerate
divine redemption through human efforts'.

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