The Christian Roots of Zionism

I don’t have much to say about the horrors unfolding this month in Palestine. I do want to say something about the historical, ideological roots of this conflict. It is well known, or should be, that modern Zionism and the State of Israel were created by Christian Zionists in English-speaking countries, mainly the United Kingdom and the United States, but also with the support of other “settler-colonial” Anglophone nations such as Canada and Australia. Anyone who wants to know about the historical roots of modern Israeli Zionism in pre-modern Christian England can read Barbara Tuchman’s book Bible and Sword.

Christian American support for Israel, whether political, financial, or military, remains absolutely critical for the State of Israel today, and the prosecution of its policies.

In 2018, the citizens of Israel, acting as a sovereign people through their representatives in the Knesset (the Israeli legislature), solemnly declared that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. Which is to say, it is a uniquely Jewish ethno-nationalist political community, defined according to an “ethno-religious” concept of what it means to be a Jew. Furthermore, this Jewish nation-state claims the unique right to national self-determination within the territory that it claims for itself, which it defines as the “historic homeland” of the Jewish people. Prior to 2018, it had been the conviction of many Israelis, mostly on the left, that Israel’s core principles are democratic and liberal, not nationalist and Jewish. It is very likely that many citizens of Israel still feel this way, and disagree with the law of 2018. But it is not for nothing that the voting citizens of Israel have repeatedly elected Mr. Netanyahu as prime minister and followed him down the dark path towards right wing racial and religious identitarianism. The growing power of the fanatical Jewish settler movement in Israeli politics, dedicated to the theft of other people’s homes and land, can no longer be ignored or excused.

It follows directly from Israel’s self-definition, and from the unwavering support it receives from the United States and other nations that mostly have their ethnic roots in historically Christian England, that the state of Israel enacts a policy of ethnic cleansing, and many other policies that are essentially racist, destructive, unjust, and inhumane.

Which is ironic, since both Americans and Christians make an elaborate show of how progressive they are, how anti-racist they are, how profoundly committed they are to the essential moral and political equality of human beings.

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