Remarks by Phil Giraldi

Phil Giraldi

National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
January 30, 2013

at the Conference
Christian Zionism and Islamophobia

In the United States many believe that there should be a strict separation between religion and government. In practice that separation has never really existed with Christianity shaping government policy in many important areas since the founding of the republic. In the nineteenth century in a number of states a nominally secular government existed side-by-side with the collection of a special tithe taxes to support the dominant Christian denomination.

I will defer to my colleagues for a more serious and focused discussion of Christian Zionism but I would like to make a few points about its political significance. Christian Zionism by definition consists of Christians (normally Protestant evangelicals) who believe that the book of revelations predicts that certain steps must be taken to bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ, at which point the believers will be raptured up into heaven. Many Christian Zionists believe that the second coming will happen soon and, because the return of the Jews to the Holy Land is a pre-condition, they support the government and people of Israel completely and unconditionally in all that they do, to include the expansion by force into all of historic Judea, which would include what remains of the Palestinian West Bank.

Another aspect of Christian Zionism is the belief that the end time, as they refer to it, will be preceded by an enormous battle pitting the forces of good against the forces of evil in which all the evildoers will be destroyed and the righteous will be triumphant. The battle is supposed to take place at Armageddon, an undisclosed location in the Middle East that some believe is derived from the name of the ancient Hittite capital, Megiddo.

That Christian Zionists believe the return of Christ is imminent and that there will be a major war in the Middle East preceding it would appear to be irrelevant to most of us, but it has in this case real world consequences because of the involvement of Christian Zionists in American domestic politics and their influence over of some aspects of US foreign policy. Evangelical Christians began to mobilize and became a potent political force in the 1980s. Many of the issues they supported were social, such as being anti-abortion and hostile to homosexual rights, but there was also from the start an identification with Israel and a sense that Israel had to be protected above and beyond the normal American foreign policy interests in the Middle East region. Through the creation of organizations like Christians United for Israel (CUFI), headed by Pastor John Hagee, this focus on Israel obtained a mechanism for uniting evangelicals and providing them with the means and direction to lobby congress to continue high levels of aid for Israel and also to resist any attempts to diminish support for Israeli policies.

The focus on Israel coming from possibly as many as 30 million evangelicals concentrated in a number of southern and border states, the bible belt, has meant that few congressmen from those states feel it to be in their interests to question what Israel does. In fact, they find it in their interests to do the contrary and frequently express loud and long their love for Israel, which may or may not be genuine. This provides a free pass to the Israeli settlements and also to Tel Aviv's aggressive foreign policy vis-à-vis its neighbors, which has damaged other American interests in the region. It also means that any consideration of Arabs as aggrieved parties in the Middle Eastern fandango is seldom expressed, even though many of the Arabs being victimized by the policies are in fact Christian.

John Hagee has stated falsely that the Quran calls on all Muslims to kills Christians and Jews. The persistent identification of Muslims as enemies of Israel and also as supporters of terrorism by evangelicals in general and Christian Zionists in particular has led to a quite natural growth in Islamophobia in the United States. This prejudice arises from the perception that Islam is integral to the problems with the Arab world, leading to an unfortunate surge in those Americans who believe that Islam is an evil religion and that Muslims should be monitored by the authorities and even denied some basic civil rights or deported because they cannot be trusted. Because the Armageddonists believe that there will be a final confrontation with the forces of evil it has been necessary to identify the enemy and that enemy is, all too often, characterized as Muslims. Hagee has construed this conflict as ongoing resistance to satanic proxies opposing the end time and has already called on the United States and Israel together to attack Iran as part of that struggle.

Israel has been quick to recognize the advantages to be derived from a close and continuing relationship with the Christian Zionists even though Israel's leaders almost certainly find the return of Christ theology invidious as all Jews but those who convert will also die when the world ends. When groups like CUFI organize their mass pilgrimages to visit Israel they spend all their time in Israel, frequently refusing to visit major Christian holy sites in Arab areas or meet Palestinian Christians. When they gather in Jerusalem, they are often feted by Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who frequently speaks to them. Evangelical leaders to include Pat Robertson and John Hagee have also benefited more directly in other ways. The Israeli government has presented both Robertson and Hagee with Gulfstar executive jets to make their evangelizing more comfortable. It has, of course, been suggested that American aid and charitable contributions to Israel are thus recycled to support those groups that inevitably are willing to provide still more aid until the well in Washington finally runs dry.

So the bottom line for me is that the Christian Zionist involvement in American politics on behalf of the U.S. relationship with Israel does not serve any conceivable national interests unless one assumes that Israel and the United States are essentially the same, which is unsustainable. On the contrary, the Christian Zionist politicizing has been a major element in supporting the generally obtuse U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East region and elsewhere in the Muslim world. It serves a particularly narrowly construed parochial interest that, ironically, is intended to bring about the end of the world, possibly a victory for gentlemen like Pastor John Hagee if his interpretation of the bible is correct, but quite likely a disaster for the rest of us.

Zvents Christian Zionism