Category Archives: Zionism

The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Jonathan Schneer

8253107A Summary by Colin Chapman

The late Tony Judt described this book as ‘the best modern history of the Balfour Declaration,’ and Eugene Rogan of Oxford sees it as ‘the most original exposition of the Balfour Declaration to date.’ It deserves a wide circulation as we live through the centenary of the Balfour Declaration on 2 November, 2017. The author, Jonathan Schneer, is an American historian who specialises in modern British history and teaches at Georgia Tech’s School of History, Technology, and Society.

This is an attempt simply to summarise the contents of the book with a number of quotations. If it were a review, my only criticism of the book would be that, in concentrating so much on the politics behind the Declaration, there is no discussion of the religious beliefs of key players like Lord Balfour and David Lloyd George which made them so open to supporting Zionism.

The Balfour Declaration (BD) needs to be understood in the context of World War I

 By the time the BD was issued on 2 November 1917, Britain and Germany had been at war for over three years. Millions had been slaughtered in the trenches and neither side seemed to be winning. The Battle of the Somme had been fought between 1 July and 1 November, 1916, and Passchendale between July and November, 1917. The British government was seeking for ways to turn the tide in the war. Some in the cabinet believed that all their energies should be concentrated on the western front on the continent (‘the westerners’), while others believed that new initiatives in the Middle East could break the deadlock and give Britain the advantage (‘the easterners’). After the fall of the Asquith government in December 1916, Lloyd George, an easterner, became Prime Minister.

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A Line in the Sand: A Summary by Colin Chapman

a-line-in-the-sand-9781849839037_hrThis book seeks to explain how many of the problems of the Middle East in the last century can be traced back to the colonial ambitions of Britain and France and in particular to the ‘venomous rivalry’ between them in their struggle for mastery of the region. It was this rivalry which lay behind the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Balfour Declaration, the creation by Britain of the kingdoms in Iraq and Transjordan, Britain’s support for the independence of Syria and Lebanon, and French support for the Jewish underground which was working against the British in Palestine in 1948.

What follows is a summary of the main themes of the book, combined with quotations from key passages.

The Sykes-Picot agreement (May 1916) was an attempt by Britain and France to deal with their rival ambitions in the Middle East and to define spheres of influence in the region after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The ‘line in the sand’, which was literally drawn on the map by Mark Sykes (for Britain) and Francois Georges-Picot (for France), ran (in Sykes’ words) ‘from the “e” in Acre to the last “k” in Kirkuk’. Lebanon, Syria and northern Iraq (including Mosul) were allocated to France, while Transjordan and southern Iraq were allocated to Britain. Because Britain and France both wanted control of Palestine, it was finally agreed that it should come under international control.

‘The compromise, which neither power liked, was that the Holy Land should have an international administration.’  (2)

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Will the Jewish Temple be Rebuilt?

“Mounting tension: Israel’s Knesset debates proposal to enforce its sovereignty at Al-Aqsa Mosque – a move seen as ‘an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide’” was the ominous headline in the Independent newspaper, 27th February 2014.

Ben Lynfield writes, “The Arab-Israeli conflict took on an increasingly religious hue when the Jordanian parliament voted unanimously to expel Israel’s ambassador in Amman after Israeli legislators held an unprecedented debate on Tuesday evening over a proposal to enforce Israeli sovereignty at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites, currently administered by Jordan, and to allow Jewish prayer there. 500 metres by 300 metres, the Temple Mount, or Haram Al Sharif as it is called in Arabic, is probably the most disputed plot of land on earth. Hal Lindsey claims, ‘I believe the fate of the world will be determined by an ancient feud over 35 acres of land.’[1]

Many Christians share the belief that the Islamic shrines must be destroyed and that a Jewish Temple must and will be rebuilt – very soon. But this won’t be a museum replica of the one king Solomon built or be just another attraction for pilgrims to the Holy Land. No, this Temple will be built for one purpose and one purpose only – for bloody animal sacrifices, and lots of them.

What is the case for rebuilding the Jewish Temple? Does the Bible predict such an event? If so, where and how it might be built? What does the New Testament  say on the subject? What are the implications for Christians should the Jewish Temple be rebuilt?  Continue reading

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Faith Groups Under Attack: Hilary Wise

The Israeli government and a variety of Zionist organisations have long been pouring huge resources into “hasbara,” meaning “advocacy” or “propaganda” in Hebrew. This involves both promoting a positive image of Israel and hounding and intimidating those they say are guilty of the “new anti-Semitism,” which amounts in practice to any criticism of Israeli policies and actions.

The bodies involved in this hasbara campaign range from the immensely powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to internet-based organisations such as Honest Reporting, BBC Watch and the Jewish Internet Defence Force, and poisonous personal blogs.

Christian churches, having by definition a special interest in the Holy Land and what is happening there, are increasingly coming under fire from such sources for noting and deploring Israel’s policies of oppression and dispossession, which affect Christians and Muslims alike.

Methodists in the US and the UK have for years been outspoken in their concern over the plight of the Palestinian people. The report Justice for Palestine and Israel, presented to the 2010 Methodist conference, was harshly criticised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Chief Rabbi and the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ).

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Conciliation with Board of Deputies of British Jews

I am very happy to announce that following meetings with conciliators appointed by the Bishop of Guildford, the complaint brought against me by the Board of Deputies of British Jews has been resolved on terms set out in the Conciliation Agreement.

Whilst pleased that this matter is now concluded, I am saddened that it has taken so long to reach this stage. Towards the end of 2011, concerns were raised about an article on my Facebook page which linked to a website named “the Ugly Truth.” In recognition of those concerns, I offered to meet leaders of the Jewish community but this offer was never taken up. Instead, in October 2012, Mr Arkush on behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, made a formal complaint against me alleging “a clear and consistent pattern” of misconduct “unbecoming or inappropriate to the office a work of a clerk in Holy Orders”.

The Board of Deputies also took the unprecedented step of publishing it in full on their website. I refrained from publishing my formal Response until the complaint was resolved. I am therefore doing so today.

The complaint alleged that I had made anti-Semitic statements and had deliberately introduced my readers to anti-Semitic websites. I have always maintained that these allegations were untrue and am confident that I would have been vindicated had I been forced to contest them at a clergy disciplinary tribunal. That said, I am pleased that these issues have sensibly been resolved.

As many will be aware, I have long been an enthusiastic user of new media. The internet allows us to communicate with a mass audience at the press of a button, but with it comes the risk that we might publish our thoughts without adequately reflecting on our choice of words or how they might be interpreted. I will do all I can to guard against this risk in the future. Whilst the web is a rich source of reference, it also contains a great deal of material with which one would not wish to be associated. It is important that those using new media to conduct political debate ensure that they do not inadvertently associate them with such material.  It is for this reason that I have undertaken to take greater care over links in the future. In addition, my blog now contains a disclaimer identical to that which appears on the Board of Deputies’ Fair Play website.

It is my sincere wish that disputes such as this will be avoided in the future. The conciliation agreement includes a number of principles that we agree those engaged in political debate should follow. They emphasize that free speech does not cease to be legitimate simply because it might cause offence to some, whilst at the same time affirming that care and sensitivity should be employed in the use of language. As someone who has been virulently attacked in the past for my political and theological views, I will do my best to abide by these principles, but my hope is that my critics will do so too.

I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist within internationally agreed borders. I have always opposed racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial as well as Islamophobia and the denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination and will continue to do so.

Jesus calls his followers to be peacemakers and to fulfil a ministry of reconciliation. The New Testament reinforces the mandate of the Jewish prophet Micah, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

Revd Dr Stephen Sizer
Christ Church, Virginia Water

23rd October 2013

Form 2 Stephen Sizer
Response to the Complaint of Misconduct from Stephen Sizer
Letters of Support
Conciliation Agreement

Jeremy Moodey of Embrace the Middle East writes “Stephen … has an outstanding legal bill of almost £4,000 as he has sought to respond to the BoD’s bullying. The defence fund is in my name, audited by Steve Leah. Please give what you can to support the right of free speech.”

Sort Code: 08-93-00, account no 80407856.

For international money transfers, the additional details are:

Co-op Bank SWIFT number CP BK GB 22.
Bank’s head office address: The Co-operative Bank PLC, 1 Balloon Street, Manchester, M60 4EP.

 

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Clare Short on Anti-Semitism

Dear Bishop Christopher,

I have read with great sadness the complaint which came to you through the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Stephen’s response.  I am afraid there is a pattern across many sectors of society of mobilising such complaints against people who criticise Israeli policy.  I believe this to be a very misguided policy, the history of anti semitism, particularly in Europe, has caused enormous evil, persecution and suffering, but to accuse anyone who is critical of Israeli policy, anti Semitic belittles the profound significance of anti semitism.  It is also being misused so widely that the accusation no longer has the power, a well informed accusation of anti semitism should have.

I have met Stephen at a variety of meetings and conferences and have read his most important work on Christian Zionism.  I hope that you have read it.  This movement is very powerful in the US and is I think gaining ground in the UK.  It is a complete distortion of the teachings of Christianity and is used to justify persecution, oppression and grave breaches of international law inflicted on the Palestinian people, including the Palestinian Christians who have been practising their religion in the Holy Land since Jesus moved amongst the places in which they live.  Stephen’s work in seeking peace and justice for all the people of the Holy Land follows Jesus’s teachings on the blessedness of peacemakers.

Stephen is not in the least way anti Semitic.  This is a disgraceful and completely false allegation and those who have made it should be held to account for their wickedness.  I hope you don’t mind me saying that you have made a serious mistake in letting this complaint run on for so long and thus letting the impression be given that there is any substance whatever to this complaint.  It has also wasted a lot of time and effort that should have been devoted to more important work.  I would like to suggest that you consider looking at whether a case has been made and then dismissing this nonsense.

Part of the evil that is being  done through this complaint, and similar complaints against others, is to frighten people from speaking out against the terrible injustices being inflicted on the Palestinian people. These complaints help to generate fear that similar hurtful and damaging allegations will be made against anyone who seeks to expose the grave breaches of international law being justified by Christian Zionists and those Israelis who favour Israel expanding its control over the whole of historical Palestine and therefore oppressing the whole Palestinian people causing terrible injustice and suffering.  In addition, these policies have helped to destabilise the wider Middle East and I am afraid in the long term will endanger Israel itself, as many wise Israelis have argued.

I hope you will be able to use the best of your wisdom  and live up to the best of Christian values in handling this complaint from now on.  I would be happy to arrange to meet with you to discuss the whole situation if you would find this helpful.

Best Wishes
Clare Short

 

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Christian Zionism: The New Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace

At least one in four American Christians surveyed recently by Christianity Today magazine said that they believe it is their biblical responsibility to support the nation of Israel. This view is known as Christian Zionism. The Pew Research Center put the figure at 63 per cent among white evangelicals. Christian Zionism is pervasive within mainline American evangelical, charismatic and independent denominations including the Assemblies of God, Pentecostals and Southern Baptists, as well as many of the independent mega-churches. It is less prevalent within the historic denominations, which show a greater respect for the work of the United Nations, support for human rights, the rule of international law and empathy with the Palestinians.

The origins of the movement can be traced to the early 19th century when a group of eccentric British Christian leaders began to lobby for Jewish restoration to Palestine as a necessary precondition for the return of Christ. The movement gained traction from the middle of the 19th century when Palestine became strategic to British, French and German colonial interests in the Middle East. Proto-Christian Zionism therefore preceded Jewish Zionism by more than 50 years. Some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates were Christian clergy.

Christian Zionism as a modern theological and political movement embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism. It has become deeply detrimental to a just peace between Palestine and Israel. It propagates a worldview in which the Christian message is reduced to an ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.

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Jewish Rabbis, Professors, Academics, Clergy and Activists Challenge CCJ Statement

16 March 2012

From: Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok PhD, DD
Emeritus Professor of Judaism
University of Wales

Dear Christopher

I am writing to you about Dr. Stephen Sizer whom I have known for several years. I am very concerned about recent accusations made in the press that he is antisemitic.

Perhaps I should say something initially about my knowledge of antisemitism as well my involvement in a recent court case dealing with Jew-hatred as an expert witness for the Counter Terrorism Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service. I have written three books dealing with the topic of antisemitism: The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Antisemitism (Harper Collins, 1992 ), Antisemitism: A History (Sutton, 2004), and The Paradox of Antisemitism (Continuum, 2006). The aim of the first two books was to trace the historical development of Jew-hatred through the ages, and to illustrate its evil nature. The third book was designed to demonstrate the paradoxical nature of antisemitism: although Judaeophobia is one of humanity’s greatest crimes and must be eradicated wherever possible, the Jewish people have paradoxically survived due to persecution and suffering. Our agonies have drawn us together and enabled us to endure: this may be the meaning of the concept of God’s suffering servant.

On the basis of these and other publications, I was hired by the Counter Terrorism Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service to be an expert witness in an important trial of two individuals who had disseminated antisemitic material on the internet. The trial took place in Leeds in 2009 and was dealt with by two separate juries. Eventually the two defendants, Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle, were found guilty of inciting racial hatred against Jews (and others) and were sent to prison. This was an important legal case because one of the central issues that was discussed at the trial was whether the Jewish community should be considered strictly a religious body or an ethnic group. This was critical because if the Jewish community is solely a religious group then the defendants could not be tried under the Race Relations Act. During the trial I attempted to demonstrate that the Jews are in fact both a religious and ethnic community–the jury eventually agreed, and this set a precedent for any further cases of antisemitic attack. During the trial the police informed me that the Attorney General was particularly interested in the case because of its legal significance.

I mention all this because I have had substantial experience with prosecution of individuals who encourage racial hatred. Given this background, I have been disturbed to read about the allegations made against Stephen Sizer. These are, I believe, completely without foundation: there is simply no evidence that he is an antisemite. It is true that many of his writings are highly critical of Israeli policy; in this respect they echo the views of a number of important Jewish historical revisionists including Professor Avi Shlaim of Oxford University and Illan Pappe of Exeter University who in a variety of publications have castigated Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. It would be a mistake to consider their views antisemitic, as it would to construe Stephen Sizer’s political criticisms as evidence of antipathy against Jews.

What is true, however, is that Stephen Sizer is an international expert on the origins and growth of Christian Zionism. Some time ago I read his seminal study of Christian Zionism: Christian Zionism: Road-Map to Armageddon (IVP, 2004) which I subsequently quoted in my own study of Christian Zionism: The Politics of Apocalypse: The History and Influence of Christian Zionism (Oneworld, 2006). Several years later he published another significant study: Zion’s Christian Soldiers (IVP, 2007) which was highly praised by such scholars as Professor Ronald E. Clements, the Right Rev Kenneth Cragg, and Professor Gary M. Burge. This is what I myself wrote about the book:

Stephen Sizer deftly expresses the many exegetical missteps of contemporary Christian Zionists. He advocates a more just and Christ-centred alternative to the politically and ethically problematic views espoused by many contemporary end-time popularizers.

In these two books, Stephen Sizer is highly critical of Christian Zionism, yet it would be a profound mistake to interpret his views as constituting an attack on Jewry.

This week I have been in contact with Stephen Sizer regarding the issue of the website that has been referred to in the press. I asked him how it happened that this offensive website (which relates to Israel’s action) on his Facebook was not removed straightaway. He has sent me all the relevant information including the offending website material. What he tells me is as follows: He assumed Nick Howard was based in the United States and did not in fact read Nick Howard’s complaint. This was a mistake and he regrets ignoring it, but due to his active involvement in Middle East affairs, he gets criticism on a daily and weekly basis. However, once he realized the seriousness of the error of linking his Facebook entry with the offending website, he did remove it and wrote to Marcus Dysch at the Jewish Chronicle on 4 January. He states that he had thought he had done so before. In his letter to Marcus Dysch (which he put on his blog), he states that he has over the years made his position clear on antisemitism and holocaust denial. Citing material from his own website, he writes:

I have for example:

*lamented the suffering of Christians under Islamic rule
*criticized the Iranian government’s human rights record
*criticized Hamas
*repudiated suicide bombers and terrorism
*repudiated holocaust deniers
*repudiated antisemitism
*repudiated racism and the British National Party
*distinguished anti-Zionism from antisemitism
*advocated a diplomatic solution to resolving tensions with Iran
*advocated for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by peaceful means based on the implementation of international law

He then went on to quote from his book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers:

“It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited antisemitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples with oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as antisemitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate antisemitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognized by the international community. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world while denying the same rights to Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.”

I am sure Stephen Sizer is giving an honest account of his mistake in failing to read Nick Howard’s email and not removing the offending website more speedily. I hope the Church will forgive him for his mistake (Perhaps I should mention in this regard that I am in the process of publishing a book about the Middle East crisis: it is due out next week. Alongside this book, I have also written a Companion Website (which will be available online) including about 70 websites related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In the light of Stephen Sizer’s experience, I realize I must carefully scrutinize each website to make sure there is no offending material, and I have told the publishers that they must delay putting the Companion Website online until I have done so.)

No doubt Stephen Sizer’s detractors are acting in good faith, and I agree with them that antisemitism must be confronted. But they are regrettably misguided in their allegations about Stephen Sizer. He is in no sense antisemitic, and instead is fully in sympathy with those who seek to eradicate all forms of Jew-hatred in the modern world. Let me turn finally to the trial I mentioned in Leeds. Following the conviction of the two defendants, Bassetlaw MP John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism commented:

The conviction of Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle is proof that if you write, disseminate and publish antisemitic racist propaganda in the UK, or on the internet from here in the UK, the police will come after you and the courts will convict. This case sets an excellent precedent– antisemitic hate is not welcome here in the UK.

Having worked with the Counter Terrorist Agency of the Crown Prosecution Service, I am fully in agreement with such sentiments. We in the Jewish community must be vigilant to insure that our community does not suffer from attack. But it would be a travesty of justice to construe Stephen Sizer’s mistake in linking an offensive website to his Facebook and not removing it immediately as a deliberate attempt to encourage racial hatred.

Yours ever,

Dan

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok

Permission to publish this letter was obtained from the author and recipient.

See also letters from:

Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
Anne Clayton, Coordinator, Friends of Sabeel UK
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, University of Wales
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Venerable Michael Lawson, Rector of St Saviour’s, Guildford
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Biblelands
Diana Neslen, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain

Church Times: Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times: Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Church Times: Dr Sizer is Cleared
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite’
Jewish Chronicle: Sizer: I am ready to meet the Board of Deputies any time

 

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Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism

Evangelicals and Israel: Stephen Spector
Oxford University Press (2009) 338 pages.
Reviewed for American Studies Today, Issue 19, September 2010

After decades of reluctance to address this deeply controversial issue, in recent years there has been a veritable avalanche of books critical of the Christian Zionist movement. Authors include Grace Halsell, Don Wagner, Timothy Weber, Victoria Clark, Dan Cohen-Sherbok, Naim Ateek, Gary Burge, as well as two books of my own. It is perhaps therefore not surprising to find a growing reaction among Jewish Zionists who have begun to come to the defence of their Christian allies.

Stephen Spector’s work is representative of this genre of Jewish apologists, which includes Paul Merkley, David Brog, Shalom Goldman and Gerhard Falk.  Their agenda appears to be to justify a strand within Christian Zionism that is neither popular nor representative of evangelicalism as a whole, but which nevertheless plays a strategic role within the Israel Lobby.

The book purports to be the story of American evangelical Christian Zionism. It is a good read, as one should expect for a Professor of English. It would be more accurate, however, to describe it as the story of political Christian Zionism as represented by organisations such as Eagles Wings, Bridges for Peace, Christian Friends of Israel, Christians United for Israel and the International Christian Embassy. These self appointed para-church organisations have publically disavowed both proselytism among Jews as well as apocalypticism, based on a reductionist interpretation of the Bible. They are primarily lobby organisations, advocating on behalf of a Zionism among churches and in Washington among politicians.

While critical of both evangelistic Christian Zionism (such as Jews for Jesus) as well as apocalyptic or dispensational Christian Zionism (such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye), Spector reserves his strongest criticisms for evangelicals who oppose Zionism on theological grounds.

So, although Spector interviewed over 70 Evangelical and Jewish Zionists in the course of his research, he relies on anecdotes and paraphrases to portray the views of those he deems ‘liberal’ or ‘modernist’ who regard biblical Zionism as an oxymoron. The chapter addressing criticisms of Christian Zionism is therefore one of the weakest and least convincing.

It is simply untrue to say that evangelicals who oppose Zionism “are closer to liberal mainline Protestants than to most conservative born-again Christians,” Academics at the bastions of evangelicalism in the USA, such as Fuller and Wheaton, repudiate Christian Zionism just as much as their counterparts in Europe. John Stott, the ‘father’ of evangelicalism, is not alone in describing ‘Christian Zionism’ as ‘biblical anathema’.

If evangelicalism is defined by the centrality of the gospel, the necessity of a personal faith in Jesus Christ, in the authority of the Scriptures and in the verbal proclamation of the gospel to all nations, it is actually Christian Zionists who, having reinterpreted the gospel and disavow proslytism, are closer in spirit to mainstream liberalism rather than conservative evangelicalism.

It is therefore not surprising that it is in assessment of the biblical and theological presuppositions of Christian Zionism that the book is probably at its weakest. While strong on dialogue with Jewish and Christian Zionists, there is little evidence that Spector understands the theological presuppositions and tenuous biblical basis for the various strands of Christian Zionism. He is reassured that none of those he interviewed tried to convert him and that evangelical Zionists can share the gospel in acts of kindness toward the Jews rather than through proselytism. This is not evidence of the orthodoxy of Christian Zionists, just the opposite.

While Old Testament Bible verses are occasionally quoted without context to demonstrate that Zionism is biblically rooted, it is the evangelical critics of Christian Zionism, according to Spector, who ‘unfairly’ quote ‘the biblical prophets to attack the modern state of Israel’.

The fundamental question Christian Zionists avoid is whether the coming of Jesus Christ was the fulfilment or the postponement of the promises God made to Abraham? Which is central to the New Testament – Jesus or Israel? Ironically, Christian Zionists are portrayed as the new Zealots. Like their 1st Century forebears, they are trying to impose a Jewish kingdom by force, something Jesus repudiated. Spector cites, for example and without comment, Jack Hayford as promising, “if the Israelis need soldiers, he and his Pentecostal congregants will fight side by side with them.” Portraying the modern state of Israel as God’s chosen people on earth, the role of the Church is therefore reduce to providing dubious justification for Israel’s colonization of Palestine.

While ostensibly a book about evangelicals, it soon becomes rather tiresome when, in any debate or disagreement posed, it is always Zionists who are given the last word. So, for example, in a dismissal of Walt and Mearsheimer’s definitive work on the Israel Lobby, Spector defers to Alan Dershowitz suggesting the author’s claims  “are variations on old anti-Semitic themes of the kind found in the notorious czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and in Nazi literature.”

Conversely, Spector gives ample space to some of the worst examples of Islamaphobia. There is a deep paranoia regarding the motives of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. He refuses to see that Israel could be, in any way responsible, partly or otherwise, for the perpetuation of the Middle East conflict. They are always, in his words, “the victims of injustice, not the perpetrators.”

Disappointingly, for a book with 82 pages of notes and indexes, there is no conclusion or summary chapter. It is as if the publisher has left it out by mistake or needed to reduce the word count. Whatever the reason, the book is weaker for it.

Instead, the last chapter is given to an assessment of the influences on George W Bush’s Middle East policy. Here Spector tries to downplay the impact of the Israel Lobby. Without really explaining why, he would have us believe there is “broad and deep support” for Israel in America because “that position is politically sound and morally just, not because of political pressure or influence” from evangelicals. Ironically, he gives the last sentence in the book to Hal Lindsey.

If first impressions count, the eulogy on the back cover from Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, must surely be the kiss of death to any work claiming to be balanced or objective. One surprised Cambridge academic did ask me rhetorically, who on earth could have possibly vetted the book for Oxford University Press? One wonders. But then it is worth remembering that it was the Oxford University Press who published (and still publishes) the first Christian defence of Zionism, namely the Scofield Reference Bible.

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Robert Murray McCheyne’s Church Hosts Seminar on Christian Zionism

Porter Speakman Jr and I gave presentations today at a seminar on Christian Zionism hosted by Solas: The Centre for Public Christianity based at St Peter’s Free Church of Scotland in Dundee.

One of my spiritual heroes, Robert Murray McCheyne was the pastor of St Peter’s between 1831-1843. One of his particular passions was ministry to Jewish people. In 1839 along with Andrew Bonar, Alexander Black and Alexander Keith, McCheyne made a six month visit to Palestine to examine the condition of the Jewish people in Europe and Palestine. His only published book was a result of that tour – a joint effort with Andrew Bonar – The Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews.

It was doubly significant therefore that Porter Speakman Jr, the producer of the film With God on our Side, showed a preview and spoke about his ministry in Israel/Palestine, and I gave a short paper on the Bible, Israel and the Church.

We had a fruitful and constructive two hour bible-based discussion with about 25 evangelical church leaders from the Presbyterian, Church of Scotland, Baptist and Free Church of Scotland. While many identified with a Christian Zionist perspective, we were nevertheless unanimous in our desire that Jews and Palestinians hear the good news of Jesus Christ and come to live together in peace and reconciliation.

The seminar was also recorded by Thistle Channel TV for a programme on Christian Zionism. Local Christian leaders also hosted the film With God on our Side at the Hilton International Hotel in Dundee last night.

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