One of the bulwarks of support for hardline Israeli actions against the Palestinians has been Christian evangelicals. This has always been the strangest of alliances because neither side really likes each other and purely see them as serving their own ends.
The evangelicals think Jews are heathens who will end up in the fiery pits of hell like anyone else who does not accept Jesus as their lord and savior. But at the same time, they are obsessed with the idea that the end of the world is nigh. They thus support the atrocious expansionist policies of Israel because they think that one sign of the imminence of Jesus’s return is when Israel occupies all of that territory, and they see rising conflict in the region as of another sign of the fulfillment of the prophecy. So good times!
The Israeli right-wingers know all this but recognize it for the nonsense it is. They are not at all fearful of Jesus returning to lead the slaughter of the unsaved and so can even encourage belief in this rubbish since the resulting support of the evangelicals suits their expansionist goals and and shores up US support for the suppression of the rights of Palestinian people. They view the evangelicals as useful idiots and see no danger in humoring their Rapture fantasies.
But it turns out that the support of evangelicals may be eroding. Take for example the group Christians United for Israel (CUFI) led by John Hagee, possibly the staunchest of Israel support groups among US evangelicals. Alison Weir points to an article by David Brog, executive director of CUFI, who says that support for Israel among evangelicals, especially the young, is eroding, similar to the way that support eroded earlier among mainline Protestant organizations. What is causing the shift is that younger people tend to identify with the oppressed and perceptions of Israel have shifted from being oppressed to being the oppressor. Brog says:
This situation is changing dramatically. With every passing month, more evidence is emerging that these anti-Israel Christians are succeeding in reaching beyond the evangelical left and are influencing the mainstream. In particular, they are penetrating the evangelical world at its soft underbelly: the millennial generation. These young believers (roughly ages 18 to 30) are rebelling against what they perceive as the excessive biblical literalism and political conservatism of their parents. As they strive with a renewed vigor to imitate Jesus’ stand with the oppressed and downtrodden, they want to decide for themselves which party is being oppressed in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This disenchantment with Israel’s policies can also be found among young American-Israelis like Mairav Zonszein who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing that country’s increasing “exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism”, saying that it was forging new alignments and alienating people like her.
This has allowed the us-versus-them mentality to bleed into Israeli Jewish society. “Us” no longer refers to any Jewish citizen, and “them” to any Palestinian. Now, “us” means all those who defend the status quo of occupation and settlement expansion, including many Christian evangelicals and Republicans in America. And “them” means anyone who tries to challenge that status quo, whether a rabbi, a dissenting Israeli soldier or the president of the United States…
Israelis increasingly seem unwilling to listen to criticism, even when it comes from within their own family. Not only are they not willing to listen, they are trying to silence it before it can even be voiced. With a family like that, I would rather be considered one of “them.”
Not surprisingly, this created a backlash from people who accuse her of being a traitor.
Israeli historian Shlomo Sand has also written an op-ed where he comes out against ethnocentrism and says that Israel has become so racist that he no longer considers himself to be a Jew.
Now, having painfully become aware that I have undergone an adherence to Israel, been assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters, and have appeared in the world as one of the exclusive club of the elect and their acolytes, I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew.
I am aware of living in one of the most racist societies in the western world. Racism is present to some degree everywhere, but in Israel it exists deep within the spirit of the laws. It is taught in schools and colleges, spread in the media, and above all and most dreadful, in Israel the racists do not know what they are doing and, because of this, feel in no way obliged to apologise.
What Sand writes confirm what I have been reading in Max Blumenthat’s book Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel. I can only read that book in short doses because it is so depressing. His description of the systematic discrimination against Arabs and Muslims and the increasingly open expressions of outright racism are simply shocking.
But all these are yet further indications of how Israel’s expansionism, intransigence, and harsh treatment of Palestinians is resulting in its former most solid supporters now drifting away.