Abstract: Far from being a self-sustaining organism, Zionism finds strength from across the monotheistic divide in a fertile and powerful network of Christian organisations, mainly in the United States. Christian Zionists are among the most fervent supporters of Zionism because they see the state of Israel as part of a divinely ordained scheme that culminates in the second coming of Christ. They number in the tens of millions and have sought to influence generations of American politicians. However, their outlook rests on a fundamentalist misinterpretation of religious scripture that runs counter to the real message of Christianity.
Why is there such a close umbilical relationship today between America and Israel ? Why is it so hard to find a member of the US congress willing to criticise Israel in public? Why, despite the fact that Israel is the subject of more UN Security Council resolutions than any other country in the world, has the United States vetoed virtually every one of them? Why after nearly 40 years, does Israel continue to occupy the Palestinian Territories and Syrian Golan Heights while Syria has been pressured to withdraw from Lebanon ? Why is Israel allowed to retain biological, chemical and nuclear weapons while Iran is threatened with pre-emptive strikes for seeking to acquire nuclear technology? Why did the Oslo and Wye Peace Accords fail to bring peace? Why, despite gaining the agreement of Russia , the European Community, the United States and United Nations has there been no political will to implement the Road-Map and create a viable independent, contiguous Palestinian State ? Why, despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice, is Israel able to continue to erect its Separation Barrier with impunity, and build ghettos for the Palestinians? Why is Britain and America so hated by much of the Arab world and the target for Islamist violence? The answers to these questions remain largely inexplicable without factoring in the influence of what is now probably the most influential and controversial movement within Christendom today – Christian Zionism.
Christian Zionism Defined
At its simplest, Christian Zionism may be defined as Christian support for Zionism, that is, a political system that justifies a form of colonial apartheid on Biblical grounds, elevating the rights of Jews above those of Palestinians and claiming exclusive rights to an, as yet, undefined region within the Middle East. In this sense, Christian Zionists are essentially apologists for the State of Israel.
Grace Halsell, for example, asks: ‘What is the message of the Christian Zionist? Simply stated it is this: every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God, and should be condoned, supported, and even praised by the rest of us.’ Dale Crowley, a Washington based religious broadcaster, describes them as the ‘fastest growing cult in America ‘:
‘It’s not composed of “crazies” so much as mainstream, middle to upper-middle class Americans. They give millions of dollars each week – to the TV evangelists who expound the fundamentals of the cult. They read Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. They have one goal: to facilitate God’s hand to waft them up to heaven free from all the trouble, from where they will watch Armageddon and the destruction of planet earth.’ 
The Significance of the Christian Zionist Movement
As a movement, Christian Zionism is very diverse. At least three distinct strands may be identified – evangelistic, apocalyptic and political. 
Christian Zionism is pervasive within mainline evangelical, charismatic and independent denominations including the Assemblies of God, Pentecostal and Southern Baptists as well as many of the independent mega-churches. Crowley claims that they are led by 80,000 fundamentalist pastors, their views disseminated by 1,000 Christian radio stations, as well as 100 Christian TV stations. 
Estimates as to the size of the movement as a whole range from 25 million to 100 million supporters. In March 2002, in a major survey of Christian opinion, the Pew Research Centre found that 44% of US Protestants and 72% of White Evangelicals identified with the Christian Zionist movement. 
The Unity Coalition for Israel is probably the most significant Christian Zionist network bringing together 200 different Jewish and Christian Zionist organisations including the International Christian Embassy , Christian Friends of Israel and Bridges for Peace . They claim to have a support base of 40 million active members.  These organisations, in varying degrees, and for a variety of reasons, some contradictory, make up a broad coalition that is shaping the Christian Zionist agenda today.
While the roots of Christian Zionism as a movement can be traced to the early 19 th Century and what became known as Dispensationalism – the idea that God has two chosen people – the Church and Israel – the movement came to prominence only since 1967, when the outcome of the Arab-Israeli war was seen as the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy.
Without the sustained financial and political support of Christian Zionists in America that have ensured the provision of significant US government funding, it is doubtful whether the State of Israel would have remained in existence since 1948, let alone continued to occupy and colonise the Palestinian Territories since 1967.
The Political Agenda of Christian Zionism
Christian Zionists have shown varying degrees of enthusiasm for implementing six basic convictions that arise from their literal reading of the Bible:
1. The Chosen People: Supporting Israeli Colonialism
The conviction that the Jewish people remain God’s ‘chosen people’ in some way separate from the Church, is deeply rooted in Christian Zionism. This is expressed in a variety of ways. In October 2000, for example, just days after Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Haram Al-Sharif, an advertisement appeared in the New York Times entitled ‘ Open Letter to Evangelical Christians from Jews for Jesus .’ In it they called upon evangelicals to show solidarity with the State of Israel at this critical time:
‘Now is the time to stand with Israel . Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our hearts are heavy as we watch the images of violence and bloodshed in the Middle East … Christian friends, “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). So must our support for the survival of Israel in this dark hour be irrevocable. Now is the time for Christians to stand by Israel . ‘ 
Until the 1980s, US Middle East policy was largely peripheral to the wider global threat posed by Soviet influence. The protection of Western Europe through NATO was a higher priority. The collapse of Communism, however, created a power vacuum in the Middle East, which the US has filled. Following the Gulf War to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait and more recently, the Taleban from Afghanistan , and Saddam Hussein from Iraq , the US has significantly increased its influence in the Middle East . At the same time there has been an increase in the impact of the pro-Israeli lobby. As a consequence, the Middle East, and Israel in particular, has become central to US foreign policy, not least because of the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington .
In 1980, the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem , was founded with the purpose of coordinating direct political lobbying activities in cooperation with the Israeli government . One of its primary goals is to see the removal of Palestinian delegations in Western countries and the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem .
At the February 1991 National Prayer Breakfast, Ed McAteer, President of the Religious Roundtable, launched the Christian Israel Public Affairs Committee (CIPAC), modelled on the powerful American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has lobbied on behalf of the Israeli Right.  The goals of CIPAC are identical to AIPAC. One of the first objectives of CIPAC was to lobby the Congress to make $10 billion available in US loan guarantees to fund the resettlement of Jews from the former Soviet Union in Israel and the West Bank .
The Bush administration linked the loan guarantees to the halting of Jewish settlements on the West Bank . Jan Willem van der Hoeven of the ICEJ told the Jerusalem Post , the ‘ Christian community finds the Bush administration’s policy on loan guarantees totally unacceptable .’ He claimed that 80% of America ‘s evangelical Christians supported the loan guarantees.  Perhaps this is why later, George Bush Senior complained that,
‘there are 1,000 lobbyists up on the Hill today lobbying Congress for loan guarantees for Israel and I’m one lonely little guy down here asking Congress to delay its consideration of loan guarantees for 120 days.’ 
Christian Zionists have also been generous in providing financial backing to Israel . Zeev Chafets, writing in the New York Times in 2005, observes somewhat satirically how evangelical Christians have funded the work of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein in Israel :
‘In the last eight years alone, an estimated 400,000 born-again donors have sent Eckstein about a quarter of a billion dollars for Jewish causes of his personal choosing. No Jew since Jesus has commanded this kind of gentile following.’ 
Christian Zionists have also been influential in forging a closer relationship with Israel by facilitating solidarity pilgrimages and educational tours to the Holy Land .
2. Restorationism: Facilitating Aliyah from the Former Soviet Union
With the fall of Communism in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) and Eastern Europe, s ince 1980, a coalition of Christian Zionist agencies has taken the initiative in encouraging Jewish people to immigrate to Israel , seeing this as the fulfillment of prophecy.
Exobus was probably the first Christian Zionist agency to turn the doctrine of Restorationism into a reality and assist Jews in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) to make aliyah. Founded in 1984 by Phil Hunter, director of the Good News Travels Bus Company, based in Hull , England , Exobus was formed for the purpose of facilitating the transportation of Jews from the FSU to Israel . The first Exobus team was sent to the Ukraine in 1991 and since then the organisation claims to have assisted 80,000 Jewish people to immigrate to Israel in close cooperation with the Jewish Agency. Exobus is now probably the largest Christian agency facilitating aliyah, comprising 80 team members, drawn from 13 countries and operating 40 vehicles. Exobus transports approximately 1,200 Jews overland from 16 different bases in the FSU each month.  The main financial support for Exobus comes from a sister agency, Christians for Israel International, who promote Exobus in the US .
Since 1991, the ICEJ has also paid for the transportation of 40,000 immigrants, 15,000 of whom were taken to Israel on 51 ICEJ sponsored flights. ICEJ Russian team members are especially active in the more remote regions of the FSU. Like Exobus, the ICEJ and Bridges for Peace describe their ministry in terms of ‘fishing’ for Jews, based on Jeremiah 16:16. They locate Jews, persuade them to emigrate, help them obtain documents to prove their Jewish origins, distribute humanitarian packages and pay for exit permits, passports, debt repayment, transport and accommodation while their applications are processed by the Jewish Agency in the larger Russian cities. Once in Israel , ICEJ as well as BFP assist émigrés with their resettlement costs, providing food, clothing, blankets, kitchen and school supplies as well as medical equipment.
3. Eretz Israel: Sustaining the West Bank Settlements
For religious Zionism, Jewish and Christian, the legitimate borders of Israel are considerably larger than those presently disputed with Syria , Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. This conviction that the entire West Bank is integral to Israel has led many Christian Zionists to ‘adopt’ exclusive Jewish settlements to strengthen their claim to the land.
The Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC), founded by Ted Beckett in 1995, works in partnership with Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) and defines a settlement as:
‘A piece of land where brave, Jewish pioneers have taken up residence. In most cases it is a barren rocky hilltop set up to establish a Jewish community where none had existed for thousands of years. In some case, such as Shiloh , settlements are established on the original site of an ancient Jewish city.’ 
So far, CFOIC’s ‘progress meter’ shows that 39 illegal Israeli settlements have been adopted by 50 denominational as well as independent churches in the USA , South Africa , Germany , Holland and the Philippines .
Besides facilitating the immigration of Jews to Israel , several Christian Zionist agencies are active in funding illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank . ICEJ’s ‘Bulletproof Bus for Efrat’ appeal, for example, is also raising $150,000 to purchase an armour plated bus to transport settlers in and out of the West Bank from Efrat settlement.  Bridges for Peace (BFP) has a similar scheme called ‘Operation Ezra’ which funds over 50 otherwise unsustainable projects such as the settlement farm, Sde Bar, near Beit Jala and the Herodian. 
Anglicans for Israel represents the new face of Zionist Christianity within Britain .  Their website contains numerous articles denying the occupation of Palestine , justifying the Separation Barrier and settlements.
‘ As long as Palestinians cling to the false notion of being “occupied” with Israel in the role of the “oppressor,” they will not assume responsibility for themselves.’ 
‘Having visited Israel recently, I have seen the security fence on many occasions and along much of its length. Except in a very few places – and then only to protect motorists from snipers – it is not a wall.’ 
The effect of the pro-Israeli lobby on American foreign policy concerning the settlements appears to be working. During the Carter administration, the settlements were regarded as ‘illegal’; under Reagan they became an ‘obstacle’ to peace; under Clinton they became a ‘complicating factor’; while under George W. Bush, they became part of Israel .
4. Jerusalem: Lobbying for International Recognition
At the core of Christian Zionist support for Israel ‘s claim to the Occupied Territories lies the conviction that Jerusalem is, and must remain, the exclusive and undivided Jewish capital. Attempts to reach agreement in the wider Arab-Israeli conflict have so far stalled or stumbled over the final status of Jerusalem . Christian Zionists are strongly opposed to any proposal for joint sovereignty or the creation of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem .
Senator Bob Dole later introduced legislation in the American Senate which required the US Embassy to be rebuilt in Jerusalem by 31 May 1999, and authorised $100 million for ‘preliminary’ spending.  In October 1995 he stated, ‘ Israel ‘s capital is not on the table in the peace process, and moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem does nothing to prejudice the outcome of any future negotiations .’  Lamenting the failure of the US President to ratify the Senate decision, Dole commented:
‘ Jerusalem is today as it has been for three millennia the heart and soul of the Jewish people. It is also, and should remain forever, the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel … The time has come … to move beyond letters, expressions of support, and sense of the Congress resolutions. The time has come to enact legislation that will get the job done. ‘ 
In 1992, the ICEJ sponsored various receptions marking the 25 th anniversary of what they referred to as the ‘ Reunification of Jerusalem .’  In 1996, at the International Christian Zionist Congress, this position was reiterated when the 1,500 participants signed a declaration insisting:
‘Because of the sovereign purposes of God for the City, Jerusalem must remain undivided, under Israeli sovereignty, open to all peoples, the capital of Israel only, and all nations should so concur and place their embassies here … the truths of God are sovereign and it is written that the Land which He promised to His People is not to be partitioned.’ 
The ICEJ has also given support to a full page advert placed in the New York Times entitled, ‘ Christians Call for a United Jerusalem.’
‘We, the undersigned Christian spiritual leaders, communicating weekly to more than 100 million Christian Americans, are proud to join together in supporting the continued sovereignty of the State of Israel over the holy city of Jerusalem . We support Israel ‘s efforts to reach reconciliation with its Arab neighbors, but we believe that Jerusalem , or any portion of it, shall not be negotiable in the peace process. Jerusalem must remain undivided as the eternal capital of the Jewish people .’ 
Readers were invited to,
‘Join us in our holy mission to ensure that Jerusalem will remain the undivided, eternal capital of Israel .’ They claimed, ‘The battle for Jerusalem has begun, and it is time for believers in Christ to support our Jewish brethren and the State of Israel. The time for unity with the Jewish people is now.’ 
However, even more critical to a Christian Zionist reading of prophecy is the necessity for the Jewish Temple to be rebuilt.
5. The Temple: Identifying with Religious Zionism
Contemporary Christian Zionists have been active in assisting Jewish organisations dedicated to rebuilding the Jewish Temple by publicising the Temple Mount organisations; searching for the Temple site; facilitating the building programme; breeding the red heifers and funding the Treasury. Randall Price is the leading dispensational expert on the imminent plans to rebuild the Jewish Temple. In his 735 page The Coming Last Days Temple , he provides comprehensive details and addresses of all the Jewish organisations involved in facilitating the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. Gershon Salomon is the controversial figurehead of the movement and founder of The Temple Faithful . Speaking as a guest of the ICEJ, at the Christian Zionist Congress in 1998, Salomon insisted:
‘The mission of the present generation is to liberate the Temple Mount and to remove – I repeat, to remove – the defiling abomination there … the Jewish people will not be stopped at the gates leading to the Temple Mount … We will fly our Israeli flag over the Temple Mount, which will be minus its Dome of the Rock and its mosques and will have only our Israeli flag and our Temple. This is what our generation must accomplish .’ 
Sam Kiley writing in The Times , however, gives another perspective. He claims Salomon represents the ‘ almost acceptable face of millennial cults .’ In an interview Salomon insisted that the Islamic shrine must be destroyed:
‘The Israeli Government must do it. We must have a war. There will be many nations against us but God will be our general. I am sure this is a test, that God is expecting us to move the Dome with no fear from other nations. The Messiah will not come by himself; we should bring Him by fighting. ‘ 
Since 1967 there have been over 100 armed assaults on al-Haram al-Sharif by Jewish militants, often led by rabbis. Not once has an Israeli Prime Minister or the chief Sephardic rabbi or the chief Ashkenazi rabbi criticised these attacks. As Lawrence Wright has also observed, ‘Jewish longing for the Temple , Christian hopes for the Rapture, and Muslim paranoia about the destruction of the mosques [are being] stirred to an apocalyptic boil. ‘ 
6. The Future: Opposing Peace and Hastening Armageddon
The hostility Christian Zionists show towards any compromise over sharing the Land, or Jerusalem , or the holy sites, makes for an ominous future, not least because of the inherent pessimism of their eschatology.
The US-Israeli Alliance
While Christian Zionists in general are committed to standing with Israel , there is a particularly close relationship between Israel and America . Jerry Falwell offers a simple explanation. God has been kind to America because ‘ America had been kind to the Jew.’  Mike Evans is representative of those who find a Biblical basis for the special relationship between Israel and America :
‘God is going to bless America and Israel as well … If Israel falls, the United States can no longer remain a democracy … Arab money is being used to control and influence major US Corporations, making it economically more and more difficult for the United States to stand against world terrorism.’ 
For Christian Zionists such as Jerry Falwell and Mike Evans, America ‘s ‘Bible Belt’ is seen as Israel ‘s ‘Safety Belt’. America is seen as the great redeemer, her super-power role in the world predicted in scripture  and providentially ordained.  Critics warn of the danger of this kind of logic for its, ‘dualistic, Manichaean view of global politics. America and Israel together against an evil world.’ 
Antipathy Towards Arabs
Christian Zionists, while lovers of Israel , rarely show the same feelings toward Arabs, indeed their antipathy is often in inverse proportion to their empathy for Israel . Anti-Arab prejudices and Orientalist stereotypes are common in their writings.  For the Orientalist, the West is seen as liberal, peaceful, rational and capable of embracing ‘real’ values, whereas the Middle East is not.
Ramon Bennett illustrates how such prejudices remain common today describing the modern Arab nations as ‘barbarous’.  ‘The customs of hospitality and generosity have changed little in 4,000 years,’ he claims, ‘nor have the customs of raiding (thieving, rustling), saving face or savagery.’  Citing John Laffin, Bennett argues that the Arab ‘is neither a vicious nor, usually, a calculating liar but a natural one.’  While anti-Semitism is taboo in America , it seems ‘open season’ for anti-Arab bigotry.
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
Dick Armey, the former Republican Senate leader, made groundbreaking news by justifying the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories . In an interview with Chris Matthews on CNBC on May 1 st 2002, Armey stated that:
‘ Most of the people who now populate Israel were transported from all over the world to that land and they made it their home. The Palestinians can do the same and we are perfectly content to work with the Palestinians in doing that. We are not willing to sacrifice Israel for the notion of a Palestinian homeland … I’m content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank … There are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land, soil, and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian State.’ 
Matthews gave Armey several opportunities to clarify that he was not advocating the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from the West Bank , but Armey was unrepentant. When asked,
‘Have you ever told George Bush, the President from your home State of Texas, that you think the Palestinians should get up and go and leave Palestine and that’s the solution?’,
‘I’m probably telling him that right now … I am content to have Israel occupy that land that it now occupies and to have those people who have been aggressors against Israel retired to some other arena.’ 
Armey’s view that Palestinians should be ‘retired’ is only the latest in a series of calls in the mainstream US and UK media for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories . 
Opposing the Peace Process
While Christian Zionists invariably recognise Israel ‘s unilateral claim to the Occupied Territories , they also oppose Palestinian aspirations to self-determination since the two are intrinsically incompatible. Many see the peace accords as a betrayal of God’s intentions for the Jewish people. ‘ The peace … is a false one and there are those who believe its roots are from the evil one .’ Clarence Wagner of BFP shares this perspective. He is equally dismissive of the peace negotiations:
‘We need to encourage others to understand God’s plans, not the man-inspired plans of the UN, the US , the EEC, Oslo , Wye, etc. God is not in any plan that would wrestle the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount area and the Mount of Olives , and give it to the Moslem world. Messiah is not coming back to a Moslem city called Al-Quds, but to the regathered, restored Jewish city of Jerusalem . 
Peace talks are therefore seen not only as a waste of time, they demonstrate at best a lack of faith and at worst a rebellious defiance toward God’s plans. Such pronouncements coming from highly influential Christian leaders appear little different from those of Muslim extremists who call for a ‘ holy war’ against the West. The danger of such a theology is not so much that it is fatalistic, but that like the ‘chicken little’ story, it appears so contagious.  Karen Armstrong is not alone in tracing within Western Christian Zionism evidence of the legacy of the Crusades. Such fundamentalists have, she observes, ‘ returned to a classical and extreme religious crusading. ‘ 
A Critical Assessment of Christian Zionism
As has been shown, Christian Zionism as a movement has profound and lasting political consequences. Christian Zionists have shown varying degrees of enthusiasm for implementing six basic theological convictions that arise from their literal and futurist reading of the Bible:
- The belief that the Jews remain God’s chosen people leads Christian Zionists to a justification for Israel ‘s military occupation of Palestine .
- As God’s chosen people, the final restoration of the Jews to Israel is therefore actively encouraged and facilitated through partnerships between Christian organisations and the Jewish Agency.
- Eretz Israel , from Egypt to Iraq , belongs exclusively to the Jewish people, therefore the land must be annexed and the settlements adopted and strengthened.
- Jerusalem is regarded as the eternal and exclusive capital of the Jews, and cannot be shared with the Palestinians. Therefore, strategically, Western governments are placed under pressure by Christian Zionists to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem and thereby recognise the fact.
- The Third Temple has yet to be built, the priesthood consecrated and sacrifices reinstituted. As dispensational Christian Zionists, in particular, believe this is prophesied, they offer varying degrees of support to the Jewish Temple Mount organisations committed to achieving it.
- Since Christian Zionists are convinced there will be an apocalyptic war between good and evil in the near future, there is no prospect for lasting peace between Jews and Arabs. Indeed, to advocate Israel compromise with Islam or coexist with Palestinians is to identify with those destined to oppose God and Israel in the imminent battle of Armageddon.
Clearly, not all Christian Zionists embrace each of these six tenets, or with the same degree of conviction or involvement. Nevertheless, as has been argued, the overall consequences of such uncritical support for the State of Israel, especially among American Evangelicals, is inherently and pathologically destructive, not least to the very Jewish people they claim to love.
Christian Zionism has been largely repudiated by the main Christian denominations.
For example, at the 5th International Sabeel Conference, held in Jerusalem in April 2004, some 600 participants from 30 countries endorsed a statement condemning Christian Zionism as a heresy:
Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel . The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the 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. We also repudiate the more insidious form of Christian Zionism pervasive in the mainline churches that remains silent in the face of the Israeli occupation of Palestine . Therefore, we categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that undermines the Biblical message of love, mercy, and justice… We reject the heretical teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these extremist policies as they advance a form of racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. 
Christian Zionism only thrives on an apocalyptic future based on a literal hermeneutic where Old Testament promises made to the ancient Jewish people are transposed on to the contemporary State of Israel. Their literalist assumptions preclude any possibility of an alternative reading of the Bible, history or a just and lasting outcome to the Middle East peace negotiations.
Ultimately, Christian Zionism must be repudiated for its uncritical endorsement of the exclusive racist agenda of the Israeli political right and inexcusable lack of compassion for the Palestinian tragedy. Whether intentionally or otherwise, it has legitimised Palestinian oppression in the name of God while committing the Jewish people themselves to an apocalyptic future far more horrifying than even the Shoah.
For a more detailed examination of Christian Zionism – see the author’s book, Christian Zionism, Road-map to Armageddon? (Leicester, IVP, 2004). For resources providing a wider analysis of Christian Zionism see www.sizers.org