Muslims are truly baffled by the nearly unconditional loyalty many—mainly evangelical—Christians have to the State of Israel. That loyalty stems from their mistaken belief that the Jews’ return to the Holy Land (referred to here as Palestine-Israel) and their establishment of Israel in 1948 represent the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. By supporting Israel unequivocally, they think they side with God to win the blessing of Abraham, while those criticizing Israel make themselves God’s enemies. This confusion flows from the belief that
- God has permanently deeded Palestine-Israel to the Jews
- God said he’d scatter the Jews from their land if they rejected him, but bring them back if they returned to him
- Because the Jews rejected Jesus, God put Jerusalem under the rule of Gentiles, non-Jews, for a time
- Israel’s founding in 1948 ended that period and ushered in the “End Times,” which will lead to Christ’s return
- The Jews’ restoration to Palestine-Israel requires their displacement of its Gentiles
- By supporting the State of Israel, Christians bless the Jews for giving them Jesus, who was Jewish, and speed up Christ’s return
Many Christians holding this interpretive grid see no weaknesses in it because they want to right wrongs historically done to the Jews. They read Isaiah’s prophecies of return to the land (e.g., Isa. 14:1; 43:5-7) and apply them to modern times, forgetting that Isaiah lived in the 8th century BC and his prophecies were fulfilled 3-4 centuries later. They take promises of permanent ownership (e.g., Gen. 13:15; Isa. 60:21) and forget that they’re always qualified by the fact of Israel’s spiritual condition (e.g., Dt. 4:26-28; 28:15-64; Lev. 26:32-34). They also genuinely long for Christ’s return—and want the visible proof of its imminence they think Israel’s founding in 1948 gives them. A far less positive reason is that many Christians are pressured into theological conformity by extreme Zionists, who unjustly label all critics of Zionism anti-Semitic. (Unjustly, because Zionism’s critics just echo the biblical prophets’ condemnations of Israel’s injustice.) By demanding absolute loyalty to their Zionist outlook, these Christians turn their interpretation into an idol.
All this puts Christian Zionists miles apart from Muslims, who see the West’s Zionist project as a return to the Crusades—but with a twist, since the goal is a Jewish, not Christian, state in Palestine. They’re angered that Israel’s Jews banish Palestine’s mostly Muslim population from their homes and fear they’ll yet lay claim to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, home to Islam’s third holiest shrine. By contrast, most Christian Zionists—while supporting Israel’s dispossession and disinheritance of Palestinians—
- Deny that Israel engages in systematic aggression against its Palestinian inhabitants
- Seem oblivious to the fact that such a Western transplant as Israel can’t survive without massive financial aid
- Seem convinced the West will always be able to provide that aid
However, many of the world’s Christians—likely a majority outside of North America—do not support Zionism, just over a century old in Palestine-Israel. That is, they don’t believe modern-day Israel’s existence represents God’s fulfillment of his promise to restore the Jews to their land. For even if that promise is still relevant today, its essential prerequisite of Israel’s spiritual restoration is wanting . Zionism isn’t now, nor ever has been, characterized by a return to God. From 1948 on, Israel has been a secular state relying heavily on armed aggression and institutionalized discrimination.
Many Christians, then, accept the fact of Israel’s existence, but view support for Zionism as tragically misplaced. They know that the narrative spun by Zionists doesn’t tell the whole story of their ethnic cleansing of Palestine. They know that many Jews either abhor the Zionist program or feel very conflicted about it. They view Israel’s ongoing systematic eviction of Palestinians from their homes as clear evidence that Zionism is colonialism at its worst. And they by no means take God’s making his ancient covenant with Israel to signify the exclusion of the Arabs from his plan for the world. God clearly wanted the Arabs included in Christ’s kingdom from the Day of Pentecost onward (Acts 2:10; cf. Psa. 87).
Like the biblical prophets of old, they believe we truly please God and love our Jewish brothers and sisters by opposing all injustice—Israel’s injustice included. We speed up Christ’s return only by obeying him and loving as he loved. And that includes praying for a just peace for all of Jerusalem’s inhabitants and earnestly seeking the good of all, Israelis and Palestinians alike (Mt. 5:9, Psa. 122:6-9).