Truth in Labeling Department: Christian Anti-Zionists

Evangelical Christian groups that claim to support Israel are misrepresenting themselves. They are not Zionists: they are anti-Zionists, and they should be called that.

Republican House Whip Eric Cantor, who is thinking about running about for President (and is Jewish) decided to suck up to the Christian right by telling an evangelical group that US foreign policy needs to be “firmly grounded” in “Judeo-Christian principles.”

The quickest response to this obviously artifical construct is the retort of Barney Frank: “I’ll finally understand what a Judeo-Christian is when I meet one.”

The notion of a “Christian Zionist” is not as artificial, but it is far more misleading. Virtually every report of the Cantor’s line says that he gave the speech in front of a “Christian Zionist” group, which is a patently inaccurate description.

The group is question is Christians United for Israel, which is chaired by John Hagee (he of the “Roman Catholic Church is a whore” fame). But these groups are not Zionists. They are anti-Zionists.

Zionism, at least as currently constituted, is the belief that there should be a Jewish state in Palestine. But so-called “Christian Zionists” do not take pro-Israel positions: they take pro-Likud positions. They oppose any handing back of territory to a Palestinian state, and thus prepare Israel to become a binational state due to demographic factors. As Cantor himself said, “We all know the real stumbling block to peace is posed by those who vehemently deny the nation of Israel’s historical right to the land of Zion.”

The Likud and their Christian allies have somehow persuaded the world that their position is “pro-Israel,” an assertion that groups like J Street and others are currently fighting. But the problem is that J Street does not go far enough. The Likud is objectively anti-Zionist. Continuing settlement of the West Bank is demographic madness: it ensures that Israel will become a majority Arab country within a few years (not to mention the fact that 25% of Israeli schoolchildren inside the Green Line are Arabs, and another 25% are Haredi, creating a future majority unwilling to defend Zionism.).

Israel has long teetered between three goals: 1) being a Jewish state; 2) being a democracy; and 3) keeping the territories. You can have two out of three, but not all three of them. Since so-called Christian Zionists and their right-wing allies have never hinted that they want Israeli democracy to end, and since they insist on keeping the territories, the only logical conclusion is that they want to end Israel’s status as a Jewish state. That, ladies and gentlemen, is anti-Zionism. And it should be called that.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.