God’s people are a missionary people, and this is not true only of the New Testament church. God called Abraham to bless the Gentiles through him, and one of Israel’s recurring sins was her failure to carry out this mission. Israel was supposed to evoke praise from the Gentiles, but instead , er idolatries and sins caused the Lord’s name to be blasphemed. (more…)
Guest Post by Peter Leithart
Why is the US embroiled in the Middle East? There are two primary answers: Oil and Israel. Both are fairly intractable problems, the latter in significant part because of the unique convergence of theology and politics that has forged American policy in the region. Dispensationalists insist that we must bless Israel or incur the curse of Israel’s God, and dispensationalism has had an enormous influence on US policy. Daniel Pipes has said that “America’s Christian Zionists” are, next to the Israeli armed forces, “the Jewish state’s ultimate strategic asset.” For obvious religious and political reasons, American Jews pressure the US government, very effectively, to support Israel militarily and diplomatically. Any deviation from a pro-Israel policy is liable to be tarred as anti-Semitic.
Just ask John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. In 2011, Mearsheimer was condemned for his endorsement of Gilad Atzmon’s The Wandering Who, which a group of writers condemned as anti-Semitic. Alan Dershowitz claimed that Mearsheimer had crossed the “red line between acceptable criticism of Israel and legitimizing anti-Semitism.” This wasn’t the first time that Mearsheimer had dealt with the charge. His 2007 book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, co-authored with Stephen Walt, was condemned as “anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent.” “Yes, it’s anti-Semitic,” wrote Eliot Cohen in the Washington Post. In response to the original essay that served as the basis of the book, Alan Dershowitz called the authors bigots whose ideas were similar to those found on neo-Nazi web sites.
Mearsheimer and Walt deny the charge, of course. They insist that Israel has a right to exist, reject the notion that the “Israel lobby” of the title is all-powerful or conspiratorial, agree that Israel’s advocates in the US are playing the same game of advocacy as everyone else in political life. Their central thesis begins from their conclusion that the US has neither sufficient moral nor strategic reasons to give unconditional support to Israel. Since moral and strategic considerations don’t explain US policy, there must be another factor: “The real reason why American politicians are so deferential is the political power of the Israel lobby” (p. 5).
I’m less interested in the argument about the Israel lobby than in Mearsheimer and Walt’s analysis of the moral and strategic rationale for US support for Israel. They argue that there is a “dwindling moral case” for supporting Israel. They don’t find the “underdog” argument plausible anymore. While Jews have been victims for centuries, they observe, “in the past century they have often been the victimizers in the Middle East, and their main victims were and continue to be the Palestinians” (p. 79). Israel is no longer the David facing the Goliath of Arab states; they are instead “the strongest military power in the Middle East.”
Nor does support for Israel entail support for democracy, at least not democracy as most of today’s Americans understand it. Israel is, after all, a Jewish state, and “its leaders have long emphasized the importance of maintaining an unchallenged Jewish majority within its borders” (p. 87). The initial draft of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty contained an explicit guarantee that “all are equal before the law” and an assurance that “there shall be no discrimination on the grounds of gender, religion, nationality, race, ethnic group, country of origin.” When the Knesset passed the Basic Law in 1992, however, that article had been dropped (p. 88). As a result, “Israel’s 1.36 million Arabs are de facto treated as second-class citizens” (p. 88). (more…)