FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com
(DV) Miller: Religion and the Israel Lobby







Home Court Advantage: Religion and the Israel Lobby 
by J.A. Miller
August 3, 2006

Send this page to a friend! (click here)



 “It is difficult to base the Jewish claim to Israel on anything but God.” 

-- www.Torahbytes.org 

Israel is doing the Lord’s work [in Lebanon].” 


-- Larry Kudlow, National Review Online, July 17, 2006 

“Noel, noel, noel, noel, born is the king of Is-ra-el.” 


-- overheard on local mall muzak, Christmas 2005


Late at night in early 1971, during a journey around the United States, we pulled over to the shoulder of Texas highway hopelessly lost. From the driver’s seat I idly watched the occasional oncoming headlights while my companion flicked on his penlight and peered at the roadmap trying to determine exactly where we were. Suddenly from the dark on the passenger side I heard a muttered “Shit” and then silence. I immediately conjured up the image of an Easy Rider-style drive-by shooting of a Yankee and a furriner and quavered, “Exactly how badly are we lost?” “It is not we who are lost”, came the gloomy reply, “Palestine is lost.” Then shining his penlight to a section of the map, my companion directed my attention to the Texas hamlet of Hebron, hard by the highway where we had halted. 


During our meandering journey that year which started from the east coast to the Midwest and thence down South, frequent recourse to road maps had at caught my companion’s increasing attention as he noticed the proliferation of biblical place names for American towns and geographical locations: Rehoboth, Salem, Bethlehem Joppa, Joshua, Goshen, Carmel, Zion, Bethel, Shiloh, Nebo and Gaza.  How many Native American villages were extirpated and renamed with biblical names?  More than 300, according to the industrious Moshe Davis, whose life’s work has been to document and cement beyond all sundering the American Judeo-Protestant connection. Rivers, mountains, rivers, creeks, towns and cities scattered in every one of the lower forty-eight, all with biblical provenance. [1] Puzzlement gradually grew into irritation and then finally, halted on that dark road in Texas, came a kind of black epiphany. 


My companion you see had the bad luck of being a Palestinian, a people who through accident of birth lived in a land that both the most powerful country in the world and its ethno-religious allies regard with a particular and sanctimonious religious covetousness. This ownership sensibility is not only hundreds of years old but so deep as to be almost unconscious. Because of it the original inhabitants and rightful owners of this allegedly covenanted scrap of real estate (as well some of their neighbors) have been inflicted with violence, dispersal, theft, death and apartheid for more than half a century. 


A good deal of excited debate has been generated by the recent Walt-Mearsheimer paper officially outing the Israel Lobby. Discussion both solemn and frenzied has swirled around this long-overdue exposure by establishment regulars; progressive left gatekeepers, establishment academics, principled progressives and libertarians as well as Dershowitzian-style squaddies have all joined the fray. Although the expose is welcome indeed for shining at least a sliver of light on what has long been a very dirty secret in US foreign policy, the unasked question is not the extent of the Lobby’s power or its enormous treasury but rather why it has been so singularly successful. The Lobby indeed has money and the manpower of grassroots and establishment legions powered by a boundless religious-cum-racist zeal. But are these attributes alone sufficient to give it the stunning successes it has reaped for nearly a century? Ensuring as it has the continuous siphoning of billions of US taxpayer dollars to Israel, which enjoys a per capita income equal to many EU countries? Single-handedly spinning a continual stream of media that has shrouded Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people for more than 50 years? And, dare I say it, rendering the so-called American antiwar movement gelded, mute and supine? 


I submit for your consideration that the real secret to the sensational success of the Lobby is the religious home court advantage it enjoys in the west and most particularly in America. This advantage is diffused effectively throughout the generality of western society but nowhere is it more damaging than among ranks of the so-called progressive groups. The religious factor is avoided plague-like by progressives because they are singularly loathe to consider religion as a factor in any issue, preferring instead the safer waters of political, class or economic terms. They shift uncomfortably in their seats and their eyes dart back and forth nervously when the issue of religion comes up unless of course they are called upon to excoriate Muslim treatment of women or decry Falwellian dispensationalism in which case they breathe a sign of relief and heave to. This willingness to castigate “unenlightened” theologies not only smacks of racism and elitism but it also neatly frees progressives from examining their own theologies and how they might skew their ability to think and act in a principled manner. 
“The weakness of the U.S. antiwar movement toward Israeli war crimes” wrote Sharon Smith recently in Dissident Voice “is not a temporary aberration but a long-standing and shameful phenomenon.”  It is my contention that religion is the main force behind this “shameful phenomenon” which silently complements the Lobby’s more establishment efforts.  Religion creates an invisible, malign and depressant effect on any honest progressive analysis of the Zionist project in Palestine thereby making the Lobby’s job, might I say, a cakewalk. It is religion that is the force wreaking the terrible destruction Palestinians and their neighbors and that garners American establishment complicity; it is a shared religious sensibility that causes the majority of progressives to jerk their knees automatically into gatekeeping stance whenever the dreaded P word is mentioned. 
Let me be perfectly frank: Western religious belief alone created and sustains the Zionist project. Not Balfour, not Herzl, not the Holocaust, not Hitler, not anti-Semitism or the threat thereof, not even the valuable service that a state so configured could render as a running dog for western imperialism. From the Crusades on down, western Christians have been having continuous, feverish wet dreams about owning Palestinian real estate. And Protestant cultists in particular took these dreams -- that are today so sticky with blood -- to even more pornographic heights by birthing the Zionist ideology long before Jews took it up professionally. 


American progressives generally share the ignorance of history enjoyed by the generality of the populace so I was gratified to see that the ever eloquent and erudite Werther improving on this dismal state of affairs recently in CounterPunch when he pointed out that “Zionist ‘Christianity’ dates to no earlier than the 1830s, when the English scam artist John Darby inflicted his dispensation upon the world.” To be sure, Darby was a zealous Christian Zionist plying his hucksterism in the early 19th century. But it must be made perfectly clear that Zionism is a far more ancient strain in Protestandom. 


Long before Charles II was restored to the throne, English Protestants were hallucinating about another kind of restoration, that of the Jews to Palestine. English theologian Thomas Brightman not only published in 1615 one of the earliest Biblical expositions of Zionism but also foreshadowed the violent manifestation the ideology was to assume centuries later: “Shall they [the Jews] return to Jerusalem again…There is nothing more certain: the prophets do everywhere confirm it and beat upon it."  A few years later in 1621 Sir Henry Finch, jurist and MP published “The World’s Great Restoration” in which he urged the Jews to reassert their claim to the “promised land”. In another nifty bit of prescience, Finch predicted that “Christian Monarchs” of the world would pay the Jews homage when they assumed their temporal dominion in Palestine. Substitute the words “U.S. legislators” for Christian monarchs and it would seem that Finch was blessed with the gift of foresight. 


My favorite among these early Zionist ideologues however, are the charming Puritan couple of Joanna and Ebenezer Cartwright who dwelt in Amsterdam -- the expatriate center of the those loveable English Taliban -- from whence they issued a petition to Parliament in 1649  declaring that after “serious perusal of the Prophets … we find that the time of her call draweth nigh … and that this Nation of England, with the inhabitants of the Netherlands, shall be the first and readiest to transport Izraell’s sons and daughters in their ships to the land promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for an everlasting inheritance."  There are those pesky prophets again. 
Mohameden Ould-Mey battled Zionist censorship and anathema for daring to document this Christian genesis of Zionism: The Reformation and Luther’s Jewish flirtation; the secession of the Church of England from Rome and resultant genealogical conceit of British descent from the twelve tribes of Israel; fast forward to feeble attempts by Napoleon to jump-start a sort of French Catholic Zionism (which flopped); then on to 1809 and Christian Zionism’s full flowering in the format of the utterly Zionist and anti Semitic London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews. It is clear from Ould-Mey’s chronology that Protestants were the core group that created, nurtured and repeatedly attempted to implement Zionism long before even Darby or the Jews took it up professionally. [2] 


Few progressives are aware of this long history. Nor do they know that more than a century before the Lobby was incorporated, a numerous religious advance party went forth with the object of scoping out Palestine in preparation for the coming invasion and colonization. The efforts of this movement are well documented in a singular body of 19th century travel literature produced by mostly English and American “pilgrims” who swarmed through the Levant for more than 100 years. Roaming Palestine’s length and breadth, these “pilgrims” were all the while fingering the goods with a covetous eye, recording and measuring every monument and alleged biblical site, assiduously shoe-horning nay sledge-hammering the geography of Palestine to fit Old Testamentary narrative. More than a hundred such accounts were published in which the authors describing their journeys in their holy land. Oozing dispensationalist belief and imperial ownership wrapped in an egomaniacal orientalism, the subtext and the supertext of these accounts lay bare the rapid Christian development of Zionism throughout the 19th century. 
When at long last Jews did take the Zionist project into their own hands it was under the leadership of a third-rate Viennese journalist who was himself egged on by Protestant madman William Hechler who, Rasputin-like, murmured sweet Zionist nothings in Teddy’s ears and stroked his ego by calling him the “Prince.” By then Christian Zionism had already presided over several failed attempts to colonize Palestine with European Jewry. Yet in spite of its origins and its barely concealed component of anti-Semitism, Jews took to Zionism with the vengeance of converted zeal, animated by the Old Testamentary viciousness so succinctly explicated by John Calvin. Today over the noise of genocide and wholesale destruction in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, we can hear the ghostly whisper of a Calvin well pleased, like Joshua, “to purge the land of Canaan of the foul and loathsome defilements by which it had long been polluted.” [3] 


One of the most critical victories of the Lobby’s unregistered members passed quite unknown. Since it is my contention that Judeo-Protestant religious belief in Palestine as a piece of covenanted real estate has created and sustained the Zionist project in all its vicious glory let us imagine for a moment that geographic Palestine was not the venue for Old Testament action and that moreover this could be actually proved. Imagine the political tremors and the ensuing religious hyperventilation and panic that such a revelation might cause! Well dear reader, I am pleased to inform you that the likelihood that geographic Palestine never was the scene of Old Testament action is very high indeed. And the suppression of the innovative research that put forth this heresy occurred years ago, at a time when Walt and Mearsheimer were fresh-faced newly minted PhDs, long before the emergence of the brown-shirted Campus Watch. 
Kamal Salibi’s 1984 book entitled The Bible Came from Arabia proposes exactly that. The Lebanese scholar constructs a convincingly argued theory based on detailed linguistic and geographic analysis that Old Testament biblical action (which establishment archaeologists and scholars have long been hard pressed to situate in geographic Palestine due the dearth of real evidence) was far more likely to have occurred in the Asir region of Saudi Arabia, a narrow strip of land along the Red Sea coast. The academic reaction to such heresy? Instead of subjecting Salibi’s theory to the rigors of debate, analysis and further research (as requested by Salibi himself) those unregistered academic-cum-Inquisitorial foot soldiers for the Lobby alternately spewed forth furious denunciation or studiously ignored the issue altogether. Eventually the theory was marginalized and shelved. Salibi’s crime was to have broken the sacred Judeo-Protestant taboo, one imprinted invisibly in the collective western imagination and for which unfathomable amounts of blood, treasure and silence have been expended to create and maintain. The inviolable Judeo-Protestant linkage of land and scripture which stipulates that the land in question must be geographic Palestine lies at the fulcrum of the madness that animates Zionist violence, US foreign policy and the zealotry of the Lobby. 
It also, I submit, crouches behind the paralysis of the peace movement in this country as the Lobby’s unregistered, covert shock troops in the antiwar and peace movement continue to exempt Zionism from critical progressive analysis or action. Whilst recently fulminating about the doggedly effective gatekeeping for Israel by our local antiwar movement’s AFSC cadres my interlocutor -- formerly a Baptist and now a practicing Quaker -- rolled her eyes and sighed, “They have a lot of baggage.” No kidding. Bring up the unmentionable in progressive circles -- right of return, boycott/divestment/sanctions, single secular state -- and watch them either run, deflect or turn and snarl. This invaluable service, I remind you, is provided gratis: AIPAC doesn’t have to lift a finger or spend a dime. 


Judeo-Protestant religious sensibility saturates all sections of American society from the very founding American mythology, to generations Sunday school education, to the lyrics of carols, hymns and pop songs, all the way down to the nomenclature of physical geography. The driving ideology behind the 20th century’s two great apartheid settler movements -- Boers and Zionists -- is a Judeo-Protestant religious sensibility embedded at the core of American and British culture and belief. Its high saturation level predisposes the playing field -- the American public and political administrations --and ensures continual Lobby success, making it seem stronger as an entity than it actually is. Religion also beclouds any principled analysis and action on issues that concern the greater Middle East that are marked by Old Testamentary citation (Damascus! Nineveh! Lebanon!). The home court advantage provided to the Lobby by the west’s long pathological obsession with real estate in Palestine cannot be underestimated. If American progressives can break the religious taboo by actively supporting divestment, boycott, sanctions and the Right of Return -- all of which, mind you, contravene Yahweh’s command -- only then will the paralyzing hand of religious belief and the concomitant power of the Lobby be neutralized. 
J.A. Miller is a grandmother activist from the Middle West who spent many years traveling and studying in the Middle East.  She has published essays on Counterpunch and StateofNature and Burma Shave-style poetry on PoeticInjustice. She may be reached at: jsec_miller@hotmail.com
Notes and Sources

[1] Moshe Davis, With Eyes on Zion I, II, III. Arno, 1971; Praeger, 1986 and Praeger, 1991. 

[2] Mohameden Ould-Mey, "The Geopolitcal Genesis and Prospect of Zionism: 2006" monograph in International Journal of the Humanities 2(2):1591-1598 

[3] John Calvin, Commentaries, c. 1533 Mohameden Ould-Mey, The Non-Jewish Origin of Zionism, 2005 monograph in International Journal of the Humanities 1(1): 591-610; Hilton Obenzinger, American Palestine, Princeton University Press, 1999; Kamal Salibi, The Bible Came from Arabia, Jonathan Cape, 1985; Kemal Salibi, Secrets of the Bible People, Saqi Press, 1988.