The New Anti-Semitism
Since the birth of modern Israel in 1948, a new form of anti-Semitism has emerged. Rather than attacking the Jewish people directly, it claims to oppose only Zionism and the sovereignty of the Jewish state. Most Christians who manifest it hold to Replacement Theology and have no use for Christian Zionists who believe Israel has a divine, biblical right to the Promised Land.
Consequently, a schism of sorts has developed within Christianity, with Replacement theologians on one side and dispensationalists on the other. And the schism is widening rapidly.
Unfortunately, Replacement Theology and anti-Semitism often go hand in hand. Over the past two millennia, many who believe God has rejected the Jewish people and replaced Israel with the church despise the Jewish people’s very existence.
Of course, not everyone who holds to Replacement Theology is anti-Semitic. And some who attend Replacement churches love Israel and believe God has a future for it.
Historically, however, most of the churches involved in anti-Semitism believe the church has become the “new Israel,” and all the glorious things God has promised Israel now belong to them. Christian Zionists see Israel and the church as separate entities, with separate divine programs and destinies.
The Attack on Christian Zionism
Proponents of this new anti-Semitism claim Christian Zionism unduly influences the U.S. government to support Israel and empowers Israel to resist peace and maintain its so-called occupation and oppression of Palestinian Arabs.
They champion the plight of Palestinian Arabs in Israel, who hope their anti-Israel, anti-Christian-Zionist rhetoric will force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank as it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, thereby creating what they feel will be a lasting peace through the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian nation.
Though the idea of land for peace contradicts reality, its proponents aggressively pursue their cause, lobbying for boycotts of Israeli products, divestment from companies doing business with Israel, and economic sanctions against Israel. They also attack Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism, calling them racist obstacles to peace.
These people would have us believe they are not anti-Semitic. However, to threaten a nation’s sovereignty is to threaten its people. The new anti-Semitism deceitfully repackages the age-old venom against the Jews—and it is effective.
A March 2012 survey by the Anti-Defamation League reported anti-Semitic attitudes are at alarming levels in 10 European countries. Compared to 2009, “levels of anti-Semitism have increased most dramatically in Hungary, the United Kingdom and Spain,”1 resulting in Holocaust denial and increased attacks on Jewish people and synagogues.
Perhaps most troubling is the extent to which this new anti-Semitism is being embraced by church leaders in Europe, America, and Israel. Unfolding before our eyes is a church-led campaign against Israel and Christian Zionism that not only threatens Israel’s existence but is also driving a wedge between Christians who hold to Replacement Theology and those of us who believe God has a future for ethnic Israel.
Denominations and parachurch organizations participating in this retreaded anti-Semitism include the United Church of Christ; Presbyterian Church (USA); the Church of England; the United Methodist Church; the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA; the Church of Scotland; the Reformed Church of America; the Methodist Church of England; the Roman Catholic Church; Bethlehem Bible College, Bethlehem, Israel; World Vision; and the World Council of Churches.
The movement’s most prominent leaders over the past dozen years are:
- Stephen Sizer, Anglican vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, England.
- Gary Burge, ordained Presbyterian minister and professor of New Testament, Wheaton College.
- Donald E. Wagner, ordained Presbyterian minister and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, North Park University, Chicago, Illinois.
- John Stott, the late theologian and rector emeritus of All Souls Church in London.
- Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the “Bible Answer Man” radio program.
- Tony Campolo, Baptist minister, author, and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania.
- Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.
- Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, whose website lists its address as “Bethlehem, Palestine.”
Sizer is the recognized champion of Christian Palestinianism,2 a term coined by Dr. Paul Wilkinson of Lancashire, UK, to describe this new anti-Israel crusade. Sizer has written numerous books on the subject, led and spoken at conferences on it, cofounded an anti-Christian-Zionist organization, and joined Palestinian Muslims and terrorists in opposition to Israel.
Christian Palestinianism claims modern Israel has no biblical connection with, or justification for, owning the Promised Land; therefore, it concludes, Israel has become an apartheid state, occupying territory belonging to the Palestinian Arabs.
Christian Palestinianism sees Christian Zionism as hindering Israel’s removal from the West Bank. Replacement adherents have long differed with dispensationalists (who are Zionist) about Israel and the land. However, Christian Palestinianism has launched an all-out assault on Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism.
Sizer’s two most influential books are Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (2004) and Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel and the Church (2007). He presents Christian Zionism as an incredibly powerful political force whose dangerous heresy fuels the Arab-Israeli conflict and encourages the destruction of millions of people.3
The late John Stott, a well-known British evangelical scholar and author, denounced Christian Zionism as “biblically anathema to the Christian faith.”4 Stott added, “I myself believe that Zionism, both political and Christian, is incompatible with biblical faith.”5
Endorsing Sizer’s books, Hank Hanegraaff wrote, “Christian Zionist beliefs and behaviors are the antithesis of biblical Christianity.”6
“According to the New Testament, God’s people is [sic] to be identified on the basis of grace, not of race,” said Gilbert Bilezikian, a founding leader of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, and professor emeritus at Wheaton College.7
Tony Campolo said Christian Zionists “have embraced a theological perspective that has encouraged justice for Jews but has also led to the oppression of Palestinian people and extreme hostility between Christians and Muslims world-wide.”8 In an article in 2010, Campolo wrote, “The most serious threats to the well-being of the Palestinians in general, and to the Christian Palestinians in particular, come not from the Jews, but from Christian Zionists here in the United States.”9
Popular British theological scholar N. T. Wright wrote in 2001, “The American obsession with the second coming of Jesus—especially with distorted interpretations of it—continues unabated. Seen from my side of the Atlantic, the phenomenal success of the Left Behind books appears puzzling, even bizarre.”10
Barbara Rossing, an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, opened her 2004 book, The Rapture Exposed, by saying, “The Rapture is a racket….We are not Raptured off the earth, nor is God….God will never leave the world behind.”11
Opponents often accuse Christian Zionists of being selfishly motivated. The truth, however, is that we are Zionists because that is what the Bible teaches, not because we believe we can force God’s hand.
Dispensational Theology threatens the Palestinian people’s myth that Jesus was a Palestinian sent to free them from oppression, as Palestinian Liberation Theology teaches. Determined to counter Zionism, Jack Sara, president of Bethlehem Bible College, has said Ezekiel 37 refers to the West Bank; and the dry bones God resurrects are those of the Palestinian people. (It actually speaks of God resurrecting ethnic Israel.)
These people even charge Christian Zionists and Israelis with using guilt for the Holocaust to shield Israel from criticism. Today Palestinian Arabs are portrayed as the latest “Holocaust” victims. Regina Sharif, a secular historian, maintains, “On the theoretical as well as on the practical level, the Nazis and the Zionists saw eye to eye….Zionism, racism, and anti-Semitism are all part of one phenomenon.”12
British journalist Alan Hart went so far as to state on his website,
It’s time to give Israel’s hardcore Zionists their real name. They are the New Nazis….If Europeans and Americans don’t stop the New Nazis, it’s likely their endgame will be the extermination of millions of Palestinians.13
Pushing Their Propaganda
The Christian Palestinian movement gets its message out. Conferences bring together like-minded theologians and church leaders to develop their arguments. Conferences provide a stage from which to wage a propaganda war against Israel and Christian Zionism.
Sabeel’s many international conferences have been sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Church of England.14 The last two years have seen Christ at the Checkpoint conferences organized and sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College, and printing presses are busy cranking out books that hype Christian Palestinianism.
One of the greatest propaganda tools is the Kairos Palestine Document, adopted in 2009. Modeled after the 1985 Kairos documents in South Africa, it calls the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank an “evil” and a “sin,” for which there should be repentance.15
It blames the Israeli government for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, argues that Israel is an apartheid state, condones all forms of resistance, calls for an end to the “Israeli occupation of Palestinian land,” and seeks “an independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital.”16 The document further calls on governments around the world to apply political and economic pressure on Israel—the key tools being boycotts, divestments, and sanctions.17
Many of the denominations and organizations aligned with the Christian-Palestinian cause have adopted resolutions condemning both Israel’s presence in the land and Christian Zionism; and some have called for boycotts of Israeli goods, divestment from corporations operating in Israel, and economic sanctions. They charge Christian Zionists and dispensationalists with misrepresenting biblical truth and standing in the way of peace. In 2009, the World Council of Churches called for an end to what it considers the illegal occupation of “Palestine” and endorsed establishing a Palestinian state.
It is interesting to see the bedfellows a cause will draw together. In their zeal to accomplish their goals, the Christian-Palestinian movement has aligned with Muslim scholars, clerics, and even terrorists. Stephen Sizer, Gary Burge, and Donald Wagner participated in the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue meetings and the extended conversation with Islamic scholars sponsored by the World Islamic Call Society.
Muslim scholars and clerics have received Sizer warmly in his travels, including in Iran and Lebanon. Christian-Palestinian leaders have shared the platform with people committed to Israel’s destruction, including Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and have gone so far as to express support for and solidarity with these terrorist groups.
With God On Our Side, a film released in 2010, is a biased documentary critiquing Christian Zionism; but its ultimate aim is to denounce it. The film contains interviews of many key players in the Christian-Palestinian movement, including Sizer and Burge, and has been shown in churches and universities in both the United Kingdom and America. Sadly, it is contributing to anti-Semitism in Replacement Theology churches.
Christian Palestinianism is fomenting anti-Israel, anti-Christian-Zionist rhetoric that is not supported by Scripture or by reason. The movement’s penchant for over-simplifying the issues and refusing to acknowledge radical Muslim terrorism as the biggest obstacle to peace shows its true face. As Golda Meir, late prime minister of Israel, once said, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons, there would be no more Israel.”
As Christian Zionists, we must be vigilant against the efforts of the Christian-Palestinian movement. There is much we can do for Israel. We can purchase Israeli goods and support companies that do business with Israel. We can share our support of Israel from the Bible. We can stand up for Israel whenever it is under attack. And taking a trip to Israel is a tangible way of helping Israel and receiving a blessing at the same time.
God has promised the Jewish people will never cease to exist (Jer. 31:35–36). No matter what the anti-Zionists do, God will not permit His beloved Israel to be wiped off the map.
- First International Resources, LCC, “Attitudes Toward Jews In Ten European Countries,” Anti-Defamation League, March 2012 <tinyurl.com/8mj9lqs>, 17.
- Paul Wilkinson, Prophets Who Prophesy Lies in My Name (Cheshire, UK: Hazel Grove Full Gospel Church, 2011), 8.
- Ibid., 10.
- Cited in Donald E. Wagner, Anxious for Armageddon (Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1995), 80.
- “Sixty Academics Endorse Christian Zionism Book,” May 23, 2011 <stephensizer.blogspot.com/2008/10/sixty-academics-endorse-christian.html>.
- Tony Campolo, “Christian Zionism: Theology that Legitimates Oppression,” Sojourners, May 19, 2010 <sojo .net/blogs/2010/05/19/christian-zionism-theology-legitimates-oppression>.
- N. T. Wright, “Farewell to the Rapture,” August 2001 <ntwrightpage.com/Wright_BR_Farewell_Rapture.htm>.
- Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2004), 1–2.
- Regina S. Sharif, Non-Jewish Zionism (London: Zed Press, 1983), 5, 76.
- Alan Hart, “The New Nazis,” January 13, 2009 <alanhart.net/the-New-Nazis>.
- Wilkinson, 6.
- “A moment of truth,” Kairos Palestine, 2009 <kairospalestine.ps/sites/default/Documents/English.pdf>.