Christian Zionists leaving their legacy on the way out
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departs a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, near the Israeli-Syrian border, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. | Patrick Semansky / AP

In the waning days of the Trump presidency, it’s become painfully clear that this administration is engaged in a political scorched earth campaign, i.e., doing everything it can to ram through its most harmful policies before Inauguration Day, and to do so in ways that will make them difficult to undo by the incoming Biden administration.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the West Bank on Nov. 19, where he unabashedly unveiled the Trump administration’s “parting gifts to the Israeli right,” is the latest case in point and a particularly harmful one at that.

Speaking from the illegal West Bank settlement of Psagot, Pompeo announced two new policies. The first was the State Department’s designation of products made in West Bank settlements as being “Made in Israel,” which now paves the way for U.S. approval of Israel’s formal annexation of Area C of the West Bank.

The second gift came with this announcement:

As we have made clear, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. The United States is, therefore, committed to countering the Global BDS Campaign as a manifestation of anti-Semitism.

Pompeo’s statement further directed the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism “to identify organizations that engage in, or otherwise support, the Global BDS Campaign…to ensure that their funds are not provided directly or indirectly to organizations engaged in anti-Semitic BDS activities.” In a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Pompeo put a finer point on his intentions:

“Look, we want to stand with all other nations that recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is. And we’re committed to combating it. Our record speaks for itself. During the Trump administration, America stands with Israel like never before.”

While there is clearly much to parse here, I’d like to unpack Pompeo’s breathtakingly presumptuous pronouncement that “Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism.”

When considering the implications of this new policy, it’s essential to note that Mike Pompeo himself is a fervent Christian Zionist who adheres to an eschatological ideology that seeks a Jewish return to the Holy Land as a precursor to the apocalypse and the Third Coming of the Messiah. Pompeo has, in fact, made no secret of his extreme religious beliefs. In 2015, when he was a congressman, he uttered these immortal words from the pulpit of a Kansas church:

We will continue to fight these battles. It is a never-ending struggle. Until that moment…until the Rapture be part of it, be in the fight.

I’ve written a great deal about Christian Zionism and its influence within the Trump administration before, so I won’t go into great detail here about the dangers of this extreme religious ideology. For now, I’d just like to contextualize Pompeo’s presumptuous equation of Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism with a few points:

  • Zionism does not equal Judaism. In fact, Zionism is not an exclusively Jewish movement. It is rather, a fundamentally interfaith movement “that has informed and propelled Christian Zionists into the very halls of power.”
  • There are far more Christian Zionists in the world than Jewish Zionists (or Jews for that matter). There are 9 million members of the organization Christians United for Israel alone. While American Jewish attachment to Israel is declining, Evangelical Christian support is growing significantly.
  • Christian Zionism is itself an anti-Semitic religious ideology that objectifies the Jewish people as pawns in a cosmic drama that seeks to further the coming of the Christian messiah.
  • There has always been principled Jewish opposition to Zionism.
  • There are increasing numbers of Jews who support BDS as an expression of intrinsically Jewish values.

We should make no mistake: Even if they are no longer in the administration, the threat of this Christian extremist movement will remain very real. For Palestinians and those of us who stand in solidarity with them, the struggle will continue—no matter who happens to live in the White House.

Reposted by permission of the author. The original posting can be viewed here.


Rabbi Brant Rosen
Rabbi Brant Rosen

Brant Rosen is Midwest Regional Director for the American Friends Service Committee and the rabbi of Tzedek Chicago.