Common Grounds

OPINION ...Young US evangelicals are refusing to be ‘useful idiots’ for Israel

OPINION ...Young US evangelicals are refusing to be ‘useful idiots’ for Israel

Pro-Palestinian protesters fill the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan as they march onto Williamsburg Bridge to demand justice for the people in Gaza and call on the U.S. government to stop sending aid to Israel in New York, United States on December 04, 2023. [Selçuk Acar – Anadolu Agency]


The Zionist establishment has realised the value of Christian Zionism, despite the essential anti-Semitism of its ideology. To Jewish Zionists, the Christian Zionists are useful idiots. For end-timer Christian Zionists, the Jews are sacrificial lambs.” 


— Author and lecturer Irving Wesley Hall



The unwavering support for Israel from the Christian Right, mainly evangelical Christians, has long been regarded as a bedrock of US-Israel relations. This support not only shapes foreign policy and influences diplomatic moves in the Middle East, but also serves as a key factor that any serious presidential candidate must take into consideration. US President Joe Biden — a Roman Catholic seeking re-election — is well aware of this, and has openly described himself as a Zionist.



This generational gap is indicative of a broader trend,
where the younger generation, both Jewish and evangelical,
is more inclined towards an anti-Zionist stance,
in contrast to the staunchly pro-Israel sentiment of older generations.



Under former president and current presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, one of the most controversial and destabilising decisions in the region was made in 2017 when his administration recognised Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and relocated the US Embassy to the holy city. Three years later, Trump would acknowledge that he did this “for the evangelicals“, noting that they were “more excited by [the move] than Jewish people.”


The Zionist occupation state of Israel holds special importance for US evangelical Christians, due to their interpretation of Biblical promises and prophecy, which they believe designate the region as the Jewish homeland. Their support is solidified further by the belief that Israel’s existence is connected to what their scripture says about the end times, necessitating the “ingathering of the exiles” (Jews in the diaspora) leading to the second coming of Prophet Jesus and the establishment of “God’s kingdom on earth” and, ultimately, the “Rapture” and Apocalypse. Evangelical Christians will be raised up and saved, they believe. The rest of, well, won’t.


This is why Christian Zionists are often more fervent and eager than many Jews are for the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, to be replaced by the Third Jewish Temple. Observant Jews, meanwhile, await the Messiah; unlike Christians and Muslims, most have never accepted Jesus to be the Messiah. Although it is worth noting that not all evangelicals are Zionists, the majority are. Significantly, “Christian Zionism is actually the dominant form of Zionism,” and pre-dates the emergence of the Jewish Zionist movement.


Following the Hamas-led resistance operation on 7 October, it was a calculated move by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to invoke violent Biblical passages justifying genocide. He was appealing as much to Christian Zionists as their Jewish counterparts, if not more so. For its part, the Ethics and Religion Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical group in the US, issued a statement from 2,000 evangelical leaders confirming that they “fully support Israel’s right and duty to defend itself against further attack.”


The relationship between evangelicals and Israel is not without its contradictions, though, not least that Israel is a secular, apartheid state; Tel Aviv is known as the “gay capital” of the Middle East; and the country is persecuting the indigenous Palestinian Christians. None of this prompts criticism from the evangelicals. Moreover, Israel’s very existence is opposed as a heresy by many Orthodox Jews on religious grounds. Nevertheless, conservative Christians in the US persist as Israel’s most zealous and committed ideological supporters, even though they face competition from Christian Zionists in South America, Asia and Africa, not to mention Hindu nationalists in India.


However, recent shifts in attitudes among younger evangelicals; increased exposure to social justice issues on social media; and a growing sense of basic human empathy for the plight of Palestinians, have all raised doubts about the enduring nature of evangelical support for Israel.


This signifies a potential turning point in the traditional alliance between evangelical Christians and the occupation state. It may also explain why the US wants to ban TikTok, ostensibly, “To protect the national security of the United States from the threat posed by foreign adversary controlled applications.” There is also speculation that too many young Americans are being “brainwashed” by seeing the undeniable ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by Israel in Gaza in real time on social media.


Indeed, the genocide taking place in Gaza comes as there is a decline in this unwavering support for Israel among younger evangelicals, who are less likely to view developments unfolding there through the lens of Biblical prophecy. This generational gap is indicative of a broader trend, where the younger generation, both Jewish and evangelical, is more inclined towards an anti-Zionist stance, in contrast to the staunchly pro-Israel sentiment of older generations.


This was acknowledged by Tel Aviv University in an article published last month: “Today, nearly half of young American evangelicals (under 30) support neither Israel nor the Palestinians (42.2 percent). In 2018, for reference, this figure stood at 25 percent while support for Israel was more than two-thirds (68.9 percent) – over twice as many as in 2021. As late as 2021, only 33.6 percent of young evangelicals conveyed support for Israel while 24.3 percent supported the Palestinians.”


In a matter of just three years, there has been “a major drop in pro-Israel feelings” while over that same time period, young US evangelical support for the Palestinians quadrupled. While the impact on Israel’s security won’t be felt immediately, “In 10-20 years when Israel finds itself in need of emergency American aid, there might not be anyone there to offer it.”


Crucially, in a multipolar world where China holds a prominent position, traditional religious or ideological motivations to support Israel may become less important. With the US increasingly focusing on East Asia, there may be a shift in priorities away from the Middle East.


Yet In light of the war now in its sixth month, the zealous support of evangelical Christians for Israel has not wavered, at least among the baby boomers. Organisations like Christians United for Israel (CUFI) have mobilised considerable resources, raising millions in support of Israel through fundraisers and dispatching volunteers and supplies to the Zionist entity. According to one article by the Independent, a US evangelical who enlisted as a wartime volunteer found himself “chopping vegetables in a Tel Aviv kitchen, preparing meals for Israeli soldiers.”


The prominent and highly political televangelist Pat Robertson died last year, and was hailed by Netanyahu as “a great friend of Israel.” His death marked the decline of a dying breed of staunch Christian Zionists. While powerful, influential and numerous, their influence is waning with time and the shifting attitudes of the younger generation.


This generation shows less concern for the safety and security of Israel and is even less supportive of the occupation state’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Instead, there is a growing wave of unprecedented solidarity for Palestinians, particularly from Generation Z and, even more likely, future generations.


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