The American Quaker Turned Jewish Proto-Zionist

Nov. 21 2019

Born in 1798 to a devout family of Philadelphia Quakers, Warder Cresson began, near the end of his third decade, to explore the radical Christian sects proliferating in America at the time. His religious searching soon led him to the Jews, and to the work of Mordecai Manuel Noah, who urged the reestablishment with American help of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Michael Medved writes:

Cresson became instantly captivated by [Noah’s] idea and reached the conclusion that “there is no salvation for the Gentiles but by coming to Israel.” He also reached the conclusion that God Himself had created the United States for one purpose above all others: rescuing the Jews of the world from exile and oppression. He discerned profound significance in the young republic’s national symbol, since the prophet Isaiah had promised for the weary and fainthearted that “the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles.”

Soon Cresson had himself appointed as the American consul to Jerusalem, went on to convert to Judaism under the auspices of local rabbis, and then returned to the U.S., where his wife sued him for divorce, citing his conversion as evidence of insanity and precipitating a trial that became a test-case for the limits of religious liberty. His subsequent career was more remarkable still:

Within a year of his trial’s successful conclusion, he . . . returned to Jerusalem in 1852 with a new mission: to restore the Land of Israel by restoring the land itself. He used his background as a “practical farmer” to argue that the establishment of scientifically sophisticated agricultural settlements could remake the ancient earth of Judea at the same time that they reshaped the Jewish soul. Working the land, he averred, “is the one true foundation, the proper beginning and basis for all the other sciences and arts, the foundation for all of life’s needs and living conditions.”

His determination to plant model colonies amid the desolate landscape and to achieve national redemption through tireless farming not only anticipated future Zionist pioneers by nearly a half-century but seemed distinctly, decisively American in its ambitious, against-the-odds vision. He raised money to purchase a substantial empty tract of land near Jaffa (today’s Tel Aviv) and another significant parcel known as Emek Refaim (Valley of the Shades) outside Jerusalem’s Old City—which is today an elegant, cosmopolitan neighborhood that’s home to numerous American immigrants to Israel.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: American Zionism, Christian Zionism, History of Zionism, Noah, Quakers

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela