The Roots of American Christian Zionism Lie in Both Religious and Secular Reasoning

In 1891—nine years after Leon Pinsker published Auto-emancipation and six years before the First Zionist Congress—an evangelical leader named William Blackstone visited President Benjamin Harrison at the White House, and presented him with a petition, signed by 400 prominent Americans, asking him to work toward the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. Walter Russell Mead writes:

We do not know very much about the motives of most of the people who signed the memorial, but it seems unlikely that Episcopalian men of the world like J.P. Morgan or hardnosed Baptist businessmen like John D. Rockefeller believed that they were hastening the Second Coming and the end of the world by endorsing Blackstone’s idea. For many of the signers, the petition merely expressed the long-held belief among both religious and secular people of the 19th century that the Jews, like the Greeks and the Italians, could regain some of their ancient glory and greatness if freed from foreign rule and oppression. Others were moved by the appalling spectacle of deliberate, state-sponsored cruelty in Russia and elsewhere against innocent and helpless people. Some may have been moved to some degree by the spiritual forces that drove Blackstone.

Despite the religious foundations of his interest in Palestine, Blackstone drafted his memorial in largely secular terms. Given the misery of the Jews in Russia, and the mass migration from Russia that was already ten years old, something needed to be done. “But where,” the memorial asks, “shall 2,000,000 of such poor people go? Europe is crowded and has no room for more peasant population. Shall they come to America? This will be a tremendous expense, and require years.”

For the next 60 years, whenever the Jewish question emerged into world politics, non-Jewish Americans responded with the logic and program of the memorial. The United States should support the creation of a Jewish home in the Middle East; it should use diplomatic rather than military or even economic means to achieve this goal; and it should not do this work on its own but in concert with other powers.

Indeed, from World War I on, one of the foreign-policy ideas that united liberals, conservatives, internationalists, and isolationists in the United States was that the United States should offer diplomatic support to the goal of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Christian Zionism, US-Israel relations

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter