What is a Zionist?
A politically conservative writer from my corner of the world (who is a non-Christian as far as I know) recently sent out a mass email to members of a discussion group in which I participate on occasion. He was asking for our input answering the question: “What is a “Zionist.”
Typically I just glance over emails like these and delete them, but the subject matter was related to recent posts I discussed on my blog, and because I want to return to writing on eschatology, and premillennialism specifically, I thought I would respond to this writer’s inquiry.
What follows are my comments to him, slightly expanded and edited for my readership.
In our modern, politically correct world, “Zionist” has become something of a dirty word. It’s like being called a “Nazi” or a “racist.” The idea being that a “Zionist,” at least according to the American liberal, p.c. mind, is any person who is unquestionably loyal to, and supports the Jewish state of Israel, in spite of the fact the Israeli government is cruel, bigoted, and openly persecutes the innocent non-Jews (usually defined as Palestinian Arabs) who live alongside of the Jews and under the thumb of the State.
The more bizarre haters of “Zionism” accuse the “Zionists” (usually “Jews,” though “evangelicals” can be included) of conspiratorial dealings within governments, businesses, and banking, clandestinely shaping those entities to ultimately favor the Jewish State.
The idea of “Zionism” reflects two facets. First is the secular idea of “Zionism.” That simply being the idea that the state of Israel has the right to exist as a nation, as well as the right for their government and the people to defend themselves against murderous terrorists groups who seek their ultimate destruction.
Now, does that necessarily mean that the modern state of Israel is without fault in all that they do in their defense of themselves? Of course not. Does that mean, then, that I automatically condemn them completely for the faults they have made defending themselves and fighting their enemies? I would say no once more.
I have heard people say (including one atheist commenter here at my blog) that Israel should be condemned for X,Y, or Z actions they did that resulted in innocent people getting killed or misguided hippie college students ran over by bulldozers. Could one say that was a bad move on Israel’s part or it was a stupid, indefensible action? Of course. But condemned?
Besides, what exactly does that mean, anyways, that they are to be condemned? That I can agree they have acted stupidly and are not pure as snow when they have retaliated against the Palestinians? I could probably say yes to that definition. But if by “condemned,” a person means the Jews need to renounce their 1948 statehood, pack up and leave Jerusalem, and hand over everything to the Muslims who hate them, well then no, I don’t “condemn” them.
The modern state of Israel is certainly an unusual state in that its citizens share a close proximity to their mortal enemies. But like any secular state in such a high pressure situation, they will make mistakes and act rashly and there will be innocent casualties in conflicts with those enemies.
Obviously their enemies, and the useful idiots in Europe and America who support them, focus the world’s attention on those disastrous actions that happen when the Israeli government is forced to defend themselves and press their rights to exist. While at the same time they ignore the larger picture that Israel’s enemies want them erased from the earth and driven into the sea at all costs. That tends to put the conflict into sharper perspective.
Yet there is a second facet to the concept of “Zionism,” however. One that cannot be exclusively defined along secular, political lines. There is much more to Zionism than a political disagreement between pollyannish, pacifist lefties and conservative right-wingers. There is a spiritual and theological component to Zionism that cannot be overlooked. That is because “Israel,” as a nation, represents a unique people in history.
Israel is a people who are identified with God almighty, who were especially chosen to enter into a covenant with God, a people from whom the savior of the entire world would come. As a Bible believing Christian, I am a “Zionist” because I believe God has made specific, covenant promises with the Jews that He will be certain to fulfill, and that fulfillment is tied directly to the land on which the state of Israel currently exists.
It is mistakenly believed “Zionism” is a 20th century phenomena, because Israel wasn’t really recognized as a national state until 1948. But the fact of the matter is that before “Zionism” was called what it is, there were many individuals supportive of Israel’s restoration to their land.
The idea of supporting a restoration of the Jews to Israel began with the post-Reformation Puritans. Though most Reformers believed (and still believe) the promises given to the Jews were fulfilled in Christ and the Christian Church, the recovery of the biblical text in the myriad of language translations that were published in the 16th and 17th centuries, coupled with a renewal of biblical exegesis – or the principles of proper Bible study – began to stir up in the hearts of Christians that God has not “fulfilled” His promise to Israel only in the Church. Rather, those promises are yet to be fulfilled in the future with a restoration of the Jews in a physical land identified in Scripture as Israel. This is clearly taught in such places as Isaiah 11, Jeremiah 31:35ff., Ezekiel 37, Micah 4:1ff., Zechariah 14, and Romans 9-11.
In the secular context, I consider myself a “Zionist” in that I believe Israel has a right to exist in their land and I believe they have the right to defend themselves against groups and nations who seek their demise as does any nation whose citizens would be in the same situation.
In the theological context, I am a “Zionist” in that I believe the presence of the Jews in the current land of Israel has future, prophetic significance, even though the Jews are currently in a state of divinely induced blindness as Paul notes in Romans 11:25.