American support for Israel is based on fanatical religious extremism

The title above is not my own creation, but is derived from an article by Asa Winstanley, investigative journalist and associate editor of Electronic Intifada. In that essay, Winstanley is examining the reasons why support for Israeli policies in the halls of the US congress is resolute and unwavering. He provides a convincing account of how the American religious right, namely, the Evangelical Christian Right, are the most steadfast supporters of Zionism.

For the purpose of the current article, we will elaborate on how Winstanley’s contention fits into the context of current events in the Middle East. Christian Zionism, while being taken to a new level by both US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has deep roots in the American political system. The opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem – relocated from Tel Aviv – highlights the importance of the supportive role of the Evangelical Christian Right – the most fervent lobby for Zionism inside the US political system.

New embassy opened amidst violence against Palestinians

The opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem in May this year coincided with the killing of at least 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters at the Gaza wall. The Palestinians have been peacefully protesting this isolation for several weeks by holding rallies and protest actions at the militarised Gaza border with Egypt. Israeli forces have responded with systematic and lethal violence, killing and wounding scores of Palestinians during the Great Return March.

The juxtaposition of these killings, along with the opening of the relocated US embassy in Jerusalem, has prompted a series of questions as to why the United States is so unstinting in its support for Israel. One explanation that is put forward to explain this enthusiastic convergence between Washington and Tel Aviv is the existence and activity of an Israel lobby. It is more accurate to say Zionist lobby, but the former expression will suffice.

There is an element of truth to this description – there certainly is a powerful Israel lobby in the United States. However, there is one mistaken assumption at the heart of this observation. The main proponents of this Israel lobby are assumed to be Jewish. This belief is inaccurate. The primary warriors of Zionism in the United States are the Evangelical Christian right, the conservative religious fanatics of the Rapture-apocalyptic-welcoming camp.

Right wing Evangelical Christian Zionism

It is fair to say that the US embassy move to Jerusalem would not have been possible were it not for the unswerving support of and aggressive lobbying by the Evangelical Christian right inside the United States. The official opening of the new American embassy was attending by, among others, Pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee, two fervent supporters of the Zionist cause. They are leaders of the fanatical Christian movements in the US, who enthusiastically promote the cause of the Israelis. Why do they do this?

They view the foundation of the state of Israel, and the move by Jews worldwide to live in that state, as ongoing fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and the coming of what evangelicals see as the end-times: the Rapture.  The latter is an integral part of evangelical Christian belief, where the final apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil will take place. Pastors such as Hagee and Jeffress have long preached that those who do not conform to their vision of Christian literalism will be consigned to the fiery pits of hell – and that includes Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Mormons – among others.

The pastors and groups that promote this ideology – such as the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) – are also the advocates of the ‘prosperity gospel’. This is the trend among evangelicals that Biblical teachings and following the literal inerrancy of the Bible will result in personal wealth creation. Pastor Hagee is one of these practitioners, who praises the pursuit of individual wealth as a goal in line with Biblical teachings. You may listen to him speaking directly about this topic if you wish.

The origins of Zionism – a political movement to create an exclusively Jewish state in the land of Palestine – has its origins not so much in Jewish tradition (important as it is) but in the teachings of Protestant millenarian Christianity. European Christendom, with its long track record of anti-Semitism, has taken numerous steps to expel the Jewish population from its midst.

Expulsions, conversions and pogroms have all played a role in pushing the Jews out of Europe. However, it was Zionism, with its religiously-based demand of ‘Righteous Return’ that has promoted Jewish emigration to Palestine.

It is no secret that European politicians, such as Arthur Balfour – author of the Balfour Declaration – were strongly Christian and anti-Semitic. By portraying the movement of European Jews into Palestine as a Biblically-sanctioned return of an ancient people to their ancestral land, the colonial-settler nature of Zionism has been effectively disguised. This is not to suggest that every single religious person holds harmful beliefs – far from it. But when religious belief is used to deliberately inflict pain and suffering on another people – in this case, the Palestinians – then we must speak out.

Deploying archaeology as a weapon

The following section of the article is probably going to upset Christian readers, and I will likely be unfriended by many on social media – so be it. My intention is not to offend anyone, but to uncover the uncomfortable realities that lay hidden behind layers of hypocrisy. When religion is used as a weapon to disguise political objectives, then the religious rationales offered to achieve political goals must be examined critically.

One of the main narratives that political Zionism has used over the years to justify its conquest and subjugation of Palestine is the notion of ‘righteous return’. According to the Israeli leaders and its supporters, the Jewish people have had a historic presence in Palestine, stemming from the Exodus of enslaved Hebrews from captivity in Egypt thousands of years ago. There is one problem with this story – the Exodus, as it is told in the Old Testament – did not happen.

Rabbi David Wolpe, writing in the BeliefNet magazine, stated that there is no archaeological evidence for a mass escape of Hebrew slaves from Egypt. In fact, the Hebrews never were slaves in ancient Egypt. While that pseudohistory makes for great Hollywood epics, it has no basis in archaeology. Brian Dunning, writing in Skeptoid magazine, says that it was privileged workers who built the pyramids in Egypt, but the story of Hebrew slaves gained traction due in part to Hollywood, but also due to the efforts of Israeli leaders.

Staks Rosch, writing in the Huffington Post magazine, states that while Jews have derived, and continue to draw, spiritual solace from the Exodus story, it is not a literal or historical account. Israeli leaders since 1948, especially former Army general the late Moshe Dayan, scoured the land of Palestine for archaeological evidence, and have found none. Uri Avnery, long-term Israeli dissident, wrote that once Zionism focused on Palestine, the ancient history of that land took on modern significance.

Archaeology and ideology became intertwined, according to Avnery. The historicity of the Exodus and the Old Testament stories had to be established, as another ideological prop to support the colonisation of Palestine. Archaeologists – and Egyptologists, that branch of archaeology directly impacted by the Exodus narrative – have closely examined Palestine for any kind of shard of evidence – and have found nothing.

In face, Israel has weaponised archaeology – an expression that is obtained from an article by Kathryn Shihadah. Israeli authorities, since 1948 but especially after the 1967 war, have sought to expunge the rich archaeological history of Palestine in order to boost its own false claims of ancestral return. The archaeological artifacts of the Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Ottoman Turkish, Persians – all these are to be scrubbed in favour of an exclusively Israeli nationalistic narrative of ‘righteous return’.

These developments are nothing new – back in 2008, Jonathan Cook wrote about how the Palestinians living in Jerusalem are being subjected to a politically-motivated campaign to drive them out. One of the ways the Israeli authorities do this is by using archaeology for modern political purposes. Building new settlements, redrawing boundaries, destroying Palestinian artifacts, and seizing antiquities – these are some of the tactics the Israeli occupation authorities are using to remove any Palestinian presence in the territories they deem to be ‘Judea’ and ‘Samaria’. These are the biblical names for the West Bank.

Belief in a particular religion is a decision that every adult makes on their own. They do so for their own reasons, and that is that. However, when a religious belief is used to airbrush out the historical connection and presence of an entire nation – in this case, the Palestinians – in order to construct an occupying authority, then it is time to protest. As Israel adds another chapter to the Nakba, it is time to reject the ideas that buttress the colonisation and occupation of Palestine.

The Windrush scandal is the poisonous fruit of Tory-Powellite racism

Over the course of April and May this year, the Windrush scandal engulfed the British government of Prime Minister Theresa May. It erupted at the same time as Britain hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), placing the prime minister and her government in a politically embarrassing position.

There are a number of relevant issues to sort out here.

Firstly, what is the Windrush political scandal? Secondly, we will examine the impact of anti-immigrant racism in Britain, particularly in light of the fact that April 2018 was the fiftieth anniversary of the racist ‘rivers of blood’ speech by Tory MP Enoch Powell. Thirdly, we shall examine how the racism of the Windrush affair has its origins in British imperial practices.

The Windrush scandal refers to the racist the British government’s racist targeting of Afro-Caribbean migrants from the Commonwealth countries. At the end of World War Two, Britain faced a serious labour shortage. To make up for this shortfall, Britain invited migrants from its colonies in the Caribbean, such as Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. While these countries were still British dependencies, citizens of those nations did not require British nationality documents.

In 1948, the first boatload of approximately 500 Afro-Caribbean migrants arrived in England. The ship, the Empire Windrush, gave its name to the generation of migrants who arrived in the subsequent decades. Windrush migrants settled into the British society, worked, paid taxes, started families – and their children, came of age in the UK and have known nothing else except being British.

For instance, Renford McIntyre arrived in the UK from Jamaica in 1968. He has lived and worked in the UK for 50 years. He traveled to the UK to join his parents, both of whom worked in England. He was 14 years old. He worked various jobs, as a tool setter, delivery man, and a driver for the National Health Service (NHS).

The British government, since the 1970s, has been clamping down on the ability of Commonwealth citizens to migrate to the UK. In 2012, current Prime Minister and the-then Home Secretary Theresa May, implemented a policy of creating a hostile environment (her words) for those deemed to be illegal, or lacking sufficient documentation to prove their British citizenship. The Windrush generation fell into this category.

As a result of the targeting of so-called illegal immigrants, McIntyre lost his job, is now homeless and is denied any kind of government support. Michael Braithwaite, who arrived in Britain from Barbados in 1961, and has worked for years as a special needs teacher, is now facing deportation. He has lost his livelihood and cannot access the health services of the NHS.

The Windrush scandal exposes the institutional racism at the heart of the UK’s immigration policy. Commonwealth nations, such as Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica are theoretically equal to Britain. In actuality, they have historically provided reserves of labour and resources to be exploited by British transnational corporations.

Initially, Prime Minister May tried to shrug off the crisis – she tried blaming bureaucratic incompetence and glitches in the immigration system. It was revealed by former Home Office employees that they were ordered to destroy the landing card slips that documented the disembarkation dates of the Windrush migrants in the UK. Amber Rudd, the previous Home Secretary, resigned in the wake of the protests and outcry over this scandal.

Gary Younge, writing in The Guardian newspaper, states that the hounding of Afro-Caribbeans from the Commonwealth is a purposeful strategy adopted by the UK authorities. Persecuting migrants from former British colonies, invited by the British government to fill a labour shortage, reeks of hypocrisy. Forcing the Windrush migrants into a precarious position is not a glitch in the system, but a deliberate product of it.

In April this year, Australia hosted the Commonwealth Games, involving competitors from all the Commonwealth nations. No less a figure than His August Britannic Majesty, Prince Charles, officially opened the Games. He opined that these Friendly Games connect people of different nationalities and backgrounds, bringing them together in a spirit of robust yet amicable competition.

The Australian corporate media reported on the Commonwealth Games obviously. It also reported on the CHOGM meeting. It showed British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the gathered leaders from the Commonwealth nations, and she thanked the graciousness of the host, Queen Elizabeth, for allowing the CHOGM meeting to proceed on the grounds of her palaces.

There was no mention at all of the Windrush scandal.

The CHOGM summit was overshadowed by the evolving and ever-expanding Windrush scandal. It is instructive to examine this political issue because the mistreatment of Afro-Caribbean migrants, invited as workers by the UK government, demonstrates that black people have never been fully accepted as equals by British institutions until today.

The Windrush generation demonstrates that Britain has long had a problem with accepting black immigrants as equals in the wider society. Britain has not achieved a post-racial status, whatever the proponents of liberal democracy may care to think. It is important to note this because, April this year, saw the 50th anniversary of the ‘rivers of blood’ speech by the racist Tory MP Enoch Powell. His anti-immigration speech was broadcast in full by BBC radio in April this year to commemorate its importance.

Powell’s immediate audience was a conservative club meeting, but his intended audience was much wider. Framing the issue of immigration, in particular black immigration, as an alarming security threat, resonated among the British public and both the major political parties. Powell himself was dismissed from his post in the Shadow Cabinet. However, Powellism, as a strong tendency of anti-immigrant populism, has remained alive and well in British politics.

The Windrush scandal, by targeting Afro-Caribbean migrants, is the direct implementation of Powellite racism. Indeed, Tory Euro-scepticism, such as was seen during the Brexit vote, is also a product of the Tory-Powellite strand of British racism. The anti-European Union vote was expressed as a generalised rebuff to all immigration. Powellism, in the years since the speech, has achieved a kind of rehabilitation in the mainstream political parties.

While the immediate origins of this crisis can be traced back to 2012 with the May government’s decision to coerce Afro-Caribbean migrants into self-deportation, the underlying racism of the British state goes back much further. Nick Dearden, writing in Al Jazeera, states that Whitehall’s imperialistic policies treat black Britons as temporary labourers to be discarded once their utility has expired.

Dearden writes that:

This scandal perfectly sums up the aspirations of so-called “global Britain”: to live off of the resources and labour of others, to oversee illegally earned capital flowing into the City of London from across the developing world and to firmly shut the door on anyone who deems him/herself worthy of living in this great land.

Including a mixed-race person in the royal family is all well and good, but this is merely placing window-dressing on the underlying and fundamentally racist nature of the British state. With all due respect to the super-achieving Meghan Markle, putting a black person in and among the aristocratic class will do nothing to improve the conditions of the black immigrant community in the UK.

We would do well to remember that black Britons belong, not just in the royal family, but are part of Britain’s history and culture. In fact, let us remember the words of Andrea Stuart, writing in The Guardian – Britain owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the black Briton migrants who helped to build the country. It is time to end the imperial system, and rethink the meaning of Britishness. As Andrea Stuart writes:

In an era where young black men are disproportionately represented in the prison system, surely it is clear that the violence of Britain’s colonial past hangs over the present. All of us need to confront this wilful forgetting around British history and tell the truth: Britain was built on the back of black slaves; they toiled and died over the centuries to enrich Britain.