“So about this: You know which religious groups seemed pretty exited about today’s West Bank settlements decision? Evangelical Christians,” Religious News Service reporter Jack Jenkins wrote on twitter yesterday. “You know who didn’t? Several major American Jewish groups, mainline Christian groups, and Muslim groups. This is a recurring pattern.”
In other words, the Trump administration appears to be basing its Israel policy on not on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or even on what is best for Israel, but rather on pleasing evangelical Christians.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday the Trump administration’s latest pro-Israel change in U.S. policy, saying the State Department is rescinding a 1978 department legal opinion that viewed settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as inconsistent with international law.
Pompeo’s remarks, The Jerusalem Post has learned, came after a year-long review conducted by the State Department’s legal office. The team met with international law experts as well as officials from different governments to hear their opinions.
Color me skeptical, for two reasons.
The Trump Administration doesn’t exactly have a track record of being truthful. For example, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney claimed last month that the search committee selected Trump’ Doral report as the location for next year’s G-7 meeting through it’s regular search process, only for it to later come out that Trump had it added after the original list, which had not included Doral, was whittled down to two.
Maybe the State Department did conduct a year-long review that included meeting with international law experts and officials from all relevant governments and agencies. Or maybe it didn’t.
Consider, also, who Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called immediately after announcing the change in policy:
Mike Evans, founder of The Jerusalem Prayer Team and a member of Trump’s informal group of evangelical Christian advisers, praised the move. In an interview with Religion News Service, Evans said Pompeo called him shortly after the press conference while en route to meet President Trump.
“I told (Pompeo) it was a tremendous answer to prayer from evangelicals,” he said, asking the secretary of state to express gratitude to the president.
Evans said in a separate statement that the announcement was on par with the administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He told RNS it reminded him of a passage from the Biblical book of Genesis in which God refers to Israel by saying, “I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse those who curse you.”
Why did Pompeo call Mike Evans immediately after announcing the move? More to the point, why does Trump have a team of evangelical Christian advisers that includes an evangelical Christian Israel guy?
Wait wait wait. Friends of Zion Museum? What is this?
I found an image that you have to see to really take in, but for whatever reason WordPress really does not want to embed it. It’s a photo in what is I assume Jerusalem, of a billboard advertising … well … you really need to see it. And you can. Just click here, it’s embedded in this Haaretz article.
“Trump is a Friend of Zion,” this billboard reads, featuring a Star of David juxtaposed on an American flag as background. “The Friends of Zion Museum, Jerusalem,” the billboard reads. But it’s not Jerusalem. Three letters in the middle of the word “Jerusalem” are a different color from the rest of the word. As a result, the word reads as follows: Jer-USA-lem. Get it? Get it? I feel like I need a shower now.Anyway! The billboard goes on: “Learn the stories of amazing evangelicals who defended the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.” And, finally, it finishes: “Founder – Dr. Mike Evans.” Wait. What does he have his Ph.D. in? I can google this. Oh no—no—wait—it’s an “honorary doctorate” from “Grand Canyon University,” a for-profit private Christian university. Because of course it is.
I’m sorry, but people with honorary doctorates should not style themselves “Dr.” It demeans the work everyone who actually earns a doctoral degree puts into doing so. But yes, you’re right, I see now—-I’m latching onto the least objectionable part of this whole thing. The only thing we have established is that Donald Trump should definitely be in this museum. (I bet this institution is a “museum” only inasmuch as Mike Evans is a “Dr.”)
We’ve also established that the situation is even worse than I thought. Jewish readers: I am so sorry you have to deal with this crap. That whole advertisement is just icky.
I’m not the only one noticing the frequency with which evangelical Christians pop up in the Trump administration’s conversations about its Israel policy—and nor is Jack Jenkins. “When President Trump talks about Israel, is he actually talking to evangelicals?” Gillian Friedman asked in Deseret News in September. “Trump’s support of Israel may not be intended to galvanize Jewish voters at all. Instead, Trump’s support of Israel may in fact be energizing a larger part of Trump’s voting base: evangelical Christians.”
American Jews are not a monolith, and U.S. Jewish opinion of Trump’s actions is divided. But did you know that evangelical Christians are more supportive of Trump’s policies regarding Israel than are American Jews?
“The support that Trump has shown for various policies regarding Israel are often far more popular among his evangelical base than they are among Jewish American voters who lean heavily Democratic and are very liberal politically,” said David Campbell, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame.
Huh. You don’t say.
While Jewish voters make up a small percentage of the electorate, evangelical Christians make up a much larger share of voters and are central to Donald Trump maintaining his base. When Trump says he does things for Israel, then, is he posturing for Jews—or for evangelical Christians?
I grew up in an evangelical Christian home. At one point my friends and I pretended we ruled various countries around the world, creating new constitutions and submitting balanced budgets (because of course we did). The very first thing every one of us did was create a strong, unbreakable treaty with Israel. Why? Because Israel is God’s country. Because if you want to be on anyone’s side, you want to be on Israel’s. Because the Bible.
What was it Mike Evans said of Pompeo’s announcement?
“In our opinion, it’s recognizing the Bible as legal,” said Evans… “They’re saying it’s true.”
It’s not about actually caring about the Jewish people, it’s about fulfilling the Bible. The Jewish people, willing or not, are players in a grand evangelical Christian drama based on a screenplay called the Bible.
Experts say another indicator that Trump is not speaking directly to American Jewish voters when he talks about Israel is what some describe as the anti-Semitic tenor of his “disloyalty” comment toward Jews.
“In my opinion, if you vote for a Democrat you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” Trump said from the White House. “And only weak people would say anything other than that.”
For many Jews, his statement was rooted in an age-old anti-Semitic trope of Jewish “dual loyalty,” said Myers, in which Jews should be viewed with distrust and fear because they are seen to be incapable of possessing true loyalty to their country.
“This is a stock phrase of modern anti-Semitism,” said Myers. “It’s an insinuation that excites the passions of white nationalists, who are an increasingly potent force in American life.”
So there’s that.
Paula White-Cain, Trump’s spiritual advisor and the chair of his evangelical advisory committee, retweeted Pompeo’s announcement. “As Evangelicals and supporters of Israel we applaud this bold and correct move,” she wrote. Jenkins retweeted her tweet with this comment: “Note: She responds to this news *as an evangelical.*” Indeed.
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