Mayor Muriel E. Bowser speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in D.C. (AFP/Getty Images) Why do so many American politicians, from state legislators and governors to members of Congress to presidents, express such passionate support for the State of Israel?
Intentions aside, her explanation of the so-called special relationship between the United States and the State of Israel is wrong.
Furthermore, attitudes to Israel have been shaped far more fundamentally by internal debates among gentiles than the influence of Jewish organizations.
This popularity is rooted in part in debates among Christians American approval for Israel in the 20th and 21st centuries has deep historical roots in the Christian understanding of America.
In my book, “God’s Country: Christian Zionism in America,” I show that leaders of Puritan New England predicted the demographic return and political revival of the Jewish people in the biblical promised land.
Combining prophetic hopes for Jewish restoration with republican political theory, ministers and scholars proposed that the biblical Hebrews were the best model for how a federally organized nation might work.
However, more theologically and politically conservative writers insisted that consolidation of the United States by the Constitution was a step toward the reestablishment of a Hebrew state in what Christians described as the Holy Land.
In 1845, John Price Durbin, a Methodist who served as chaplain of the Senate and president of Dickinson College, insisted on “the undoubted fact of the restoration of a Jewish state in Palestine … by the operation of social and political causes” rather than a miracle.
Hopes for a political alliance between the United States and the people and land of Israel reached an early peak in 1891, when the evangelist William E. Blackstone presented a petition to President Benjamin Harrison calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Ottoman Palestine.
But the list of signatories to the so-called Blackstone Memorial is not so different to the rolls of political, economic, and media luminaries who declare their support for Israel today.
History suggests that the United States’ sustained and often enthusiastic support for Zionism and the State of Israel is not a product of Jewish influence.
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