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    An Unholy Allaince of Christian Fundamentalists and Zionist Jews

     English Editions

    An Unholy Allaince of Christian Fundamentalists and Zionist Jews.

    By Md Fayyaz, | 21:11, 11 August 2003|.

    The members of the Christian Coalition of America are some of the most passionate defenders of Israel in the United States. There's just one catch: they want to convert all Jews to Christianity. Matthew Engel reports on an unholy alliance

    At first sight, the scene is very familiar: one that happens in Washington DC and other major American cities all the time.

    Then comes the mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, who is received even more rapturously. "God is with us. You are with us." And there are more whoops and hollers and flag-waves and shofar-blows. This support is not offered with any ifs or buts either. The placards round the hall insist that every inch of the Palestine should belong to Israel and that there should never be a Palestinian state. These assertions are backed up by biblical quotations.

    It could be a rally in Jerusalem for those Israelis who think Ariel Sharon is a dangerous softie. But something very strange is going on here. There are thousands of people cheering for Israel in the huge Washington Convention Centre. But not one of them appears to be Jewish, at least not in the conventional sense. For this is the annual gathering of a very non-Jewish organisation indeed: the Christian Coalition of America.

    And the strangest thing of all is not their support, which is a novel and important development in American politics, but the thinking that lies behind it - which is altogether more chilling to Israel's traditional supporters than all the cheers and flags would suggest. You might also describe it as downright weird. In a country where weekly church attendance is about 20 times the level it is in Britain (40% v 2%), the relationship between religion and politics in the US is intense.

    And there is little doubt that, last spring, when President Bush dithered and dallied over his Middle East policy before finally coming down on Israel's side, he was influenced not by the overrated Jewish vote, but by the opinion of Christian "religious conservatives" - the self-description of between 15 and 18% of the electorate.

    On the conference floor, however, the explanation has more to do with the end of the world than the start of it. What has really changed is the emergence of the doctrine known as "dispensationalism", popularised in the novels of the Rev Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. LaHaye and Jenkins may not mean much to you or to the readers of the New York Times Book Review, but the ninth volume of their Left Behind series sold three million hardback copies in the US last year, eclipsing John Grisham.

    Central to the theory - based on a reading of scripture Brown would prefer not to discuss - is the Rapture, the second coming of Christ, which will presage the end of the world. A happy ending depends on the conversion of all the Jews to Christianity. And that, to cut a long story very short, can only happen if the Jews are in possession of all the lands from Nile to Euphrates. In other words, these Christians are supporting the Jews in order to abolish them.

    Oh yes, agreed Marion Pollard, a charming lady from Dallas who was selling hand-painted Jerusalem crystal in the exhibition hall at the conference. "God is the sovereign. He'll do what he pleases. But based on the scripture, those are the guidelines." She calls herself a fervent supporter of Israel, as does Lewis Hall of North Carolina.

    This conference began with a videotaped benediction straight from the Oval office. Some of the most influential republicans in Congress addressed the gathering including - not once, but twice - Tom DeLay.

    DeLay was followed by Pat Robertson, the coalition's founder, sometime presidential candidate and the very personification of the American TV evangelist.

    Robertson prefers to dwell on Arab plans to drive Israel into the sea and the iniquity of Yasser Arafat and "his gang of thugs". But he also cites the stories of Joshua and David to prove Israel's ownership of Jerusalem "long before anyone had heard of Mohammed".

    Robertson has now retired from the coalition, leaving it in the hands of Roberta Combs, a grandmother from South Carolina who has the longest and most scarlet fingernails I have ever seen.

    In an interview, her most vigorous point is in support of Bush. "I think he's a great president. I think he's a caring person. First of all, he's a Christian, which I identify with.

    The linkage between the Christian right and the Republican party is getting ever stronger, especially in the electorally crucial states of the south and west.

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