The American public's support for Israel has risen sharply following the war with Hizbullah, according to a survey conducted by a Washington think tank.
While many in the United States back Israel because of its support for US policies and its Western, democratic culture and values, Israel's political backing found its base in American Christian beliefs, a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported on August 23.
Some 42 percent of Americans believe "Israel was given to the Jewish people by God," while 35% said they believed the state of Israel was "part of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy about the second coming of Jesus."
Pew reported that as of mid-August, 52% of Americans sympathized with Israel while 11% backed the Palestinians. Less than a month earlier, Pew found 44% support for Israel and 9% for the Palestinians, with the remainder of those surveyed either expressing no sympathies or equal support for the two sides.
"Beliefs about the Bible are closely related to views about the state of Israel," Pew found. According to the report, "Large majorities of those who view the Bible as the literal word of God say that Israel was given by God to the Jews and that Israel is the fulfillment of prophecy - 70% and 62%, respectively. These figures are much lower among those who do not believe the Bible is the actual word of God."
Support for Israel was highest in the US South, where 56% said the Land of Israel was given to the Jews by God and 45% said the state of Israel fulfilled biblical prophecy. The comparable figures for the Northeast region were 24% and 22%, respectively.
For the US as a whole, white evangelical Protestants reported the strongest level of belief that Israel was given to the Jews by God (69%) and that the state was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy (59%). Black Protestants held similar views, 60% and 56%, while less than a third of Roman Catholics and "mainline" Protestant churches -Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans et al - shared this view.
US Christians' attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have long frustrated their Arab coreligionists. Arab Christian leaders denounced the views reported by the Pew survey, and attacked "Christian Zionism" and the "contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations" with Israel.
"Christian Zionism" justified "colonization, apartheid and empire-building" by Israel, argued Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem Swerios Malki Mourad, the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu el-Assal, and the Lutheran bishop of Jordan and the Holy Land, Munib Younan. They said it was a "perversion" of Christian doctrine.
They called upon Christians to pursue justice for the Palestinians "diligently and persistently but nonviolently."
"American support for Israel is quite broad," Dr. John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, told The Jerusalem Post. "A fifth" of Americans believe the "modern state of Israel is part of the unfolding plan of salvation as laid out in the Bible," he said.
The political implications of this view were that a sizable portion of the American electorate would back Israel "right or wrong," he said, and that there was little that would change this view in the short term. There were political "costs to be paid for being strongly critical of Israel," Green said, that were independent of calculations of American self-interest.