Unto the Nations: Republican Evangelicals pick up slack as liberal Democrats betray Israel

A much larger voting bloc is picking up the pieces and standing in Israel’s corner: Evangelical Christians.

The U.S. embassy opening ceremony in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The U.S. embassy opening ceremony in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018
There is mounting and regular evidence that the American Left is abandoning Israel.
In July, Muslim Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar called Israel an “apartheid regime” in a tweet that went viral.
One week later, democratic-socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinian territories before admitting she is “not the expert on the subject” in an interview on PBS’s Firing Line. Ocasio-Cortez’s comment came on the heels of a tweet she made in May when she called the Israeli military action confronting protesters trying to breach the Israel-Gaza Strip fence a “massacre.”
Ocasio-Cortez has been labeled “the future of our party” by DNC Chairman Tom Perez.
That same month, Maria Estrada, a California Democratic candidate, defended past social media posts on Israel’s role in “genocide” against Palestinians, and Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, condemned the Israeli government for the “horrific slaughter” of Palestinian protesters, many Hamas members.
“We are witnessing the use of unabated brutality and force against civilians to stifle civil unrest,” tweeted Yarmuth. “America must... demand more from its close allies.”
Over the last year there has been a decline in bipartisan support for Israel.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, published in January and retweeted by Pew this month, the percentage of Democrats who sympathize with Israel more than the Palestinians has decreased from 38% in 2001 to 27% this year (compared to 79% of Republicans) – the lowest degree of support on record. Among liberal Democrats, the statistics are even more shocking, with 48% support in 2001 to 19% this year, along with a rise in support for Palestinians, from 18% to 35% in the same years.
On a list of America’s eight most important partners for American foreign policy, Republicans place Israel second, before China and after the United Kingdom – for Democrats, Israel did not even make the list.
Historically considered the party of the American Jewish community, the Democratic Party seems to be moving fast to the Left and away from Israel.
While this shift must concern us and we must attempt to stop the bleeding, a much larger voting bloc is picking up the pieces and standing in Israel’s corner: Evangelical Christians.
Last month, at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Washington Summit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Christians for “always standing with Israel” and called them “among our greatest friends in the world.” From his Jerusalem office, he thanked the group for standing with Israel and with truth.
Netanyahu continued, “Christians also know another fundamental truth: Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 70 years. And Jerusalem will always be our capital.”
Indeed, Evangelical Christian support for Israel is often credited as a major factor in US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the embassy move. CUFI founder Pastor John Hagee was chosen to give the benediction at the US Embassy’s opening ceremony in Jerusalem on May 14. In addition, Netanyahu has called Christian support for Israel a “vital part of Israel’s national security.”
While many would utilize polarizing political trends to explain why many progressives are abandoning Israel and conservatives are embracing the Jewish state, there may be another force at play – one that should connect both Christians and Jews alike – the Bible.
The Bible is the most Zionist document. It repeatedly and powerfully makes the connection between the people and the land of Israel. The city of Jerusalem is mentioned 823 times in the Hebrew Bible, often referring to the land as a part of the eternal covenant between the Jews and God.
It is therefore unsurprising that Republicans and Democrats have very different beliefs about how they engage with the Bible. According to the 2017 Pew study, “Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party are less likely to say they believe in the God of the Bible than Republicans and Republican leaners (45% vs 70%). Democrats are more likely than Republicans (39% vs 23%) to say they believe in a higher power other than the biblical God.”
Because conservatives are more likely to read the Bible, attend church and believe in God than liberals, there is a direct correlation between engagement with the Bible and support for Israel today.
As such, the question for those who wish to increase support for Israel should be, “How do we get more people to read the Bible, especially young people, who are less likely today to read the Bible and engage with Israel in a positive manner?”
This is especially relevant to the American Jewish community. Only 17% of Jews read Tanach on a weekly basis compared to 63% of Evangelical Protestants, also according to Pew.
While American Jews certainly make a commitment to Jewish heritage, culture and history, too many ignore Tanach, which is the root of this culture that we hold so dearly. It is time to call on Jewish cultural institutions to engage with the religious roots of our young people through Bible studies, readings, online sources and Torah apps.
While Evangelical Christians have been picking up our slack, we mustn’t take their support for granted or expect that Christians can fill the void completely. We should continue to focus on faith-based diplomacy and biblical outreach to international Christian communities. At the same time, we must strengthen our own literacy with our most ancient and historical text, the Tanach.
Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the director of Israel365 and editor of The Israel Bible, the first Tanach dedicated to highlighting the land and the people of Israel, a No. 1 New Release in both Jewish and Christian Bible categories on Amazon.