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The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891-1948 Hardcover – 31 May 1998

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (31 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714648507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714648507
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,166,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MideastMC on 2 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The previous reviewer provides a very useful breakdown of the text, but I wish to add a more general point.

Merkley provides a rigorous historical excavation of sympathy for the idea of a physical 'Jewish State' among Christian politicians and statesmen from Cromwell onwards. With Merkley, I find it highly unlikely that the seed of Herzl's secular colonialist project would have resulted in anything like the outworkings of recent history had it not been for the fertile soil of what I view as colonial Christendom's civilisationist and explicitly proto-Zionist thinking.

Remarkably, I did not feel that I was being steered towards sharing these Zionist sympathies to any extent, and I only became aware of Merkley's own view after reading the book. In fact, as one who rejects both this theological position and its associated politics, I found the historical narrative as presented as tragic as it was informative.

That the previous reviewer with his sympathies, and I with mine, can both rate this book with the full five stars should be telling to anyone interested in this underestimated political movement within Christendom. What's more, it is encouraging that history relating to Zionism can still be generated that is not easily transcribed onto a banner.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback
This compelling work provides valuable insight on the history of Zionism, the contribution of American and British Christians to the rebirth of Israel, and American foreign policy. The book consists of 4 parts:

HERE I AM which examines the Herzl/Hechler paradigm. Merkley starts with the historic meeting between Theodor Herzl and William Hechler that took place on 10 March 1896. This marked the beginning of co-operation between Herzlian & Christian Zionism, when Hechler sought out Herzl just a few days after the publication of Der Judenstaat. The British evangelical pamphleteer Hechler enabled Herzl to meet with powerful European leaders. This ultimately led to the Balfour Declaration, The British Mandate and the birth of the Jewish state in 1948.

The book is more than just dry history, as Merkley explores the personalities of the two protagonists and draws parallels with the political situation today as regards support for Israel and relations between Christian Zionists, Israelis and American Jews. For a most humorous take on the current situation, I highly recommend A Match Made in Heaven by Zev Chafets. The sophisticated Viennese journalist Herzl was completely secular whilst his helper was a pious Christian. Although non-religious, Herzl was superstitious and noticed a series of strange coincidences as he pursued his quest. And before his death, he related to Reuben Brainin a wonderful numinous dream that he had about Messiah and Moses when he was a boy of 12 years old.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles Soper on 2 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a riveting little book this is! Paul Merkley's distinctive blend of rigorous scholarship, ascerbic but persuasive analysis, avuncular tolerance, dry humour, guidance for the unlearned and a narrator's delightful eye for telling detail flowers in this work. He scopes in on landmarks of highly significant interactions between Jewish Zionism and its Protestant advocates. Without exception each one is surprising, many counterintuitive and instructive about the strange ways in which real politics may bypass ordinary influences.

Some are well covered elsewhere, the remarkable relationship between the Anglo-German Anglican chaplain Hechler and Theodor Herzl for example. Starting with Hechler's astonishing and abrupt self introduction, 'Here I am', he charts precisely how the eccentric cleric increasingly won secular Herzl's respect as well as exasperation, and admiration for his usefulness. He describes the paradoxical 'near miss' of official German sponsorship of Zionism, after the meeting between Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm, which Hechler facilitated by an appeal to Biblical promise.

The most electric episode for me in the whole volume are the behind the scenes mechanics of the meeting between Harry Truman and an old Jewish soldier friend Jacobson, and how an appeal to principle, turned Truman against the advice of his military, diplomatic and economic advisers to support recognition of Israel, when Jacobson was able to extract a last minute meeting with Weizmann. It reads like the book of Esther or the narrative of Joseph.

Christian readers with any interest in Israel will be fascinated by Merkley's carefully referenced and indexed account. Jewish readers will gain unique insights into their own great heroes greatest moments, that they will scarcely gain from official memoirs.
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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Ruth replied: No way will I leave you ... 7 Jan. 2008
By Peter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This compelling work provides valuable insight on the history of Zionism, religion in America and American foreign policy. The book consists of 4 parts:

HERE I AM which examines the Herzl/Hechler paradigm. Merkley starts with the historic meeting between Theodor Herzl and William Hechler that took place on 10 March 1896. This marked the beginning of co-operation between Herzlian & Christian Zionism, when Hechler sought out Herzl just a few days after the publication of The Jewish State. The British evangelical pamphleteer Hechler enabled Herzl to meet with powerful European leaders. This ultimately led to the Balfour Declaration, The British Mandate and the birth of the Jewish state in 1948.

The book is more than just dry history, as Merkley explores the personalities of the two protagonists and draws parallels with the political situation today as regards support for Israel and relations between Christian Zionists, Israelis and American Jews. For a most humorous take on the current situation, I highly recommend A Match Made in Heaven by Zev Chafets. The sophisticated Viennese journalist Herzl was completely secular whilst his helper was a pious Christian. Although non-religious, Herzl was superstitious and noticed a series of strange coincidences as he pursued his quest. And before his death, he related to Reuben Brainin a wonderful numinous dream that he had about Messiah and Moses when he was a boy of 12 years old.

THE CYRUS CONNECTION encompasses the roots of PhiloSemitism in Britain, its failure in Germany, and its success in the UK and the USA via William Blackstone, Louis Brandeis, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. This part deals extensively with the Puritans and the way Puritanism later gave rise to Dispensationalist theology and Restorationism. In 1891 William Blackstone wrote a petition to President Benjamin Harrison and Secretary of State James Blaine requesting them to call an international conference to consider the claims of the "Israelites" for a national homeland in the Levant. This petition was signed by 413 prominent people including the speaker of the House of Representatives, the chief justice of the Supreme Court plus influential journalists, writers, clergymen and industrialists.

RALLYING THE ZIONISTS deals with the efforts of Christian Zionists to influence public opinion. This work proceeded through the Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover administrations and into that of Roosevelt. The role of people like Emanuel Neuman, Stephen Wise, Charles Edward Russell, A Ben Elias, William Hard and William R Hopkins, and the activities of organizations like the Zionist Association of America, Pro-Palestine Federation of America and America Palestine Committee are examined here. There is also some interesting information on the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in chapter 12: the American Zionist Emergency Council and the Christian Zionists.

Part Four: I AM CYRUS chronicles the close relations between Jewish and Christian Zionists that contributed to the creation of the State of Israel by covering the issue of Palestine during the war, the final years of the Roosevelt administration, President Truman and his friendship with Eddie Jacobson who played such a crucial role in Truman's recognition of Israel on 14 May 1948. Merkley points out that this action was well within the tradition of Christian Restorationism. The book concludes with notes, a bibliography and index.

In this informative and highly readable work, Merkley reveals how the Christian Zionism of today goes back more than a hundred years with even older roots in the Puritans in England in the 1600s. The same holds for differences of opinion within the movement as well as its relations with the Jewish community. For example, Hechler did not believe in proselytizing whilst Blackstone did. And just like then, the Jewish response today is mixed, with Abe Foxman of the ADL as example of those who distrust the motives of Christian Zionists.

More contemporary information on the politics of Christian Zionism is available in Standing With Israel by David Brog and Merkley's Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel whilst In Defense of Israel by John Hagee is a clear manifesto of the movement's support for the Jewish state. Informative books on the theology of Christian Zionism include The Mountains of Israel by Norma Archbold Parrish, Ruth & Esther by Frank Morgan and Why Care about Israel? by Sandra Teplinsky.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Exceedingly expensive, worth every penny 17 April 2013
By Charles Soper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What a riveting little book this is! Paul Merkley's distinctive blend of rigorous scholarship, ascerbic but persuasive analysis, avuncular tolerance, dry humour, guidance for the unlearned and a narrator's delightful eye for telling detail flowers in this work. He scopes in on landmarks of highly significant interactions between Jewish Zionism and its Protestant advocates. Without exception each one is surprising, many counterintuitive and instructive about the strange ways in which real politics may bypass ordinary influences.

Some are well covered elsewhere, the remarkable relationship between the Anglo-German Anglican chaplain Hechler and Theodor Herzl for example. Starting with Hechler's astonishing and abrupt self introduction, 'Here I am', he charts precisely how the eccentric cleric increasingly won secular Herzl's respect as well as exasperation, and admiration for his usefulness. He describes the paradoxical 'near miss' of official German sponsorship of Zionism, after the meeting between Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm, which Hechler facilitated by an appeal to Biblical promise.

The most electric episode for me in the whole volume are the behind the scenes mechanics of the meeting between Harry Truman and an old Jewish soldier friend Jacobson, and how an appeal to principle, turned Truman against the advice of his military, diplomatic and economic advisers to support recognition of Israel, when Jacobson was able to extract a last minute meeting with Weizmann. It reads like the book of Esther or the narrative of Joseph.

Christian readers with any interest in Israel will be fascinated by Merkley's carefully referenced and indexed account. Jewish readers will gain unique insights into their own great heroes greatest moments, that they will scarcely gain from official memoirs.
3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Synopsis by Yoginder Sikand 16 Mar. 2008
By Marabout - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Christian Zionism, a variant of Christian fundamentalism, is today a major global force to reckon with. Christian Zionists are a key player in American (and to a lesser extent, Western European) politics. Firm backers of Zionism, Israel and Israeli expansionism, they are also one of the principal fountainheads of Islamophobia on the global scence. The origins, development and politics of Christian Zionism are brought out in considerable detail in this well-researched, balanced and very timely book by the noted activist scholar Dan Cohn-Sherbook, himself a Jew, and Professor of Judaism at the University of Wales.

Approximately a tenth of the American population is a devoted member of the cult of Christian Zionism, the author observes. `It is the fastest growing religious movement in Christianity today', he notes (p.xi). Many followers of the cult are from the middle and upper-middle classes, followers of televangelists who wield enormous political and economic clout. Christian Zionists are impelled by an imperialistic vision, of Jesus' impending arrival on earth, when he shall, so they believe, wipe out all his enemies (all non-Christians, presumably) and establish his global dominion, with his capital at Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Christian Zionists believe that they, as allegedly God's chosen people, will be spared the horrors of the global war that shall precede Jesus' advent, and will be miraculously wafted up to heaven, where they shall watch the final destruction of the world.

Christian Zionists believe that Jesus can only return the world once the Jews colonise Palestine. This belief is based on the contentious claim that God had granted this land to the progeny of Abraham, through Isaac, that is the Jews, for eternity. This land is not restricted to the present borders of the state of Israel. Instead, Zionists, both Jewish and Christian, believe that a vast swathe of land, stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, today inhabited by millions of Arab Muslims and Christians, belongs rightfully to the Jews, and so must be ethnically `cleansed' of non-Jewish presence. Hence the justification they offer for their genocidal project aimed at the Arabs. Hence, too, their consistent backing to Israel, their generous funding of Jewish settlements in Palestine, and their enormous pressure on successive American governments to adopt rigorously pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian policies.

The author traces the origins of Christian Zionism to the changing attitude of Christian groups towards the Jews following the Protestant Revolution. The early Catholic Church justified the witch-hunt of the Jews, labeling them as alleged Christ-killers. However, numerous Protestant sects, while equally vehemently anti-Jewish, believed that the Jews needed to colonise Palestine before Jesus would re-appear in the world to save it. This was, and still is, by no means a generous acceptance of the Jews. Rather, they believed, as Christian Zionists today do, that only those Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah would be saved. The rest would ally themselves with the Anti-Christ and would be defeted by Jesus and his forces and, consequently, would be sent off to eternal damnation in the fires of hell.

From the seventeenth century onwards, the author shows, numerous European, and, later American, Protestant churches began evolving schemes to settle the Jews in Palestine. This was also seen as a convenient way of getting rid of the Jewish presence in Europe. They petitioned various European powers to back this scheme. By the early nineteenth century, numerous British administrators had been won round to this idea, impelled, no doubt, also by a motive to undermine the Ottoman Empire, which at that time controlled Palestine, and by a deep-rooted aversion to Islam.

Increasingly, the author shows, Christian Zionists began to join hands with secular Jewish Zionists, whose plans to settling Jews in Israel had nothing to do with any messianic hopes, but, rather, arose as a response to the centuries'-old persecution of Jews by European Christians. (In contrast, the author rightly notes, `In Arab lands, Jews had flourished for centuries [...] [while] in European countries Jewry had been subject to oppression and persecution' (p.44).

Ties between secular Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists to pursue the common project of Jewish colonization of Palestine, the author writes, were strengthened by the support given to Theodore Herzl (b.1860), the Hungarian Jew who is regarded as the father of modern-day Zionism. The author traces the course of this close collaboration down to the present-day, describing the strong political and financial links between Christian and Israeli/Jewish Zionists and also the enormous clout of the Zionist lobby in American political circles.

The author clearly indicates that Christian Zionism, based on a virulently anti-Islamic agenda, is a major hurdle to peace not just in West Asia but globally, too. Indeed, some Christian Zionists even ardently wish (and work for) a final global war, in the belief that this would accelerate their hoped-for wafting up to heaven and the subsequent arrival of Jesus. At the same time, and this gives some cause for hope, the author also discusses critiques of the Zionist imperialist project by progressive Christian and Jewish groups and also by orthodox Jewish Rabbis, who are opposed to Zionism on the grounds that, as the author puts it, `It [is] forbidden to accelerate divine redemption through human efforts'.
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