Monday, August 24, 2009

Huckabee in Israel

With all the recent coverage of healthcare, most of us missed Mike Huckabee’s comments last week in Israel.

He said,

“Should the Palestinians have a place to call their own? Yes. I have no problem with that. Should it be in the middle of the Jewish homeland? That's what I think has to be assessed as virtually unrealistic.”

Why would Huckabee say such a thing?

It can’t be because he wants to pander to Jewish voters. Even the Netanyahu government in Israel thinks there should be some form of Palestinian state, even if it is demilitarized. And a majority of Jewish voters support a Palestinian state.

I think there are two explanations. The first is Republican Party politics. The second is Hucakbee’s evangelical faith. While Huckabee’s comments are out of the mainstream, there is a significant subsection of Republican primary voters who agree. Support for Israel among evangelical voters who dominate the important Iowa caucuses is particularly high. For example, 89% of American evangelicals say they have a “moral and Biblical obligation to support” Israel.

That of course begs the question of why many evangelicals would support denying the Palestinians a state in the Middle East. Part of the explanation is surely sympathy with Jews for the persecutions they have endured for centuries. After enduring so much, allowing the Jews to have a state is only fair.

For many evangelicals, support for Israel is indeed Biblical. There is a gut appeal to having God’s chosen people (the Jews) have their old homeland back. And many would like to see Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.

I think these factors explain staunch evangelical support more than anything. Some like to point to Christian end-times theology to understand the high support. The reasoning is that Israel is to play an important role during the last days and so it needs to preserve its identity as a Jewish state. There are indeed some evangelicals whose support for Israel derives from reading end-time prophecies.

But I’m not sure why. The Christian God is omnipotent and omniscient. Surely he doesn’t need human help to accomplish his plan. If it is his will that the end-times happen, then it will happen.

So while all of this explains why a Christian like Huckabee might strongly support Israel, I’m still at a loss for why he opposes giving Palestinians land in well, Palestine.

1 comment:

  1. The "Palestinian People" are an invention of the last fifty or so years. Even the term Palestine was chosen relatively arbitrarily by the British when they absorbed former Ottoman territories.

    For much of its more recent history, the land now called Israel was a backwater of the larger Ottoman Empire. It was populated by, at its height, a few thousand subsistence farmers and merchants who shared no real cultural identity or bonds. Even now, what constitutes the Palestinian culture? Relatively nothing, save their current displacement.

    I don't reject the fact that following the 1948 Independence war, many aboriginals were displaced and maltreated. I merely contend that the Palestinian claim to the land is about as flimsy as my claim to the land.