David and Goliath – Israel and Palestine

Some 55% of Americans believe in the Rapture, some 64% believe we are living in the End Times, both beliefs structured by dispensationalism, which was largely constructed in the nineteenth century. These are some of the views which buttress American Imperialism in the world today. Harold Camping is no loony exception. The ideas of John Nelson Darby, the father of dispensationalism, are today more influential on the shape of world politics than those of Karl Marx.

Darby’s ideas also provided the ideological apparatus to found the State of Israel, perhaps the first modern nation to be invented primarily as a result of religious belief: Christian belief. The major figures who advocated for a Zionist State all believed in Darby’s dispensationalist schemes: Lord Shaftesbury, David Lloyd-George, Arthur James Balfour, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, etc. Each of these figures believed in Darby’s dispensational scheme which required a modern state of Israel to be instituted, and acting on those beliefs they helped institute the State of Israel. While not possible without a history of modern, post-1800 imperialism and nationalism, the concept of a chosen land, chosen people, and chosen dispensation of the end of time was instrumental in the founding of the State of Israel. Jewish Zionism itself, that is Zionism developed by Jews rather than Christians, would not have the structure it does without the earlier influence of the more eschatological Christian Zionism. Harold Camping is no loony exception.

But events can undermine ideological stuctures, or alternatively, rather than undermine, turn them against those who previously benefitted from them. The invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was one such turning point:

Quip from Time Magazine (1982):

In Washington, Ronald Reagan, by instinct a warm supporter of Israel, reflected that in the public perception, Israel had been transformed from the “David” to the “Goliath” of the Middle East.
– William E. Smith, “Crisis of Conscience”, Time Magazine, 4 October 1982.

Cartoon from Clay Bennett (2010):

David and Goliath by Clay Bennett


Filed under Ancient Jewish texts, Goliath, War, Violence & Business

8 responses to “David and Goliath – Israel and Palestine

  1. Tyrone, I posted something about Balfour and Dispensationalism on my blog and had some responses suggesting that the link, while often repeated, may in fact not be well founded in evidence. Do you have any primary or secondary sources you can point to on this? If so, I’d be grateful to hear from you, whether here or over on my blog or both. Thanks in advance!


    • Tyrone Slothrop

      The claim is disputed by “very interested” parties, but it is quite clear. Shalom Goldman (Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, & the Idea of The Promised Land. University of North Carolina Press, 2009) even goes so far as to show how nineteenth-twentieth-century Jewish Zionism is itself derivative of dispensationalism and earlier Christian eschatological schemes. (The following is from the Honours dissertation and Masters thesis by Elizabeth Young, University of Otago, on the links between Christian Zionism and Israel’s establishment and between Darby and later dispensationalists.) Balfour was raised by parents who were evangelical and followed premillennial dispensationalism (Wagner, Don. “Reagan and Begin, Bibi and Jerry: the theopolitical alliance of the Likud party with the American Christian “right.”” Arab Studies Quarterly, Fall (1998), 33-51, 40; and Sizer, Stephen. Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004, 63). “Balfour’s personal support for the Jews and his blatant disregard for the rights of the Palestinians is evident in the following excerpt from a memorandum sent to Lord Curzon in 1919: ‘For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of con-sulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…the four great powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism…is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import tha[n] the desires and prejudices of 700 000 Arabs who now inhabit the land'” (Ingrams, Doreen. Palestine Papers 1917-1922: Seeds of Conflict. London: John Murray, 1972, 73).


  2. Thanks, Tyrone, for sharing this. I’ve posted a link to here in the comments section on the post on my blog, in the hope that we can have one big conversation. :-)


  3. Vm

    Kiracofe’s Dark Crusade makes a nice addition to the work on Christian Zionism that’s just everywhere right now – they even have a friggin AAR group ffs. He’s a hard nosed military historian and IR expert (and a “Lincoln Republican”) so he’s not interested in CZ as a violence on the integrity of the biblical text or pansy ass nonsense like that.


    • Thanks, VM for the book note – I hadn’t seen this one, and it’s on the reputable IBTauris.

      P.S. This is not, however, very VM, unless you give a lot of scope to relative autonomy and reciprocal action. Your recommendation of this book which does not strongly support the ultimate reality of dialectical materialism will, accordingly, be reported to the Party.

      P.P.S. Integrity of biblical text and true (moderate) Islam, my ass!


      • Carl

        For what it’s worth, the AAR group dedicated to Christian Zionism is not “for” Christian Zionists, but one intended to critically engage the phenomenon.


  4. Well, the Steadfast Berlusconi Youth have been at home all day nursing a hangover, cleaning up vomit and trying to reconstruct their journey home last night. Actually, their journey home at what would’ve been about 8pm which is even worse. I ask that you show some mercy, the Steadfast Berlusconi Youth cannot deal with the Party in its current state of historical decline for working class militancy.


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