BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  World: Middle East
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Analysis: America's new Christian Zionists
Christian Americans
Lobbying for Israel
The Jewish lobby has long been perceived as a powerful influence on US foreign policy but, as BBC Washington correspondent Stephen Sackur reveals, Israel has found new support from American Christians.

Since 11 September support among Americans for Israel has grown massively as many now see the Middle East conflict as the frontline in the US "War on Terror".

Joining well-established Jewish lobby groups in America is a new and powerful phenomenon - Christian Zionism.

There are an estimated 40 million Christian Conservatives in America and they may be in a position to wield unprecedented influence in support of Israel.

 Listen to this programme in full


Pastor John Hagee
Pastor John Hagee's Christian Church is pro-Israel

At the Cornerstone Church in Texas 5,000 Christian worshippers cheer in support of Israel. "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state. Not since Camp David but since King David," says their leader, Pastor John Hagee.

Many high profile Israeli politicians have addressed this congregation, among them former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Cornerstone Church is by no means unique in America. Republican activist Gary Bauer says there is growing support for Israel from Christian Conservatives.

New allies

Nachum Segal
Nachum Segal encourages his listeners to support Israel

This new movement is forging an alliance with American Jewish organisations. They rely on grass-roots activists, encouraged by boosters like Nachum Segal.

He hosts America's biggest Jewish radio show - JM in the AM - Jewish Moments in the Morning. Mr Segal constantly urges his listeners to work in support of Israel.

The best-known pro-Israel lobby group is Aipac, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. It is rated as one of the top five lobbying groups in Washington.

"Aipac has a lot of influence on foreign policy," says JJ Goldberg, editor of the Jewish newspaper The Forward. "They work hard to ensure that America endorses pretty much Israel's view of the world and the Middle East."

Aipac says its main role is providing information and denies that it puts pressure on politicians to support Israel.

By contrast, pro-Palestinian lobbyists say they face an uphill battle to make their voice heard. Khalid Turaani of American Muslims for Jerusalem says the pro-Israel lobby are better funded, better organised and much better established.

Influencing American policy?

Some left of centre activists like MJ Rosenberg of the Israeli Policy Forum are worried about the new alliance between hawkish Jewish groups and Christian conservatives. They fear it may constrain President George W Bush's ability to mediate fairly between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

"It's more than damaging," he says. "It's frightening."

Congressman Wexler
Congressman Wexler believes lobbyists are not affecting US policy

But Congressman Robert Wexler ridicules suggestions that Israel's supporters control American policy in the Middle East. Instead, he says, America supports Israel because they share fundamental values.

"Americans are just solid, rock-solid with the people of Israel," says Congressman Wexler. "It is a democratic nation and a freedom-loving people and a very decent people and they deserve to have a free and secure state."

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories