Zionism—Does It Fulfill Bible Prophecy?
ON Monday, November 10, 1975, it came, after warning tremors. Like an earthquake it rocked the world of Christendom and Jewry. The United Nations General Assembly, by a two-to-one majority vote, adopted a resolution declaring Zionism a form of racism and racial discrimination.
Seventy-two nations voted in favor of this resolution, while thirty-five voted against it. There were thirty-two nations that abstained, and three were absent. Supporters included also the Communist countries, except Romania, which was absent. Most Asian nations approved, along with Cyprus, Turkey, Guyana, Portugal and Mexico. The majority of African nations joined in condemning Zionism.
Opposers of the resolution were mainly nations professedly Christian. These included the nine nations of the European Common Market, all the other Scandinavian countries, a number of the British Commonwealth and the United States.
What is Zionism? Why was it condemned? As defined in general news releases, Zionism is “the movement for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine, realized with the creation of Israel and propagated today as the guiding philosophy of the Jewish state and its supporters.”
Reasoning Pro and Con
The impact of the resolution produced immediate shock waves. Israel’s ambassador Chaim Herzog furiously tore the resolution to pieces there on the dais in front of the assembly. Former U.S. ambassador Daniel P. Moynihan angrily accused the assembly of an “infamous act.” Rallies and demonstrations in protest of the U.N. action sprang up in many places.
Many considered it a direct blow against Jews and Judaism. Ambassador Herzog, for example, linked Zionism with Jewish worship, saying: “The Zionist ideal, as set out in the Bible, has been and is an integral part of the Jewish religion.” At a convention in Atlantic City, 3,000 orthodox Jews condemned the resolution as “an attempt to deny the divinely accorded rights of the Jewish people to the Holy Land, and as such an abominable act against the entire Jewish people.”
Backers of the resolution, however, contended that the vote was not against Judaism and Jews. Instead, they claim that Zionism is a political ideology rather than a religious one. It is Zionist politics, they say, that displaced from their native lands thousands of Palestinian Arabs. “Most galling to the Arabs,” noted Time magazine of November 24, 1975, “is Israel’s Law of Return, which grants instant citizenship to any Jew who immigrates to Israel from anywhere in the world, while Palestinian Arabs who fled their homeland during the 1948 war are still, in most cases, prevented from returning.”
Opposition by Religious Jews
Is Zionism a religious movement? Does it perhaps relate to Bible prophecies about a return of the Jews to their homeland?
The earlier Jewish rabbinical writings do mention a future return of Jews to the Promised Land under the leadership of the Messiah. Early in the nineteenth century, however, certain Jews came to believe that this should come about, not by miraculous intervention from on high, but through human effort.
One who felt that way was Rabbi Judah Alkalai (1798-1878). According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, in the mid-nineteenth century Alkalai “became convinced that the era of the Messiah had arrived and that the redemption would have to be achieved by human action . . . He tried to induce people to join an organized resettlement of Jewry, or some part thereof, in their homeland and to equip themselves with the attributes of a modern nation.”
Right from the start, however, many Jews opposed Zionism for religious reasons. Why? Says The Jewish Encyclopedia: “Orthodox Judaism in Europe at first held severely aloof . . . [Zionism] was supposed to be forcing the hand of Providence and to be contrary to the positive teachings of Orthodox Judaism in regard to the coming of the Messiah and the providential work of God in bringing about the restoration.” To this day the same reasoning prompts ultra-orthodox Jews to reject the state of Israel and the aims of present-day Zionism.
Religion did not prove to be the motivating force behind Zionism. Concerning “the early pioneers” who settled in Palestine at the turn of the twentieth century, Israeli author Amos Elon writes in The Israelis: Founders and Sons: “Some inevitably rationalized their action by reference to religious ties; but most were decidedly irreligious. One avowed atheist wrote shortly after his arrival in 1907: ‘What I do is not God’s will—for I do not believe in God but what simply is right morally and in practice absolutely necessary.’”
But if not religion, what was the main motivating force? What prompted thousands of Jews to leave their native lands to take up residence in Palestine?
Zionism’s “Dominant Element”
It was “in reaction to tsarist pogroms,” declares the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1974 edition), that eastern European Jews “formed the Hoveve Zion (‘Lovers of Zion’) to promote the settlement of Jewish farmers and artisans in Palestine.”
This reference work continues: “A political turn was given to Zionism by Theodore Herzl, an Austrian journalist who regarded assimilation [of Jews into Gentile society] as most desirable, but in view of anti-Semitism, impossible to realize. Thus, he argued, if Jews were forced by external pressure to form a nation, they could lead a normal existence only through concentration in one territory.” With this agree the following remarks in the Encyclopaedia Judaica:
“The dominant element in creating many more candidates for immigration to Palestine than were ever permitted to arrive was not Zionist ideology, at least not in its cultural, ‘synthetic’ form, but the growing horror of anti-Semitism, at a time when other doors to safety were closing or were entirely closed to Jews. The sense of disaster was already deeply embedded in the consciousness of European Jews by the events which followed right after the end of World War I.”
The Role of Christendom
Though most persons link Zionism with Jewish people, much of the responsibility for the return of thousands of Jews to Palestine in recent years rests with Christendom. A Bible educator who has lived in the State of Israel for more than two decades made the following remarks in an interview:
“Moslem Arabs and Hebrews alike agree that Christendom touched off the migration of Jews back to their ancient homeland. Christendom’s Roman Catholic West and Orthodox East got the movement under way by their inhuman religious persecutions.
“For example, when Jews poured in from Russia in the late nineteenth century, they were not coming for particularly religious reasons. These refugees were fleeing pogroms fomented by the Russian Czar under influence of the Orthodox Church. Later, Christendom’s Protestant system set the stage for further gathering of Jews to Palestine. By means of the Balfour Declaration after World War I, Britain provided for setting up a Jewish home in Palestine.”
What About Bible Prophecy?
The Hebrew Scriptures contain numerous prophecies about the return of the nation of Israel to the Promised Land. Not only many Jews, but multitudes in Christendom look forward to a future, literal accomplishment of such prophecies.
Do Zionism and the State of Israel constitute fulfillment of Scriptural predictions of the restoration of Israelites to their homeland? Let us see what the Bible actually says on this matter. With regard to liberation of the Jews from captivity to ancient Babylon, God foretold through the prophet Isaiah:
“It is I who say of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ and of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt; and I will restore their ruined places.’ . . . [I] am the same who says of Cyrus [the king of Persia], ‘He is My shepherd; he shall fulfill all My purposes! He shall say of Jerusalem, “She shall be rebuilt,” and to the Temple: “You shall be founded again.”’”—Isa. 44:26-28, Jewish Publication Society, 1973.
This and many similar prophecies saw a literal fulfillment in the sixth century B.C.E. In what way? King Cyrus, in his first regnal year (538-537 B.C.E.), issued a decree of liberation for the Jews after seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Notice how the wording of this decree corresponds with the above-quoted prediction by Isaiah: “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all His people—the LORD his God be with him-let him go up.”—2 Chron. 36:23, JP, 1917.
What did the Israelites who returned to the Promised Land do upon arrival? The Bible relates: “And they set the altar upon its bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of the countries, and they offered burnt-offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt-offerings morning and evening.”—(Ezra 3:3, JP, 1917) Thereafter they rebuilt the temple at Jerusalem and reinstituted the formal worship of God as outlined in the Mosaic law.—Ezra 3:8-13; 6:14-16.
Is Zionism a modern fulfillment of these hopes, or perhaps a preliminary step thereto? Well, has the modern-day influx of thousands of Jews to their ancient homeland resulted in reestablishment of the worship of God there in harmony with Biblical requirements? According to the Bible, the Israel that God would restore to their homeland would become “a light of nations, that My salvation may reach the ends of the earth.” (Isa. 49:6, JP, 1973) Do nations today look to the State of Israel as a source of spiritual enlightenment?
As the facts show, Jews migrated to Palestine in flight from pogroms and mass extermination tactics sponsored by professedly Christian governments. It is not a religious but a political state that those refugees and their offspring have formed in that land. The consequent Arab-Israeli problems are of a political nature.
Part of a Worldwide “Sign”
While Zionism and the State of Israel are not the fulfillment of Bible prophecies about restoration of the Jews to their homeland, events in the Middle East do figure in Scriptural predictions for our day. How so? Because these conflicts are part of a worldwide “sign” marking the conclusion of the present system of things and the nearness of a new order in which divine rule will replace human rule.
Shortly before his death as a human, Jesus was asked by his disciples: “What will be the sign of . . . the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) In answer, Jesus said: “You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not terrified. For these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another.” (Matt. 24:6, 7) He added that throughout the earth there would be “anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:25, 26.
Have not such conditions grown to globe-encircling proportions in the present generation, especially since World War I? This portends something thrilling for the near future. What? We read at Daniel 2:44:
“In the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; nor shall the kingdom be left to another people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, but it shall stand for ever.”—JP, 1917.
Does that mean a destruction of the earth and all life upon it? Not at all, for the divine kingdom that “shall stand for ever” must have earthly subjects. At Daniel 2:34, 35 that kingdom is symbolized by a “stone” that “became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (JP, 1917) That means that human rule of the earth will give way to a global extension of divine rule.
World events today in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicate the present generation to be the one that will experience fulfillment of these grand promises. (Matt. 24:34) That heavenly kingdom God will use to accomplish what no human philosophy, ideology or government has been able to do—unite the entire human family.