ISRAEL, RUSSIA AND AMERICA

Written by Vladimir Moss

One of the most convoluted and critical relationships in the modern world is the triangular one between America, Russia and Israel… In the last decade of the twentieth century, America lorded it in Russia both politically and economically as long as Yeltsin was in power. Moreover, she appeared on the brink of exercising a similar dominion in the Middle East; for the coalition’s victory over Iraq, the region’s most powerful state, whose leader, Saddam Hussein, had admired Stalin and been close to the Soviet Union, seemed to change everything.

As Peter Mansfield writes, “the devastation of Iraq was proof – if proof were needed – that the collapse of Kremlin power had left the United States as the unassailable global force. The struggle for the region had lasted about forty years – or a similar period to the Anglo-French interregnum which preceded it. But with the end of the East-West conflict, those Middle East leaders long seen as Russian clients rushed to realign with Washington before they befell the fate of their fellow dictators in Eastern Europe. Those who refused to submit to the American yoke – Libya, Iraq and Iran – were punished with UN or US sanctions. The Soviet satellite in South Yemen, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, was wiped from the map altogether and swallowed by its North Yemen neighbour.

“The vacuum left by the Soviet Union impelled Washington to a new activism in the region. For the next decade, the key official decisions affecting the Middle East would be taken outside the region either in western capitals or at the UN headquarters in New York. In his victory address to Congress in March 1991, President George Bush unveiled a four-point plan to bring his new world order to the Middle East. The United States, he said, would strengthen its military ties to the Gulf, rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, end the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of land for peace and embark on a drive for ‘economic freedom’ and ‘human rights’.

“Buttressing what amounted to a programme for reformatting the region was the most powerful show of foreign armoury the Middle East had seen since the height of the British Empire. Bush had claimed that Washington’s mobilization of half a million troops to the Gulf ‘did not mean stationing US ground forces in the Arabian peninsula’ for the long term, but there was no rush to decamp. One decade after its Gulf War victory, the US still kept 25,000 troops in the region, 10,000 of them based in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Stashes of hardware were stockpiled in other Gulf emirates ready to equip an army ten times the size. In addition, the Pentagon positioned an armada in the Persian Gulf comprising two aircraft-carrier groups armed with 15 warships and 350 fighter jets. Several thousand more US troops and a squadron of US fighter planes were stationed in south-eastern Turkey at Incirlik base, which for the next decade was to be one of the most strategically important footholds for the US in the Middle East. Incirlik lay in striking distance not only of Iran and Syria, but also the oil- and gas-rich former Soviet republics. In addition, Washington oversaw the supply of billions of dollars in military aid and arms to Israel, Egypt, Turkey and the Gulf states. In short, the United States had the Middle East encircled.

“Initially, the prospects for Pax Americana looked good. In the absence of superpower rivalry, regional conflicts were widely predicted to crumble away. North Africa’s Cold War rivals, Algeria and Morocco, embarked on a United Nations-administered peace process to end a 25-year conflict over control of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara (with the expectation that Morocco’s sand wall dividing the territory would wither as fast as the Berlin Wall). Arab and Israeli leaders took their seats around a negotiating table in Madrid. And across the Middle East, cafés bubbled with talk of the onward march of democracy, state accountability and human rights. But Middle Easterners quickly discovered that the readjustment from a bipolar to a unipolar world would not inaugurate the promised utopia. And from 1995 onwards, the history of the Middle East is of a clear pattern of uncoordinated but manifest dissent at US hegemony – from defiance in Iraq and resistance in Palestine to the wildfire spread of militant Islam across the Sunni world…”[1]

The Syrian civil war has changed the picture once again. Under Trump, America seems to have withdrawn from the region, leaving the coalition of Syria, Iran and Russia in control. Nevertheless, American firepower is still formidable and still within striking range…

*

Israel in the 1990s was changing as a result of two foreign influences – Chicago-school economics and a large influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union. The Gentile influence was more or less comprehensible to the savvy Israelis. But they had more difficulty, at first, in understanding who some of the richer and more powerful of these Russian Jews were.

As Misha Glenny explains, the parties and summits of some of these Russian Jews “read like a Who’s Who of Russian business. The problem was that nobody in Israeli intelligence knew Who exactly was Who. And Who was Not. Maybe.

“Testifying to the House Committee on Banking in 1999, the former Director of the CIA, James Woolsey, illuminated this conundrum when he asked the Congressmen to consider the following hypothetical situation: ‘If you should chance to strike up a conversation with an articulate, English-speaking Russian in, say, the restaurant of one of the luxury hotels along Lake Geneva, and he is wearing a $3,000 suit and a pair of Gucci loaders, and he tells you that he is an executive of a Russian trading company and wants to talk to you about a joint venture, then there are four possibilities. He may be what he says he is. He may be a Russian intelligence officer working under commercial cover. He may be part of a Russian organized-crime group. But the really interesting possibility is that he may be all three – and that none of those three institutions have any problems with the arrangement.’

“A staggering number of Russians took out Israeli citizenship in the first half of the 1990s, among them prominent members of Yeltsin’s inner circle, known as the Seven Stars, like Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky. Then there were budding industrial magnates like the Ukrainian Vladimir Rabinovich and the Russian Mikhail Chorny, who were under scrutiny in Western intelligence agencies. And there were some others who had been barred from entering Britain and the US, like Semyon Mogilevich.

“There was even a scattering of gentiles, like Sergei Mikhailov, the boss of Solntsevo, who managed to wangle himself citizenship. ‘Mikhailov had as much to do with Judaism as I have with ballet!’ guffawed the ursine documentary-maker Alexander Gentelev, ‘but he got his citizenship – no problem.’ It has since been revoked and the corrupt Israeli officials responsible for granting it have been prosecuted.

“None of these Russians had criminal records, except for misdemeanours during the Soviet period. All had the outward appearance of successful businessmen with track records which, on paper, bespoke dynamism and guts. Why would Israel want to turn them away?

“For their part, the oligarchs and organized-crime bosses started colonizing Israel for a number of reasons. It was an ideal place to invest or launder money. Israel’s banking system was designed to encourage aliyah, the immigration of Jews from around the world, and that meant encouraging their money to boot. Furthermore, Israel had embraced the zeitgeist of international financial deregulation and considerably eased controls on the import and export of capital. And, like most other economies around the world in the 1990s, it had no anti-money-laundering legislation. Laundering money derived from criminal activities anywhere else in the world was an entirely legitimate business.

“Israeli police have estimated that these Russians laundered between $5 and $10 billion through Israeli banks in the fifteen years following the collapse of communism. This is a significant sum for a small country like Israel. But it is less than 1 per cent of the huge capital flight from Russia during the 1990s and it pales beside comparable countries such as Switzerland ($40 billion) or the perennial champion of the Mediterranean league, the Republic of Cyprus, which as early as the end of 1994 was processing $3 billion of Russian capital a month.

“The main reason for Israel’s popularity was the simplest – many of these iffy businessmen were Jews, and in Israel they were not treated like dirt, but welcomed as valuable and respected additions to the family.

“A disproportionate number of the most influential Russian oligarchs and gangsters were Jewish. Before the massive wave of immigration to Israel, Jews made up only about 2.5 per cent of the population of Russia and Ukraine. But they were hugely influential in the vanguard of gangster capitalism during the 1990s. A cursory search of the Internet will reveal countless racist sites fuelling the theory that this pillage of Russian assets during the decade was born of the World Jewish Conspiracy once so beloved of the Nazis and (when it suited him) of Stalin. By contrast, many liberal commentators simply overlook the issue of Jewish involvement in Russia’s and Ukraine’s chaotic transition, presumably to dodge accusations of anti-Semitism. In fact, by avoiding any mention of the elephant in the living room, they facilitate its portrayal by anti-Semites as a jackal.

“Although the Soviet Union was renowned for its antipathy towards most national identities that threatened the idealized image of Homo Sovieticus, it did construct one specific barrier for Jews: the glass ceiling. In virtually all the central Party and state offices, in almost all industrial branches and in most places of learning, Jews were systematically prevented from reaching the top. There were exceptions to this rule – Lazar Kaganovich was one of Stalin’s unloved Politburo colleagues, and, in the 1980s, Evgeni Primakov emerged as an extremely influential political figure, having prophetically discarded his name given at birth, Yonah Finkelshtein. But on the whole, if you were Jewish, the key promotion would elude you.

“In consequence, there were a lot of smart Jews who felt frustrated in their pursuit of intellectual challenges and entrepreneurial opportunities. Where better, then, to exercise these skills than in the world’s toughest market (which officially didn’t even exist!): the Soviet planned economy. Over seventy years, they honed their business skills in this grim totalitarian world where huge industrial behemoths would seek to produce goods without regard to the laws of supply and demand…

“This ability was not restricted to the Jews. It is no coincidence that among organized-crime bosses, the other two chronically over-represented nationalities in Russia were the Chechens and the Georgians, whose talent for overcoming the daily consumer misery of the Soviet Union was similarly the stuff of legend. The criminals and oligarchs emerged from communities that inhabited the twilight periphery of the Soviet Union – although usually denied access to the central institutions, they were not pariahs. Instead they were compelled to seek out the possibilities of social and economic activity in the nooks and crannies of the state. This experience was invaluable for many when negotiating the roller-coaster of postcommunist Russia

“For the Jewish oligarchs and gang bosses, Israel was both a retreat and, by dint of its passport, a door to the outside world. They did not wish to draw attention to themselves, nor did they wish to become an embarrassment for the state. This was no mere sentiment – it was a policy, hammered out between the most influential Godfathers at a meeting in Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama Hotel in 1995. The biggest names were there, including gentiles like Sergei Mikhailov, to ensure that they did not alienate the Israeli Government. ‘They decided that Israel is no place for assassinations or settling their difficulties by killing one another,’ explained Gentelev. ‘These people did not want to engage in much business here. It was a place where you could launder a bit of money; where you could rest; and where you could find shelter. And receive a passport with which you could travel the whole world.’

“The New Russians were already well settled in Israel by October 1995 when Bill Clinton’s advisers convinced him to sound a warning about the ‘dark side of globalisation’. Addressing the 50th Commemorative Assembly of the UN, the President called for a worldwide ‘assault on terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and nuclear smuggling.’ Clinton said that ‘no one is immune’, as he listed crimes like the Aun Shinrikyo ‘poison-gas attacks on the Japanese subway, suitcase bombings in Israel and France, mafia gangs in Russia and the Oklahoma City bombing’ that had shaken America in April of that year.

“Because of the concentrated Russian presence, Washington turned its gaze onto Israel and by the mid-1990s the long if arthritic arm of American law enforcement was knocking on Jerusalem’s door for information on a number of oligarchs and alleged criminals, like Mogilevich and Mikhailov. Encouraged by the State Department under Jon Winer, the Israeli police placed many of the most prominent Russians under surveillance in 1996. ‘There was suddenly a huge amount of interest in the oligarchs,’ explained Irit Bouton, now Chief of Intelligence in the Israeli police Special Operations. ‘It was like a baby boom in the world of crime.’

“But huge problems matched the huge interest as the police tried to assess and contain the burgeoning criminality of the new world order. There was the familiar issue of definition: what constituted criminal activity among the oligarchs and what did not? Moreover, the oligarchs and gangsters could draw on effectively limitless financial resources to defend themselves and their image. And they did so assiduously. ‘Don’t worry about these guys shooting you,’ an Israeli intelligence officer told me when I explained what I was writing about. ‘They aren’t that crude. They’ll just sue you to death.’

“Then there was the strong political pressure exercised on the Israeli police, both by their own politicians and foreign governments. Iosif Kobzon is renowned as the Frank Sinatra of the New Russia. A tremendously popular performer of schmaltzy songs in Russia, he also enjoys a rich political life: as an MP of the Russian Duma, and a backer or friend of many pro-Putin politicians and businessmen. In the early 1990s he was refused entry into the United States, but received an Israeli passport, despite a great deal of opposition. Moshe Shahal, a successful Tel Aviv lawyer, was then the Israeli Minister for National Security who established the Anti-Russian Organised Crime intelligence unit. He sighs when remembering the period. ‘Both in the Knesset and in Government, we came across difficulties in trying to implement the new security policy.’ On his instructions, for example, Kobzon was detained at Ben Gurion airport in January 1996 and refused entry into the country. But Shahal’s detective was overridden, the former Minister says, by Shimon Peres, then Foreign Minister. Shahal explains that the then Russian Ambassador had called Peres and warned of severe consequences for Israeli-Russian relations if Kobzon were denied entry into Israel. The authorities, seldom susceptible to influence from countries except the United State, allowed him in…”[2]

Russian Jews now constitute one-sixth of the Israeli population, and it is not only through the shady oligarchs and mafiosi that they exert influence on the State. They form a distinct voting bloc which does not always see things the way other Israelis see them (in particular, in relation to the Palestinians). Therefore the relationship between the Jews and the Russians – so important ever since 1917 – remains critical a century later.

The central, most intractable problem, as always, in the Middle East has been the conflict between Israel and its Palestinian subjects. In 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, there was never any question but that this land would be incorporated into the Israeli State forever. The fact that it was not formally annexed was simply a sop to world opinion – after all, how could any Israeli leader ever give up Judaea and Samaria, not to speak of East Jerusalem? A proof of this unbending resolve was the continual, bit-by-bit take-over of Palestinian land, followed by the building of permanent settlements there, which made any “two-state solution” – that is, two independent states, one Israeli and the other Palestinian side-by-side on the present territory of Israel – further away than ever. United Nation resolutions and Western condemnation were ignored – and continue to be ignored to the present day. America continues to support the two-state solution, but also continues to support Israel both financially and diplomatically, vetoing every UN resolution against her.

This policy has incurred the hatred of the whole of the Muslim world both for Israel and for its protector, America, and has cost both states – and especially America – a great deal. So why do successive administrations, both Republican and Democrat, continue with it? The answer patently does not lie in the excuse that Israel is the only democratic state in the region – as we have seen, Israel is not a real democracy. Nor is it any excuse to say that Israel was an outpost of the West against Soviet penetration of the Middle East – the Cold War is over, and America has won it. The answer lies in something deeper and more mysterious…

The relationship between Israel and America was (and is) strange and unique, without parallel in world history. The most powerful state in history, at the very peak of its power, is tied hand and foot to the interests of a tiny, distant state – a bond which not only does not serve its own interests, but directly harms them. For apart from having to spend billions of dollars every year to defend Israel from its numerous enemies, America thereby makes enemies of those states when war breaks out between them and Israel, as it did in 1967 and 1973, with lower-level hostility at all other times. This enormously complicates the politics of oil, which is vitally important to the economic survival of the whole of the western world. Besides, Israel through its vociferous and powerful Jewish lobby has a huge – and almost always deleterious – influence on the internal politics of the United States.

Michael Lind wrote in 2002: “The collapse of the Soviet Union created a power vacuum which has been filled by the US, first in the Persian Gulf following the Gulf war, and now in central Asia as a result of the Afghan war. Today the Middle East is becoming the centre of US foreign policy – a fact illustrated in the most shocking way by the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington [on September 11, 2001]. A debate within the US over the goals and methods of American policy in the Middle East is long overdue. Unfortunately, an uninhibited debate is not taking place, because of the disproportionate influence of the Israeli lobby.”[3]

This influence results, first from the Jews’ financial power, and secondly from the support they receive from the “Christian Zionism” of successive presidents. Philip Giraldi writes: “The connection between America’s wars in the Middle East—and its wars more generally—with the more fundamentalist forms of Christianity in the United States is striking. Opinion polls suggest that the more religiously conservative one is, the more one will support overseas wars.” Evangelicals are particularly numerous and influential in the United States armed forces.”[4]     It is estimated that there are 93 million Evangelicals in the United States. But the figures for other countries are also striking: 65 million in China, 55 million in Nigeria, 46 million in Brazil…[5] Clearly, the Israeli-Evangelical alliance is an important factor in geopolitics…

Christian Zionists like Jerry Falwell believe that God will protect America only so long as she defends Israel.[6] Moreover, this support, according to many of them, should be expressed in a particularly extreme manner: in helping Israel to annex the West Bank (which Israel occupied after the 1967 war, trapping one million Palestinians within the Zionist state) and even in extending its borders “from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates”; in securing Jerusalem as the “united” (that is, exclusively Israeli) capital of the state of Israel; and in fighting wars against Israel’s Arab, Russian and Iranian enemies. This places them to the right even of some Christian Zionist American presidents, such as Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, who, while committed to defending Israel against its Arab, Soviet and Iranian enemies, also sought to protect the rights of the Palestinians in a two-state strategy. More recently, however, Donald Trump with his influential Jewish son-in-law appears to have adopted the extreme Christian Zionist position.

Walter Russell Mead writes: “U.S. evangelical theology takes a unique view of the role of the Jewish people in the modern world. On the one hand, evangelicals share the widespread Christian view that Christians represent the new and true children of Israel, inheritors of God’s promises to the ancient Hebrews. Yet unlike many other Christians, evangelicals also believe that the Jewish people have a continuing role in God’s plan. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, close study of biblical prophecies convinced evangelical scholars and believers that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the triumphant return of Christ. Moreover, while the tumultuous years before Jesus’ return are expected to bring many Jews to Christ, many evangelicals believe that until that time, most Jews will continue to reject him. This belief significantly reduces potential tensions between evangelicals and Jews, since evangelicals do not, as Martin Luther did, expect that once exposed to the true faith, Jews will convert in large numbers. Luther’s fury when his expectation was not met led to a more anti-Semitic approach on his part; that is unlikely to happen with contemporary evangelicals.

“Evangelicals also find the continued existence of the Jewish people to be a strong argument both for the existence of God and for his power in history. The book of Genesis relates that God told Abraham, ‘And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee… And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee all families of the earth be blessed.’ For evangelicals, the fact that the Jewish people have survived through millennia and that they have returned to their ancient home is proof that God is real, that the Bible is inspired, and that the Christian religion is true. Many believe that the promise of Genesis still stands and that the God of Abraham will literally bless the United States if the United States blesses Israel. They see in the weakness, defeats, and poverty of the Arab world as ample evidence that God curses those who curse Israel.

“Criticism of Israel and of the United States for supporting it leaves evangelicals unmoved. If anything, it only strengthens their conviction that the world hates Israel because ‘fallen man’ naturally hates God and his ‘chosen people’. In standing by Israel, evangelicals feel that they are standing by God – something they are ready to do against the whole world. Thus John Hagee – senior pastor of an 18,000-member evangelical megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, and author of several New York Times bestsellers – writes that if Iran moves to attack Israel, Americans must be prepared ‘to stop this evil enemy in its tracks’. ‘God’s policy toward the Jewish people,’ Hagee writes, ‘is found in Genesis 12.3’ and he goes on to quote the passage about blessings and curses. ‘America is at the crossroads!’ Hagee warns. ‘Will we believe and obey the Word of God concerning Israel, or will we continue to equivocate and sympathize with Israel’s enemies?’

“The return of the Jews to the Holy Land, their extraordinary victories over larger Arab armies, and even the rising tide of hatred that threatens Jews in Israel and abroad strengthen not only the evangelical commitment to Israel but also the position of evangelical religion in American life. The story of modern Jewry reads like a book in the Bible. The Holocaust is reminiscent of the genocidal efforts of Pharaoh in the book of Exodus and of Haman in the book of Esther; the subsequent establishment of a Jewish state reminds one of many similar victories and deliverances of the Jews in the Hebrew Scriptures. The extraordinary events of modern Jewish history are held up by evangelicals as proof that God exists and acts in history. Add to this the psychological consequences of nuclear weapons, and many evangelicals begin to feel that they are living in a world like the world of the Bible. That U.S. foreign policy now centers on defending the country against the threat of mass terrorism involving, potentially, weapons of apocalyptic horror wielded by anti-Christian fanatics waging a religious war motivated by hatred of Israel only reinforces the claims of evangelical religion.

“Liberal Christians in the United States (like liberal secularists) have also traditionally supported Zionism, but from a different perspective. For liberal Christians, the Jews are a people like any other, and so liberal Christians have supported Zionism in the same way that they have supported the national movements of other oppressed groups. In recent decades, however, liberal Christians have increasingly come to sympathize with the Palestinian national movement on the same basis. In 2004, the Presbyterian Church passed a resolution calling for limited divestment from companies doing business with Israel (the resolution was essentially rescinded in 2006 after a bitter battle). One study found that 37 percent of the statements made by mainline Protestant churches on human rights abuses between 2000 and 2004 focused on Israel. No other country came in for such frequent criticism.

“Conspiracy theorists and secular scholars and journalists in the United States and abroad have looked to a Jewish conspiracy or, more euphemistically, to a ‘Jewish lobby’ to explain how U.S. support for Israel can grow while sympathy for Israel wanes among what was once the religious and intellectual establishment. A better answer lies in the dynamics of U.S. religion. Evangelicals have been gaining social and political power, while liberal Christians and secular intellectuals have been losing it…”[7]

American foreign policy swung sharply against Israel during President Obama’s Democratic administration, when there was evidence of a reaction against Zionism. Better relations were sought with the Muslims, a nuclear deal with Iran that Israel fiercely criticised was signed, and sixteen American intelligence agencies protested to the president, complaining against Israeli actions against America. Most recently, however, a reaction back again to Zionism has been observed under the present Republican President Donald Trump, whose election victory owed much to American religious conservatives. Trump is clearly greatly influenced by his daughter Ivanka, who adopted Judaism on marrying her Jewish husband. He is a fierce critic of the Iranian nuclear deal, has taken the side of the Israelis and Sunnis against the Shiites, and has decided to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, all of which has brought a broad smile to the face of the usually dour Israeli President Netanyahu. Although it is difficult to predict the actions of the highly unpredictable Trump, it is clearly too soon to speak of the demise of the American religious right and its influence on American foreign policy.

Another reason for the power of the Israeli lobby in America lies in Zionism itself and its religious underpinning in the fanatically antichristian Talmud.

In accordance with the notorious Israeli Law of Return, all Jews throughout the world have the right to claim Israeli citizenship with all its attendant privileges. This would seem to be a generous measure in order to protect, and provide a refuge for, Jews of the diaspora who are being persecuted, as they were under Hitler. But Hitler has long been dead, and Jews long ago ceased to be the persecuted and have become instead the persecutors – of the Palestinian Arabs in their own state, who are given far fewer rights in the land of their birth and constant residence than diaspora Jews who have set foot in Israel no more than a few hours. Moreover, the Law of Return creates obligations for the Jews of the diaspora – at least, in the minds of leading Jews. These obligations are heavy and essentially unlawful; for they consist not only in the duty – imposed not only on Zionist Jews, but on Jews of all faiths or none – to help the State of Israel in any way possible, but also, and crucially, to place the interests of Israel above those of the state in which the diaspora Jew lives and of which he is a citizen.[8 

     Hence the very common sight of New York Jews protesting, demonstrating and manipulating the American government to “do its duty” for Israel and against its enemies – with various threats for disobedience including, worst of all, the career-destroying threat of being labelled “anti-semitic”…

As long as Israel rules America, and continues to oppress its Palestinian population, there is not only no hope of peace in the Middle East: the probability increases that eventually the coalition of Muslim countries ranged against it will be joined by a major military power – probably Russia, which is already heavily engaged, and possibly also China – that will tip the military balance against Israel, forcing the more direct intervention of the United States and eliciting World War III. Those who reject this probability rest their argument essentially on faith – on belief in the evident miracle of Israeli history and therefore in God’s continued protection of Israel indefinitely and come what may. So let us examine this faith-based defence of Israel’s invulnerability, invoking not so much ordinary political calculations as the only kind of evidence that can be ultimately persuasive in an argument about faith – the Word of God.

Let us begin by conceding one of the theses that the Zionists insist on: that the preservation of the people of the Jews through all their wanderings and tribulations, crowned by the re-establishment of the State of Israel after two thousand years, is undoubtedly a miracle

That the re-establishment of the State of Israel is precisely a miracle was admitted even by that very secular and non-nationalist Jew, Sir Isaiah Berlin. In 1953 he wrote that the existence of the State of Israel overturns all materialist theories of history“because it shows the power of ideas, and not merely of economic and social pressures. It upsets materialist theories of history according to which environment, or economic factors, or the collision of classes is mainly responsible for what happens. It upsets the various doctrines in accordance with which Israel could not have arisen at all; the doctrines which the German Marxists and Russian Bundists used to adduce in order to prove the impossibility of a Jewish State, and all the various doctrines about the inevitable assimilation of the Jews, advanced by both Jews and Gentiles on the basis of some set of cut and dried premises, or historical theory, or sociological law or system. Nor did the empiricists in the foreign offices of the Great Powers do much better. Very few of the chancelleries of Europe or America seriously believed in the possibility of the rise of even a short-lived ‘independent State of Israel’. Very few believed that it would ever have the fighting strength, the unity of spirit which would enable it to triumph over so many obstacles. A great many of the prophets were in the grip of various obsolete theories of how nations rise and fall, or simply of powerful prejudice and emotion; and on the whole they tended to discount too much the sheer power of human idealism and human will-power.

“Israel is not a large-scale experiment. It occupies a very small portion of the earth’s surface; the number of persons comprising its population is relatively small. But its career confutes a number of deterministic theories of human behavior, those offered both by materialism and by the fashionable brands of anti-materialism. And that, I will not deny, is a source of great satisfaction to those who have always believed such theories to be false in principle, but have never before, perhaps, found evidence quite so vivid and quite so convincing of their hollowness. Israel remains a living witness to the triumph of human idealism and will-power over the allegedly inexorable law of human evolution. And this seems to me to be to the eternal credit of the entire human race…”[9]

In other words, the existence of the State of Israel is a miracle. And yet Berlin is wrong to locate this miracle in the human spirit. The existence of the modern State of Israel is a miracle of God, a claim that we can substantiate now by reference to the true Prophets of Israel in the Old Testament. However, if we continue to study these prophets, we shall see that the miracle will not last forever, that the modern State of Israel is not unconditionally protected by God, and that it will in fact be destroyed. But this destruction, this death, will be followed by a resurrection and a real return of the Jews to their homeland – not in the kingdom of this world, but in the Kingdom that is not of this world, the Kingdom that is ruled by the true King of the Jews, Jesus Christ…

The miraculous emergence of the State of Israel on the stage of history in our time, and the central part it is already playing in international politics, points to a certain eschatological mystery… Now there are several prophecies that speak of the return of the Jews to Israel after a long “captivity” (e.g. Jeremiah 3.16-18; Zephaniah 3.10-13, 18-20; Joel 3; Zechariah 12-14). It is tempting to allegorize these events as referring, not to the physical land of Israel, but to the Church, in accordance with the exegetical principle that “Israel” refers to “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6.16) – that is, the Church. However, a close examination of these texts shows that they are impossible to understand them in any other way than as referring to some future event involving the gathering of the Jews from many foreign lands back into the physical land of Israel, where they undergo, first, a crushing military defeat from a northern power, and then a spiritual revival.[10]

And it looks very much as if this revival consists in conversion to Christ, the true King of Israel. Thus the Prophet Ezekiel describes how the Jews will be gathered back into the land of Israel, and there converted and baptized: “For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you [baptism], and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses… And you shall be My people, and I will be your God” (36.24-25, 28). Then comes the famous vision of the dry bones (ch. 37), which is an allegorical description of the resurrection of the Jews to true faith when they appeared to be completely devoid of it. Then comes the invasion of Israel by Gog and Magog led by “the prince of Rosh” (ch. 38), and the description of how the Jews will spend seven months clearing up after the destruction of the invaders (ch. 39). And then the Prophet says: “All the nations shall know that the house of Israel was led captive because of their sins, because they rebelled against Me, and I turned My face from them, and delivered them into the hands of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions did I deal with them, and I turned My face from them. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Now will I turn back captivity in Jacob, and will have mercy on the house of Israel, and will be jealous for the sake of My holy name” (39.23-25).

Another important text is Zechariah 12-14, which describe a series of events taking place first of all in Israel, and then on a worldwide scale, in the last days. Although much is unclear here, this much is evident: that there will be a formidable coalition of nations against Israel, which will be destroyed. At this time – whether before, during or after the war is again not clear – the Jews will repent profoundly of their apostasy from Christ, the True Messiah and King of Israel. “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and compassion; and they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced” [this is the Hebrew quoted in John 19.37, where it is clearly referred to the Crucifixion; the Greek is: “because they have mocked Me”], and they shall make lamentation for Him, as for a beloved Friend, and they shall grieve intensely, as for a First-Born Son” (12.10). The false prophets and shepherds will be cast out. Nevertheless, two out of three in the land will die (13.8). As for the city itself, it “will be taken, the houses plundered, the women defiled, and half of the city will go forth into exile; but the rest of My people will not be utterly cut off from the city”. (14.2) But of the third of the population that comes through the fiery trial, the Lord will say: “He shall call upon My name, and I will hear him, and I will say, ‘This is My people’, and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God’. (13.9) And on that day His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives” (14.4), which will be split in two. There will be an earthquake as in the time of King Uzziah, “and the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with Him” (14.6). In that day there will be no light, but towards evening there will be light (14.7). “And the Lord shall be King of all the earth” (14.9), and “He will strike all the nations, as many as made war against Jerusalem. Their flesh shall be eaten away as they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall pour out of their sockets, and their tongue shall melt away in their mouth” (14.12). And then “everyone that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, there will be no rain upon them. And if the family of Egypt do not go up and present themselves, then upon them shall come the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the sin of Egypt, and the sin of all the nations, as many as do not come up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles” (14.16-19).

Apocalyptic although these events undoubtedly are, they clearly are not describing the very end of the world or the general resurrection, but rather a terrible war (the melting of the eyes in the soldiers’ sockets suggests a nuclear one) followed by a great revival of the faith after the war. For even after the appearance of Christ on the Mount of Olives, there is no mention of any general judgement or resurrection, still less of entrance into a Heavenly Kingdom, but rather of the continuation of life on this corruptible earth. In particular, we see the celebration on earth of a new feast by most, but not all of the nations on the earth.

So what could this new, Christianized Feast of Tabernacles be celebrating? We suggest that it celebrates first of all the “ingathering” of the Jews into the Church that was prophesied by St. Paul in Romans 9 to 11, and which he called “life from the dead”: “For if their [the Jews’] being cast away is the reconciling of the world [the Gentiles’ conversion], what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?…” (Romans 11.15). Secondly, it refers also the ingathering of “the fullness of the Gentiles”: For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11.25-27). Thus the Feast of Tabernacles will indeed be the feast of the «ingathering» of the whole Church, when the fullness both of the Gentiles and of the penitent Jews, will enter the Church. After the horrors of Armageddon and world war, the people of God will be granted a period of rest and joy, in which they will celebrate the feast in preparation for the final battle against the Antichrist and in anticipation of the more complete victory that will take place at the Second Coming of Christ and the General Resurrection.

The Lord may have been referring to this joyful event when He said to the impenitent Jews: “Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23.38-39). For “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” is the verse sung at the climax of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is as if the Lord were saying: «You will not see Me with the eyes of faith until you are converted and participate with the whole of the New Testament Church in the Christian fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.»

St. John of Kronstadt has the same interpretation. The verses Matthew 23.38-39, he says, “mean: I will cease to be your Messiah until you recognize Me as such. In the meantime I will reveal My Face to the Gentiles, who have not heard about Me. The holy Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans (11.25) announces that ‘the hardening has taken place in Israel in part until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in’. And this, as is evident from the Revelation of St. John the Theologian, will take place in the sixth period of the last ages, when terrible times will come accompanied by great astronomical signs and unusual physical phenomena. Then the whole of the true Israel, in the number determined in the Apocalypse, will be saved, that is, will believe in Christ as their Messiah and God. The remaining Jews will become still more hardened and will recognize the Antichrist, as their messiah, king and god.”[11]

Thus the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates a kind of “resurrection before the Resurrection”, an ingathering of the last good fruits of both the Jews and the Gentiles, a period of rest for the Church before her last battle with the Antichrist, her crossing the river of the Last Judgement, and her ascent to the Heavenly Jerusalem, where she puts on the tabernacle of the Resurrection Body.

  1. A. Tikhomirov agrees with this interpretation, linking it with certain verses from the Book of Revelation: “Is this conversion of the Jews that salvation of ‘all Israel’ that the Apostle Paul foretold? In the Apocalypse it is said that the saved will come ‘of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie’. But not the whole of the ‘synagogue’ will come, but only ‘of the synagogue’, that is, a part of it. But even here, where the Apostle Paul says that ‘the whole of Israel will be saved’, he means only a part: ‘for they are not all Israel, which are of Israel… They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed’ (Romans 9.6, 8).

“The opinion is widespread among us that the conversion of the Jews will take place at the very appearance of the Saviour, when they shall cry out: ‘Blessed is He That cometh in the name of the Lord’. But this is not evident from the Apocalypse. But if the Philadelphian conversion will bring ‘all Israel’ that is to be saved to Christ, then this will, of course, be a great event, fully explaining the rejoicing of the Heavens. Israel is a chosen people with whom it will not be possible to find a comparison when he begins to do the work of God. The Jews will, of course, multiply the forces of Christianity for the resistance against the Antichrist. ‘If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world,’ says the Apostle Paul, ‘what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?’ (Romans 11.15).”[12]

Another New Testament confirmation of the OT prophecies is to be found in Revelation (3.8):“Behold, says the Lord to the Angel of the Church of Philadelphia, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and make obeisance before they feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”

St. Mark comments on this: “[St. John] with complete clarity speaks about the conversion of the God-fighting people to the Church of Christ, when she, few in numbers and powerless from an external point of view, but powerful with an inner strength and faithfulness to her Lord (Revelation 3.8) will draw to herself the ‘remnant’ of the God-fighting tribe.

“Gazing with the eye of faith at what the Lord has done before our eyes, and applying the ear of our heart and mind to the events of our days, comparing what we have seen and heard with the declarations of the Word of God, I cannot but feel that a great, wonderful and joyous mystery of God’s economy is coming towards us: the Judaizing haters and persecutors of the Church of God, who are striving to subdue and annihilate her, by the wise permission of Providence will draw her to purification and strengthening, so as ‘to present her as a glorious Church, having no spot or wrinkleor any such thing, but so that she should be holy and blameless’ (Ephesians 6.27).

“And in His time, known only to the One Lord of time, this… ‘synagogue of Satan’ will bow before the pure Bride of Christ, conquered by her holiness and blamelessness and, perhaps, frightened by the image of the Antichrist…”

Another important witness is Revelation 7.4:“And I heard the number of those who were sealed; and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.”This sealing,” writes Archbishop Averky, “will begin with the Israelites, who before the end of the world will be converted to Christ, as St. Paul predicts (Romans 9.27, 11.26).”[13]

And so the carnal Israel will return to the spiritual Israel, the world’s first autocracy to the original Theocracy, to Christ the King of Israel. In this way history will complete a perfect revolution…

However, a discussion of the destiny of Israel would be incomplete without at least a mention of the destiny of that other country with which Israel’s is so closely entwined – Russia. For most of the last thousand years Russia has been the leading national expression of the spiritual Israel, the Church of Christ. But in 1917 Russia fell – and the main agents of her fall were precisely the Jews, who rose to power as Orthodox Russia fell from it. At the time of writing, it looks as if Putin’s neo-Soviet Russia may well be that Gog and Magog from the extreme north that destroys the State of Israel before being destroyed herself “on the mountains of Israel”, thereby making possible the resurrection of Russia that so many saints prophesied. If so, then, as the prophecies also appear to indicate, they will serve each for the other’s resurrection from the dead. St. Seraphim of Sarov prophesied that at the end of the world there would be only two important nations: the Russians and the Jews, and that the Antichrist would be a Jew born in Russia. How fitting, then, if the Russian nation which has suffered most from the antichristian Jews in the terrible Russian-Jewish revolution, should finally convert them to Christianity, so that the former bitter enemies, reconciled in the Body of Christ, “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6.16), should fight together against the Russian-Jewish Antichrist!

October 4/17, 2018.

[1] Mansfield, A History of the Middle East, London: Penguin, 2001, pp. 339-340.

[2] Glenny, McMafia.

[3] Lind, “The Israeli Lobby”, Prospect, April, 2002, p. 22.

[4] Giraldi, “Old Testament Armed Forces”, The American Conservative, February 12, 2014, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/old-testament-army.

[5] Sébastien Fath, “Statistiques évangéliques mondiales 2018”, January 21, 2018. http://blogdesebastienfath.hautetfort.com/archive/2018/01/21/statistiques-evangeliques-mondiales-2018-6019596.html

[6]“If this nation wants her fields to remain white with grain, her scientific achievements to remain notable, and her freedom to remain intact, America must continue to stand with Israel”  (Listen America; New York, 1980, p. 98).

[7] Mead, “God’s Country?”, Foreign Affairs, September/October, 2006, pp. 39-41.

[8] For an extensively documented proof of this thesis, see Alfred M. Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection, New York: Dodd, Mead & Col, 1978, chapter 23.

[9] Berlin, “The Origins of Israel”, in The Power of Ideas, London: Chatto & Windus, 2000, p. 161.

[10] David Baron, Zechariah, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1988, chapter 20.

[11] St. John, The Beginning and End of the Earthly World, St. Petersburg, 1904, Moscow, 2004.

[12] Tikhomirov, Religioznie-Filosofskie Osnovy Istorii (The Religious-Philosophical Foundations of History), Moscow, 1997, p. 570.

[13] Archbishop Averky, Rukovodstvo k izucheniu Sviaschennago Pisania Novago Zaveta (Guide to the Study of the Sacred Scriptures of the New Testament),Jordanville, N.Y. Holy Trinity Monastery, 1987, pp. 406-407.

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