The vice-president of Christian aid organisation World Vision has attacked Christian Zionism in an article for the Lausanne Movement.
World Vision is rooted in evangelicalism and draws much of its support from the evangelical constituency, which in the US is strongly influenced by the Christian Zionist movement and sees the state of Israel as embodying the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
However, Steve Haas says in 'All of Me' – Engaging a Porld of Poverty and Injustice, based on a chapel talk last April at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, that many evangelicals for more than 60 years had "clung to a very narrow theological narrative that weds Christian theology with a political ideology known as Zionism".
"Evangelicals have used this theology in affirming biblical Israel as being the equivalent to the present political entity bearing the same name, with all of the rights, privileges, and promises directly conferred," he said.
He added that Christian Zionists had seen in military victories and extensive social work the fulfillment of prophecies, saying: "They have become so tied to these theological interpretations that they have labeled any critical comment against the nation-state as antithetical to Christian belief and even anti-Jewish."
Consequently, he said, "This theological position has backed the largest and longest occupation of another people group in modern history, an oppressive Israeli legal system which [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu and many other church leaders have called 'apartheid on steroids'."
Haas referred to a 2009 report by Amnesty International outlining the huge disparities between Palestinian and Israeli access to water – Palestinians on average get 70 litres a day, Israelis 300 – and income, with Palestinian average income less than a tenth of Israeli.
"This is not a one-sided issue: the church needs to deal with the injustices found on both sides," Haas said. "Everyone, Palestinian and Israeli, should have the benefits of a life lived in safety and freedom. And so we need to challenge any party in this present conflict that promotes either violent reprisals or an apathetic response."
He concluded: "As peacemakers we have been tasked by a justice agenda of love and sacrifice. I truly believe we can be pro-Palestinian, pro-Israeli, and pro-justice because we are adamantly pro-Jesus. We have arrived at a point in history in which this question could not be more pertinent."
In his appeal to the Church to pursue social engagement as well as evangelism, he also instanced the genocide in Rwanda in which Christians failed to challenge the narrative of hatred and the Church's initial poor response to the Aids crisis, prompting an angry response from Christian Zionist commentators.
Robert Stearns, director of Eagles' Wings, wrote for the Jerusalem Post that the article was an example of "the toxic mix of lies, ignorance, and half-truths that drive the global movement to delegitimize Israel", accusing Haas of levelling "the familiar and intellectually bankrupt apartheid charge against Israel".
He said: "I and countless other Christians are pro-Israel precisely because of our drive for social justice for all peoples in this world, here and now. Evangelicals – particularly in the Millennial generation – have never been more engaged, organised and firm in their commitment to justice for Israel and the Jewish people, as well as the Palestinians."