Sarah Palin, Israel and Armageddon

A stray comment about Israel gets pundits wondering if Palin expects the Rapture sometime soon

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Sarah Palin remarked to Barbara Walters last week that she believes "more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead." Pundits are scratching their heads wondering what she meant. Could it have been a subtle "dogwhistle" allusion to a belief held by some evangelical Christians about the apocalypse? A faction of American Christian Zionists support the exodus of all Jews to Israel because they believe it would trigger the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. It may have simply been an awkwardly phrased sentence on Palin's part, but it gave these bloggers an opportunity to dig into the implications of this belief.

Christian Zionists represent a pretty sizable bloc within the Republican coalition and could, say, help someone win a presidential nomination were someone so inclined. Palin’s apparently eschatological comment doesn’t appear to be an accident. The Charlotte Observer reports that she’s taking dinnertime advice on Israel from the Graham family.
The Rev. Billy Graham is a credit to this country [... his son] Franklin Graham is a much different story. A Christian Zionist leader, Franklin has described Islam as 'a very evil and wicked religion' and suggested erroneously that the Christian God and the Muslim God are two different deities. He even asked President Obama on the campaign trail if he was a Muslim.
  • Evangelism and Israel  Matthew Yglesias worries about evangelism's sway on conservative foreign policy, especially with regards to Israel.
I don’t want to make too big a deal about this, but given the tendency of U.S. politicians to avowedly claim religious grounding for their political beliefs I do think somewhat more scrutiny needs to be given to the issue of the extent to which evangelical figures are letting their policy views be driven by apocalyptic scenarios. John Hagee of Christians United for Israel, for example, supports preventive military strikes on Iran that he believes will lead to Israel's destruction at the hands of a Russo-Arab alliance.
This story about Palin's meeting with Billy and Franklin Graham tends to bolster the End-Times possibility: 'She quizzed him on the presidents he’s known and wanted his take on what the Bible says about Israel, Iran and Iraq, Franklin Graham reported.'"
  • Rapture and Armageddon  The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg explores the belief. "I've been writing about these belief systems for a while, and an alarm bell went off in my head when I heard Palin talk about 'days and weeks.' It's quite one thing to say that Israel needs settlements to contain its growing population [...] but it's something else entirely to predict that Jews in the Diaspora will imminently be flooding the Holy Land." Goldberg spoke with a prominent proponent of that evangelical belief, Dr. Thomas Ice of Liberty University.
Ice told me he believes this sort of thinking is supported by the facts. "Over forty percent of the world's Jews now live in Israel. What Sarah Palin probably believes is that this is the first regathering," when the Jews all migrate to Israel. "This is a condition for the second regathering, the regathering in belief, when the Jewish nation is converted. Then there will be the battle of Armageddon, because remember, Satan wants to wipe out the Jews to prevent the Second Coming, but Jesus comes to rescue the beleaguered Jews. We believe that the Jews are going to be converted so that they can call on Jesus to rescue them from Satan."
How common are these beliefs? I asked. "Fifty to sixty million people probably hold these beliefs," he said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.