Dr. A.J. Nolte, an assistant professor at Regents University, broke down the history of the modern state of Israel on Washington Watch Thursday in an effort to help understand the Israel-Hamas war.
Nolte argued that definitions of terms are especially helpful in getting a grasp of the Middle East these days – and for him, it starts with the definition of Zionism. It's a term equated with racism by many pro-Palestinian people, but actually is more nationalistic in scope.
"Zionism at its core is the idea that the Jewish people ought to have their own nation state. It's a nationalism that in many ways is kind of civically oriented," he told show host Tony Perkins, explaining that later events on the timeline made Zionism a necessary approach for the Jews.
Emancipation: The first significant step for the Jews
First, according to the educator, the Jews had to find their place in the modern world. Jews began to receive their full civil rights in many European countries in the late 1700s, a process that continued gradually until the early 1900s. Emancipation led to a time of self-reflection.
"Now that we have nationalism, what does it mean to be a Jew? Do we assimilate, or do we seek our own national identity as all these other groups – the Italians, the Germans, the French – are seeking for their own self-determination? Is that a path that we should go down? Zionism is the answer that takes that second option," Nolte said.
He explains that Dr. Leon Pinsker, a Russian-Polish Jew born in 1882, rang the bell for Zionism.
"He argued for what he called auto-emancipation," Nolte shared. "Pinsker's idea was regardless of what anybody else does, no one will free the Jews except the Jews. That sort of self-determination, that self-reliant idea, is fundamental to Zionism."
Nolte: Zionism is a must for Israel
The next important dot on the timeline was the Holocaust, which created an urgency for the Jewish state.
"We all know what the Holocaust did in raw terms: six million Jews exterminated for the crime of ethnic descent. The Holocaust created [the idea of a nation state] as a moral imperative. The idea that the Jewish state must be created was now on the international stage," Nolte said.
The Jewish state that became Israel in 1948 left the Jews surrounded by Muslims and Persians, their enemies since biblical times. They were not on board with the creation of a Jewish country on land they considered theirs, and they have never considered the land to be God's gift to the Jews.
"We come back to 1948, and it was that auto-emancipation that really triggers in because Israel took the initiative," Nolte stated. "You have the U.N. resolution that creates two states. Israel accepts … the mandate, even though it's not advantageous to them – [and] the Arab states reject it … because they've got their own nationalist idea."
Which is? "Arab nationalism is the idea that all the Arabs of the Middle East ought to be united into one nation," Nolte said.
The result, according to Nolte, is that Arab states decided to work together to wipe out the Jewish state. "They told their people, 'We want you to leave; and when we're done crushing Israel, you can come back,'" he summarized.
Clearly, though, Israel has not been crushed – but just as clearly, it has lived under a constant threat to its security.
From the Holocaust, Israel became Zion. "Zionism becomes not just say, like, how do we deal with the challenges of modernity? It becomes an existential necessity," Nolte said.
God promised Abraham he would "bless those who bless you," and the United States, a nation founded on Christian principles, has been a staunch supporter of Israel since its creation.
Is America's support for Israel wavering?
President Joe Biden has pledged to stand by Israel in its war against Hamas yet has also committed a $100 million in aid to the Palestinians. He says it will help ease their suffering, but critics say most of the money will end up in the hands of Hamas, their elected leaders in Gaza.
Prediction: No jail time … just cookies and milk
Chad Groening (AFN)
Hundreds of people were arrested on Wednesday during multiple pro-Hamas protests on Capitol Hill. A mob occupied the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building screaming "Ceasefire now!" and "Free Palestine!" U.S. Capitol Police worked for hours to clear the crowd that had grown inside.
Police say they arrested about 300 people in total. Among the arrests were three people charged with assault on a police officer during processing. Conservative activist Gary Bauer of the Campaign for Working Families says the fate of protestors depends what they are shouting.
"If protestors go into buildings on Capitol Hill shouting 'Make America Great Again!', they're going to spend a long time in jail, apparently," he tells AFN. "But if you go into the Cannon Office Building or the Capitol Building chanting 'Death to Israel! Death to America!', you get a little slap on the rear end and sent home to mommy and daddy.
"It's a sad, additional example of the politicization of law enforcement by the Biden administration and in Washington, DC, where the Right gets guillotined and the Left gets Oreos and milk at night."
Regarding the recent pro-Hamas rallies and the resulting arrests, Bauer doesn't expect to hear Democrats using the term "insurrection" and demanding the trespassers be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Americans always have seen their country line up behind Israel in its conflicts, but pro-Palestinian demonstrations in many cities and on many university campuses – including one inside the U.S. Capitol this week (see sidebar) – make that support appear questionable. In fact, support for Palestinians – and by extension, support for Hamas – exists among America's elected leaders.
One of those is House member Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), who this week spouted anti-Israel rhetoric at a pro-Palestinian rally at a congressional building.
"I'm telling you right now, President Biden, not all America is with you on this one, and you need to wake up and understand that. We are literally watching people commit your genocide killing a vast majority just like this," Tlaib shouted, swinging her arm over a crowd of Palestinian supporters.
"We will remember this, but all of you, you need to know. I swear to God, He is Allah, you are on the right side of history," she said, pointing to the people.
Bachmann: Tlaib is a terrorist
Former U.S. House member Michele Bachmann took on Tlaib for her rhetoric – and has called for her censure, arguing the Democratic congresswoman's comments served to spread Hamas propaganda in the U.S.
"She was clearly explaining that she is in full support of Hamas," Bachmann told Perkins. "Hamas is Gaza. Gaza is Hamas. It doesn't mean that every person who lives in Gaza is agrees with the Hamas government, but essentially it is a dictatorship. It is the Islamic State of Gaza."
Bachmann pointed out that last week Tlaib failed to condemn the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 that have now killed more than 1,400 Israelis. Americans also died in the attacks, and Israelis and Americans are now being held hostage in Gaza.
"She was asked very clearly by Fox News earlier what she felt about the babies who were killed and the individuals who were killed by Hamas. She wouldn't even dignify that question with a response," Bachmann noted.
"She's very one-sided because she is pro-Hamas. She's been pro-Hamas since the day that she came into the United States Congress, and in my view, anyone who supports a terrorist organization is themselves a terrorist.
"She's aiding and abetting by advancing the propaganda of the Hamas network here in the United States government. She is inciting violence through her words. It's very dangerous, and the Republicans need to wake up and say something, but there needs to be a censure in the U.S. House."