Barbara Howard: As we've been hearing, a deadly clash along the Gaza Strip today as Israeli soldiers opened fire, killing dozens of Palestinians, injuring thousands.
This as the new U.S. embassy was being unveiled on contested land in Jerusalem. With us on the line to explain what is going on is Charlie Sennott. He's just back from Jerusalem. He's a WGBH News analyst and co-founder of The GroundTruth Project here at WGBH.
Sennott: Hi, Barbara.
Howard: OK, so Charlie, you were a longtime Boston Globe bureau chief. You were based in Jerusalem. And this is already very divisive locally, as well, of course nationally. Talk about Christian Zionists.
Sennott: Sure. I mean one of the ways to look at the events today in Jerusalem is to really think about how what's happening today has a lot to do with national politics in America. The Trump administration is very much appealing to its base — Christian evangelical base — by doing something that President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence long promised to Christian evangelicals, which is to move the embassy — the United States Embassy — from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and clearly recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
That's probably like for listeners, who think well isn't Jerusalem always the capital? Well, no, it's always been this big issue for the final status peace talks. The "Christian Right" in America believes that Israel must be supported by the U.S. — that there must be, as they would put it, an ingathering Jews back into Jerusalem, so in their interpretation of scripture there can be a second coming.
It sounds a little crazy to some of us, but if you read the scripture very literally that's how they see it. And this sounds like it's a fringe movement. And for many years it was, but this idea has really gone mainstream.
Howard: There's a presence of Christian Zionism here in Boston area?
Sennott: I mean it's very widespread. I talked to one gentleman who was from Massachusetts in Jerusalem who was really talking about the prophecies of Christian Zionism, and he's from Spencer, Massachusetts.
And he was talking about this idea that we live in the end of times and that we have to have these things happen. The support for Israel is crucial for the second coming of Jesus. And if you just bother on a Sunday morning right in Boston, when you're watching television, if you watch the Sunday news programs just go from CNN — Fareed Zakaria — and click back down to ABC News, in the space of that 25 channels, you would hit three or four Christian broadcasting channels where this idea of a Jewish Jesus, this idea of Christian Zionism, this idea that the U.S. must support Israel and everything it does, is alive and well.
And I think we all know of Israel as an ally, but this takes it to a theological level and it takes it to one in which many Christian Zionists believe biblical prophecy is that there will be a big war and that we need to have this big apocalyptic war in order for the second coming, as they would view it. It's no longer fringe. It might sound way off if you're sort of part of a more mainstream Christian denomination, but it is something that a lot of people believe including the vice president of the United States.
And we've got to pay attention to it and know that it's a kind of movement, a national political movement that's shaping now our foreign policy in the Middle East.
Howard: OK, thanks so much Charlie.
Sennott: Thanks, Barbara.
Howard: Well, that's Charlie Sennott, WGBH News analyst and co-founder of The GroundTruth Project. We've been talking about the clashes today that were deadly along the Gaza Strip.
This story has been updated.