“If the United States allows the United Nations to dictate that there will be a Palestinian state, then all the democratic nations of the world are at risk …if we allow that democracy [Israel] to be dictated to by the UN, why do we think as Americans that the UN will not try, in turn, to dictate to us?”
– Pastor John Hagee, CUFI
Last Friday night, Glenn Beck (the “Jew-loving anti-Semite”) kicked off the pre-Passover party with an episode dedicated to Standing for Israel, something that he wants to see become a global movement. Along with Dore Gold, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, and Pastor John Hagee, Beck discussed the possibility that Israel is being “set up as the fall guy” by the US in the current war against the Radical Islam/Radical Left unholy alliance.
The cultural perspectives were telling. Gold’s argument focused on the historical relationship between America and Israel, transcending the anti-Israel politics of certain un-named officials. (Beck was the one who had to fill “Obama” in the blanks.) For this former Israeli ambassador, the problem wasn’t in the Oval Office, but in Europe, among a “Quartet” of nations including Great Britain, Germany, and France who are seeking to force Israel back to its pre-’67 borders. For Gold, this European union is the “other woman” trying to lure America away from its otherwise faithful relationship.
A relationship that, according to Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is mutually beneficial from a Biblical perspective. To Hagee, the problem is simple: Americans don’t recognize Israel’s relationship to history, to the Word of God, and what the nation means to America as a democracy. Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East — moreover, God promises that if we bless Israel, we will be blessed, a perspective with which Beck agrees.
Contrary to Gold’s theory, Hagee and Beck also agree, Europeans aside, that the Obama Administration is doing everything in its power to destroy America’s relationship with Israel:
Hagee: “I think that what Israel would appreciate from America is a President that would be vocally and visibly firm that they have the right to exist, the right to defensible borders, and the right to defend themselves against their enemies.”
Beck: “Well, a lot of people are working on that, but it’s going to take about 2 years.”
Today, Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reports that, contrary to the image Gold projects, America is a part of the Quartet putting pressure on Israel to cede post-’67 territories, including East Jerusalem, to a Palestinian state.
God and politics aside, Rabbi Potasnik put the responsibility of young Jewish support of Israel (or lack thereof) on the shoulders of Jewish American leadership. “We have done a bad job in terms of exciting our young people about Israel. If all we talk about is victimhood, pain, and suffering kids will ask ‘Why should I be Jewish? Is there any joy in being Jewish?’” The key to Jewish pride, it would seem, is Israel. And the key to supporting Israel, apparently, is Jewish pride.
I wonder if the Union for Reform Judaism’s youth movement will pass a resolution on that one.
So, Beck and the audience asked, “what can we do to support Israel?”
Potasnik’s answer was benignly simple: Teach good versus evil and the importance of standing up for good.
Hagee’s reply combined faith with politics: Pray for Israel and join CUFI in lobbying American politicians to take a pro-Israel stance.
Gold’s response was slightly more complicated: “We don’t need to have the territories of the Bible or the Bible as our source of our inspiration. It is the source of the inspiration of the pioneers who established Israel. But we are entitled to defensible borders to keep our country safe. We need a firm commitment on that. And I believe that our protection of Jerusalem is not just good for the Jewish people or the people of Israel, it is good for the world. Let’s keep Jerusalem whole.”
In other words, thanks for the political support, but please keep your religion out of it.
Was the response strategically wise on Gold’s part? After all, isn’t it a good thing to have someone use their religion to support Israel for a change, instead of using it as an excuse to blow up our buses, murder our families, or “drive us into the sea”? Choosing to agree with the religion of your supporters is one thing, but outright rejection traverses to the opposite end of a longstanding divide, one thats gap is thankfully growing smaller by the day for the sake of a greater good that includes Israel’s survival. What is the harm (or should I say, the fear) in encouraging good willed support?
Moreover, from a strictly PR perspective, why not give the Bible a level of credence in public discourse? It is, after all, the text that gave us the land in the first place. Israel may have been re-established, but it was not birthed with Herzl’s dream. In an era that questions Jewish ownership of Israeli land, why not use every weapon in your arsenal, even the ideological ones, to keep your enemies on their toes?
The goal of Beck’s episode was to lay out his thesis, provide some facts and opinions, and encourage his audience to decide. For hardcore, battle-hardened Israel lovers, the facts weren’t new, but the support was refreshing. If anything, this signals a turning-tide in the dynamics of pro-Israel politics. Just as the bulk of new immigrants to Israel are increasingly right-wing politically (and religiously) so, too, are Israel’s supporters in America. They may have their points of contention, but finally, it seems, Jews and Evangelicals have found a cause that binds them together in a politically powerful way.
Will Standing for Israel become a global movement? With an eye on flotillas and protests in May, along with a possible unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in September, the answer seems fairly simple: Do Israel and her supporters have a choice?