At times it seems the world is devoid of pro-Israel voices. Legitimate
criticism aside, Israel is often held to a double standard and unfairly singled
out for condemnation for its actions and policies. On several American college
campuses, Israel Apartheid Week has become an annual event.
so-called UN Human Rights Council, the Jewish state is subjected to an endless
drumbeat of indictment and demonization, fueling the global movement to isolate
and delegitimize Israel through economic and cultural boycotts.
it stand to reason, then, that the Jewish community should embrace support for
Israel regardless where it comes from?
This is the question my 17-year old son
Matan posed when he realized I didn’t share his enthusiasm for this summer’s
announcement by US radio talk show host Glenn Beck that he’s forming a worldwide
group to defend Israel against the UN and Israel-bashing human rights
Yes, we need to counter the global assault on Israel’s
legitimacy, but it’s not the overly provocative, conspiracy- spinning Beck who
should be leading the charge. Nor is Beck the only one whose support for Israel
should make the Jewish community uncomfortable – televangelist Pat Robertson and
Lebanese-American activist Brigitte Gabriel also come to mind (more on them
I am aware that Beck, whose August 21-24 “Restoring Courage”
rallies in Israel attracted thousands of Evangelical Christians and rightwing
Israelis, has his Jewish supporters.
Likud MK Danny Danon told CNN that
he’s “very supportive” of Beck’s new initiative. Writing in the Huffington Post,
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said, “Beck’s willingness to stand up for
Israel must be accepted with gratitude.” The Zionist Organization of
America, which praised Beck for his “moral clarity,” is featuring him as the
keynote speaker at its annual dinner in November.
I’m not questioning
Beck’s motives; in fact, he’s very articulate in his defense of the Jewish
state. But there’s simply no room for Beck’s excessive baggage inside the
pro-Israel tent. As The Washington Post
’s Dana Milbank put it in describing the
former Fox News commentator, “It’s one thing to promote partisan journalism, but
it’s entirely different to engage in race baiting and fringe conspiracy
Earlier this year, for example, Beck devoted an entire show on
Fox to a conspiracy theory about how various bankers, among them the Rothschilds
(Read: Jewish bankers), created the Federal Reserve to control US economic
policy. To prove his claim, he turned to conspiracy author G. Edward Griffin,
whose website promotes anti-Semitic themes.
The most frequent target of
Beck’s invective, of course, is the Left, and, coincidentally, the majority of
American Jews are non-Orthodox – and liberal. On his radio program last
February, Beck stated that Reform Judaism is “more about politics [than
religion]” and compared it to “radicalized Islam.”
So are we now to
welcome Beck’s support for Israel? How can the Jewish community create and
sustain a broad alliance of forces to counter the delegitimization of Israel if
at the same time we embrace someone who denigrates the very progressive groups
we need included in that coalition?
Whenever Israel is unjustly criticized, many
of us circle the wagons. We find solace in every eloquent defense of
Israel that we run across. Nevertheless, we must be more selective. Israel needs
help, but help from certain ultra-conservative corners only exacerbates the
negative image of Israel that its adversaries wish to propagate.
regard, Beck isn’t alone. There are few more steadfast defenders of the
Jewish state than Pat Robertson, whose pro-Israel Christian news talk show, “The
700 Club,” airs throughout North America.
Robertson has said that he once
made a lifelong vow to God that “I and the organizations I head would stand in
support of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Regrettably, Robertson is also
known for repeatedly denouncing homosexuality, abortion and feminism, even
insisting that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were God’s punishment for these
things. Could we be any more hypocritical were we to embrace his support for
Israel and in the same breath extol Israel’s liberal credentials, which includes
equality for sexual minorities?
The pro-Israel community faces a similar issue
with Brigitte Gabriel, whose organization, ACT! for America, urges citizens to
“speak out” in defense of America and Israel against the threat of radical
Islam. Gabriel’s fervent pro-Israel (some would say anti-Islamic) stance
has garnered her hundreds of speaking engagements with conservative Christian,
and occasionally, Jewish groups.
In 2009, however, an incendiary speech
Gabriel gave to the Jewish Federation of Ottawa Women’s Division prompted the
federation president to write a letter distancing his organization from
Gabriel’s remarks. Indeed, if our goal is to build support for Israel as an
open, multi-cultural society, about the last person you would choose as an
advocate is someone who makes “unacceptable gross generalizations of Arabs and
None of this is to suggest that Jewish groups shouldn’t partner
with the Evangelical community, which is far from monolithic. But aligning
ourselves with individuals whose words are as polarizing and disparaging as they
are pro-Israel isn’t the kind of support Israel needs.
The writer is the
Community Relations Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and,
as a freelance writer, a regular contributor to
The Jerusalem Report magazine.
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