Traveling in the US last week I found Jews, like many others, in a state of extreme agitation.
The Trump phenomenon, they raged, was beyond belief. How could America be doing this to itself, possibly nominating as a presidential candidate a man who was a crude and unstable know-nothing, a bigoted authoritarian and potential despot, a threat to America’s future and the entire world? They might have no option, said Republican Jews in despair, but to vote for Hillary.
No! cried others who were equally despairing.
How could you even think of voting for Hillary, what with the email scandal, with her past support for the PLO and the bullying way she treated Israel while she was secretary of state, with the Muslim Brotherhood types and other Israel-bashers in her close circle? Yes, granted, said the first group, but at least she’s an experienced politician, at least she’s kinda done the job already, at least she knows how to behave in government. What, came the response, after Benghazi? After the murder there of the ambassador and three others on her watch, the attempt to sanitize the atrocity and then the cover-up of that attempt, after her “What difference does it make” outburst at the congressional hearing? So it went on back and forth with voices raised: Trump vs Hillary, the unspeakable versus the uneatable, Mussolini versus Lucrezia Borgia. There was, it seemed, no alternative. None.
Um, what about, I asked in a very small voice, Ted Cruz? Wouldn’t he be an acceptable alternative? Both sides looked at me in horror. On this they were agreed. Ted Cruz was totally, but totally, unacceptable. Why? Because he was an ultra-conservative, evangelical Christian.
They’d all rather have even Hillary than Cruz as president. Really? So Hillary was not such a threat to America, the Jews and the world after all? I hold no particular brief for Cruz. I observe him from afar, and my information is necessarily inadequate as a result. But if you really believe that both Trump and Hillary pose such a threat to all we hold dear, what on earth does Ted Cruz stand for that makes him even worse than those two priceless specimens? I understand that many American Jews are socially liberal. I understand that, for them, social liberalism is in fact their religion. But in the context of today’s terrifying world, to consider a socially conservative viewpoint to be the biggest threat of all takes some explaining.
One obvious reason is the profound antipathy felt by many American Jews toward evangelical Christians. This is strange given that such Christians are the most stalwart and passionate supporters of Israel in the world today, far more so than Diaspora Jews.
Nevertheless, many American Jews regard them as a dire threat to the Jewish people.
The much-stated reason is that they want to convert the Jews at the “end of days.” Well, some evangelicals do and others don’t. And with those who do, I don’t know about you but I’ll take my chances on that when the apocalypse finally arrives.
Ah, say the American Christophobes, but these evangelicals are theologically anti-Semitic.
Well, many of these Jews’ liberal friends are politically anti-Semitic, singling out Israel as they do for blood libels and demonization. Is that perhaps a tolerable form of anti-Semitism in these Jews’ minds? To put it another way, which is better – the anti-Semite who hates Israel or the supposed anti-Semite (who may not be that at all) who loves Israel? Of all the presidential candidates, Cruz is the one who takes Israel’s part with the greatest clarity, passion and absence of any equivocation. He really gets it.
Last weekend, he wooed the Republican Jewish convention in Las Vegas and received a warm reception but from a wary crowd.
There is, however, another factor about Cruz which is more important but which eludes those Americans who recoil at his name.
Recently, Cruz spoke at a meeting of a group called In Defense of Christians. Some Palestinian Christian supporters of Syria’s President Assad and also Hezbollah were present, and Cruz was booed off the stage.
He told them: “Those who hate Israel hate America. Those who hate Jews hate Christians...
And the very same people who persecute and murder Christians right now, who crucify Christians, who behead children, are the very same people who target Jews for their faith, for the same reason.”
Unlike other politicians, Cruz puts Jews and Christians, Israel and the West, together.
He joins up the dots because he sees the wider picture: that radical Islamism is waging war against the West as a Judeo-Christian civilization.
Very few Western leaders get this. Even fewer are prepared to make a stand specifically in defense of Christianity and the Jewish values which underpin it.
The Islamists are fighting a war of religion.
They want to conquer and Islamize the Christian West. They are additionally driven by their frenzied belief that the Jews, whom they view as a cosmic evil, control America and modernity.
The Islamists understand that the West has lost its moral core because its Christian base is crumbling. The progressive churches, with their tenuous faith and repudiation of Christianity’s Jewish heritage, have empty pews.
Post-religious Britain and much of mainland Europe, which have taken an ax to biblical morality, have lost sight of what they stand for. They won’t fight and die for the secular mush that now passes for principle.
They won’t do what it takes to defeat their mortal enemies. They want to make nice with them instead.
Even America, despite its evangelical Christian heartlands, is buckling under the secular onslaught and striking ever more uncertain social and moral notes.
Hence the turmoil over the past few years in Republican circles which have been fighting their own internal culture wars – between those who think they must embrace secular change to survive and those who struggle to defend biblical moral authority.
The Islamists understand very well that the West is weak and vulnerable. They know that their own strength rests upon their implacable religious belief. They know that the absence of a corresponding belief driving the West leaves it open for the taking. That’s why they launched their religious jihad against the free world.
Those of a secular bent don’t want to hear this, but the West will only save itself if it restores its cultural strength by promoting a muscular Christianity. It will only do that in turn if Christianity reconnects to its Jewish heritage. Without its base in Judaism, as Cruz and other (but by no means all) Christians understand, Christianity is nothing.
To win this war of civilization, the West needs to be led by a hard person of biblically faithful Christian belief. Cruz certainly fits that bill on both counts. That’s precisely why so many American Jews and others find him hard to stomach.
They might consider, however, that there is a more deadly threat to themselves than social conservatism. It is the extinction of the freedom to make political or social choices at all.Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).