Most Jews today (or should I merely say many?), even the most secular, have a
tremendous fear of Christians – especially fervent believers of the type
represented today by Evangelicals – and conservatives. There is a material basis
for this fear based on past Jewish experience. But it’s 2011; things have
changed, and it’s time to reconsider these assumptions and see if they still
Let me begin by mentioning two specific situations I have
witnessed that show the foolishness of this blindness:
1. In a certain city a
group of Jews organized a march for Israel. Several Christian groups wanted to
participate. Since some elements among the Jews disagreed with the Christians on
other political issues, they canceled the march rather than participate
alongside pro-Israel Christians.
2. In a certain other city, an Israeli
speaker was invited to speak by the main pro-Israel Jewish group. He was also
invited to speak by a respectable pro-Israel Christian group. The potential
speaker was informed that if he spoke for the Christian group the pro-Israel
Jewish group would refuse to have him as a speaker.
This kind of
behavior is simultaneously shameful and stupid. We are not speaking here of
political sophistication but about a mode of thinking equivalent to a fear of
True, for almost 2,000 years many Christians and their
institutions have often persecuted Jews. In this short space I will not attempt
to review that history or get beyond generalizations. Readers are able to do
that for themselves.
For 200 years, modern conservative and nationalist
thought in the West has also often persecuted Jews, in words, attitudes and
actions. A good starting point for that phase is the triumph of German
nationalists over Napoleon and the reversal of the French revolution’s grant of
rights to Jews in those lands. And of course the culmination was in the Nazi
It is understandable, then, that Jews supported parties of
the liberal and left-wing type where they were welcomed, where modernity was
extolled, and where Jews believed they could integrate with the masses and thus
defuse grassroots anti-Semitism. That strategy made perfect sense.
Communism’s betrayal of the Jews, the contemporary tendency for the far Left to
take over traditional social democratic and liberal institutions, and the Left’s
romance with Third World (and particularly Palestinian, Arab and Islamist
radicalism), the world has changed. The Left has largely abandoned Israel as a
cause, often becoming antagonistic and even evincing anti-Semitism.
is still hope for reviving the social democratic and liberal tradition of being
pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, but that won’t happen until the infiltration and
seizure of intellectual hegemony of the far Left is defeated.
there has also been a change among many Christians (especially those called
Evangelicals) and conservatives toward a greater friendship regarding Jews and
Israel. A key reason for this shift – and proof of its authenticity – are a set
of transformations in the thinking of these groups.
Before discussing the
details, though, let me make it clear that Jews do not have to become
conservatives or even agree with them – or with Evangelical Christians – on a
wide range of issues. What is worthwhile, however, is to accept the offer of
friendship on certain specific issues, respectfully disagree on others, and not
demonize such people.
As noted above, many conservatives and pious
Protestants have changed their view of Jews. Factors that once made for
anti-Semitism have now been reversed. Here is a brief summary:
• Formerly, Jews
were seen as subverting Christianity. Now, in an increasingly secular
world, Jews (even only slightly religious ones) are seen as fellow believers,
allies in preserving religiosity in the face of huge challenges.
• A key
element in anti-Semitism were Christian documents of Jews as the “suffering
servant” whose humiliation proved Christianity to be correct, and “replacement
theology,” which says that Jews are no longer the “chosen people,” that this
role has now been filled by Christians. These ideas have been widely abandoned
by Evangelicals. There is a new interest in – and gratitude for – the Jewish
roots of Christianity, and a view of Jews as fellows in a Judeo-Christian
They are very much aware of Biblical verses that,
for example, say that the creator of the universe will not bless those who
attack or hate the Jewish people. There is also a real understanding of
the history of the Holocaust and past anti-Semitism, along with a desire to make
amends. While there are those seeking converts, of course, and some who believe
that supporting Jews will bring Armageddon, these are largely outdated
• Conservatives tended to view Jews as cosmopolitan
anti-nationalists, leftists and pacifists. Today, however, the existence of
Israel has given a different perspective on this. Jews, in the eyes of most
conservatives, have created a model nation-state, a country that is willing and
able to fight in its self-defense, where religion is respected as an important
element in Jewish peoplehood.
• An especially important question has been
how conservatives deal with the fact that there are so many Jews on the Left,
that is, among their political opponents and those who fight against religion in
various ways. In the twentieth century especially, this was a huge source of
anti-Semitism and a central element in Nazi doctrine.
conservatives have, however, developed a new way of viewing this issue. First,
of course, they have observed the Left’s growing antagonism toward Israel and
even toward Jews. Most importantly, they view leftist and anti-religious Jews as
enemies of their own people. This neatly dispenses with a traditional core issue
Someone like, say, Noam Chomsky is not seen as part of
“the Jewish conspiracy against America,” but as a person who has so broken with
his Jewish roots and the interests of his people that he is as much against the
Jews as he is against his country or conservative values. In a sense, this
concept parallels what most Jews – especially the religious and the pro-Israel
majority – also think of such people.
In France and Italy, Holland and
Spain, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, conservative parties are more
pro-Israel than their counterparts on the Left. This has less to do with
Israeli or Jewish behavior – whatever claims are made to the contrary – than it
does the philosophical and political evolution of politics within those
Let me make this absolutely clear: to cooperate with liberals
on supporting Israel one need not be a liberal; to cooperate with conservatives
on supporting Israel one need not be a conservative. To cooperate with
Christians on supporting Israel one need not be a Christian.
Of course, a
distinction must be made between much larger conservative forces and smaller
neo-fascist ones. The Le Pen party in France, the British National Party, and
other forces continue the historic anti-Semitism of the right wing. In the
United States, some right-wingers still hold traditional anti-Semitic
Yet the Jewish people have always survived via a willingness to
understand the world as it is and to act as necessary without sacrificing core
principles. While working to maintain and rebuild relations with real liberal
and moderate social democratic forces where possible, Israel and Jews should
also shake the extended hand of conservatives and Christians which is so often
sincerely offered.The writer is director of the Global Research in
International Affairs (GLORIA) Center (www.gloriacenter.org). He is a
featured columnist at PJM (http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/) and editor of
the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal.