I saw the signs driving up to the church. The road up to Living Word Christian Center, which was hosting the third annual Night to Honor Israel, organized by Christians United for Israel (CUFI), was lined with a crowd of young people, brandishing giant posters, and hooting and screaming at the passing cars. With no way to drive around this display, I drove on through their line, and pulling alongside them, couldn’t help but read the multitude of clearly-hand-drawn posters, which read:
I LOVE ISRAEL
WE STAND WITH ISRAEL
G-D BLESS ISRAEL
And thus began my incredibly surreal evening spent in a Christian church, with over three thousand Christians, and men like Evangelical Pastor Mac Hammond and radio talk show host Dennis Prager and Bet Shalom Rabbi Norman Cohen, all gathered to celebrate Israel together.
And boy, did people want to be at this event! If you weren’t there, I’m pretty sure you missed the event of the century! The overflow parking lot was full to bursting – a full hour before the event. The double lines to get in snaked for yards down the hall. The church sanctuary, which I was told seats 3,300, was standing room only, and I heard there were hundreds more in two overflow rooms.
So what were we all there for? At the risk of upsetting some of our rabbis – hands down the most alive, most exuberant, most excited and genuine celebration of Israel I have ever attended in the United States, bar none. These people – thousands of Christians, and a couple hundred Jews – came together to express their genuine love and unwavering support for Israel.
Three of our local cantors – Cantor Audrey Abrams of Beth El, Cantor Barry Abelson of Temple Israel, and Cantor Mitch Kowitz of Temple of Aaron – sang Hatikvah and Avinu Shebashamayim (the Jewish prayer for Israel). The benediction was given by Bet Shalom Rabbi Norman Cohen. And at the end of the event, the pastor handed a check for $85,200, collected at the event, to the heads of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and United Jewish Fund & Council of St. Paul, to be used for programs in Israel.
(Over the past three years of running this event, CUFI have raised over a quarter of a million dollars, all given to the Federation and United Fund & Council).
Bear in mind – this is over $85,000 collected from less than 5,000 people, just by sending around a donations basket. I’m not so sure that we would do as well at one of our events.
Nothing is as powerful as Jews and Christians working together. It’s thousands of years too late. But it’s here now, and we’re thanking God we’re living at a time when it’s happening. And it’s happening here in the United States of America… Christians here, Christians in America, are our best friend.
He also went on to highlight the idea that,
Without support for Israel – America is doomed… The day America abandons Israel is the day America begins to decline. World opinion is worthless – it did nothing for Rwanda, Cambodia, or during the Holocaust – it’s useless, and usually wrong. The US says ‘to hell with world opinion.’ The day we march to world opinion [against Israel] – we are doomed.
Dennis Prager then called Living Word Pastor (and director of Christians United for Israel in the Upper Midwest) Mac Hammond “a blessing to the Jewish people.” Aside from his support for Israel through CUFI, Pastor Hammond has also initiated a program called “Israel Feed the Hungry,” through which his congregation has donated over $350,000 since 2004 to help families affected by suicide bombings in Israel.
Pastor Hammond then spoke about the reasons that motivate Christians to support Israel (and support it enough to come out and sit around in church on a gorgeous, sunny Sunday afternoon – and not even at their own church, as many were from other churches, including tons of pastors).
As Dennis Prager rather eloquently put it, “[Evangelical] Christians have an idiosyncrasy. They actually believe the Torah is God’s word.”
Pastor Hammond spoke to his congregation in the same spirit, saying that,
[Support for Israel and the Jewish people] is one of the core elements of Christian pursuit, that has not been enough pursued in decades and centuries past.
Pastor Hammond then quoted Genesis 12:3, saying,
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” This is fairly simplistic, but true. You are seeking the blessing of the God that you serve. It’s fairly basic, if you believe the Bible.
He went on to say that,
We celebrate Israel as the apple of God’s eye. If we’re going to honor the God we serve, how can we do it without honoring God’s heart? God has an everlasting covenant with Israel. He says that Israel is the apple of his eye [Zechariah 2:8]. God is immutable, unchangeable. If Israel was the apple of his eye, then she is the apple of his eye, and always will be the apple of his eye. How can we honor the God of the Bible without honoring the expression of his love? That covenant is an everlasting covenant. We must honor Israel and the Jewish people are the people chosen by him.
[In honoring the Jewish people], we honor our own spiritual heritage. Without the Jews, Christians would not exist today – we must be basically honest about where we came from. Our God is the God of Judaism, our ethic…comes from the Torah, the word of God. All the things we come from, that founded Christianity, are Jewish. Including the lord we love and serve – Jesus. Our spiritual heritage is Jewish.
If we as Christians fail to purge the poison of Antisemitism in our own ranks – we will corrupt and undermine the basis of our faith. … The New Testament is full of statements that God’s covenant with the Jewish people is everlasting. Antisemitism is a poison rooted in more than racial bias… If there is not a voice to repudiate it, if there is not a visible proactive effort,… then I am allowing something poisonous and insipid to infect our faith.
Now, I realize that many in the Jewish community are very uncomfortable with the recent Christian movement to support Israel and embrace the Jewish people.
The two major arguments for this position tend to be either “but they don’t stand with us on anything else (politically)” or “but they really want to convert us all to Christianity or get us to move to Israel for the apocalypse.” Having now actually come face to face with this movement (and not some theoretical idea of it), I have something I’d like to say regarding both of these issues.
Let’s take the first argument first – they [evangelicals] are not with us [Jews] on other issues.
I actually had someone say to me once, “but we can’t stand with them. Do you know what they think on everything else?” Yes, I get it. These are mostly conservative Christians, and as such, they hold differing positions from most of the Jewish community on lots of political issues, including abortion, gay marriage, school prayer, and many other things. But my question is this – have we really gotten so small minded that we cannot accept anyone who thinks differently from us on any issue?
They are not bringing up about gay marriage when speaking about their support for Israel. They are not tying these issues together, and shoving them down our throats. So why do we have to go there? Do we really choose all of our friends now based on political agreement on every issue? Do we quiz our co-workers and neighbors, just to make absolutely certain we do not accidentally come into contact with anyone who stands somewhere else on some political issue? Are we really so insecure? Or so judgmental? Are all of those people who happen to disagree with us truly so evil that we cannot countenance dealing with them in any capacity at all?
And since when do we demand ideological purity from everyone, anyway? Let’s face it – nobody has the exact same political positions on every single thing. Nobody. You will not find 2 people who agree on absolutely everything politically. That is absurd. And normally, we do not demand ideological purity on all issues before we will stand together on one issue.
When Jews stand at immigration reform rallies or civil rights rallies, we do not demand to know everyone else’s views on abortion or gay marriage. And most of us would not refuse to stand with other groups on these issues, even if we knew that most people there do not support abotion, gay marriage, or what-have-you. For that matter, we do not demand to know where people stand on Israel before we stand with them on abortion or gay marriage, do we? We’re willing to compromise there. There would be no political coalitions at all if people started demanding that kind of purity from their allies. So why would this issue be any different? If you will stand with people who may not be like you in every way in support of other issues, then why would you suddenly get all offended and refuse to stand with people who may not agree with you on every possible issue when it comes to Israel?
Now to the second issue – they [evangelicals] don’t really mean it – they just want us [Jews] to convert/move to Israel.
I was there. I heard these people, and spoke with them. And I have to quote Dennis Prager on this one: “this is as honest and sincere as anything.”
There is absolutely no chance that this is fake. These people really mean it. Really and truly, in their veryheart of hearts. You can see it shining in their eyes when they talk to you about Israel or the Jews. You could not fake such a thing. Whether we understand it or not – you simply could not fake such enthusiasm, such love, and such genuine caring and excitement. Certainly not across five thousand people, and it really was every single person I spoke to, whether from this church, or many others. The pastors, the random people, young, old – everyone.
And again, as Dennis Prager correctly put it, “what is the ulterior motive to?” I have to say that if this is all a giant ploy to convert Jews to Christianity, it’s a really, really bad plan. Are we saying that five thousand people got together, just so they can support Israel, and that’s gonna make the 200 Jews who were there run and convert?
I met one pastor from Zambia, who told me that his church in Lino Lakes gets together every Tuesday to pray for Israel – whom is that gonna convert, exactly? I gotta tell ya, I don’t feel any more inclined to become a Christian after this event than I was before. And I’m pretty sure that neither do any of the other Jews who were there – including Jews like Rabbis Avi Olitzky and Alexander Davis of Beth El, Steve Hunegs of the JCRC, and Mort Naiman of the Jewish Federation. I’m sure that they all just can’t wait to convert now that they’ve seen some Christians do the Hora.
And I gotta tell you – believe it or not – absolutely no one made the slightest attempt to convert me at this event. Not one person even mentioned the possibility. Not one. That’s a pretty poor conversion plan, I gotta tell you. I’ve been more harrassed by Chabad than I was at this church. In fact, they went so far to not make the Jews uncomfortable, that they covered up the cross in their sanctuary with a giant CUFI backdrop, featuring the Star of David. Seriously – there was no cross visible in their sanctuary! Would we ever do such a thing for them?
Besides, again to quote Dennis Prager, “have you ever met anyone who converted (from Judaism to Christianity) because of Christian support for Israel?” Of course they’d like us to be Christian – that is the whole point of them being Christian, and I’m sure they think it would save my soul. And I don’t begrudge it to them – I’m sure they mean well. Then again, my mother would like me to get married and go to grad school – she’s pretty adamant that that would save my life, too. And she’s a heck of a lot more pushy about it. But she’s my mother – that’s the whole point for her. And I’m still OK with her. I just wish she brought it up as little as these Christians bring up my supposed conversion.
So maybe they don’t want us to convert – they just want us all to move to Israel, so the apocalypse would come. First of all – how much do you really know about what is needed for the apocalypse? How many of us have even read the Book of Revelations, which talks about it? But suddenly, we’re real experts on the whole thing. Really now – if this was all a plan to get all the Jews to move to Israel, it would still be a pretty poor plan.
The way to get Jews to move to Israel is to send a bunch of money to help educate Ethiopian children in Hadera? Seriously? Or to give money to a program to help young Dispora Jews be more involved with their community? This is supposed to make us go to Israel? Again, this would be such a complete nonsense plan that I cannot believe that we would in one breath accuse these people of being so devious, and yet so completely incompetent in their deviousness. Really, people.
Whatever doubts I may have had before, I gotta tell you that having actually been there, I have to agree with Dennis Prager that, “this is a group sticking their neck out [to support us], and we reject them.” They sincerely and truly believe that they are honoring God’s will in supporting Israel and the Jewish people – our people. In fact, the CUFI motto is taken straight from Isaiah 62:1: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet.”
They sent 7,000 people to Washington last year, to lobby for Israel. And their lobbying points are identical to AIPAC’s. They are not doing that just to convert us, or whatever – they really mean it, and stand behind it – and lord knows, the Jewish people could use all the help they can get. So no wonder that the JCRC board voted unanimously to support the Night to Honor Israel event in 2009. As Rabbi Cohen of Bet Shalom so eloquently put it,
We have these friends who stand with us on campus, in Washington, who travel to Israel, and provide support for the widows and orphans of the IDF. We have CUFI, these pastors. We pray that you bring the wisdom to the Jewish people to recognize the support of our Christian friends.
I know that many of you will still disagree with me (and with Rabbi Cohen and the JCRC), so I would like to issue you this challenge. It’s easy to be against something you’ve never seen. Come with me next year.
Come and see it for yourself, listen to these people, and see how you feel about it then. And if you are still convinced that this is all an evil plot – I would be happy to give you the chance to say so in this very column. But come hear them first – embrace our great liberal Jewish tradition, and give these people a chance, whatever their religion, or their religion’s unfortunate past with our people. They are certainly doing that and more for us.
[Photos: Absolute Astronomy, Nate Mandos, Trinity Foundation]
I look forward to the day we have a Muslims United for Israel at the local mosque.
Do they do this event for Darfur? Mexico? Guatemala? Chile? Kenya? Why the big fuss over Israel, specifically?
And why such an emotional love for Israel? Is it because of what Israel is or what it represents? It is in support of Jews or just Israelis? Is it just because?
Picking out a few lines of Torah is great, but I don’t see people putting the same amount of energy into “don’t eat shellfish” or “eye for an eye”.
I’m asking these questions honestly, because I’ve never really heard the answers. (Please, no personal attacks.)
I think you ask some very good questions, and I will try to answer as well as I can.
I asked some of the same ones last Sunday, when speaking with these pastors – like you, I was pretty curious on what their motivation and reasoning were, exactly. And not being a Christian myself, I can only have so much information.
Here is what they told me:
They believe, rightly, that their religion originates from Judaism. As such, they see Jews as their predecessors and “the root of their faith.”
They also believe that the entire Bible, including our Old Testament, are literally true. However, after St. Paul’s writings, they do not believe that the “rules” in the Torah that apply to the Jews apply to Christians. Essentially, St. Paul wrote that while the Bible is *true*, the rules still apply only to the Jews, not to Christians (who have faith in Jesus and other rules, instead). (If you’re interested in more about this, you can read “Paul’s Letters” in the New Testament).
So they aren’t particularly concerned with eating shellfish or stoning adulterers. Eye-for-an-eye they have completely replaced with turn-the-other-cheek (they are Christians, after all, not Jews).
However, even while the laws no longer apply to them, they still believe that the statements in the Bible are true. So God created Adam and Eve. And God chose Abraham and the Jewish people to be his people. Nowhere in the Bible does it actually ever say that this “choice” has ever been repealed or replaced. (There is a historically popular “replacement gospel,” but these Christians, and many other in recent decades, reject it as having no basis in scripture).
So when they read that God calls the Jews and Israel (both as a people and as a nation) the “apple of his eye,” and when God says that those who help Abraham and the Jews “will be blessed” – they take this literally, as a commandment to help the Jews.
So what I heard from them is that they see an obligation, as Christians, to honor the Jews as their spiritual ancestors (several people used to term “older brothers”), and also to embrace and support and help the Jews as a people and as a nation, to support the Biblical injunction to “bless Israel.”
As such, they see Israel as the state of the Jews, and therefore, feel that they should support it as the state of the people chosen by God. If Kenya or Chile was the Jewish state, or if the Bible said that Guatemalans were chosen by their God, then I’m sure they would support them, too.
One last thing – I heard many people I met bring up the Holocaust. They seem to feel, as people of faith, that they failed their faith during the Holocaust. They say that by allowing such murder and destruction to occur, and not saying anything, they have failed as Christians, in not coming to the aid of a nation being slaughtered. They also speak about their guilt in knowing that the Holocaust was in many ways inspired but historical Christian Antisemitic dogma. So an extra layer in their support today is that they carry this guilt, and feel an obligation to support now the people they have failed then, and make certain that they never allow such a thing to happen again, and remain silent. (They had an incredible Holocaust exhibit from the Simon Wiesenthal Center at the event).
I hope this helps answer your questions, and helps make things more clear. This isn’t really a political thing for these groups – it’s a religious thing – they believe that this is their obligation from God.
If you still have more questions, I got some contact information for a few of their pastors and some local lay leaders of CUFI, and I’m sure they would be happy to answer specific questions for anyone. Just let me know if you’d like me to put you in touch with someone.
Thank you for the posting Jena. In addition to the Night to Honor Israel, they also held on Wednesday April 21, 2010, a special service with Holocaust survivors in order to educate more Christians on the Holocaust. They had over 1,200 people at that event!
If someone want to see any of these events to make up their own mind on the actions that LWCC and CUFI take in support of Israel and the Jewish people, here are some links:
2010 LWCC Night to Honor Israel in Minnesota:
Get a DVD (best quality): http://shop.lwcc.org/Night_to_Honor_Israel_P3688.cfm
Watch online (streaing quality): http://www.lwcc.org/MEDIA/onDemandPlayer.cfm?lwlID=610
Wednesday night service with Holocaust survivors:
Get a DVD (best quality): http://shop.lwcc.org/Holocaust_Survivors_P3685.cfm
Watch online (streaing quality): http://www.lwcc.org/MEDIA/onDemandPlayer.cfm?lwlID=608
I hope this help.
Thank you for posting those links!
I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone who would like to see the event and hear the speeches for themselves, and make up their own mind!
(And you could check up on my note-taking, too! :))
Thank you for your thorough reporting of the event. I was there too, it was exactly as you described. Although I have been to the Night to Honor Israel before, it is still a mind-blowing experience yet again. And there were definitely more Jews in attendance this time than last. Little by little, I think, Jews who are open minded will be won over. Sadly, we are a people who know better how to deal with enemies than friends. And many of those who might be our allies on assorted liberal causes are not our friends when it comes to Israel. Yet that does not stand in the way of working with them on shared interests. I place my faith in young people like you, Jenna, whose thinking is less rigid than many of my generation, who reject these Christian friends without even bothering to learn firsthand what they believe and why.
Thanks so much for this post. As a pro-israel activist, I have lobbied along with passionate Christians in DC with AIPAC. Though I appreciate all of the evangelical support (and money!) for Israel, I do so tentatively. Cautiously. I appreciate their support, but that doesn’t mean I will cheer at a church and listen to virulently right-wing speakers. For two reasons:
1) It’s not that the evangelical Christians disagree with me on a few issues like gay marriage, or that I require “political purity”, it’s that many of their politically conservative beliefs are dangerous to the Jewish people. For instance, an insistence upon prayer, or signs of Christian religion like Christmas trees, in public schools threatens the rights of our children.
I didn’t go to anti-war-in-Iraq protests because many of the protesters also held anti-Israel signs – – be careful who you associate with.
2) Many young people in this country have a strange misconception that supporting the incredibly socially liberal country of Israel is somehow a Republican issue. The more we publicize the far evangelical right’s support of Israel, the more we isolate moderate Americans.
I was there, am an usher. Have gone to LWCC for 27 years. Loved this event. God bless Israel and God bless those who love her. However, I’m not so crazy over the “falaful?”…I served them (with my daughter) for a few years at the Israel Marketplace our church put on since 9-11. Proceeds to Israel. To the Torah believing Jew I say, I love your zeal and passion for the Lord…you inspire.
Thank you for your comments. It’s good to hear that other Jewish attendees had a similar experience to mine (and my friends are not just lying to me! :))
I can actually understand pretty well why people might feel uncomfortable accepting Christian support.
My entire family is from Europe, all of my gradparents are Holocaust survivors – so I really do get it. I really get why Jews – especially Jews of European descent, like most American Jews are – feel uncomfortable with Christians, even feel a certain apprehension toward them. Lord knows, the Christian church has historically done more than its share to contribute to the discrimination and outright persecution of Jewish communities (and this includes both Western and Eastern European Churches). When so much of the historical suffering of Jews can be traced back to Christianity (and many historians acknowledge that the Holocaust itself had roots firmly in Christian Antisemitism), I think a certain discomfort and apprehension are only natural. When we’ve been burned as many times as we have, it would be folly not to fear the fire, and develop a certain jumpiness around overt and over-the-top friendliness, and feel that we can rely only on ourselves. It’s only natural to think “yeah, you say you love us now – but what’s the catch?”
But as much as I really do understand that feeling, I think we have an unusual situation here. I would be no means advocate that Jews just forget their history with the Church, and “move on,” so to speak. However, I think we are facing an (admittedly small) group of Christians who do acknowledge the historical failings and guilt of their Church when it comes to the Jews, who acknowledge that they have failed us, and are now saying “we, right now, are OK with the Jews,” and are trying to do a little bit to perhaps help the survivors of everything that has happened in Europe get and keep a place that they can call their own, where they can perhaps protect themselves in the future.
I am not saying this covers all Christians – far from it, I think. And I do not think that Jews should just forget everything that’s happened over the centuries. But I think that as Jews, we do have a liberal tradition of believing that people can change, than specific people can see the light, and that some individuals can rise above the wrong that may be perpetrated by their group. And as such, we must consider that that may be what is happening now. That a small group of Christians is rising above, is getting past their historical Antisemitism, and it would not be right to tar “them all” with the same brush of “evil Christianity always out to get us.” Often, perhaps, but not always. Not with these people, and not right now.
I think you have a very strong point on your 2) — you are absolutely right that support for Israel should not be a partisan issue in America.
Was American support for Britain in World War II a partisan issue? No! (There were isolationists and internationalists in both parties.) I think we should support our ally in our (defensive and unsought) war against jihadism. There are several good reasons for supporting Israel, but that one probably covers more people in the U.S. than any single other.
And therein lies a problem. Far many more people to the left of center than to the right feel very ambivalent about this war. As a liberal, I can understand the ambivalance, though I don’t agree with it.
Right though you are about Israel’s liberalism as a country (along with some traditionalistic streaks), I think that this, ultimately, is not a decisive reason for Americans deciding whether to support Israel or not. If another ally of the U.S. faced attacks, neither people on the right nor on the left would think much about that country’s detailed domestic policies in deciding whether to support our ally. Would a Republican be less likely to support Spain than Italy because Spain allows gay marriage? Would a Democrat more willingly support Sweden than the U.K. because Sweden has higher marginal tax rates and more progressive sex-equality policies? I think not.
All of this is to back the following proposition — Israel has few enough friends, that it needs all the help it can get.
We should be confident enough about being right on Israel that we can stand on that issue alongside with those with whom we deeply disagree about other issues. And we should not be embarrassed about any of Israel’s friends. That’s just disrespectful to them. Don’t like evangelicals’ stand on school prayer? Don’t support school prayer, then. (After all, they are no less likely to keep their support for school prayer whether or not you accept their help on Israel.)
As a thought experiment, if I were to try push an employment non-discrimination law through Congress, I would not be embarrassed of the support of leftists who are anti-Israel. I wouldn’t have any hesitation about arguing against their position when Israel comes up. These issues have nothing to do with each other.
Their imperfect agreement with me does not compromise my values. My direction doesn’t change based on who walks with me. From deeply held conviction comes easy acceptance of friends who are different. Think of it as “diversity” in the pro-Israel camp.
Thank you for responding. I think you raise some extremely good points.
On your first point, I think you’re absolutely right. There are many, many issues that more traditional Christians as a group tend to support that most mainstream Jews do not, and even ones that Jews as a group have a large problem with (for instance, the examples you raise around secterian religion in public life). On a personal level, I would absolutely agree with you that there are almost certainly issues on which I do not, and would not, stand anywhere near the average traditional Christian.
For me, this raises 2 issues. One is the question of what happens if these issues on which we disagree are in no way raised as part of your shared effort, but you know they are “beneath the surface,” so to speak. So again to use your example, would you have gone to the “anti-war-in-Iraq” protests if no one held anti-Israel signs, but if you still knew that some people there are thinking it? I don’t know the answer to that, and would never presume to offer one. I think this is a highly personal and sensitive choice. How far do you go to stand with people when they are not actively offending you, but you know that deep down, they are thinking it? So if gay marriage, or school prayer, or whatever, are not being brought up (and in this case, they really aren’t – this was not a political event in any way, outside of the Israel question. Even Dennis Prager did not bring up anything external, outside of a question about the seal of the city of Los Angeles), do you need people to not even think things that you find either politically disagreable or offensive, or do you need them to not bring it up where it’s irrelevant, and you won’t try to make sure that everyone thinks the right things at all times. Again, I think this is just a very personal choice.
The other question for me is one of priorities. And again, we’re back to something highly personal and not something we can say for others. To use your war example, do you care enough about a particular issue (Iraq, Vietnam, name-your-favorite-cause-here) to stand with people who may be brandishing anti-Israel signs, or other things that are offensive to you personally, or do you care enough about those other issues (Israel, or what-have-you), to not stand for a particular cause if you will be offended on something more important. I think everyone ultimately, sooner or later, has to make those choices. In San Francisco, there are gay-right-focused AIDS activists who march next to devout Christians, concerned with stopping AIDS in Africa. Ultimately, they must make their choice – do I care more about stopping AIDS, to march with whoever will stand with me, even if they disagree with me in every other way, or do I care enough about my other causes to not stand with people who are against them on any issue, no matter how good. Again, I think this is a very personal choice, that each person must make for themselves, and on their own issues. Would a pacifist Darfur activist welcome a supporter who believes in expanding the power of the military and its influence in the world? I don’t know. They may choose to stand together and fight together for their shared interest, and just know that they will go their separate ways on other issues, or they may find each other too distasteful, and not be able to work together. But no one can say what’s right for them. It sounds like you may have found a happy medium, in that you’ll stand with Christians on Israel at AIPAC, but not in their church. And that’s fine, and it sounds like it works for you, and that’s what’s important.
On your second point, I think you raise a very interesting point there. I think you’re right that for the past few years there has been an increase in the sentiment that support for Israel is a right-wing or Republican issue. Which is extremely interesting to me, since it is in no way historically correct (Kennedy liked Israel a lot more than Nixon, Truman certainly liked Israel a LOT more than Eisenhower, and Clinton liked Israel A HECK OF A LOT more than Bush I ). In any case, I’ve always found this a strange, but potentially extremely dangerous, idea. My problem is, though – what do we do about it? In trying to not publicize or even minimize a possible source of support, do we increase the support of the other side, or merely decrease the potential support that is coming our way? Or more specifically, in trying to minimize or not embrace conservative Christian support for Israel, are we actually going to increase liberal support in any way, or are we merely going to push away, and potentially decrease, that conservative support? And again, I don’t know the answer to that. But I don’t think it’s a completely straight forward answer, either.
For my part, I’ve been trying to deal with this issue, by going out and speaking and educating about Israel in the community through the JCRC Speakers’ Bureau. I’ve been lucky enough that when teaching in Minneapolis, I have spoken to a lot of liberal, young, even “left-wing” audiences – and I think that education about the history and the issues, without the propaganda and polemics, does make a difference. How much of a difference? Who knows. But I think it’s the best we can do in that regard.
Beyond that, though, I’m not sure I would be comfortable pushing away allies who will stand with me on an issue I care about, in the hope that that might inspire someone else who does not stand with me to change his mind. I think “the enemy of my enemy…” only goes so far, and personally, I rather have an ally that I know is with me, than a theoretical one I might like better, but that may or may not ever really come around. We may not have liked fighting with the Russians in WWII, but pushing them away would not have liberated those death camps any faster (though I supposed we may have felt better about the whole thing when we did finally get around to them). Ultimately, though, I think we’re back to the same thing we started with – this is a highly personal decision, based on personal priorities, and as long as we give these people a chance, and then decide where we stand, and not jump to conclusions based solely on who they are, and what they generally stand for – I’m happy.