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January 31, 2007

Christian Zionists and left-wing anti-semites

Judith Weiss at Kesher Talk recently wrote an interesting and provocative post suggesting that the Christian Zionists' Bible-based rationale for Zionism is not an unalloyed positive. She wrote:

Listening to Pastor Hagee, I felt grateful that he recognizes the genuine existential threat to Israel, without being intimidated by political correctness; has the energy and persistence and personal authority to convince and mobilize others to use political clout and monetary donations to support Israel; and exhibits genuine courage and humility by doing so in the face of both death threats from antisemites and ongoing suspicion from the Jewish community (both of which he describes in the conference call).
But at the same time, she said she thought that his "intepretation of his religious imperatives leads him to be dismissive those of us who believe the re-instatement of a Jewish nation in Israel is more than legitimate, but think a Biblical justification is at best insufficient and at worst an impediment to the cause." She added, "If the main argument for the support of Israel is the authority of God, then using the authority of God to support the destruction of Israel (as with many Islamist theologians) can only be opposed by claiming 'my God is bigger than yours.'"

The discussion in the comments -- where she debated the point with co-bloggers Alcibiades and Benjamin -- was excellent, and I commend it to you.

I share some of Judith's misgivings, possibly because of my own religious doubts. But ultimately I think that the question is not what is the right argument for a right cause but rather what is an effective argument for a right cause. And my view is, "Let a thousand arguments bloom."

Despite my own misgivings about the nature of God-based arguments, I couldn't be more grateful for the leadership we've seen from Christian Zionists. So I was delighted to read that they have been publicly recognized -- at least once. At a dinner honoring the outgoing Israeli ambassador, Danny Ayalon, Congressman Tom Lantos, a California Democrat who's a Holocaust survivor, said what should have been said many times, and earlier. In the words of Arlene Samuels, who was there:
The chatty crowd quieted as Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), spoke eloquently about the past and the present world climate of anti-Semitism. Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor serving in Congress, disclosed, "I assumed naively that the chapter [Holocaust] of human history would be a dark nightmare moment of the past but that is not the case." He continued, "We have a new dimension, a convergence of historic anti-Semitism coupled with Muslims and the intellectual elite. This makes for a powerful cocktail yet, we have a powerful antidote [for anti-Semitism]; the decent Christians who learned the lessons of the Holocaust. The antidote to Auschwitz is the Christian community in the United States. We cannot tell you how precious you are to us. We deeply love and respect you more than you'll ever know because you represent the finest of civilization."

Rep. Lantos then said, "All Christians, please stand."

Christians don't advocate for Israel to gain accolades, yet when we stood, the sustained applause from Jewish hands settled on me like a crown. It's safe to say that other Christians in the hall, who have advocated for Israel much longer than I, felt the weight of the crown even more profoundly. With a noticeable contingent of evangelicals, including ICEJ Executive Director Rev. Malcolm Hedding, Earl Cox, (founder- Israel Always) and Ben Kinchlow, Co-hosts of Front Page Jerusalem Radio, I reveled in this historic moment in time; a moment which culminated 25 years of work and relationship-building between evangelical Christians and the state of Israel, pioneered in part by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem who planted a small seed of Christian Zionism in 1980.
As Lantos suggested, things are not so rosy on the other side of the political divide. Anti-Zionism, often indistinguishable from anti-semitism, is on the increase on the political left, more so the farther left you go, and more so the more you get in with the activists.

In fact, the Anti-Defamation League conducted a conference this weekend called "Finding Our Voice," to help left-wing Jews deal with anti-Zionism and anti-semitism among their comrades.
Workshops will feature presentations by university professors, community activists, elected officials and religious leaders. Among the titles are “That’s Not Funny: Cartoons and Editorials — What’s Legitimate and What Isn’t”; Opposing the War While Opposing Anti-Semitism”; “Breaking Through the Myth of Jewish Whiteness”; and “Using Positive Messages to Challenge Hate: Advocacy on the Campus.”

The keynote address will be presented by Anthony Julius, a British Jewish attorney who successfully defended Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstadt in the libel suit brought by Holocaust denier David Irving.

While much attention has been paid to the so-called “new anti-Semitism,” in which antipathy toward Jews is masked as rabid criticism of Israel, the Finding Our Voice conference represents the first organized effort by liberal Jews to fight back.
More on the conference here, here, and at the American Thinker and JunkYardBlog.

Anti-semites on the right have been largely marginalized. For example, Bill Buckley purged a whole crew in the 50s and again a few in the 90s. But we're still waiting for liberals and progressives to do the same.

But first, you have to recognize you have a problem. And you won't when you have headlines like this: "Unlikely source of racism spurs Jews." Nor will you when you have people who are shocked about it, like this: "'The progressive movement is about tolerance and justice and peace,' Litman said. 'It seems so strange that hatefulness can have a home there.'"

And even if you recognize there's a problem, you can't blame yourself first:
A spokesperson for Jewish Voice for Peace, a liberal advocacy group working on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said: “From our perspective, you cannot get to the roots of anti-Semitism in the progressive movement without honestly addressing the severe human-rights violations that Israel engages in every day. Judging by the lineup, that kind of honest examination is not likely to happen at this conference.”
I've used the metaphor of a boiling frog before. It works. That water is getting hotter and hotter.

Extra: The New York Times reports on an article about the American Jewish Committee's publication of an article accusing some Jews of aiding anti-semitism. (By the way, when did the Committee become a "conservative advocacy group"? What universe is the NY Times in? Don't answer that.)