So little comment is required here. If Israel was a serious nation and the global Zionist Diaspora was keen for respectability, they would distance themselves from this settler-embracing extremist who loves Jews because he hopes they’ll convert when the Rapture arrives.
Some 3,000 people, mostly American Christians, filled the seats at the amphitheater in Caesarea on Sunday night for 90 minutes of a show hosted by Glenn Beck – the first of his much-hyped, and much-discussed, three-night run in Israel.
The evening’s opening act, a dissection of Israel’s significance that felt more like a news channel studio debate than a live show, was followed by video footage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he vowed that “Jerusalem must never be divided.” This statement won the first of many raucous rounds of applause of the night.
Beck actually spoke relatively little (although he did manage to cry often), giving the floor over instead to his main guests – historian David Barton, Efrat founder Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and author Mike Evans.
All three did pretty much what they were presumably booked for: Barton brought historical gravitas to the words of the Bible; a moist-eyed Evans recounted a traumatic childhood of anti-Semitic taunts from which he was saved by a vision of Christ; and Riskin spoke of Jewish appreciation for the support of the Christian pro-Israel community, and in particular that of Glenn Beck, who, according to Riskin, is a “deeply patriotic American, a true friend of Israel.”
“We are not alone,” Riskin said. “We are Jews and not Christians; you Christians, nevertheless, have the courage to love us in our otherness.
“We are profoundly grateful for your courage to love us and stand with us,” he added.
It all seemed carefully scripted, even down to the screens with lyrics of the Hebrew songs transcribed in English. The determination to stand by Israel and the devotion to the Jewish State was palpable, and oft declared.
Like Woodstock and Glastonbury, the headline name came last, and unlike Riskin et al, Pastor John Hagee got a standing ovation the moment he strode onto the stage. The most vehement of the speakers, he drew an analogy with JFK and his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, when he announced “Ani Yisraeli” (I am an Israeli ). He then coaxed the crowd into repeating his mantra: “I am an Israeli!” they chanted over and over.
By supporting the right-wing government in Jerusalem, Beck seems to have found new respect in the eyes of many Jews and Israelis. While in Israel, Beck will be meeting with Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon and a couple of other government ministers, and even with centrist MK Einat Wilf from Ehud Barak’s Atzmaut party.
This is not the kind of support Israel needs. Beck’s religious rhetoric, his radical conservative positions and his fondness for the idea of Armageddon present a real danger to the well-being of Israelis and Palestinians alike, especially given that Beck’s rallies are taking place less then a month before the Palestinian Authority’s United Nations bid. His views support a marginal and extreme political faction within Israel that places that conflict with the Palestinians in a childish “clash of civilization” context and badly injure the years-long Jewish struggle against racism and anti-Semitism.
Beck’s belief, shared by many in evangelical circles, is that Israel is the focal point of a worldwide struggle between good and evil. The Jewish state is at odds with the need to see the conflict as a political problem and thus strive for a peaceful and just solution that would allow Palestinians and Jews to live together. Even scarier is the fact that those who push for this ultimate showdown between good and evil in the holy land live in a faraway country and would not have to face the terrible consequences of their actions.
Progressive forces in Israel cannot fight this dangerous alliance on their own. Community leaders in the United States were slow to react to Beck’s vicious attacks on Jewish businessmen, but eventually they did denounce them. Yet when it comes to Israel, these voices are not heard, while conservative Jewish groups like the Zionist Organization of America go so far as to congratulate Beck on his “moral clarity.” In these difficult days, Jewish leaders have a special responsibility to make sure that our politics are not hijacked by the likes of Glenn Beck. Before we all pay a dear price for it, it’s time to make it clear to Beck that his help is not welcome.