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Alliance of Jewish Establishment and the Christian Coalition Undergoes Scrutiny

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November - December 2002

Not too long ago, Jewish organizations viewed the Christian Coalition, the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and others on the Christian Right as potential adversaries, if not narrow-minded bigots. In 1994, the Anti-Defamation League issued a report making precisely such charges.  

All of this has changed. The ADL sponsored an ad in The New York Times (May 2, 2002) featuring a statement by Ralph Reed, formerly executive director of the Christian Coalition and co-chairman of the Evangelical group Stand For Israel. Reed declared: “For many, there is no greater proof of God’s sovereignty in the world today than the survival of the Jews and the existence of Israel ...”  

At the April 15 rally in support of Israel in Washington, D.C., Janet Parshall, a national Christian radio talk-show host, ridiculed calls for Israel to give up occupied territory for peace. “It means giving away Israel one piece at a time,” she said. “We will never give up the Golan. We will never divide Jerusalem ... We will never vacillate in our support for Israel.”  

In July, reports The Forward (July 12, 2002), the Chicago chapter of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) decided to honor Pat Robertson at its annual Salute to Israel Dinner. Robertson was selected for its State of Israel Award because of the “pro-Israel slant of his Christian Broadcasting Network and his television show ‘The 700 Club,’ as well as Robertson’s personal support for Israel.”  

At a Washington rally in October, The Forward (Oct. 18, 2002) notes that, “Thousands of Evangelical Christians waving Israeli flags cheered as Knesset member Benny Elon called for the ‘relocation’ of Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan. ... Elon, whose Moledet Party advocates the ‘transfer’ of Palestinians to Arab countries, said that a ‘resettlement’ of the Palestinians is prescribed by the Bible. ... Pat Robertson was the main speaker during the pro-Israel rally ... Dismissing the legitimacy of the Palestinians’ claim to the land, and particularly to Jerusalem, Robertson said that ‘the Palestinians are really Arabs who moved there a few decades ago. Their claim to that land really does not go back very far such as it is,’ while the claim of the Jews goes back thousands of years. The Temple Mount, he concluded, ‘belongs to Israel, not to the Palestinians.’”  

The Washington Post (Oct. 12, 2002) discussed the ideological basis for the Christian Coalition’s view: “Evangelical Christians believe in biblical prophecies of the second coming of Christ followed by the deaths of most Jews on the battleground of Armageddon and conversion of the survivors to Christianity. But first they want to preserve undisputed Jewish control of Jerusalem because that is what is described in Scripture, they say.”  

Many Jews are uneasy with the emerging alliance with the Christian Right. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, states: “To associate Israel with more extremist political and religious views may jeopardize the allegiance of mainstream Americans. That would be dangerous.”  

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, asks: “To what extent will a theological view that calls for Armageddon in the Middle East lead (evangelicals) to support policies that may move in that direction, rather than toward stability and peaceful coexistence? People who say there can be no peace are not really friends of Israel.”  

Gershom Gorenberg, a columnist for The Jerusalem Report, declares that, “The Christian Right’s position ... is exemplified by Senator James Inhofe’s (R-Oklahoma) statement last March on the Senate floor that Israel should keep the West Bank ‘because God said so.’ Rather than support for Israel, this is support for hard-line policies that endanger Israel in the name of fundamentalist theology. Jews have every reason to speak with conservative evangelicals - in forthright interfaith dialogue, plainly stating differences as well as points of agreement. In the political realm, however, Israeli and Jewish interests are better served by working with politicians and religious groups that champion renewed American diplomatic efforts to end bloodletting in the Holy Land. Seeing negotiators sit down and talk peace - now that would give me a warm tingle.” (Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2002)  

At the rally, Robertson said that any proposed Palestinian state, which President Bush has endorsed, would be anathema to the Christian Coalition. Robertson has described Muhammed as “a robber and a brigand” and described Islam as “a monumental scam.” He says that Muslims are a greater threat to Jews than Adolph Hitler. The Washington Times (Nov. 13, 2002) quotes Robertson as criticizing efforts to broker a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians and saying, “This is worse than the Nazis ... The idea that you’re going to make peace with the Muslim world by giving them territory is an absolute illusion.”

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