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Alliance Between the Christian Right and Leading Jewish Groups Appears to be Ending

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
January - February 2006

For some time, an alliance between the Christian Right and many leading Jewish groups has attracted much attention. That alliance, it seems, is now coming to an end, despite the fact that the Christian Right maintains its steadfast support for Israeli control of the West Bank, arguing that God gave this land to the Jews and their control of it is necessary to pave the way for the second coming of Christ.  

In earlier years, Jewish organizations viewed the Christian Coalition, the Rev. 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 (ADL) issued a report making precisely such charges,  

Slowly, all of this 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.”  

In a 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.”  

The Chicago chapter of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) honored 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.”  

When he visited Washington in January, 1998 to meet with President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first met with evangelical Christian leaders. The Washington Post (Jan. 22, 1998) reported: “Netanyahu, anticipating pressure from the administration to speed Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank, received a rapturous reception ... organized by Voices United For Israel, a group of conservative Jews and Christians opposed ... to any further territorial concessions by Israel ... chanting ‘Not One Inch!’ the crowd of more than 500 gave Netanyahu a standing ovation, as he was greeted by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.” Pressing Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, Falwell said, “would be like asking America to give Texas to Mexico to bring about a good relationship. It’s ridiculous.”  

Expressing this mindset in the Congress, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) stated on the Senate floor (March 4, 2002); “I believe very strongly that we ought to support Israel ... Because God said so ... Look it up in the Book of Genesis ... This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.”  

Now, however, Jewish leaders are moving away from their allies on the Christian Right. On November 3, Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, told a New York meeting that, “We face a better-financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before. Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To Christianize America. To save us.”  

On Nov. 19, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, compared the religious right to Nazis: “We understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we read the text in a very different way. We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things he did was ban gay organizations.”  

In 2002, Mr. Foxman wrote “Evangelical Support for Israel is a Good Thing” for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. But, it seems, 2004 Republican electoral successes and President Bush’s faith-based initiatives have made some Jewish groups increasingly concerned about evangelicals’ ultimate aims. “It’s absolutely an issue,” said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia. “They aren’t using outright violence themselves,” he said of the religious right. “But they are one step down from people who are ready to use the coercive powers of the state to impose their own religious outlook.”  

In December, a summit of Jewish leaders took place at the ADL’s Manhattan office to ascertain whether the religious right plans to “Christianize” the nation. The Jewish leaders agreed that “there are elements of the evangelical community that, if unchecked and the trends continue, raise disturbing issues for the Jewish community.”  

Those on the Jewish right-wing, who oppose Israeli concessions and the establishment of a Palestinian state, expressed continued support for their Christian Right allies. Don Feder, president of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, says: “Foxman loves to whine about the religious right and how they’re destroying religious liberty in America. Is wanting to keep God in the Pledge of Allegiance Christianizing America? Is efforts to keep public displays of the Ten Commandments Christianizing America? If so, Moses was a Christianizer.”  

Don Wildmon, president of the evangelical American Family Association, issued this response to Abraham Foxman of the ADL: “The more (Foxman) says that ‘you people are destroying this country,’ (the more) some people are going to begin to get fed up with this and say, ‘Well, all right then, if that’s the way you feel, then we just won’t support Israel anymore.”  

Rabbi Yeckiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) pointed out that evangelicals are Israel’s best U.S. friends. His group raised $44.9 million in 2004, mainly from evangelicals, for pro-Israel causes. In 2002, the IFCJ commissioned a poll of 1,200 Americans that found that “conservative church-going Christians” had the highest rates of support for Israel (62 percent) among non-Jewish religious groups.  

Israelis who support a peace settlement have long opposed the Jewish alliance with the Christian Right. Gerhsom Gorenberg, a columnist for The Jerusalem Report notes of the Christian Right: “Rather than support for Israel, this is support for hard-line policies that endanger Israel in the name of fundamentalist theology. Israeli and Jewish interests are better served by working with politicians and religious groups that champion renewed American diplomatic efforts to end bloodletting the Holy Land. Seeing negotiators sit down and talk peace — now that would give me a warm tingle.”  

Where the relationship between the Christian Right and the Jewish Establishment is headed is uncertain. That there is tension brewing, however, is clear.

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