Religion & Beliefs

Not All Evangelicals Want Us to Fry and Israel to Bomb Iran to Kingdom Come

This is my first post as Jewcy guest blogger and allow me to say how grateful I am to Jewcy's editors for allowing an obstinate Jewish progressive Zionist crank like me to speak my mind about a few of the … Read More

By / July 30, 2007

This is my first post as Jewcy guest blogger and allow me to say how grateful I am to Jewcy's editors for allowing an obstinate Jewish progressive Zionist crank like me to speak my mind about a few of the big issues besetting Israel and the Jewish people over the coming week.

There is a rather vociferous group of Christian Zionist evangelicals calling themselves Christians United for Israel, who I call (with a nod to James Besser of Jewish Week) the "Not One Inch" crowd. These are the fanatics who support Israel to the hilt. They're opposed to giving back a single inch of land that God promised to the Jewish people in the Good Book. In truth, they don't so much support Israel, as support the agenda of the extreme fanatical settler movement.

The apogee of such evangelical fanaticism is Rev. John Hagee, who drew a standing ovation at AIPAC's last national conference when he called for Israel to start a pre-emptive war against Iran. There's a wee problem with the good Reverend's theology since he believes that in order for "Our Lord" to return there will be a massive world conflict in which fully one-third of the Jews will be killed. I assume the one-third includes most of the readers of Jewcy (unless of course you share a fundamentalist settler view of the Israeli-Arab conflict). I know it will include me.

But now you can rest easy knowing there are also evangelicals who don't want to see us fry in the End Times. They also support what I consider to be a far more reasonable, balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinians conflict. Laurie Goodstein, the NY Times' excellent religion reporter, writes that:

…Conservative evangelicals who claim a Biblical mandate to protect Israel have built a bulwark of support for the Jewish nation — sending donations, denouncing its critics and urging it not to evacuate settlements or forfeit territory.

Now more than 30 evangelical leaders are stepping forward to say these efforts have given the wrong impression about the stance of many, if not most, American evangelicals.

On Friday, these leaders sent a letter to President Bush saying that both Israelis and Palestinians have “legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine,” and that they support the creation of a Palestinian state “that includes the vast majority of the West Bank.”

They say that being a friend to Jews and to Israel “does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted.” The letter adds, “Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other.”

The letter is signed by 34 evangelical leaders, many of whom lead denominations, Christian charities, ministry organizations, seminaries and universities.

Evangelicals for Social Action have, over the past year, broken from some of the most conservative social and political positions espoused by the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Goodstein reports that they've acknowledged, to the chagrin of the more radical members of the evangelical community, that global warming is a serious environmental issue. They've also denounced the use of torture in dealing with terror suspects.

You may read the letter they drafted for President Bush. It's the picture of moderation, something that cannot be said of Pastor Hagee's views:

As evangelical Christians, we embrace the biblical promise to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you"…We know that blessing and loving people (including Jews and the present State of Israel) does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted. Genuine love and genuine blessing means acting in ways that promote the genuine and long-term well being of our neighbors. Perhaps the best way we can bless Israel is to encourage her to remember, as she deals with her neighbor Palestinians, the profound teaching on justice that the Hebrew prophets proclaimed so forcefully as an inestimably precious gift to the whole world. Historical honesty compels us to recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine. Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other. The only way to bring the tragic cycle of violence to an end is for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a just, lasting agreement that guarantees both sides viable, independent, secure states. To achieve that goal, both sides must give up some of their competing, incompatible claims. Israelis and Palestinians must both accept each other’s right to exist. And to achieve that goal, the U.S. must provide robust leadership within the Quartet to reconstitute the Middle East roadmap, whose full implementation would guarantee the security of the State of Israel and the viability of a Palestinian State.

This development probably won't be music to AIPAC's ears since it prefers its evangelicals to be unquestioning boosters of Israel. But think of it–do we want evangelicals rooting for Israel to fight to the last drop of Israeli blood for a maximalist resolution of the conflict; or do we want evangelicals friends telling us what is truly in our long-term best interest even if it causes us momentary discomfort by forcing us to realize we may have to make compromises we'd prefer not to make?

I know which type of friend I'd prefer. The one who tells it like it is and not as I'd prefer it to be. The one who deals in reality rather than fantasy. The one who really cares for me on my terms instead of the one who sees me as a means to an end.