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July 26, 2002 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-07-26

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Beware Of Pro-Israel Evangelicals

Editor's Note: These three essays were
commissioned and distributed by the
Jewish Telegraphic Agency. They have
been condensed here for space reasons.



ix years ago, the Anti-
Defamation League issued a
scathing report entitled "The
Religious Right: The Assault
on Pluralism and Tolerance in
America." But in a stunning reversal
in May, it ran full-page ads in the
New York Times and other publica-
tions, reprinting a strongly pro-Israel
opinion piece by former Christian
Coalition chief Ralph Reed.
And last month, Rabbi Yechiel

Arlene Stein is author of "The Stranger

Next Door: The Story of a Small
Community's Battle Over Sex, Faith and
Civil Rights (Beacon 2001). She teaches
sociology at Rutgers University, based in
New Brunswick, N.J.

Eckstein of the International
Fellowship of Christians and Jews,
joined forces with Reed in "Stand for
Israel," designed to mobilize 100,000
evangelical churches to raise money
and support for Israel, leading Reed
to proclaim that the burgeoning
Jewish-Christian coalition for Israel is
today as potent as the Jewish-black
coalition for civil rights was in the
Never before have moderate
American Jewish leaders embraced
the Christian right so enthusiasti-
Defending their budding love affair
with conservative Christians, some
Jewish leaders, like the ADL's
Abraham Foxman, say the religious
right has changed, and the declining
influence of groups like the Christian
Coalition means that it is "less adver-
sarial." If this is true, though, it's the
product of a shift in style rather than

Christian conservatives are
"persecuted Christians"
softening their pitch, reach-
around the globe.
ing out to [politically] con-
Today, many are captivated
servative Jews, Mormons and
by the Middle East crisis.
Catholics, but their political
Many take a pro-Israel
project — to win new con-
stance motivated by the belief
verts, gain power and influ-
that Christian sites are safer in
ence in the public arena,
Jewish than in Muslim hands,
erode the barrier between
and by the biblical prophecy
church and state, shrink the
that Jews, ultimately, will facil-
Spe cial
public sector and increase
Comm entary itate the return of Christ. It's
their presence on the world
also motivated by a general-
stage — is more ambitious
ized antipathy toward Islam
than ever:
— a sentiment that is shared by Rabbi
Stung by criticism of their divisive
Daniel Lapin, president of Toward
tactics on topics such as gay rights,
Tradition, a national alliance of Jews
abortion and comprehensive sex edu-
and Christians dedicated to "family
cation in the 1980s and early 1990s,
values and the free market," who
Christian activists throughout the
recently proclaimed that "conservative
nation toned down their rhetoric and
Christians are the natural allies of the
looked for other places to strut their
Jewish community."
stuff. Some ran for local office, or
"It may be attractive," Rabbi Lapin
joined anti-tax and anti-immigration
suggests, "to think of Christians, Jews
campaigns. Others entered the arena
and Muslims as forming one great
of foreign policy, organizing to save
Abrahamic' civilization ... but the

Evangelical Zeal For Israel


espite the proactive involve-
ment of the Christian right
in support of Israel over the
past two decades, many
Jews still reflexively reject this impor-
tant friendship. The rejection is rooted
in cynicism, ignorance, fear and sim-
plistic, stereotypical thinking about
evangelical Christians and their
motives for supporting Israel.


Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein is founder and
president of the International Fellowship
of Christian and Jews.

The rejection is founded on the
fear that these would-be friends of
Israel are out to Christianize
America, promote an ultra-right-
wing agenda and hasten the "Second
Coming" by getting all the Jews to
Israel as quickly as possible. But this
suspicion is an extreme perversion of
the beliefs of most mainstream evan-
gelicals. It is tantamount to preju-
dice, to the intellectual tarring and
feathering of an entire, diverse com-
I lay the blame squarely at the feet
of the organized Jewish community,

who have sinned by omitting
history by blessing the Jewish
serious discussion and con-
people. As it says in Genesis
sideration of this matter for
12:3 — "I will bless those
the better part of the last 20
who bless you."
This verse is key to
The majority of evangeli-
unlocking the mystery of
cals are passionately pro-
their motivation. What it
Israel because it is part of
reveals is that standing for
their theology to love and
Israel is considered a mitzvah
Commentary within the evangelical
support the Jewish people.
Based on their understanding of
Christian world. Loving the Jewish
Scripture, the Jews are indeed the am people is an article of their faith,
segula — God's special people. Yet
something in which they are deeply
according to the same Scripture,
Christians play an important role in
This faith is hardly ephemeral; over


Overwhelming, Incredible Support

New York

merican Jews should be
highly appreciative of the
incredible support that the
State of Israel gets from a
significant group of Americans — the
evangelical Christian right. In many
ways, the Christian right stands out as
the most consistently supportive group
of Israel in America. This is especially
noteworthy during the current admin-
istration, as they are conveying their


Abraham H. Foxman is the national




director of the Anti-Defamation League.

sentiments to a president who shares
many of their religious and social per-
Similarly, polls of American public
opinion reveal that, in marked con-
trast to similar polls in Europe, the
American people support Israel over
the Palestinians by a significant mar-
gin. A key element in these consis-
tent findings in many polls conduct-
ed since the violence broke out
almost two years ago is the over-
whelming support for Israel among,
individuals calling themselves evan-

Still, certain sections of the
ue to be forceful advocates
American Jewish community
for our very different per-•
continue to be reluctant to .
spective on these issues
welcome or encourage evan-
before the American people,
gelical support. Several fac-
despite evangelical support
tors come into play. Many
Israel. Importantly, at no
mainstream American Jewish
have we heard them
organizations have major dis-
any conditions on their
agreements with evangelicals
support. There is no quid pro
on many domestic issues —
quo. At no point have we had
church-state separation, abortion and to choose between our fundamental
attitudes toward gays.
principles concerning the role of reli-
ADL and other Jewish organiza-
gion in America and our appreciation
tions have made clear in its dealings
for their standing with Israel.
with evangelicals that we will contin-
Evangelicals have a history of anti-

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