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Dangerous Bedfellows

I opened an innocuous-looking email here at the Lilith office last week and found we had been cordially invited to the 2nd Annual Israel/Washington DC Summit sponsored by Christians United for Israel (CUFI). It’s a sweet thought, but I personally intend to pass. In fact, the whole thing creeps me out like you can’t believe.

I’d hate for anyone to think that I have a problem with Christians or Christianity, because that’s not true and not what this is about. But Christian Zionism makes me uneasy, as I think it’s just a sugar-coated offshoot of a highly politically-motivated Christianity—a proselytizing, anti-separation-of-church-and-state, messianic Christianity. And while people are allowed to believe whatever they want, these folks certainly aren’t my vote. (For a great and terrifying read, check out Michelle Goldberg’s book, Kingdom Coming.)

Rev. John Hagee, who’s been highlighted speaker at a recent AIPAC conference, heads CUFI. I almost don’t mind that his friendship towards Israel is predicated on the idea that we Chosen Folk must all be gathered there before Christ can return to Earth to judge us; I’m much more concerned at the rapturous welcome he and other Christian Religious Rightists have been given by the right-inclined section of the American Jewish community. Now, I know it’s not easy to be a supporter of Israel on the left—I went to a very left-wing college and got in my fair share of near fist-fights. However, we need to have a serious discussion inside the Jewish community about this phenomenon.

And it is definitely a phenomenon. In 2002, the Zionist Organization of America awarded Pat Robertson the “State of Israel Friendship Award.” Yeah, that Pat Robertson. Yes, yes, the man who said—not insinuated, but said, on his national television show—that Ariel Sharon’s stroke might have been divine retribution for giving land to the Palestinians. Ditto, Rabin’s assassination. Of course, Mr. Robertson also believes that feminism is a “socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians”. He said that in The Washington Post, people! What was the ZOA thinking?!

This is going to come back to haunt us in domestic policy in the near and very-near future. No matter what your view of secular humanism (fundamentalist Christianity’s sworn enemy), Jews in America benefit from the separation of church and state because we’re a teeny tiny minority. It’s there for those of us who don’t want to pray somebody else’s prayers in public school, or have judicial decisions passed down based on religious beliefs we don’t share.

Look, I know that Israel needs support—although it does boggle the mind that the same people who discipline their children can’t conceive that sometimes unconditional support is less than helpful—but we can’t let support for Israel be the cost of our participation in egregiously misguided unions. Jewish organizations—some of the most mainstream among them—are getting into bed with people who speak out against Muslims, gays, feminists, and compromise. There has to be another way.

If all this fails to convince you, check out Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s article in the Forward on why this phenomenon is bad for the Jews. That’s something we can all agree to worry about.

–Mel Weiss