By Steve Berman | Guest Columnist
The following column originally ran in the Atlanta Jewish Times on Sept. 5, 2003. The writer, founder of OA Development, asked that it be rerun in light of the controversy over Jewish National Fund’s plan to honor the Rev. Charles Stanley.
I recall chatting one day with one of my partners in a real estate deal about his deeply held Southern Baptist beliefs. We were taking a break from attorneys, accountants and other “suits,” and he was talking about how he liked to travel the world visiting religious missions that he supported.
When I asked whether he planned to visit Israel any time soon, he responded: “I’ll go there when all of your people get over there.”
Of course, what he was referring to was the messianic vision, held by millions of evangelicals, that their redemption at the end of time will involve the ingathering of the Jews to Israel and a “final war” of monumental proportions.
When one of those evangelicals, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), recently visited Israel, he proclaimed to the Knesset that he was a “Christian Zionist.”
Funny, here I am, fully vested in the American dream, and the House majority leader and his co-religionists want to see me in Israel so their dreams can come true.
Jews may view this “end of days” scenario with raised eyebrows, but don’t fool yourself: Millions of Americans subscribe to this dream, which has an ending that either doesn’t have us here in the United States or certainly places us in hell for not believing in their God.
I’d like to ignore that kind of theology, but the rush by some American Jews to forge alliances with the evangelical right for Israel’s sake means I can’t.
Some analysts feel the same way.
Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory, warns that “American Jews need to be careful about whom they get into bed with politically. The Christian Coalition sees the Jews as a means to an end, and that end does not include them.”
But doesn’t Israel need all the help it can get, damn the short-term consequences? Let Abramowitz do some political math: “This is all aside from [the Christian right’s] reactionary views on everything from birth control to sex education to government aid to religious schools to abortion to gay rights — views that are contrary to those of the large majority of American Jews.”
On top of all this comes the new Mel Gibson-directed movie “The Passion of the Christ.” In it, according to Hollywood sources, Jews are portrayed as a bloodthirsty and greedy people, not to mention Christ-killers.
After the National Association of Evangelicals screened the movie, the group implied that its support for Israel could vanish if Jewish leaders were to risk alienating 2 billion Christians over a movie.
Great, the Christian right supports Israel, so we should have to swallow an inflammatory movie that might actually incite more anti-Semitism?
Once we’re in bed with these people on issues regarding Israel’s security, are we expected to have to deal — even agree — with them on other issues that we may actually find offensive?
If the Moral Majority, the evangelical right and their cohorts want to back Israel, let them do so — the Jewish state needs all the support it can get right now.
But American Jews should not be aligning themselves with this movement. Doing so only sacrifices important long-term interests for a short-term gain.