Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 3, 2014

Christians United for Israel

Filed under: Christian fundamentalism,Islamophobia,Palestine — louisproyect @ 5:50 pm

Gary Bauer: friend of Israel

If you google “Israel support”, the second link that comes up points to Christians United for Israel (CUFI.org), a rightwing evangelical outfit that was founded by Gary Bauer, a long-time Republican Party operative who co-hosted a radio show with Tom Rose in 2006. Rose was the CEO of the Jerusalem Post, a newspaper that publishes articles openly promoting ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Gaza.

This week CUFI ran a full-page ad in the New York Times. It might as well had come from the Likud party itself:

Screen shot 2014-08-03 at 1.47.15 PM

See ad in detail

The affinity between Israel and the most reactionary Christian fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party is not a new story. The board of directors of CUFI includes John C. Hagee who generated controversy in 2008 when he said in a sermon that Hitler was acting on God’s plan. The Judeocide was a necessary first step in the creation of the state of Israel, which in his eyes was a precondition for the Second Coming of Christ. Hagee has also said “anti-Semitism, and thus the Holocaust, was the fault of Jews themselves — the result of an age old divine curse incurred by the ancient Hebrews through worshiping idols and passed, down the ages, to all Jews now alive.” Nice.

Another board member is Jonathan P. Falwell, Jerry’s son who continues his dead dad’s legacy. Jerry Falwell, like Hagee, was preoccupied with the Second Coming and also like Hagee thought that Jews had a dual role, both as catalyst for redemption and as a roadblock. He said once “Who will the Antichrist be? I don’t know. Nobody else knows. Is he alive and here today? Probably. Because when he appears during the Tribulation period he will be a full-grown counterfeit of Christ. Of course, he’ll be Jewish. Of course, he’ll pretend to be Christ. And if in fact the Lord is coming soon, and he’ll [the Antichrist] be an adult at the presentation of himself, he must be alive somewhere today.”

None of this gets interferes with the long-time bromance between Zionist muck-a-mucks and the Christian ultraright. Back in May 2003, there was a conference of the Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit May 17-18 in Washington, D.C. Sponsoring groups included the National Unity Coalition for Israel, African American Women’s Clergy Association, Christian Coalition, Jewish Action Alliance, the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance, and the Jewish Political Education Foundation.

The National Unity Coalition for Israel is cut from the same cloth as CUFI. In 2002 it held a pro-Israel rally in Washington that included Ehud Olmert as a featured speaker who spoke alongside Gary Bauer and Pat Robertson. Robertson, like the other bible-thumping turds, is a hundred percent for Israel. It is Jews that he doesn’t care much for.

In March 2014, Robertson interviewed Daniel Lapin on his 700 Club TV show about his new book titled “Thou Shall Prosper”. Lapin is a rabbi who has come up with his own version of the “prosperity gospel” that is purveyed in megachurches everywhere. I got a taste of it once selling the Militant outside a Kansas City grocery store in 1978. As a woman strode past me on her way to do her shopping, she pointed to the parking lot and said “See that Buick? Jesus got me that.”

The website for Lapin’s book advises:

The book details the ten permanent principles that never change, the ten commandments of making money if you will, and explores the economic and philosophic vision of business that has been part of Jewish culture for centuries. By blending contemporary business stories and his own business experiences with the wisdom of the Torah, Talmud, and even examples from the Zohar, (the Jewish book of Kabalah or mysticism), Rabbi Daniel Lapin, your rabbi, explains the essence of each commandment and shows you how to use this knowledge to prosper financially.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin helps you understand such timeless truths as “Being in business for yourself”, avoiding the trap of ‘wage-slavery’, learning to become a leader, changing with the times, and particularly this: Everyone, and that includes you, is in business, unless you happen to be a tenured university professor or a Supreme Court judge.

This sort of rings a bell with me. Back in 1957, when I was 12 years old and forced to go to synagogue on High Holy Days, I used to stare at all the mink coats and diamond jewelry. My mom had neither. Back then Jews didn’t need Lapin’s advice; they had a booming economy.

Introducing Lapin, Robertson offered this observation:

What is it about Jewish people that make them prosper financially? You almost never find Jews tinkering with their cars on the weekends or mowing their lawns. That’s what Daniel Lapin says and there’s a very good reason for that, and it lies within the business secrets of the Bible.

He later added that Jews were too busy “polishing diamonds, not fixing cars.” Lapin took that as a compliment.

Lapin was not a featured speaker at the Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit conference but a couple of other of my co-religionists was there to engage in Muslim-bashing—the obvious purpose of the conference. As Against the Current magazine reported, they were just the sort of people who were obviously comfortable around Gary Bauer and Pat Robertson:

Thomas Neumann, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, argued that some people think the problem we face is “radical” Islam, but the problem is in fact Islam. Most Muslims are anti-American and anti-Israel; they are not a fringe who feel this way.

Charles Jacob, who promotes Zionism on college campuses through the Davis Project, offered the following pearls in a power point presentation to explain the difference between Israelis/Jews and “Arabs/Palestinians:

Israel teaches its kids songs of peace; Arab/Palestinian kids sing songs of hate. Sesame Street is about being a suicide bomber. Israelis make every effort to prevent civilian death; Arabs kill lots of civilizations. Israel is in anguish when civilians are hurt; Palestinians are dancing when atrocities happen. Israeli mothers don’t want kids to fight; Palestinian mothers celebrate fighting.

Jacob summed up his presentation saying, I grieve for Palestinian people who have leaders that succumbed to evil, and have fallen prey because of their “perceived sense of oppression.” They are filling their children with hate and death.

Helen Freedman, Americans for a Safe Israel, then declared that “Those who are with Israel are with God.” However, she argued that there is no room to negotiate with Arab peoples because they are “religiously” motivated. There will only be peace, Freedman argued, when Arabs love their children as much as they hate us. But, she said, Arabs are simply incapable of loving their children.

The problem for Israel is that it is increasingly reliant on the Republican right for unstinting support. Despite the slavish devotion of the Democratic Party to Israel, the average liberal voter is growing increasingly uneasy with Israel’s colonizing project. This was reflected in a confused article “Why Israel is losing the Obama coalition”, written for Haaretz by Peter Beinart, the author of “The Crisis of Zionism”. The subhead of the article was “As America grows less nationalistic, less hawkish, and less religious it will grow less sympathetic to an Israel defined by exactly those characteristics.” Exactly.

Beinart, like the late Tony Judt, was one of the first high-profile Jews to break from the Zionist consensus, so much so that the Atlanta Jewish Book Festival canceled his talk on the book in 2002. Beinart writes:

In Washington, Democratic politicians from Obama on down still overwhelmingly support Israeli actions. Earlier this month, the entire United States Senate —including socialists like Bernie Sanders and progressive firebrands like Elizabeth Warren—supported a resolution on Gaza so one-sided that it didn’t even acknowledge any Palestinians had died.

But if Sanders and Warren haven’t changed, the people who vote for them have. One can still find older commentators like Alan Dershowitz and Abe Foxman who defend Israel’s actions in Gaza while championing a liberal agenda inside the United States. Among younger pundits, by contrast, that combination has virtually disappeared. One of the last holdouts was New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, a highly regarded critic of Republican domestic policy who over the years has generally blamed Palestinians more than Israel for the ongoing conflict. Yet earlier this week, in a widely discussed column, Chait wrote that “it has dawned on me that I am one of the liberal Jews who…has grown less pro-Israel over the last decade.” Among younger Americans, including younger American Jews, “liberal except on Israel”—once a common political identity—barely exists.

You get pretty much the same analysis from NY Times op-ed writer Roger Cohen in today’s Review section:

Oppressed people will respond. Millions of Palestinians are oppressed. They are routinely humiliated and live under Israeli dominion. When Jon Stewart is lionized (and slammed in some circles) for “revealing” Palestinian suffering to Americans, it suggests how hidden that suffering is. The way members of Congress have been falling over one another to demonstrate more vociferous support for Israel is a measure of a political climate not conducive to nuance. This hardly serves America’s interests, which lie in a now infinitely distant peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and will require balanced American mediation.

Something may be shifting. Powerful images of Palestinian suffering on Facebook and Twitter have hit younger Americans. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that among Americans age 65 or older, 53 percent blame Hamas for the violence and 15 percent Israel. For those ages 18 to 29, Israel is blamed by 29 percent of those questioned, Hamas by just 21 percent. My son-in-law, a doctor in Atlanta, said that for his social group, mainly professionals in their 30s with young children, it was “impossible to see infants being killed by what sometimes seems like an extension of the U.S. Army without being affected.”

One can only wonder if Roger Cohen’s son-in-law was one of those people who voted for blackballing Peter Beinart in Atlanta two years ago. Like Dylan said, the times they are a changin’.



January 8, 2010

Waiting for Armageddon

Filed under: Christian fundamentalism,Film — louisproyect @ 7:59 pm

“Waiting for Armageddon” joins two other documentaries, “Jesus Camp” and “Unborn in the USA”, in lifting up the rock and showing the creepy, crawly things that have begun to play a larger and larger role in American politics since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Indeed, there are grounds for dating the fundamentalist turn back to Jimmy Carter who was the country’s first “born again” President. After all, he was the first as well to open up an attack on the working class and poor at the time of his “malaise” speech, considered by some to be the opening salvo in a thirty year war on the welfare state.

Directed by Kate Davis, Franco Sacchi and David Heilbroner, this movie allows its bible-thumping principals to hoist themselves on their own petards. By simply sticking a microphone in front of their mouths and a camera on their universally Caucasian faces, the directors are spared the job of commenting on the madness, by any definition an exercise in superfluity.

We first meet James and Laura Begg, a Connecticut couple who are convinced that the “rapture” might come at any day and are doing everything they can to prepare for it, which mostly means sticking your nose in the bible rather than stocking canned goods. Mr. Bagg is an aeronautics engineer and his wife a software developer at the same military aircraft company. Their belief that Jesus Christ will return to earth and lead an army of archangels against the minions of Satan near Mount Megiddo in Israel, which will result in the death of all except the saved (Bill Maher, watch out—me too, I guess) is totally at odds with their professional training based to one extent or another on the laws of physics. Listening to them reminded me of Trotsky’s observations on the rise of Nazism:

Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance, and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet, fascism has given them a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the psychology of National Socialism.

In addition to people like the Baggs, who hold down day jobs, we meet a gaggle of full-time professional sky pilots going from conference to conference at places that look like a Ramada Inn to lecture the faithful looking for clues about the return of Jesus Christ and how to get set to be lifted into the air with the rest of the saved. Looking at the girth on some of these believers, you wonder if they will ever be able to get off the ground.

One of the best known believers in rapture is John Hagee who is seen preaching to his followers:

There is a war between Islamofascism and freedom. There is a war between the culture of death and those who love life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a war WE MUST WIN. The Bible says that you, ladies and gentlemen, are the light of the world. May God anoint each of you and there can be a spiritual awakening in this country. That Christ will be seen as the answer. For there is no other name given among men whereby we might be saved.

Key to winning this war is support for the state of Israel, which in the twisted theology of more than 50 million Americans who believe in this stuff is a precondition for the return of Christ. Rightwing fundamentalists have raised 75 million dollars on behalf of Israel and tour the country all the time in the same way that people like me used to go to Nicaragua. They have tour guides showing them all the key sites where Jesus will lead his troops against Satan, while our tour guides used to take us to coffee farms or clinics. In the past, there were some who used to label me and other Marxists as millenarian but in our defense I can say that our beliefs were rooted in world history rather than fantasy.

Indeed, there is reason to believe that the Revelations of St. John, which is the foundation for the Rapture movement, would be harmless if Christianity remained a powerless sect just as it was at the time of its birth. It is only when you combine such beliefs with the reality of Cruise missiles, F-16’s and hydrogen bombs that things get dicey. The same thing is true of Judaism as well. Nobody felt particularly bothered by the book of Exodus with its savage narrative of death and destruction of Egyptians as long as Jews lived powerlessly in the shtetl.

Drawing upon critics of what amounts to a Christian Zionist movement like Chip Berlet and Mel White, a gay clergyman who once wrote speeches for Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham, we learn about its role in shoring up support for Zionist expansionism in the Middle East. Indeed, one might even make the case that this is much more of a factor than outfits like the American Jewish Congress since it uses the authority of the Christianity that is the religion of the nation’s most powerful policy-makers. Israel’s support from the evangelicals also represents the height of cynicism since it is well understood that people like Hagee believe that most Jews will not be on the winning side in the coming battle. One evangelical is cited as believing that only 144,000 Jews will be lifted up during Rapture. The rest will go to hell. Considering the personalities and psychology of the people featured in this movie, that’s fine by me.

Don’t miss “Waiting for Armageddon”, now playing at the Cinema Village in New York.

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