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November 13, 2003

European Anti-Semitism and the Religious Right


by Jon Basil Utley

New polling shows that most Europeans 59% from 15 European Union countries see Israel as "the greatest threat to world peace." (See Eldar article below)

These views of course come from Israel's expansion of settlements, the brutal occupation, vicious reprisals and consequent disruption in the whole Muslim world, contribution to terrorism and so on. The United States, which pays for it all, is consequently also hated, but many Americans don't comprehend all this because U.S. television coverage is sanitized compared to what the rest of the world sees.

What is not understood in Europe is the power of the Religious Right in Congress and how responsible it has become for Israel's policies, because it provides cover and money for everything that Sharon does. Europeans think it is the power of the Israeli Lobby which has morphed into a Sharon-Likud lobby, but Jews are immensely divided and very many are among the most critical about where Sharon's policies are leading. The RR is the real force making Bush cave in to Sharon at every meeting and afraid to make any demands for peace or show American resolve. The RR was also a main supporter of the attack on Iraq. Today its members are called "Christian Zionists."

The concern about American foreign policy being made for religious reasons is not much reported in the media but is well commented upon by Georgie Anne Geyer's column in the Chicago Tribune. She argues that religion is replacing national interest in American foreign policy.

Jewish objections and fears are well documented in such reports as the following:

From Refuge for Jews to Danger for Jews, by Akiva Eldar (excerpts):

" politicians who turn a local, national conflict into a global religious war bear a great deal of responsibility for the safety of Jews worldwide."

".They warned that the 'pure' East European anti-Semitism, and the West European anti-Semitism rooted in the radical left, are giving way to a serious case of hatred of Israel, the U.S., and the alliance between them."

"..The images of the war conducted by Israel in the occupied territories like the images of the war America is conducting in Afghanistan and Iraq is regarded by many Muslims worldwide as part of a Judeo-Christian plot to humiliate Islam. The huge amount of support the Americans give to the Jewish state's policy in its war against mostly Muslim Palestinians strengthens their view of the Bush administration as an enemy of Islam." {Remember that American TV is usually "sanitized" of Israeli violence compared to what rest of the world sees, Ed}

".It is much easier to claim the entire world is against us than to admit that the State of Israel, which rose as a refuge and source of pride for Jews, has not only turned into a place less Jewish and less safe for its citizens, but has become a genuine source of danger and a source of shameful embarrassment to Jews who choose to live outside its borders. Arguing it takes an anti-Semite to call the Israeli government's policies of 2003 a danger to world peace is a contemptible cheapening of the term anti-Semitism."

Reference the above, of course it is not "all" of the Religious Right, but rather many of its well known leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson, Cal Thomas, et al who espouse the Armageddonite fantasies and are turning the war against terrorism into war against Muslims. They have moved from forecasting the end of the world to trying to "help God" bring it about. Anyone traveling in Western and Southern America will see late night TV "info-mercials" (advertisements) raising money to pay for Jewish settlers to leave Europe (arguing strongly that their lives are in danger in Europe) and go to the West Bank settlements. "Biblically" they believe that God needs most diaspora Jews to return to Israel as a pre-condition for Him to get Armageddon rolling. Of course the ads don't say the rest of "God's plan," that is to destroy all Jews who don't convert to born again Christianity. And there's never a word about what will happen to millions of Arab Christians. They are non-existent in most of their Armageddon scenarios.

European anti-Semitism is just fine for these "Christians." They want life to become difficult and even dangerous for Jews in Europe.

Other Jewish leaders also note concern. Christian ethicist Bob Allen quotes Abraham Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League:

"Particularism is the tendency to believe that one's own faith is the only valid path in life," he writes.

"A particularist is apt to think, 'I have the truth, and everybody else is wrong.' It's not much of a leap from this kind of thinking to hatred of those who belong to other faiths. After all, if you think God intends to subject those others to eternal damnation, surely they must deserve it."

Foxman denounces efforts to target Jewish persons for evangelism, citing Southern Baptists in particular.

"An ongoing theme of particularist theology is the notion that Christians ought to devote their energies to 'saving' the Jews that is, to converting them into Christians. Although this is supposedly motivated by love for the Jews, this idea is inherently anti-Semitic in that it implicitly denigrates the value of Jewish belief."

Foxman credits the Catholic Church for formally renouncing efforts aimed at converting Jews but criticizes the Southern Baptist Convention for moving in the opposite direction, citing an SBC resolution in 1996 urging evangelization of Jews and a 1999 call for prayers that Jews would convert during that fall's High Holy Days.

But Foxman finds even more troubling the tendency of the religious right to carry such ideas into the public arena. He refers to efforts to define America as a "Christian nation," which he says implies that non-Christians aren't real Americans, and attacking the separation of church and state as a falsehood promoted by liberals.

Foxman identifies a strategy by some "to transform American government into a wholly owned subsidiary of the evangelical movement" a concept that is utterly alien to the constitutional vision of the founders as well as opposed to the values of the vast majority of Americans.

As far as "turning local conflicts into global religious war" just follow the General Boykin (Our God is bigger than theirs, theirs is an idol) controversy. Boykin is now loudly supported by the Religious Right which demands that he be kept in the high profile post where he undercuts much that President Bush is trying to do to prevent the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from becoming America against the Muslim world, nearly a quarter of the human race.

According to Time magazine 11/3 "Boykin told a Florida audience last year that he collapsed in his bunk that day, angry that God had let him down, 'There is no God,'" Boykin sobbed in the wake of the death of men he commanded in Mogadishu). "If there was a God, he would have been here to protect my soldiers." But then he said God spoke to him to always have hope, so he regained his beliefs. This is the fanatic appointed to negotiate with Arab intelligence organizations which cooperate with Washington? And what do such men care about freedom, limited government, lower taxes or other temporal issues? After all, if God is going to end the world soon anyway, what do they matter? And they also get a free pass to heaven if Armageddon can just come soon while they are still alive. See Gary North's analysis of how some 20 million of them believe. Of course, continued chaos in the Middle East and more terrorism also "fits" their Biblical prophesy, so they have little incentive to promote peace. They follow Trotsky's old maxim, "Worse is better."

This is what Georgie Anne Geyer deplores in her column cited above. Religion and foreign policy don't mix.


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  • Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative and Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A former correspondent for Knight Ridder in South America, Utley has written for the Harvard Business Review on foreign nationalism and was for 17 years a commentator on the Voice of America. He is director of Americans Against World Empire.

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