page contents

Strange Bedfellows: The Palestinians, the Israelis, and the Christian Right by Donald McCarthy

There’s been a resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict coverage in the United States media lately. It’s not particularly surprising because the media tends to address it every year or two for a couple of weeks before moving on to something else. Israeli president Netanyahu has gone to rather extravagant lengths to annoy the United States, even though the United States gives it billions of dollars, that the media now has to cover Israeli politics more often than the conflict itself.

One aspect of the conflict, and of Israeli politics, that consistently goes underreported is the fact that Christian fundamentalists in the United States have jumped in bed with the Israeli Lobby. It’s not a new development but the link between the two groups has only been growing in recent years. The fear of Muslims in the United States because of the 9/11 attacks has given the Israeli Lobby an opportunity to take advantage of.

The Christian fundamentalists do have some reasons to support Israel. They believe that when Jesus returns to Earth, an event which seems to permanently be just around the corner, their needs to be a state of Israel in the Middle East. It would be especially abhorrent if that state was occupied by the Muslims as the Jewish people are at least somewhat connected to the Christian Bible. Depending on which fundamentalist you ask the Jewish people may even end up in heaven while the rest of us nonbelievers burn. This is a far cry from the views of Christian fundamentalists who continued to make sure that Henry Ford’s The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem was in publication even after Ford’s death. But this feeling of anti-Semitism began to dissipate as the Christian right started to turn against the Muslims in regard to their opposition of Israel.

The Christian right even has its own pro-Israel lobby, Christians United For Israel (CUFI), which has been staunchly against the Israelis negotiating with the Palestinians at all. CUFI leaders have even called for a war against Iran, another country which is seen, perhaps understandably, as a direct and immediate threat to Israel. However, recent reports, such as the article “Iran and the Bomb” by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, have shown that Iran does not have an impressive nuclear weapons program and is not a threat. This leaves the hostility towards Iran by Christian fundamentalists as either a product of ignorance or hatred. Israeli President Netanyahu has consistently been vocal about not being opposed to invading Iran in the near future should he believe it poses a threat. Such an invasion would undoubtedly be disastrous for the United States but Netanyahu has already shown he could not care less about the United States despite Israel’s dependence on its generosity. Netanyahu’s hawkish attitude towards Iran neatly matches the CUFI’s.

Israel has certainly done its best to make itself open to Christian fundamentalists. For example, Christian tourists outnumber Jewish tourists thanks to pilgrim centers for Christians that can be found in places such as Ein Karem where John the Baptist was supposedly born and Nazareth which has the largest Christian church in the Middle East (probably not a difficult accomplishment). American Fascists by Chris Hedges documents how the Israeli Lobby will often go to Christian fundamentalist meetings, thanking them profusely for their support, and assuring them that Israel will always be ready to welcome then. Some even claim that a more Christian fundamentalist nation would be excellent for the Jewish people.

The Christian right has self-censors when it comes to Israel considering that abortion is legal and Israel and the Israeli military allows homosexuals to serve openly. While the Christian right has historically been hypocritical it is disturbing to see that Israel, heralded by many in American politics as an excellent example of democracy in the Middle East, finds it so easy to throw away its values and align itself with fundamentalist Christianity which is itself an enemy of any free nation.

Donald McCarthy has written news articles, op-eds, books reviews and short fiction. He lives in New York and attends Adelphi University. He is one of the few people on the planet who does not like cheese.