Pat Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network, has long been a bogeyman to much of the American Jewish establishment.
When the Anti-Defamation League published The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America in 1994, a third of its 193 pages were devoted to Robertson and the Christian Coalition. "Robertson's repeated references to America as a Christian nation," it said, "insults not merely Jews but all who value religious freedom."
Writing in the Forward a year or so later, Leonard Fein, a prominent Jewish activist, allowed as how "it would be frightfully upsetting, but not very surprising, were [the Christian Coalition] one day to propose that Jews ought not be hired as teachers in the public schools." Going even further, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism denounced the Christian Coalition in 1997 for trying to "diminish fundamental constitutional liberties" by "undermining the Constitution" and "blurring -- or erasing -- the precious separation of church and state."
So, when Robertson agreed to speak at Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham, Massachusetts, last month, it came as no surprise that a number of local Jews complained. "It's scary," Renee Abramson told the MetroWest Daily News. "I mean, this guy uses his show to wage war on whomever he chooses." Outside the synagogue, Robertson was greeted by protesters carrying signs that read "Jews saying No to the Christian Right" and "Robertson is no friend to the Jewish people."
But the Jewish people inside the synagogue certainly seemed to regard Robertson as a friend. They repeatedly interrupted his remarks with applause, and gave him a standing ovation when he finished. That may have been because they heard him say things like this:
"I had a praying mother who was an evangelical Christian, and I can remember her always saying... we must love and support the Jewish people."
"I went back to the Mount of Olives" -- he was speaking of a 1974 visit to Israel -- "and I said before God and the assembled group: 'I am making a personal vow. However difficult it may be for me, however unpopular it may be for me, I and those with me are going to stand with Israel in her time of distress and we will be a faithful friend of Israel from this moment on.'"
"The love that evangelicals have for Israel does not depend on [politics or foreign policy]. We feel that we are part of the heritage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that we share the same faith and the same principles and the same commandments and the same heroes as the people of Israel."
Remarkable? Not at all. American evangelicals and fundamentalists -- the so-called "religious right" -- are among the most tolerant and respectful friends the Jewish people have. And when it comes to support and sympathy for Israel, America's beleaguered democratic ally in the Middle East, Christian conservatives are, if anything, even more ardent and unshakable than American Jews.
Skeptics sometimes claim that evangelicals only support Israel because they believe it will hasten Jesus' Second Coming. But when that challenge was put to Robertson, he didn't hesitate to repudiate it. "I'm sure some people think that -- but I'm not one of them," he replied. "I think there's a visceral, heartfelt love in the heart of evangelicals for Israel and the Jewish people."
Indeed, evangelical solidarity has become a hallmark of pro-Israel activism. For instance, this past weekend's important Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit in Washington, a project of Boston's Zionist House, is being co-sponsored by a phalanx of conservative Christian organizations. In addition to the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network, the list includes the Apostolic Congress, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, and the Religious Roundtable. Among the speakers are such prominent American evangelicals as Gary Bauer and Janet Parshall.
Likewise, hundreds of Christians took part in Sunday's "Adopt-A-Family" walk-a-thon in Framingham to raise funds for Israeli families victimized by terrorism. A project of the same synagogue that hosted Robertson, the walk-a-thon is co-sponsored by 17 Jewish organizations -- but also by nine Christian ones, including Grace Evangelical Christian Church of Framingham, Christian Renewal Church of Salem, and New England Aftercare Ministries.
Evangelicals are not the only Christians who support Israel or reach out to Jews, of course (three Catholic churches are involved in the Framingham walk-a-thon, for example, and one of the sponsors of the Washington summit is the Episcopal-Jewish Alliance). And no doubt there are some on the Christian right who are indifferent or even hostile toward Jews and the Jewish state. But there is no denying the obvious: Devotion to Israel and warmth toward Jews are powerful forces in American evangelical life.
At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world, the friendship of the Christian right is something every Jew should cheer.
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe, where this article originally appeared on May 15, 2003.
Abu Abbas, the former head of a Palestinian terrorist group who was captured in Iraq on April 15, is infamous for masterminding the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. But there are probably few who remember why Abbas's terrorists held the ship and its 400-plus passengers hostage for two days. It was to gain the release of a Lebanese terrorist named Samir Kuntar, who is locked up in an Israeli prison for life. Kuntar's name is all but unknown to the world. But I know it well. Because almost a quarter of a century ago, Kuntar murdered my family.
It was a murder of unimaginable cruelty, crueler even than the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, the American tourist who was shot on the Achille Lauro and dumped overboard in his wheelchair. Kuntar's mission against my family, which never made world headlines, was also masterminded by Abu Abbas. And my wish now is that this terrorist leader should be prosecuted in the United States, so that the world may know of all his terrorist acts, not the least of which is what he did to my family on April 22, 1979.
It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel, about six miles south of the Lebanese border. Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer. As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.
Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat. They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. "This is just like what happened to my mother," I thought.
As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.
By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.
The next day, Abu Abbas announced from Beirut that the terrorist attack in Nahariya had been carried out "to protest the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty" at Camp David the previous year. Abbas seems to have a gift for charming journalists, but imagine the character of a man who protests an act of peace by committing an act of slaughter.
Two of Abbas's terrorists had been killed by police on the beach. The other two were captured, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Despite my protests, one was released in a prisoner exchange for Israeli POWs several months before the Achille Lauro hijacking. Abu Abbas was determined to find a way to free Kuntar as well. So he engineered the hijacking of the Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt and demanded the release of 50 Arab terrorists from Israeli jails. The only one of those prisoners actually named was Samir Kuntar. The plight of hundreds held hostage on a cruise ship for two days at sea lent itself to massive international media coverage. The attack on Nahariya, by contrast, had taken less than an hour in the middle of the night. So what happened then was hardly noticed outside of Israel.
One hears the terrorists and their excusers say that they are driven to kill out of desperation. But there is always a choice. Even when you have suffered, you can choose whether to kill and ruin another's life, or whether to go on and rebuild. Even after my family was murdered, I never dreamed of taking revenge on any Arab.
But I am determined that Samir Kuntar should never be released from prison. In 1984, I had to fight my own government not to release him as part of an exchange for several Israeli soldiers who were POWs in Lebanon. I understood, of course, that the families of those POWs would gladly have agreed to the release of an Arab terrorist to get their sons back. But I told Yitzhak Rabin, then defense minister, that the blood of my family was as red as that of the POWs. Israel had always taken a position of refusing to negotiate with terrorists. If they were going to make an exception, let it be for a terrorist who was not as cruel as Kuntar. "Your job is not to be emotional," I told Rabin, "but to act rationally." And he did.
So Kuntar remains in prison. I have been shocked to learn that he has married an Israeli Arab woman who is an activist on behalf of terrorist prisoners. As the wife of a prisoner, she gets a monthly stipend from the government. I'm not too happy about that.
In recent years, Abu Abbas started telling journalists that he had renounced terrorism and that killing Leon Klinghoffer had been a mistake. But he has never said that killing my family was a mistake. He was a terrorist once, and a terrorist, I believe, he remains. Why else did he spend these last years, as the Israeli press has reported, free as a bird in Baghdad, passing rewards of $25,000 from Saddam Hussein to families of Palestinian suicide bombers? More than words, that kind of cash prize, which is a fortune to poor families, was a way of urging more suicide bombers. The fortunate thing about Abbas's attaching himself to Hussein is that it set him up for capture.
Some say that Italy should have first crack at Abbas. It had already convicted him of the Achille Lauro hijacking in absentia in 1986. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi now wants Abbas handed over so that he can begin serving his life sentence. But it's also true that in 1985, the Italians had Abbas in their hands after U.S. fighter jets forced his plane to land in Sicily. And yet they let him go. So while I trust Berlusconi, who knows if a future Italian government might not again wash its hands of Abbas?
In 1995, Rabin, then our prime minister, asked me to join him on his trip to the White House, where he was to sign a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat, which I supported. I believe that he wanted me to represent all Israeli victims of terrorism. Rabin dreaded shaking hands with Arafat, knowing that those hands were bloody. At first, I agreed to make the trip, but at the last minute, I declined. As prime minister, Rabin had to shake hands with Arafat for political reasons. As a private person, I did not. So I stayed here.
Now I am ready and willing to come to the United States to testify against Abu Abbas if he is tried for terrorism. The daughters of Leon Klinghoffer have said they are ready to do the same. Unlike Klinghoffer, Danny, Einat and Yael were not American citizens. But Klinghoffer was killed on an Italian ship in Abbas's attempt to free the killer of my family in Israel. We are all connected by the international web of terrorism woven by Abbas. Let the truth come out in a new and public trial. And let it be in the United States, the leader in the struggle against terrorism.
Smadar Haran Kaiser is a social worker. She is remarried and has two daughters.
#1 Terror Despite Full Security Measures? HardlyThis week some claimed that the recent round of successful terror attacks prove that Israel's security measures are ineffective. But that isn't the lesson to be learned from the attacks.
Before U.S. Secretary of State Powell came to visit many pleaded that Prime Minister Sharon hold firm on security. "We aren't dying to please Mr. Powell", was the simple call.
But while Prime Minister Sharon insisted he would not approve any security endangering "gestures" as long as the Palestinians fail to prove that they are delivering on their obligation to fight and stop terror, he did in fact ease security measures in order to placate Mr. Powell.
And thanks to the eased security measures the terrorists were able to strike.
Israelis did in fact "die to please Mr. Powell".
This was not a failure of Israeli security. It was a failure of Mr. Sharon to stick to his word. It was a failure of Mr. Sharon and his advisors to come up with a package of "gestures" for Mr. Powell's visit that would not compromise Israel's security.
This is not the last time that the Government of Israel will face a situation that it feels obligated to make some "gestures". It happens all the time. I sincerely hope that before the next "gestures" that the Prime Minister's team comes up with a series of actions that truly do not compromise Israel's security.
Otherwise it is only a question of time before, once again, Israelis will be literally dying to please foreign officials.
#2 Terror Pays - Dahlan's Genius"The Palestinians realize now that terror does not pay".
Why doesn't terror pay?
Has close to a decade of Palestinian terror in gross and flagrant violation of Oslo Agreement changed their expectations regarding the boundaries of a future Palestinian state? Not a millimeter.
Do captured terrorist murderers expect to serve out prison sentences or are they confident of their impending release?
And now we have Dahlan's plan to recruit the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists to serve in his PA security forces. He also plans to offer large sums of money for the illegal weapons now being held by the Palestinian "population".
Terrorist murderers won't be punished - they will get new weapons and PA salaries. In fact, it is safe to assume that the more murderous the terrorist the higher the rank, and salary, Dahlan will award him. That's terrorist salaries covered by Israeli, American and European money. Yes, terror certainly pays.
What about buying up the illegal weapons?
Again a stroke of genius: instead of using Arab money to buy more illegal weapons, Dahlan will use Israeli, American and European money to pay for anti-tank, anti-aircraft and ground-to-ground rockets and missiles.
But won't he hand them over to the CIA for destruction? There is already an answer: Dahlan and Abu Mazen would lose face if they did that. The important thing is that they get the weapons off the street.
Is it that they are so smart or that we are so stupid?
#3 Forget the side letters, the Road Map is a disasterIsrael Television Channel Two correspondent Udi Segal reported this evening that it looks like Sharon may succumb to American pressure and somehow push through a Cabinet vote accepting the Road Map as early as next week.
But what of the critical changes that Sharon has been talking about for months?
The Road Map won't be changed, Segal explained, but there will be an American side letter or statement that Israel's concerns would be "taken into consideration in the implementation of the Road Map".
This amorphous fig leaf solution is sheer madness.
An American side letter isn't a solution. It is another problem. A source for future American-Israeli friction.
What does it mean to "take into consideration" Israel's concerns?
Who decides if this "consideration" is sufficient?
And do not think for a moment that an American side letter to Israel won't be offset by an unpublished letter to the Palestinians. I should note that in the past American policy was to not even show Israel what America promised to the Palestinians in their side letters.
And to make matters worse, there has been talk about getting the roadmap endorsed by the United Nations. That's the roadmap without side letters.
There is an important lesson from the Oslo experience: when it comes to the Palestinians, their apologists and supporters will bend over backwards to find ways to interpret documents to essentially release them from any obligations, while Israel is subject to attacks for failing to live up to the "spirit" of the agreements. Thus the Palestinians were essentially excused for refusing to hand over terrorist murders for prosecution in violation of written obligations while Israel was attacked for building Jewish communities in what was termed a violation of the "spirit" of Oslo.
If Sharon agrees to this idiocy, the very same "experts" who will defend the "side-letter fig leaf" today will roll their eyes later as they explain how it was obvious from the start that Israel would be stuck with marching down the original unacceptable roadmap to destruction.
Does Israel have no choice? Isn't the pressure unbearable?
The opposite is the case. Whatever pressure Israel faces from Mr. Bush today is nothing as compared to the pressure Israel may be subject to in the future.
If Sharon bows to pressure today he will only encourage more pressure and harsher demands tomorrow.
No. It is not too late for responsible people to take responsible action.
Let's call on our respective leaders:
It is easy to blame America for the lack of Palestinian-Israeli peace. Critics from the left argue that America is biased in favor of Israel. Critics from the right argue that America has not allowed Israel to end the Palestinian terrorist regime on its borders.
It is easy to blame the Palestinians for the paucity of calm in the region. Palestinians incite their children to murder Jews. Palestinians encourage and celebrate homicide bombings. The Palestinian end goal is the destruction of the state of Israel.
It is also easy to blame the other Arab nations for the failure of the Middle East peace process. They fund Palestinian terror. They refuse to take in Palestinian refugees. They use Israel as a scapegoat for their own domestic problems.
But the cardinal blame for the Middle East conflict lies with Israel. Why? Because the other nations in the region despise Israel and wish it ill. Because the rest of the world condemns Israel if Israel so much as attempts to defend itself. And yet Israel chases after international praise rather than protecting its own citizenry by any means necessary.
Israel's apologies for its own existence can be directly linked to its ideological foundation. Israel was built by men who sought to separate religious Judaism from the concept of a Jewish state. They were socialists and secularists. They aspired to create an Israel that would take its place among the "family of nations," as the Israeli Declaration of Independence puts it. These secular Zionists were certainly heroes, but they built Israel on shaky ground from the beginning.
This was, and is, the problem for Israel. Israel still strives to be admitted to the "family of nations." Israeli leaders have still failed to realize that there is no family of nations, that the countries of the world have independent interests and values, and that they share no common vision.
Israel's secular Zionism has always provided the seeds of its destruction. Secular Zionism requires that Arab citizens of Israel be guaranteed equal rights. Even though many Arabs within Israel wish for Israel's obliteration and vote as such, Israel does nothing. In January, the Israeli Supreme Court overruled a Knesset ban on Arab Members of Parliament Azmi Bishara and Ahmed Tibi, despite both Bishara's and Tibi's support for Palestinian suicide bombings. Israeli Arabs compose about 20 percent of Israel's population. Demographic trends indicate that within decades, Israeli Arabs will compose a voting majority in Israel, allowing them to vote the Jewish state out of existence. Secular Zionism will let it happen.
Israel's secular Zionism means accepting indefensible borders. The 1967 Pentagon Report, issued immediately following the Six-Day War, explains that Israeli security requires control over virtually all territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria, and even parts of the Sinai Desert. Yet Israel accepted United Nations Resolution 242 only months after the war. Once again, Israel's desire for international approval trumped security concerns; U.N. Resolution 242 now provides the basis for the Palestinian Trojan Horse campaign to destroy Israel.
Secular Zionism forces Israel to allow the murder of its own citizens and the rape of its sovereignty. Almost every day, Jews are brutally slaughtered at the hands of Israel's "peace partners." But Israel's anti-terror campaign has been mainly bulldozing empty terrorist hideouts and complaining about Yasser Arafat. Secular Zionism dictates that Israel either forgive Palestinian terror or fight terror with one hand tied behind its back.
The essence of secular Zionism is rejection of religious Judaism. But the only way the Jewish state can survive is to become more, not less, Jewish. Israel must reject the tenets of secularism, the "family of nations" ideal. The basis of the Jewish claim to the land of Israel stems from God. For millennia, Jews have prayed for the ingathering of exiles, for a return to the Holy Land. Now, God has granted them their homeland and the weapons to defend it. God's road map requires the Jews to kill those who seek to kill them (Talmud Sanhedrin 72A). Israel has the God-given obligation to defend itself against those who wish to destroy it.
Secular Zionism has fulfilled its mission; it has created a homeland for the Jews. But ever since that creation, the appeasement-oriented tenets of secular Zionism have meant unending conflict. Only if Israel elects to follow God's road map will true peace ever be achieved.
"The Arabs would continue to live in the Jewish state, according to the agreement that you're talking about, so why should Jews have to leave this area? If the assumption is that Jews and Arabs can't live together, then how is it that Arabs will continue to live in Be'er Sheva, Haifa, and other areas in pre-'67 Israel, while we would have to leave?"-Yisrael Medad of the Yesha community of Shilo, when asked by Tim Sebastian of BBC's "Hardtalk" if he would agree, in exchange for a lasting peace agreement, to leave his home or to dismantle his community.
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