Article on the Christian zionists and their alliance
strange kind of freedom
9 July 2002
Inside the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, the Californian
audience had been struck silent. Dennis Bernstein, the Jewish host
of KPFA Radio's Flashpoint current affairs programme, was reading
some recent e-mails that he had received from Israel's supporters
in America. Each one left the people in the church Muslims,
Jews, Christians in a state of shock. "You mother-fucking-asshole-self-hating
Jewish piece of shit. Hitler killed the wrong Jews. He should have
killed your parents, so a piece of Jewish shit like you would not
have been born. God willing, Arab terrorists will cut you to pieces
Daniel Pearl-style, AMEN!!!"
Bernstein's sin was to have covered the story of Israel's invasion
of Jenin in April and to have interviewed journalists who investigated
the killings that took place there including Phil Reeves
and Justin Huggler of The Independent for his Flashpoint
programme. Bernstein's grandfather was a revered Orthodox Rabbi
of international prominence but neither his family history nor his
origins spared him. "Read this and weep, you mother-fucker
self-hating Jew boy!!!" another e-mail told Bernstein. "God
willing a Palestinian will murder you, rape your wife and slash
your kids' throats." Yet another: "I hope that you, Barbara
Lubin and all other Jewish Marxist Communist traitors anti-American
cop haters will die a violent and cruel death just like the victims
of suicide bombers in Israel." Lubin is also Jewish, the executive
director of the Middle East Children's Alliance, a one-time committed
Zionist but now one of Israel's fiercest critics. Her e-mails are
Indeed, you have to come to America to realise just how brave this
small but vocal Jewish community is. Bernstein is the first to acknowledge
that a combination of Israeli lobbyists and conservative Christian
fundamentalists have in effect censored all free discussion of Israel
and the Middle East out of the public domain in the US. "Everyone
else is terrified," Bernstein says. "The only ones who
begin to open their mouths are the Jews in this country. You know,
as a kid, I sent money to plant trees in Israel. But now we are
horrified by a government representing a country that we grew up
loving and cherishing. Israel's defenders have a special vengeance
for Jews who don't fall in line behind Sharon's scorched-earth policy
because they give the lie to the charge that Israel's critics are
Adam Shapiro is among those who have paid a price for their beliefs.
He is a Jew engaged to an American-born Palestinian, a volunteer
with the International Solidarity Movement who was trapped in Yasser
Arafat's headquarters in the spring while administering medical
aid. After telling CNN that the Sharon government was acting like
"terrorists" while receiving $3bn a year in US military
aid, Shapiro and his family were savaged in the New York Post. The
paper slandered Shapiro as the "Jewish Taliban" and demeaned
his family as "traitors". Israeli supporters publicised
his family's address and his parents were forced to flee their Brooklyn
home and seek police protection. Shapiro's father, a New York public
high-school teacher and a part-time Yeshiva (Jewish day school)
teacher, was fired from his job. His brother receives regular death
Israel's supporters have no qualms about their alliance with the
Christian right. Indeed, the fundamentalists can campaign on their
own in Israel's favour, as I discovered for myself at Stanford recently
when I was about to give a lecture on the media and the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, part of a series of talks arranged largely by Jewish Americans.
A right-wing Christian "Free Republic" outfit posted my
name on its website, and described me as a "PLO butt-kisser"
and asked its supporters to "freep" my lecture. A few
demonstrators turned up outside the First United Methodist Church
in Sacramento where I was to speak, waving American and Israeli
flags. "Jew haters!" they screamed at the organisers,
a dark irony since these were non-Jews shrieking their abuse at
They were also handing out crudely printed flyers. "Nothing
to worry about, Bob," one of my Jewish hosts remarked. "They
can't even spell your name right." True. But also false. "Stop
the Lies!" the leaflet read. "There was no massacre in
Jenin. Fiske [sic] is paid big bucks to spin [lie] for the Arabs..."
But the real lie was in that last sentence. I never take any payment
for lectures so that no one can ever claim that I'm paid
to give the views of others. But the truth didn't matter to these
people. Nor did the content of my talk which began, by chance,
with the words "There was no massacre" in which
I described Arafat as a "corrupt, vain little despot"
and suicide bombings as "a fearful, evil weapon". None
of this was relevant. The aim was to shut me up.
Dennis Bernstein sums it up quite simply: "Any US journalist,
columnist, editor, college professor, student-activist, public official
or clergy member who dares to speak critically of Israel or accurately
report the brutalities of its illegal occupation will be vilified
as an anti-Semite." In fact, no sooner had Bernstein made these
remarks than pro-Israeli groups initiated an extraordinary campaign
against some of the most pro-Israeli newspapers in America, all
claiming that The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the
San Francisco Chronicle were biased in their coverage of the Middle-East
conflict. Just how The New York Times which boasts William
Safire and Charles Krauthammer, those giants of pro-Israeli bias,
among its writers could be anti-Israeli is difficult to see,
although it is just possible that, amid its reports on Israel's
destruction in the West Bank and Gaza, some mildly critical comments
found their way into print. The New York Times, for example, did
report that Israeli soldiers used civilians as human shields
though only in the very last paragraph of a dispatch from Jenin.
None the less, the campaign of boycotts and e-mails got under way.
More than 1,000 readers suspended their subscriptions to the Los
Angeles Times, while a blizzard of e-mails told pro-Israeli readers
to cancel their subscription to The New York Times for a day. On
the East Coast, at least one local radio station has lost $1m from
a Jewish philanthropist while other stations attempting to cover
the Middle East with some degree of fairness are said to have lost
even more. When the San Francisco Chronicle published a four-page
guide to the conflict, its editors had to meet a 14-member delegation
of local Jewish groups to discuss their grievances.
According to Michael Futterman, who chairs the Middle East strategy
committee of 80 Bay Area synagogues, Jewish anger hit "boiling
point" when the Chronicle failed to cover a pro-Israeli rally
in San Francisco. Needless to say, the Chronicle's "Readers'
Representative", Dick Rogers, published a grovelling, self-flagellating
apology. "The paper didn't have a word on the pro-Israel rally,"
he wrote. "This wasn't fair and balanced coverage." Another
objection came from a Jewish reader who objected to the word "terror"
being placed within inverted commas in a Chronicle headline that
read "Sharon says 'terror' justifies assault". The reader's
point? The Chronicle's reporting "harmonises well with Palestinian
propaganda, which tries to divert attention from the terrorist campaign
against Israel (which enjoys almost unanimous support among Palestinians,
all the way from Yasser Arafat to the 10-year-old who dreams of
blowing himself up one day) and instead describes Israel's military
moves as groundless, evil bullying tactics."
And so it goes on. On a radio show with me in Berkeley, the Chronicle's
foreign editor, Andrew Ross, tried to laugh off the influence of
the pro-Israeli lobby "the famous lobby", he called
it with that deference that is half way between acknowledgement
and fear but the Israeli Consul General Yossi Amrani had
no hesitation in campaigning against the Chronicle, describing a
paper largely docile in its reporting of the Middle East as "a
professionally and politically biased, pro-Palestinian newspaper".
The Chronicle's four-page pull-out on the Middle East was, in fact,
a soft sell. Its headline "The Current Strife Between
The Israelis And The Palestinians Is A Battle For Control Of Land"
missed the obvious point: that one of the two groups that
were "battling for control of the land" the Palestinians
had been occupied by Israel for 35 years.
The most astonishing and least covered story is in
fact the alliance of Israeli lobbyists and Christian Zionist fundamentalists,
a coalition that began in 1978 with the publication of a Likud plan
to encourage fundamentalist churches to give their support to Israel.
By 1980, there was an "International Christian Embassy"
in Jerusalem; and in 1985, a Christian Zionist lobby emerged at
a "National Prayer Breakfast for Israel" whose principal
speaker was Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to become Israeli prime
minister. "A sense of history, poetry and morality imbued the
Christian Zionists who, more than a century ago, began to write,
plan and organise for Israel's restoration," Netanyahu told
his audience. The so-called National Unity Coalition for Israel
became a lobbying arm of Christian Zionism with contacts in Congress
and neo-conservative think-tanks in Washington.
In May this year, the Israeli embassy in Washington, no less, arranged
a prayer breakfast for Christian Zionists. Present were Alonzo Short,
a member of the board of "Promise Keepers", and Michael
Little who is president of the "Christian Broadcasting Network".
Event hosts were listed as including those dour old Christian conservatives
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who once financed a rogue television
station in southern Lebanon which threatened Muslim villagers and
broadcast tirades by Major Saad Haddad, Israel's stooge militia
leader in Lebanon. In Tennessee, Jewish officials invited hundreds
of Christians to join Jewish crowds at a pro-Israel solidarity rally
On the face of it, this coalition seems natural. The Jewish Anti-Defamation
League felt able to run an ad that included an article by a former
Christian coalition executive director Ralph Reed, headlined "We
People of Faith Stand Firmly With Israel". Christians, Reed
claimed, supported Israel because of "their humanitarian impulse
to help and protect Jews, a shared strategic interest in democracy
in the Middle East and a spiritual connection to Israel".
But, of course, a fundamental problem fundamental in every
sense of the word lies behind this strange partnership. As
Uri Avnery, the leader of Gush Shalom, the most courageous Israeli
peace group, pointed out in a typically ferocious essay last month,
there is a darker side to the alliance. "According to its [Christian
Zionist] theological beliefs, the Jews must congregate in Palestine
and establish a Jewish state on all its territory" an
idea that would obviously appeal to Ariel Sharon "so
as to make the Second Coming of Jesus Christ possible." But
here comes the bad bit. As Avnery says, "the evangelists don't
like to dwell openly on what comes next: before the coming [of the
Messiah], the Jews must convert to Christianity. Those who don't
will perish in a gigantic holocaust in the battle of Armageddon.
This is basically an anti-Semitic teaching, but who cares, so long
as they support Israel?"
The power of the Israeli lobby in the United States is debated
far more freely in the Israeli press than in American newspapers
or on US tele- vision. There is, of course, a fine and dangerous
line between justified investigation and condemnation
of the lobby's power, and the racist Arab claim that a small cabal
of Zionists run the world. Those in America who share the latter
view include a deeply unpleasant organisation just along the coast
from San Francisco at Newport Beach known as the "Institute
for Historical Research". These are the Holocaust deniers whose
annual conference last month included a lecture on "death sentences
imposed by German authorities against German soldiers... for killing
or even mistreating Jews". Too much of this and you'd have
to join the American Israel Public Affairs Committee AIPAC
to restore your sanity. But the Israeli lobby is powerful.
In fact, its influence over the US Congress and Senate calls into
question the degree to which the American legislature has been corrupted
by lobby groups. It is to an Israeli voice Avnery again
that Americans have to turn to hear just how mighty the lobby has
become. "Its electoral and financial power casts a long shadow
over both houses of the Congress," Avnery writes. "Hundreds
of Senators and Congressmen were elected with the help of Jewish
contributions. Resistance to the directives of the Jewish lobby
is political suicide. If the AIPAC were to table a resolution abolishing
the Ten Commandments, 80 Senators and 300 Congressmen would sign
it at once. This lobby frightens the media, too, and assures their
adherence to Israel."
Avnery could have looked no further than the Democratic primary
in Alabama last month for proof of his assertion. Earl Hilliard,
the five-term incumbent, had committed the one mortal sin of any
American politician: he had expressed sympathy for the cause of
the Palestinians. He had also visited Libya several years ago. Hilliard's
opponent, Artur Davis, turned into an outspoken supporter of Israel
and raised large amounts of money from the Jewish community, both
in Alabama and nationwide. The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz noted
that among the names of the first list of contributors to Davis's
campaign funds were "10 Cohens from New York and New Jersey,
but before one gets to the Cohens, there were Abrams, Ackerman,
Adler, Amir, Asher, Baruch, Basok, Berger, Berman, Bergman, Bernstein
and Blumenthal. All from the East Coast, Chicago and Los Angeles.
It's highly unlikely any of them have ever visited Alabama..."
The Jewish newspaper Forward essential reading for any serious
understanding of the American Jewish community quoted a Jewish
political activist following the race: "Hilliard has been a
problem in his votes and with guys like that, when there's any conceivable
primary challenge, you take your shot." Hilliard, of course,
lost to Davis, whose campaign funds reached $781,000.
The AIPAC concentrates on Congress while the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organisations (CPMAJO), made up of the
heads of 51 Jewish organisations, concentrates on the executive
branch of the US government. Every congressman knows the names of
those critics of Israel who have been undone by the lobby. Take
Senator J William Fulbright, whose 1963 testimony to the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee detailed how five million tax-deductable
dollars from philanthropic Americans had been sent to Israel and
then recycled back to the US for distribution to organisations seeking
to influence public opinion in favour of Israel; this cost him the
chance of being Secretary of State. He was defeated in the 1974
Democratic primary after pro-Israeli money poured into the campaign
funds of his rival, Governor Dale Bumpers, following a statement
by the AIPAC that Fulbright was "consistently unkind to Israel
and our supporters in this country". Paul Findley, who spent
22 years as a Republican congressman from Illinois, found his political
career destroyed after he had campaigned against the Israeli lobby
although, ironically, his book on the subject, They Dare
to Speak Out was nine weeks on The Washington Post bestseller list,
suggesting that quite a number of Americans want to know why their
congressmen are so pro-Israeli.
Just two months ago, the US House of Representatives voted 352
to 21 to express its unqualified support for Israel. The Senate
voted 94 to two for the same motion. Even as they voted, Ariel Sharon's
army was continuing its destructive invasion of the West Bank. "I
do not recall any member of Congress asking me if I was in favour
of patting Israel on the back..." James Abu Rizk, an Arab-American
of Lebanese origin, told the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee
afterwards. "No one else, no average American, has been asked
either. But that is the state of American politics today... The
votes and bows have nothing to do with the legislators' love for
Israel. They have everything to do with the money that is fed into
their campaigns by members of the Israeli lobby. My estimate is
that $6bn flows from the American Treasury to Israel each year."
Within days, 42 US governors turned up in Sacramento to sign declarations
supporting Israel. California governor Gray Davis and New York governor
George Pataki California has the largest Jewish population
of any state except New York arranged the meeting.
Sometimes the support of Israel's loyalists in Congress turns into
farce. Tom Delay reacting to CNN founder Ted Turner's criticism
of Israel went so far out of his way to justify Israeli occupation
of the West Bank that he blurted out on MSNBC television that the
Palestinians "should become citizens" of Israel, an idea
unlikely to commend itself to his friend Ariel Sharon. Texas Republican
Richard Armey went the other way. "I'm content to have Israel
grab the entire West Bank. I happen to believe the Palestinians
should leave... to have those people who have been aggressors against
Israel retired to some other area." Do the people of Texas
know that their representative is supporting "ethnic cleansing"
in the Middle East? Or are they silent because they prefer not to
Censorship takes many forms. When Ishai Sagi and Ram Rahat-Goodman,
two Israeli reserve soldiers who refused to serve in the West Bank
or Gaza, were scheduled to debate their decision at Sacramento's
Congregation B'nai Israel in May, their appearance was cancelled.
Steve Meinrath, who is chairman of the Israel Affairs Committee
at B'nai Israel, remarked bleakly that "intimidation on the
part of certain sectors of the community has deprived the entire
community of hearing a point of view that is being widely debated
in Israel. Some people feel it's too dangerous..."
Does President Bush? His long-awaited Middle-East speech was Israeli
policy from start to finish. A group of Jewish leaders, including
Elie Wiesel and Alan Dershowitz who said recently that the
idea of executing the families of Palestinian suicide bombers was
a legitimate if flawed attempt at finding a balance between preventing
terrorism and preserving democracy and the AIPAC and CPMAJO
heads all sent clear word to the President that no pressure should
be put on Israel. Wiesel whose courage permeates his books
on the Holocaust but who lamentably failed to condemn the massacre
of Palestinian refugees in Beirut in 1982 at the hands of Israel's
Lebanese allies, said he felt "sadness", but his sadness
was "with Israel, not against Israel" because "after
all the Israeli soldiers did not kill" took out a full
page in The New York Times. In this, he urged Bush to "please
remember that Ariel Sharon, a military man who knows the ugly face
of war better than anyone, is ready to make 'painful sacrifices'
to end the conflict." Sharon was held "personally responsible"
for the massacre by Israel's own commission of inquiry but
there was no mention of that from Wiesel, who told reporters in
May that he would like to revoke Arafat's Nobel prize.
President Bush was not going to oppose these pressures. His father
may well have lost his re-election because he dared to tell Israel
that it must make peace with the Arabs. Bush is not going to make
the same mistake nor does brother Jeb want to lose his forthcoming
governorship election. Thus Sharon's delight at the Bush speech,
and it was left to a lonely and brave voice Mitchell Plitnick
of the Jewish Voice for Peace to state that "few speeches
could be considered to be as destructive as that of the American
President... Few things are as blinding as unbridled arrogance."
Or as vicious as the messages that still pour in to Dennis Bernstein
and Barbara Lubin, whose Middle East Children's Alliance, co-ordinating
with Israeli peace groups, is trying to raise money to rebuild the
Jenin refugee camp. "I got a call the other day at 5am,"
Bernstein told me. "This guy says to me: 'You got a lot of
nerve going and eating at that Jewish deli.' What comes after that?"
Before I left San Francisco, Lubin showed me her latest e-mails.
"Dear Cunt," one of them begins, "When we want your
opinion you fucking Nazi cunt, we will have one of your Palestinian
buddies fuck it [sic] of you. I hope that in your next trip to the
occupied territories you are blown to bits by one of your Palestinian
buddies [sic] bombs." Another, equally obscene, adds that "you
should be ashamed of yourself, a so-called Jewish woman advocating
the destruction of Israel".
Less crude language, of course, greeted President Bush's speech.
Pat Robertson thought the Bush address "brilliant". Senator
Charles Schumer, a totally loyal pro-Israeli Democrat from New York,
said that "clearly, on the politics, this is going to please
supporters of Israel as well as the Christian coalition types".
He could say that again. For who could be more Christian than President
George W Bush?