dan s wang on Thu, 11 Apr 2002 09:02:20 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Palestina [5x]

Snippets from a something I posted to another list seem relevant to 
these questions. For friends outside the US who may not know, the
'Christian Coalition' is the largest and most influential US political
group representing a conservative religious perspective and agenda.
Its founder, Pat Robertson, last made waves when he and his good buddy
Jerry Falwell, in the first days following the attacks, openly
proclaimed the felling of the twin towers God's punishment for all the
'homosexuals' (say that with a good, folksy drawl) and 'abortionists'
in New York. The 700 Club is the most widely broadcasted conservative
christian television show in the US, and is hosted by Robertson.

I don't really know or haven't heard much about the christian right's
reaction to the Church of the Nativity stand off, but hopefully my
perspective below will add to an understanding of just why the US is
so damn pro-Israeli. The only bit I've seen about this situation
coming out of a right wing camp was a news item from the CBN
(Christian Broadcasting Network, which produces the 700 Club)
reporting the situation, but without much commentary.

> So, as I sit watching this, it occurs to me:

> how terrified of the christian right wing in the US should I be right now?
> How worked up over destruction and death on the birthplace of their God are
> they likely to get?

> Didn't the crusades start when there was the deadly combination of surplus
> military capacity and an unsafe Holy Land?

> How organised, powerful, and angry are christians in the US, and on a global
> basis?

> What would be the consequences of such activity on the birthplace of, say,
> Allah?

> (I know this blasphemous and impossible as far as Islam goes but I'm
> attempting to make a comparison).

> waving from the happi southern hemisphere...

> Dwayne

There is a myth that US support for Israel exists because of the
strength of the zionist lobby--meaning "Jewish lobby", as if there
were thousands of Jewish zionists pressing palms on Capitol Hill
everyday, or funneling thousands of dollars to pols all the time. In
the more crackpot, fringe versions of this story diamonds get put into
the pockets of presidents and senators. That's a bunch of anti-semitic
crap-- military contractor interests are probably much more important.

But there is something I would add to that, something that should not
be underestimated. And that is the power and involvement of the
Religious Right. Fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, as
exemplified by Pat Robertson's and Jerry Falwell's movements, over the
decade of the 70s developed a highly articulate "pre-Millenial"
theology. This was a more sophisticated theology than the simple
scriptural literalism that defined most earlier American christian
fundamentalisms. A basic tenent of this doctrine says that the Jews
must return to Israel before the second coming of you know who. (Like
in the Harry Potter books with Voldemort, I try to never say his
name!) For somebody like Robertson, hastening the day of the second
coming is about as important as anything in this world, and that
includes stopping abortion. We all know how important that is to these
people--well, 'returning the Jews to Israel' is probably more
important, if you can imagine that!

The reason this has not received that much attention among
left/radical activists is because the position is descended from a
theological development that happened within the conservative
christian movement, which is not exactly an area most leftist-types
pay much attention to. But the results are there for all to see: check
out the many commentaries on the 700 club website--you will not find
any opinion pieces anywhere that are more pro-Israel than these! (And
virulently anti-Arab, I might add.) Check out Pat Robertson's
theological arguments against UN Res 242 and other declarations of
Palestinian rights:

Pushing aggresively for increased aid to Israel became a key part of
the Religious Right's effort to translate their theology into a
political program, an effort successfully implemented by the 80s. Look
at any socially conservative politician's platform nowadays and you
will see that strong support for the State of Israel is on
there--often times it's the only foreign policy isssue specifically
addressed. My understanding is that this is a legacy of the
conservative christian movement. This issue is *one of the reasons*
these people are involved in politics in the first place.

How did the Israeli government respond to this effort? With open arms
and gratefully, no matter that in eschatological terms they were just
being used. After all, they were not above taking help from anybody
who would give it, including, most notoriously, the apartheid regime
of South Africa.

So this begins to explain a lot right? Because no matter the racist
conspiracy theories which would have Jews running the country, Jewish
people have never by themselves had the political clout to dictate
foreign policy. Even less so since Jewish voters have traditionally
voted something like 70% Democrat. Jewish backers of Israel in the
past usually sent aid privately. All Democrats, more accurately
representing majority Jewish concern because the Jewish vote, try to
stay involved constructively--like both Carter and Clinton did. For
the relatively small Jewish nationalist interests to hook up with a
well-organized and geographically diffuse conservative christian
movement--now we're talking about some real power and some real
potential for abuse.

But even then, I don't see that as the full story. There are plenty of
conservative Republicans who are not Religious Right in orientation,
but who have taken on the zionist cause. Greedy bastards and/or simply
power hungry--like George Bush the 1st--who are neither expecting nor
hoping for a second coming. . . why are these types on board? My view
is that it all dovetails nicely for all concerned and the Wall St
Republican whose real loyalty is to the dollar gets a lot of political
mileage out of adopting the pro-Israeli cause. For one thing, a
Republican can't make it without conservative christian support
nowadays. But even more importantly, a pro-Israeli stance gives him
political cover, lets him tout a strong stand for a non-Anglo people,
lets him appear non-racist in at least one way. And to do it in the
name of protecting a democratic state. So while pleasing the
conservatives, he simultaneously confuses, divides, and weakens the
progressive opposition. He can even accuse others who don't want to
support Israel of being anti-Semitic! For the American conservative,
this issue is his best friend.

So a guy like Bush, who can't afford to alienate his conservative
base, let's the blood flow, and doesn't really care about negotiating
a settlement. For those outside the US, watch carefully--you'll see
that right now it's the conservative members of congress pressuring
Bush to take a hard line, criticizing him for not being tough enough
on the Palestinians.

So it is very, very important to maintain a strong stance against
racism in all its forms, including and especially anti-Semitism, given
the smokescreens before us. Maybe the most difficult part of this
situation is that there are a handful of Jewish demogogues more than
ready to take advantage of anything that could possibly be perceived
as anti-Semitic. I think the best thing to do is to inform ourselves
and each other about the way all this developed, about how others
(Religious Right, esp) have used the conflict for their own ends, and
how support for a state which adheres to a ethnically-defined Right of
Return practice cannot in any way be termed anti- or non-racist.

This conservative christian crusade mentality, in alliance with
nationalist sentiment from some Jewish groups, the tempting potential
for non-Jews to claim anti-racist credit, and generic War on Terror
aggression against everything Arab is what is making this all possible
right now. The least known element of this coalition from hell is the
stake held by the conservative christians, and that's why I'm writing
about it.

Dan w.

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