Inside the most insanely pro-Israel meeting you could ever attend

David Weigel describes scenes in this year’s Christians United for Israel conference in Washington: Over two boisterous days, the only speaker who brought the crowd to silence was Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, an Israel Defense Forces veteran whose organization Our Soldiers Speak sent him to campuses and other hot zones to describe the reality in Israel.

“There is an entire generation being raised in southern Israel, barely any of whom do not suffer from PTSD due to the rocket fire,” said Anthony. “The entire Zionist experiment rests in no small part on what it is we do during this campaign.”

What the IDF needed was a total victory. “Rocket factories can be destroyed,” said Anthony. “Weapon factories can be destroyed. Terrorists can be eliminated. Tunnels can be dug out.” But it could only happen if America resisted the temptation to criticize Israel or to stop the operation.

“Hamas started this war,” said Anthony. “The soldiers of Israel must smash their skulls and break their spines.”

When he said that, a standing-room crowd of pastors and activists and politicians rose to its feet, waving the twin flags of the countries God loved.

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The Old Testament’s made-up camels are a problem for Zionism

o13-iconAndrew Brown writes: There are 21 references to camels in the first books of the Bible, and now we know they are all made up.

Some of them are quite startlingly verisimilitudinous, such as the story of Abraham’s servant finding a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24: “Then the servant left, taking with him 10 of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. He made the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was towards evening, the time the women go out to draw water.”

But these camels are made up, all 10 of them. Two Israeli archaeozoologists have sifted through a site just north of modern Eilat looking for camel bones, which can be dated by radio carbon.

None of the domesticated camel bones they found date from earlier than around 930BC – about 1,500 years after the stories of the patriarchs in Genesis are supposed to have taken place. Whoever put the camels into the story of Abraham and Isaac might as well have improved the story of Little Red Riding Hood by having her ride up to Granny’s in an SUV. [Continue reading...]

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More white evangelicals than American Jews say God gave Israel to the Jewish people

Pew Research Center: Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, and most Jews in the United States say that emotionally they are either very attached (30%) or somewhat attached (39%) to Israel. But on some measures, Jews’ feelings for Israel are equaled or even exceeded by those of white evangelical Protestants.

For example, twice as many white evangelical Protestants as Jews say that Israel was given to the Jewish people by God (82% vs. 40%). Some of the discrepancy is attributable to Jews’ lower levels of belief in God overall; virtually all evangelicals say they believe in God, compared with 72% of Jews (23% say they do not believe in God and 5% say they don’t know or decline to answer the question). But even Jews who do believe in God are less likely than evangelicals to believe that God gave the land that is now Israel to the Jewish people (55% vs. 82%).

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How Israel lets Christian pseudo-archeologists pillage the West Bank

Dylan Bergeson reports: A line of rental cars crawled up the side of ribbed sandstone formations, mounded high like giant termite nests. In the distance, the city lights of modern Jericho twinkled on the northern horizon. In this haunted landscape where the West Bank meets the Jordan River, the Dead Sea Scrolls — the oldest-known biblical record — remained hidden for millennia.

The discovery of the scrolls 50 years ago galvanized a resurgent evangelical movement, many of whose members heralded the creation of Israel as evidence of the coming rapture. Since then, the Holy Land has attracted a long succession of academic zealots seeking to tether stories in the Bible to the archaeological record.

For Randall Price, a mid-50’s, sun-reddened pastor from Texas with a neat side part and a booming voice, archaeology is both a scientific and a devotional endeavor. “This was the area where great men of God were tested,” he said. “When you’re excavating there it puts you in touch, physically, with the reality of those events.” Price has spent the last ten years searching for remains of an ascetic Jewish priesthood whom he believes settled in the desert wilderness of Qumran to await the coming of the Messiah and the End of Days. These remains, he said, could provide unprecedented evidence of a biblical text.

At first blush, Price seems like an unlikely candidate to head excavations amid one of the bitterest land disputes in the modern world. Though he never actually received a degree in archaeology, he built a global network around his brand of Near East biblical scholarship with an apocalyptic bent. He has written extensively for the website RaptureReady.com, given lectures suggesting that Iran is fulfilling the role of Antichrist, and has openly called for the United States to declare war on Islam.

Price says his own work underwrites Israeli precedence in some Palestinian land. “Despite the fact that Qumran is probably on the map as the Palestinians’, the fact is we’re unearthing ancient Jewish heritage,” he said. “There’s nothing here that speaks to any other people.”

Price’s politics are unlikely to disrupt his access to the Qumran plateau, however. Located in the West Bank, permits to excavate around Qumran are not issued by the Palestinian Authority, but rather by Israel’s Civil Administration. It’s a bizarre arrangement, which critics say allows Israeli officials and religious pseudo-scientists to cooperate in raiding cultural treasures. [Continue reading...]

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What evangelicals get wrong about Israel and the Palestinians

Kirsten Powers writes: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Sadly, this isn’t Scripture you hear many evangelicals quoting when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though Jesus uttered the words in the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of making peace, American evangelicals have mostly picked sides and offered unquestioning, blind loyalty to Israel, with little to no regard for the plight of the Palestinian people.

“Declaring that evangelical Christians are ‘on the front line of defense for Israel in the United States of America,’ the Rev. John Hagee brought delegates to the Christians United for Israel Washington Summit 2012 to their feet with loud cheering and even the sounds of shofars being blown,” The Times of Israel reported in April 2012.

That same month, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told NBC News of evangelical support of Israel, “American evangelicals have it in their DNA: God blesses those who bless the Jews and curses whoever curses the Jews.”

During the GOP primary, many evangelicals expressed support for Newt Gingrich, who called Palestinians “invented people.” Someone from a country that is a few hundred years old complaining about “invented” national identities would be comical if the crux of his message weren’t so offensive. Such despicable nonsense is spouted for one reason: to dehumanize Palestinians. After all, if they are just invented, pretend people, then who cares what happens to them?

Since when is dehumanizing people — God’s creation — an acceptable Christian view? [Continue reading...]

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Video: Waiting for Armageddon

Waiting for Armageddon: America’s 50-million strong Evangelical community is convinced that the world’s future is foretold in Biblical prophecy – from the Rapture to the Battle of Armageddon. This astonishing documentary explores their world – in their homes, at conferences, and on a wide-ranging tour of Israel. By interweaving Christian, Zionist, Jewish and critical perspectives along with telling archival materials, the filmmakers probe the politically powerful – and potentially explosive – alliance between Evangelical Christians and Israel…an alliance that may set the stage for what one prominent Evangelical leader calls “World War III.”

(If you have problems viewing this video, it can also be viewed at YouTube.)

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The excommunication of Ron Paul

Steve Kornacki writes: When you’re running near the top of the polls, it’s inevitable that your opponents will gang up on you. But there’s something different about the nature of the attacks Ron Paul is now facing – and, potentially, about their implications.

In the past few days, three of Paul’s rivals – Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann – have publicly declared that the Texas congressman will not under any circumstances win the GOP nomination. Bachmann called him “dangerous,” while Gingrich said he wasn’t even sure he’d vote for Paul over Barack Obama. Another candidate, Rick Santorum, said there’s no difference between Paul and Obama on foreign policy and that he’d need “a lot of antacid” to stomach voting for Paul. And Jon Huntsman launched a scathing anti-Paul ad in New Hampshire with a simple title: “Unelectable.”

This is not a run of the mill pile-on. Paul’s foes aren’t simply telling Republicans that he’s not the best choice to be their nominee; they’re telling Republicans that he’s unfit to call himself one of them – that he’s an imposter who isn’t due even the most basic courtesy (“Oh sure, if he ends up being the nominee I’ll be with him…”) that major candidates for the nomination are typically afforded.

It’s an attitude that’s also being encouraged by some of the GOP’s most powerful opinion-shaping forces. Rush Limbaugh has been disdainful of Paul throughout the campaign, with his guest host this week – Mark Steyn – keeping up the campaign. Fox News, whose primetime hosts have alternated between ignoring and savaging Paul, has been treating him like a pariah since the last campaign, when Paul was denied a seat at a critical pre-New Hampshire debate. And the New Hampshire Union Leader, which boasts one of the country’s most influential conservative editorial pages, branded Paul “truly dangerous” on Thursday.

The roots of this anti-Paul alarmism go deeper than the racist newsletters that were sent out under Paul’s name in the early 1990s and that have attracted new attention in the past week. Sure, the newsletters (and Paul’s shifting explanations for them over the years) would help make him an unelectable GOP nominee, but rest assured the same intraparty voices would be railing against him with the same adamance even if they’d never emerged.

The reason has to do with Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy and his unapologetic mockery of the “clash of civilizations” ethos that has defined the post-Cold War GOP. Today’s Republican Party is dominated by Christian conservatives (44 percent of participants in the 2008 primaries identified themselves as evangelicals) and neoconservatives, who are united in their commitment to an unwavering alliance between the United States and Israel, confrontation with Iran, and a significant American presence in the Middle East. Paul’s warnings about “blowback” directly threaten this consensus.

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Christmas fading in the Holy Land

Khaled Diab writes: In the land that put Christ in Christmas, Christianity is shrinking.

Less than a century ago, Christians comprised nearly 10 percent of the population of Palestine (now Israel and the Palestinian territories). In 1946, the figure was around 8 percent. Today, Christians make up about 4 percent of the West Bank’s population, although there are still a few Christian-majority villages, such as Taybeh, whose skyline is dominated by church spires and whose businessmen produce the only Palestinian beer. In Israel, though Christians make up 10 percent of its Palestinian population, they only constitute 2.5 percent of the total population. In Gaza, the Christian minority is even smaller, representing just 1 percent of the population.

One major factor in the decline of Christianity here: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Arab-Israeli war of 1948 caused hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee or be driven out of their homes, most never to return – and each subsequent war has led to more Palestinians leaving. Today, though Palestinians are often materially better off than other Arabs, restrictions on movement, lack of economic opportunity, unemployment and the constant indignity of living under occupation prompt many to seek out new homes. Palestinian Christians, relatively better educated that Palestinian Muslims and sharing a common religion with the West, have generally been better placed to leave the region.

“Many Christians prioritize their religion over their nationality, thus feeling at home in Western Christian countries as immigrants,” says Ameer Sader, who teaches English and works as a young guide at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Haifa.

“Also, the fertility rate among Christians is the lowest within Israel and Palestine, playing a role, however small it is, in their decline,” he added.

But the exodus is not solely a Christian phenomenon.

“What is often ignored is the huge number of young Muslims who are leaving. And don’t forget there are more Palestinian Muslims living abroad than Christians,” says Dimitri Karkar, a Palestinian Christian businessman. Karkar lives in Ramallah, which has grown with the influx of refugees from other parts of historic Palestine and Israel’s continued annexation of East Jerusalem. Once a small village, Ramallah has become the de facto administrative capital of Palestine, where about a quarter of its population today is Christian.

Another factor: Christian charities and missionaries, who often do valuable work here, also have played an unwitting role in the exodus of Christians.

“I think that an awful lot of well-meaning Christians in the West, whether they are in America, Britain or other places, have poured a lot of money into the West Bank, and specifically into the churches and ministries here,” observes Richard Meryon, director of Jerusalem’s Garden Tomb, which is locked in a spiritual/territorial dispute with the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the exact location of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

This outside aid, he notes, “is causing a hemorrhaging of Palestinian believers,” because many are given assistance to move to the West to study but, once there, decide never to return. At the same time, he points out, the numbers of foreign believers and Messianic Jews who believe in Jesus are rising.

And not all Christian activity has been “well-meaning.” For example, so-called Christian Zionists are passionately, even virulently, pro-Israeli, and many come to the Holy Land (some on Harley Davidsons) to express their support. They show rather less interest in the Christians who actually live there.

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich seems to even doubt they exist. In an apparent bid to court the Christian Zionist and pro-Israel right, Gingrich made the outrageous claim that “We have invented the Palestinian people,” as if the Palestinians I encounter every day here are figments of the imagination.

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Glenn Beck receives ‘Defender of Israel Award’

The Zionist Organization of America gave its first “Defender of Israel Award” to Glenn Beck on Sunday. The award was presented by American billionaire casino magnate and backer of Benjamin Netanyahu, Sheldon Adelson.

Beck, in his acceptance speech, said, “I am a proud Zionist and an obvious defender of Israel. I speak the truth and have been awarded the Defender of Israel Award, which only reveals the kind of trouble we are in.”

He also added, “The current U.S. government is not a friend of Israel.” Beck has been one of the most outspoken and vocal critics of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Beck, who left Fox News several months ago, strongly hinted of political aspirations as he wrapped up his speech. “There is a vacuum [in American politics] that I intend to fill. I am not asking you to join me. I would rather join you,” he said.

Several American politicians were on hand at the ceremony as well. Republican presidential hopeful Congresswoman Michele Bachmann spoke at the event saying, “The Pentagon must prepare a plan for war against Iran, as a last resort.” The congresswoman called for crushing economic sanctions on Iran, and promised that on the day she is sworn in as president, she would move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who also received an honorary ZOA award, pledged that the House of Representatives would work to increase sanctions against Iran. (Source)

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Pastor Beck preaches in Jerusalem

The Guardian reports:

The temperature may have dropped a little in Jerusalem on Wednesday night, but it was more than compensated for by the heat produced by Glenn Beck as he brought his “Restoring Courage” rally to the Old City.

The former Fox News presenter and devout Mormon stood at a podium beneath the gunmetal grey of the dome of the al-Aqsa mosque to direct a tirade of invective at governments, human rights organisations, the United Nations, Europe and Arab states – and sometimes just “them”, whoever they are.

Despite a strangely subdued start, the rightwing polemicist finally roused his audience to whoops and cheers after a strangely subdued initial response with his trademark preacher’s inflection. But all the while, the distant noise of anti-Beck protests provided a backdrop to a 90-minute programme of declamation, music and presentations.

Dressed as though attending a funeral, Beck stood in sharp contrast to the casual attire of his overwhelmingly white American Christian audience, many of whose baseball caps and T-shirts denoted their state of origin, their church or their adherence to the US Tea Party movement.

But the surprising number of empty seats belied the organisers’ claims that demand for tickets had outstripped availability at the 2,000-capacity Davidson Centre.

Ami Kaufman writes:

After months of preparations, hours of television and radio talk all geared up for the big day, tons of merchandise manufactured, Glenn Beck could just about muster over a thousand people at his “Restoring Courage” last night in Jerusalem.

I can’t help but think that this flop might be a lethal blow for this guy. After getting kicked out of FOX and then his decision to veer even farther to the right by partnering up with the likes of Pastor John Hagee, Beck seems to have lost any chance whatsoever to get back into mainstream America like he was just months ago.

Even the event a few days earlier in Caesarea had more umph in it than this one. In fact, he barely even cried in this one. I think he might have been shedding the real tears back stage.

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Glenn Beck calls Israel social protesters ‘communists’

Haaretz reports:

Beck is currently in Israel for a mass rally to “Restore Courage” in Jerusalem.

The conservative pundit, who left Fox News in June of this year, scoffed at the protesters’ list of demands, comparing many of their calls for increased social benefits to those of the former Soviet Union.

When he heard that the protest leaders were calling for higher taxation for the Israeli upper-classes, Beck laughed derisively, saying “ah, hate the rich.”

Beck then went on to suggest that the housing crisis could be solved by simply building up empty land in the West Bank. The right-wing commentator emphasized that the area, biblically referred to as “Judea and Samaria”, is “Judea – like Jews”.

The commentator said that Judea and Samaria is the contested territory’s real name, not the West Bank.

Beck continued to poke holes in the “extreme left” protesters’ demands calling for decreased privatization of health care, free education and an increase in minimum wage.

Beck also insinuated a possible collaboration between socialists and Islamists, pointing out historical instances in which the two movements went hand in hand.

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Capitol Hill’s representatives for Israel

Josh Ruebner writes:

Nearly 20 percent of the constituents of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) live under the poverty line, and nearly 15 percent are unemployed. Jackson’s congressional district, covering parts of the south side of Chicago and its southern suburbs, has been hit harder than many others by the crises plaguing the economy. Many of his constituents are looking at even more cutbacks in social services, higher prices for food and fuel, and ever scarcer jobs.

During this August congressional recess, Rep. Jackson, Jr. should be at home, meeting with constituents and proposing to them how he will help them cope with their difficult circumstances. Instead, the politician is proudly gallivanting around Israel, in one of three separate congressional delegations heading there this month on all-expense-paid junkets organized by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), a so-called charitable affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most influential of the myriad pro-Israel lobbying outfits.

In total, 81 representatives, nearly one-fifth of the entire House, will participate in these jaunts, which, according to The Washington Post, include “a round-trip flight in business class for lawmakers and their spouses (that alone is worth about $8,000), fine hotels and meals, side trips, and transportation and guides.

Of course, these congressional delegations are not all fun and games. Members of Congress will be expected to sing for their lavish dinners by honoring President Bush’s 2007 pledge to provide the Israeli military with $30 billion of tax-payer-funded weapons between 2009 and 2018. So far, proposed increases in military aid to Israel have been spared from the budgetary chopping block by President Obama and a compliant Congress that treats Israeli militarism as more sacrosanct than medical care for seniors. This despite the fact that Israel misuses the funds, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians living under its illegal 44-year military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

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Islamophobia, Zionism and the Norway massacre

In a Washington Post op-ed, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League compared the Islamophobia that led Anders Behring Breivik to massacre 77 innocent people in Norway to the anti-Semitism that resulted in the Holocaust.

Ali Abunimah welcomes the fact that Foxman is echoing what he and many others have pointed out in recent years.

Foxman points the finger – as others have rightly done – at extreme Islamophobic agitators such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, co-founders of “Stop Islamisation of America” – whose hate-filled writings Breivik cited in his manifesto.

So far, Foxman has it right. But then he drops a clue about what really frightens him:

“One bizarre twist to Breivik’s warped worldview was his pro-Zionism – his strongly expressed support for the state of Israel. It is a reminder that we must always be wary of those whose love for the Jewish people is born out of hatred of Muslims or Arabs.”

Who does Foxman think he is kidding? There is nothing “bizarre” about this at all. Indeed Foxman himself has done much to bestow credibility on extremists who have helped popularise the Islamophobic views he now condemns. And he did it all to shore up support for Israel.

After Norway, Foxman may fear that the Islamophobic genie he helped unleash is out of control, and is a dangerous liability for him and for Israel.

Many American Zionists embraced Islamophobic demagoguery after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Their logic was encapsulated in then-Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s notorious assessment that the attacks – which killed almost 3,000 people – would be beneficial for Israel.

Asked what the 9/11 atrocities would mean for US-Israeli relations, Netanyahu told The New York Times, “It’s very good”, before quickly adding, “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy” and would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror”.

In order for Israel and the United States to have the same enemy, the enemy could not just be the Palestinians, who never threatened the United States in any way. It had to be something bigger and even more menacing – and Islam fit the bill. The hyped-up narrative of an all-encompassing Islamic threat allowed Israel to be presented as the bastion of “western” and “Judeo-Christian” civilisation facing down encroaching Muslim barbarity. No audience was more receptive than politically influential, white, right-wing Christian evangelical pastors and their flocks.

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Israel lobby’s evangelical Christian foot soldiers gather in Washington

Haaretz reports:

Over 5000 Christians, mainly Evangelicals, gathered this week at the Convention Center in Washington for the annual conference of the organization CUFI, Christians United For Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Christian Zionist conference via satellite, telling them, “When you support Israel, you don’t have to choose between your interests and your values; you get both.”

The prime minister encouraged the conference attendees to not only think of Israel as an ally of the Unites States, but as indistinguishable from it. “Our enemies think that we are you, and that you are us,” added Netanyahu. “And you know something? They are absolutely right.”

Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren compared the participants’ support of Israel to British military officer Orde Wingate’s training of Jewish paramilitary units before the establishment of the State of Israel. “We thank you for carrying out this vision,” Oren told the CUFI conference participants.

News commentator Glenn Beck worked the audience into a frenzy, decrying the historical persecution of Jews, insisting that Israel cannot cede control over territories it controls, and calling upon the conference attendees to declare that they, too, are Jewish.

“Jews have been chased out of every corner of this planet,” said Beck. “Enough is enough.” Beck said that new states can be established, but not at the expense of other states, and that Israel is historically the ‘Land of the Jews’, implying that Israel should not relinquish control over the West Bank in order to create a State of Palestine.

Beck repeated a refrain that Netanyahu had introduced earlier, appealing to audience members to self-identify as Israelis and Jews themselves. He exhorted, “When we see Israelis not as part of us, but as us, we can move to the next level as human beings,” adding, “Let us declare ‘I am a Jew,’ they cannot kill all of us”.

The conference attendees learned that Pastor John Hagee, the founder of CUFI, would be joining Beck for his planned rally in Jerusalem in August.

Hagee told the audience, many of whom were waving both Israeli and American flags, “We gathered here with one message: Israel today, Israel tomorrow, and Israel forever.” He added, “President Obama is no friend of Israel”.

“The truth is not what you think that it is – it’s what the Bible says”, Hagee proclaimed. “There are two ways to live your life – the Torah way and the wrong way.”

“If the US Administration forces Israel to divide Jerusalem – God will turn his back to the United States of America. The G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is watching America,” Hagee continued. “Mister President, go tell Russia and the Chinese what to do.”

“Iran will soon become nuclear. Our President is waiting for Iran to extend a friendly hand, and it’s not going to happen,” Hagee added. “Mister Ahmadinejad, don’t threaten Israel. What you do to the Jewish people, history proves, will be done to you.”

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Glenn Beck’s magicland

Laurie Winer, Los Angeles Review of Books:

The undisputed high point of Beck’s tenure in Baltimore was an elaborate prank built around a nonexistent theme park. The idea was to run a promotional campaign for the fictional grand opening of the world’s first air-conditioned underground amusement park, called Magicland. According to Beck and Gray, it was being completed just outside Baltimore. During the build-up, the two created an intricate and convincing radio world of theme-park jingles and promotions, which were rolled out in a slow buildup to the nonexistent park’s grand opening… On the day Magicland was supposed to throw open its air-conditioned doors, Beck and Gray took calls from enraged listeners who tried to find the park and failed. Among the disappointed and enraged was a woman who had canceled a no-refund cruise to attend the event. “They never told a soul what they were doing,” says Sean Hall, the B104 newsreader. “People just drove around in circles on the beltway for hours trying to find the place.”
– from Alexander Zaitchik’s Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance

Glenn Beck broadcast his last Fox show yesterday, after two and a half memorable years. In his final week he began with footage of rioting and looting in the streets of Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Cairo. Anyone tuning in for the first time might wonder why these upsetting events evoked in this man only a caustic “I told you so.” As per usual, he played both puppet-master and puppet, performing his repertoire of goofy voices, bobbing, weaving, bringing his plump head right up into the camera. Addressing us as “America,” he jumped maniacally through a familiar list of names: George Soros, Saul Alinksy, Hugo Chavez, Woodrow Wilson; having already drilled into us the monikers of those who got our country into this ungodly mess, he didn’t need to ID them. He warned that any day we might be kneeling before a Caliphate. As always, Beck’s delirium held out the promise that he might, once and for all, completely unravel before our eyes. As a student of all things Beckian, I will miss him. “I watch so you don’t have to,” I tell my family and friends who long ago grew tired of my obsession. I picture myself as the cat sitting in front of a mouse hole while the rest of the house goes about its business. But unlike the cat, once in a while I have to ask myself why. Why, mother of god, am I drawn here, again and again?

¤

This morning, doing “research,” I was entranced by a YouTube clip in which George Stephanopoulos surprises Michele Bachmann with the President’s birth certificate. He whips it out and reads to her: “This copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding.” Bachmann remains eerily composed as she avoids eye contact with the document. “Well, then, that should settle it,” she says, her neck stiff as if in a brace, her pupils pinwheels as she searches for some way to put in the last word. “As long as someone introduces it…it’s what should settle it.” I wondered if Roger Ailes was watching. Please, I thought, someone give this woman a TV show.

¤

Beck’s television career exploded in late 2008. Anticipating the election and looking to boost the numbers for the historically low-rated 5 pm slot, Roger Ailes plucked his new star from CNN’s Headline News, where Beck had doubled his audience in two years. The Glenn Beck Show debuted on Fox in January, 2009, auspiciously the day before Barack Obama’s inauguration. At long last, he had found a target worthy of the unfocused, mischievous, spottily educated sensibility he had displayed as a Baltimore morning zoo DJ and later as a talk show host and “commentator.” Beck was ready for his close-up. To his ever-volatile mix of free-floating rage and shame, he added a new component: a saccharine sensitivity. He became a man who had only to mention how much he loved his country to theatrically choke back and then let flow a flash-flood of tears.

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‘If there wasn’t a Glenn Beck, Israel would have had to invent one’

Ami Kaufman reports on Glenn Beck’s visit to Israel’s Knesset today:

Outside the Negev hall, the atmosphere was like before a rock concert, complete with the pushing and shoving. Most attendees were religious, all the way from knitted kippas to haredim. After we sat down, it was only a few minutes wait till the star came in. Almost immediately the whole room stood up, including the Members of Knesset, and gave the man a standing ovation.

This was only the beginning of the biggest love-fest I’ve ever seen. At times, I was squirming in my chair. Considering how Beck has been accused of anti-semitism, the amount of love was particularly odd. Just recently, pundit Dana Milbank of the Washington Post listed a few of Beck’s feats in this field:

…hosting a guest on his show who describes as “accurate” the anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; likening Reform rabbis to “radicalized Islam”; calling Holocaust survivor George Soros a “puppet master,” a bloodsucker and a Nazi collaborator; touting the work of a Nazi sympathizer who referred to Eisenhower as “Ike the Kike”; and claiming the Jews killed Jesus.

But I guess it takes one to know one, which is why I wasn’t surprised to see Baruch Marzel (the notorious Kahanist and in my humble opinion of of the most dangerous people this country has seen) taking a seat to hear Beck’s sermon.

MK Danny Danon (Likud), the committe chairman, warned the audience not to clap in the Knesset. Yet to no avail. Dannon went on to introduce Beck as “a friend of Israel. If there wasn’t a Glenn Beck, Israel would have had to invent one.”

The first thing Beck did was apologize for not wearing a tie. He proceeded to tell some kind of story about clothes and meeting a vice premier here, where Danon cut in and said: “Which vice? We have many vices,” which is where I said under my breath: ‘You got that right, Danny boy! Many vices indeed!”

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Can Glenn Back save Israel?

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Conservative pundit Glenn Beck will advise MKs [members of the Knesset] on fighting the delegitimization of Israel abroad during a trip to Israel in July.

Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee chair MK Danny Danon (Likud) invited Beck, a Fox News and radio host and an outspoken supporter of Israel, to address the committee on how to recruit friends of Israel in the US to defend Israel’s right to exist.

“When we face an international wave of hatred of Israel and Jews – which is expressed in Facebook pages and films calling for our destruction – it’s good that Israel has talented friends that can contribute to our public-relations efforts,” Danon said.

The Likud MK added that the July 11 committee meeting with Beck will focus on September’s UN General Assembly, where the Palestinian Authority has said it will unilaterally declare statehood.

“September isn’t just a crisis,” Danon explained. “It’s an opportunity to explain to the world that we are not occupying anything.”

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The 9/11 hijackers now defending Ground Zero

The opponents of Park51, the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” have decided that the litmus test for identifying “good Muslims” is to ask them whether they regard Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Andy McCarthy, one of the lead knights in the crusade to stop “the Islamization of America,” strikes the latest blow — this time against a rather guileless Imam Dawoud Kringle. This is how McCarthy recounts the crucial part of his “debate” on the fair-and-balanced Fox News:

Then came the moment of truth: the very simple question, “Is Hamas a terrorist organization?” Have a look at the YouTube clip below. Like his friend Imam Feisal Rauf, Imam Kringle won’t answer the question. I pressed him, pointing out that it is a very simple question. And it is: Quite apart from the fact that Hamas is formally designated as a terrorist organization under U.S. law, Hamas’s own charter makes abundantly clear — indeed, wears like a badge of honor — that Hamas exists solely for the purpose of driving Israel out of Palestine by violent jihad. Yet the imam cannot bring himself to say Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Perhaps Kringle would have held surer footing if he had first addressed the reliability of the US government in identifying terrorists.

It was only two years ago that Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress were removed from the US terrorism watch list — that was 15 years after Mandela had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The terrorism watch list — like the Nobel Peace Prize — is not in and of itself a reliable indicator of someone’s current willingness to use violence in pursuit of a political cause.

Likewise, the fact that in the 1980s the Reagan administration regarded Afghanistan’s mujahideen as “freedom fighters” — not terrorists — had everything to do with who they were fighting (the Soviets) and nothing to do with the methods they employed or the causes those particular jihadists might subsequently espouse.

Terrorism and terrorist — as everyone knew until they suddenly forgot on 9/11 — are mutable designations that more clearly specify the relationship between the designator and the designee than they say much else.

Is Hamas a terrorist organization? As far as the US government is concerned, the answer it yes. It’s on the list. Yet not all organizations listed terrorist are the same — and like most objective foreign policy analysts, the US government like every other government knows this: these organizations are as diverse in their political aims as they are in their geographical distribution.

Hamas has been presented with a set of conditions which, if fulfilled, would allow it to participate in the peace process. In other words, even from the perspective of those governments who currently describe it as a terrorist organization there is an exit ramp for Hamas to shed its “terrorist” label. In contrast, there are no conditions under which any government will enter talks with al Qaeda.

Contrary to what McCarthy and others insinuate, Hamas and al Qaeda are not two peas in the same pod. They are in fact sworn enemies.

But given that so far no one has pointed to any direct connection between Park51 and Hamas, one has to wonder why those affiliated with the proposed Islamic center are being asked their views on the Palestinian movement?

The answer has much less to do with Park51 than it does with the myth that America’s interests are indistinguishable from those of Israel.

Whether McCarthy describes himself as a Zionist, he is certainly pushing a Zionist agenda when he claims: “Hamas exists solely for the purpose of driving Israel out of Palestine by violent jihad.”

In fact, Hamas’ leadership has explicitly supported the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders if Israel ends the occupation. But this politically pragmatic position is one that McCarthy and his ilk refuse to acknowledge because it conflicts with a narrative that pits Israel and its allies against an ideologically unyielding and anti-Semitic foe. Characterize the conflict that way and there is no compromise a peace-loving Israel could make which would satisfy its enemies.

Indeed, elsewhere McCarthy has made it clear that he subscribes to the right-wing Zionist school of thought which sees a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as contingent solely on the ability of Israel to crush its opponent.

As he wrote during the war on Gaza: “What Israel needs is to be allowed to win: to finish the grisly work of ‘breaking the will of the Palestinians, of Hamas, to continue to fire at Israel,’ as Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit so aptly put it.”

As for Palestinian national aspirations in general, McCarthy says: “On the political front, it is high time to acknowledge the failure of the fantasy that the Palestinians are legitimate actors worthy of statehood and its privileges.” He says: “we must halt the mindless ‘two state solution’ rhetoric.” Scorning those who he calls “democracy devotees,” McCarthy says: “Let’s be blunt: we are looking at a generation or more before the Palestinians might be prepared to assume the obligations of sovereignty. So we should stop talking about it.”

Daniel Luban in an article in which he describes Islamophobia as the “new anti-Semitism,” notes the central role that McCarthy has assumed as an ideologue now marshaling opposition to Islam in America.

The mosque furor is only the most recent and revealing demonstration of the anti-jihadists’ political influence; from the beginning of the controversy, McCarthy and his allies have dictated the terms of debate on the right. In his July 28 statement attacking the Islamic center, Newt Gingrich cited [McCarthy's book] The Grand Jihad and framed the controversy in McCarthy’s terms of Western civilization under siege from creeping sharia. More recently, the American Family Association — a leading fundamentalist Christian group — cited the book to argue that no more mosques should be built anywhere in the United States because “each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.” A campaign spearheaded by Pamela Geller, the right-wing blogger who was previously most notorious for publishing a lengthy piece alleging that Obama is the illegitimate child of Malcolm X, will place ads on New York City buses opposing the Islamic center. On September 11, she and Gingrich will lead a major rally against the center that will also feature [Geert] Wilders, the Islamophobic Dutch politician. What was once a lunatic fringe now appears to be running the show, aided and abetted by mainstream figures like Gingrich.

It is quite possible that the next Republican president will also be a party to what can justly be called the new McCarthyism; for that reason alone, McCarthy and his allies deserve our attention. But even more important is the impact of this steady stream of anti-Muslim vitriol on the popular consciousness. Cynical politicians like Gingrich may know that all the talk of the Islamic center as a “9/11 victory monument” and of ordinary Muslims as stealth sharia operatives is mere agitprop designed to win votes in an election year, but ordinary citizens may take them at their word and act accordingly.

Given that McCarthy and his cohorts want to associate Park51 with Hamas, it’s worth considering what Hamas has to say about the plans for the Islamic center.

In an interview on New York’s WABC radio (audio can be heard here), Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas who is in the Gaza political leadership, was asked by Aaron Klein to comment on the construction of the center.

Without addressing the question directly, Zahar chose to respond by pointing out that Muslims in America are like Muslims elsewhere, living in accordance with Islam, fasting (during Ramadan), praying and so forth. He then went on to say that Hamas is being misrepresented by those who would liken it to the Taliban and that it is recognized across the Islamic world as a moderate organization.

Klein, however, wanted to focus on the mosque controversy and returned to that question:

Klein: What do you think about the new initiative to build a mosque near the World Trade Center in New York, which is a major point of controversy on all sides?

Zahar: We have to build the mosque as you are allowed to build the church and the Israeli are building their holy places. We have to build everywhere — in every area we have muslims, we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer especially for the people when they are looking to be in the group — not individual.

Muslims should be allowed to worship in mosques, just like Christians going to church and Jews going to the synagogue.

Not much controversy there, right?

Well, the New York Post seemed eager to pour fuel on the fire by inserting a few words implying that Hamas (and Muslims in general) are engaged in territorial expansion.

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.

“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.

“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.

Zahar actually said, “In every area we have Muslims, we have to pray,” which is to say, wherever Muslims live they have a religious obligation to gather for prayer and they do this in mosques.

The New York Post twisted this into: “In every area we have, [as] Muslims[s], we have to pray,” which conjures up a completely different picture. Lower Manhattan is now an area that Muslims claim as their own — at least the New York Post appears to want to promote this lie.

Those who now man the barricades in response to what they call the Islamization of America, reveal in the shadow of their fears the scope of their ambitions.

On 9/11, four groups of hijackers took control of four aircraft resulting in the horrific deaths of 3,000 people. The same day, another group of hijackers took control of the aftermath of the attacks and began a war in which hundreds of thousands have died and millions been displaced. The campaign of those hijackers continues and Park51 is merely its latest target.

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