by Bill Berkowitz
May 31, 2003
05.14.03 - "The ties between Christian fundamentalism in the United States and Jewish fundamentalism in Israel are growing rapidly, with potentially serious consequences for U.S.-Middle East policy and for the people of that troubled region."
-- Allan C. Brownfeld, "Some Fundamentalists Ache for Armageddon," The Orange County Register, May 19, 1987
"Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday rejected any talk of dismantling Jewish settlements in the foreseeable future despite U.S. calls for conciliatory gestures to advance a new Middle East peace plan."
-- Reuters, May 13, 2003
"The U. S. State Department is telling Israel, 'The Road Map will be your Bible.' But Israel should respond, 'The Bible will be OUR ROAD MAP!'"
-- Mike Evans, Jerusalem Prayer Team
In late March, President Bush invited more than 140 evangelical Christian leaders to the White House for a "private briefing" on the war with Iraq and other matters, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank reported nearly a month later. Given the surge of Christian Zionism in the U.S., will the President be extending another invitation to these leaders? If America's fundamentalist Christians have their druthers, they'll be holding a road-map-burning in the near future and President Bush's Middle East peace plan will melt away like last year's Hanukah candles.
Last weekend, Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to begin a new round of talks about the new Middle East peace plan that would ostensibly lead to a Palestinian state by 2005. While Powell was in the Middle East, a group of hard-core pro-Israel/anti-Palestinian homeland right-wingers was putting the finishing touches on plans for an Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit, scheduled for this coming weekend (May 17-18) at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The aim of the Summit is to stake out a firm position against the Road Map plan for Middle East peace -- a plan stitched together by what's being called the Quartet, a group consisting of the Bush Administration, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
Sponsored by Zionist House (a Boston-based group founded in the late 1940s) with the National Unity Coalition for Israel, the Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit is co-sponsored by a number of predominantly Christian-based groups that includes Americans for a Safe Israel, American Values, Apostolic Congress, Battalion of Deborah, Bridges for Peace, Christian Broadcasting Network, Christian Coalition of America, Christian Friends of Israel, Christians Israel Public Action Campaign, Christians for Israel-U.S., Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, Episcopal-Jewish Alliance, FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East), Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, Friends of Israel, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Jewish Action Alliance, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, PRO ISRAEL, Religious Roundtable, and the Zionist Organization of America.
The Summit makes no bones about its objectives: Kill the President's Middle East peace plan by any means necessary. The Action Alert invites participants to: "Come if you are ready for action: 1) To oppose rewarding murderous Palestinian terrorism with statehood -- mocking our own war on terror and ultimately encouraging renewed Arab aggression against an Israel made invitingly vulnerable; 2) To expose how President Bush's stated policy of June 24, 2002 specifying essential pre-conditions for support of Palestinian statehood has been seriously undermined, eroding America's credibility and debasing our enduring national interest; 3) To lay bare the inherent absurdity of our State Department promoting a Road Map to Arab-Israeli "Peace" from a Quartet whose other three members -- Russia, the E.U. (France and Germany) and the U.N. -- repeatedly disparage U.S. interests and are demonstrably hostile to Israel; 4) To document the responsibility of Iran, Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia for supporting Islamic terrorism; 5) To combat media ignorance and bias in Middle East coverage and virulent Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic agitation on campus; and 6) To solidify and chart future strategy for the emerging alliance of Jewish and Christian Zionists."
Some of the Christian and secular Right's hottest war on terrorism all-stars will speak, including Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, Michael Ledeen from the American Enterprise Institute, author of "The War Against the Terror Masters," and the ubiquitous Daniel Pipes, from the Middle East Forum. Gary Bauer, of American Values, Roberta Combs, the President, Christian Coalition, Ed McAteer of the Religious Roundtable, and Janet Parshall, host of Janet Parshall's America are among those representing the religious right.
To better understand the virulent anti-Palestinian mindset of Summit attendees, here are several excerpts from the observations of Don Feder, a syndicated columnist and radio talk show host who is the Summit's Coordinator. In a recent piece in the Unification Church-owned Insight magazine (May 27), Feder writes that under the conditions laid out by the Road Map "a Palestinian state would still be the grave of Israel."
Feder: "President Bush says he wants to bring democracy to the Middle East. If he's serious about creating a Palestinian state, he will end up destroying the only democracy in the Middle East -- Israel.
"The obstacle to peace in the region isn't the 'plight' of the Palestinians or their lack of a state -- it's Arab revanchism coupled with Islamic fundamentalism. The idea of a sovereign Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East is intolerable to devout Moslems and Arab nationalists alike -- a sacrilege to the former and a mortal affront to the latter.
"You will not find a more unlikely candidate for democracy than Arab Moslems. There is a reason why, among the 22 nations of the Arab world, not one even approaches popular rule -- why they consistently produce leaders like Nasser, Assad (father and son), Khomeini, Khadafy, Arafat, Saddam and bin Laden.
"Nor is there a religion less likely to co-exist with other faiths than Islam. From Nigeria, to Egypt, to the Balkans, to Pakistan, the Kashmir and the Philippines, Islam is at war with Christians, Hindus and Jews. The idea that a Palestinian state will be the sole exception to what historian Samuel Huntington calls 'Islam's bloody borders' goes beyond wishful thinking.
"A Palestinian state would make a mockery of our own war on terror, reward the terror masters and create another Iraq on the borders of our only reliable ally in the region. The only peace it would bring to Israel is the peace of the grave."
In early May, Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon came to the U.S. and lobbied Congress and Christian fundamentalists. He also brought along his peace plan. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Elon calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state -- but not in the Occupied Territories. In a statement Elon said: "Our stay in Judea and Samaria is not temporary." (Judea and Samaria are ancient Jewish names for the occupied West Bank).
Elon: "It's clear that Islam is on the way to disappearing. What we are now seeing across the Muslim world is not a powerful surge of faith but the dying embers of Islam. How will it disappear? Very simply. Within a few years a Christian crusade against Islam will be launched, which will be the major event of this millennium. Obviously, we will be up against quite a large problem when only the two great religions of Judaism and Christianity remain, but that's still a long way off."
Besides the Summit, there's a lot of anti-Road Map agitation on the Internet: Petitions.com is circulating a letter to President Bush and all members of Congress opposing "the creation of a second Palestinian-Arab (Jordan is 70% Palestinian and the land assigned to them by the British Mandate) state in Yesha (Judea, Samaria, and Gaza) within Israel's borders." And Right Wing News recently hosted a “Blogger Symposium On The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict."
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.