Friday, July 17, 2015

The Tiger is Getting Hungry

Winston Churchill had a famous line about despots who ride about "on tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry." I've often thought the same about the relationship between the Jewish pro-Israel establishment and conservative "Christian Zionist" organizations like Christians United for Israel (CUFI). This article on the Forward, detailing CUFI's newfound willingness to flex its political muscle in defiance of traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC, is a case in point.

CUFI has no interest in the bipartisan political strategy of the traditional pro-Israel groups -- it is a conservative right-wing outlet and wants "pro-Israel" to be thought of and take the form of a conservative, right-wing movement. To this end, it has adopted policy positions long thought of as an anathema to the pro-Israel community. The most obvious representation of this is CUFI's position on a one-state solution, where they basically mimic the stance of Jewish Voice for Peace: technically neutral, but functionally all in favor. But unlike fringe groups like the JVP who can be easily dismissed as non-players, groups like CUFI have heft to them. And the mainstream pro-Israel community therefore has not given them the pariah treatment -- even though one-stateism is supposed to be a redline issue that demarcates the borderline of "pro-Israel."

In addition to the substantive objections to this approach, it carries with it a more practical problem as well: it functionally represents the sidelining of the Jewish community from their position as leaders of the pro-Israel community. Groups like CUFI want to assert conservative Christian control over the narrative, and that necessarily means that Jews -- mostly liberal, mostly Democratic, mostly pro-two-states -- will be shunted aside.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that the mainline Jewish organizations brought upon themselves. They were happy to accept "support" from right-wing groups that had no interests in listening to Jewish perspectives and no interest in preserving the status quo where Jews took the lead in constructing the narrative of pro-Israel. They rode the tiger, allowing to gain more and more power until it became too dangerous to dismount it. At that point, its the tiger which calls the shots. And the old guard forced to hang on is little more than a figurehead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you see this recent news item about Sheldon Adelson appointing David Berg, executive director of Christians United for Israel, as head of this new Campus Maccabees initiative?

It's interesting because while it represents someone closely involved with CU heading up a pro-Israel, ostensibly Jewish, foundation, actually Berg is himself Jewish. I think there are layers within layers here that your post isn't really addressing. How involved are right-wing Jews in the pro-Israel Christian community?