The sight of evangelical Christian Sarah Palin wearing a very large Star of David pendant was a bit unusual, but Israelis have gotten used to the quadrennial spectacle of American presidential candidates using vows of support for Israel to garner Jewish American votes. They understand that no matter what the candidates say, there will probably be little change in policy from what has gone before. America has invested too much money and international political capital over the past 63 years to do anything radical with a new administration. We have had too many administrations working for peace and a two state solution to jump ship at this point. So, Israelis read and listen to our candidates and respond with something between a yawn and a chuckle.
And then came Newt…..
Newt Gingrich has been making headlines all weekend with his insulting, demonizing, condescending remarks about the Palestinians. He has enraged the Palestinian people. He has surprised most Israelis who are not accustomed to such vehemence from an American politician. He has even enraged some American Jews and Israelis who understand the consequences of words in this seemingly eternal conflict. Thing is – his words are not intended for America’s Jewish population. He used Jewish Radio to deliver his first salvo, but with an understanding that those words would be spread throughout the media.
There is a group of people in America who are more fanatical about Israel than Jews – end-time evangelical Christians. They are so far out there that Israel was doing religious background checks on people seeking to enter Israel for the Millennium celebration. They were afraid that, in order to bring about the end times, Rapture-addicts would do something to provoke armed conflict in or around Mount Megiddo, the historical site associated with the Battle of Armageddon. It sits less than five mile northwest of the border between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank.
But actively espousing the end-times theology tends to cost candidates general support. It has not helped Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry. And Gingrich is a Catholic. Catholicism doesn’t even believe in the Book of Revelations. In my Catholic Bible, there is a ¾ page-long disclaimer before the Book, explaining apocalyptic writings and the times in which that Book was written.
Taking a position that supports the Revisionist Zionists who insist that Israel alone has a right to all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River plays more to end-time American Christians than to Israelis and American Jews. Gingrich has scored massive points with the farthest right wing of the Christian right, negating the discomfort that voting bloc has with Newt’s personal life and his Catholicism, and done so without putting off mainstream Christians. He has also played to the extreme anti-Muslim contingent in the right wing. You’ll find them on the comment streams of any news story about a Muslim country – all those people who want us to nuke three billion Muslims and don’t understand what would happen to this planet if we dropped nuclear bombs on practically every country from Morocco to Indonesia. Gingrich has just become the hero of the fanatics who call Allah a monkey god, Mohammed a pedophile and all Muslims genocidal barbarians determined to restore the Caliphate. You know, the Glenn Beck crowd.
What most of us are viewing as a mistake can in actuality be a very positive thing for Gingrich. Jews represent around 1% of the adult American population. Though they are an important constituency in some cities or states, those are not the states that will determine the Republican nomination.
Instead of Palestinians condemning Newt’s statements, it would probably play better if the Pope condemned it – and Newt.