Author’s note: This piece, a response to a factually inaccurate and bigoted op-ed published by the Huffington Post, was originally submitted to that website, but the Huffington Post declined to publish our response. The only explanation offered by the site’s Senior Blog Editor, Stuart Whatley, was “Though it’s a response to another contributor on the site, this one’s just not for us.” As of this posting, Whatley has not responded to a request for further explanation.
The hallmark of prejudice is judging a diverse group of people by one’s preconceived notion of them, rather by what they actually say and do. In the mind of the bigot, all actual diversity is ignored in the service of his notions of monolithic conformity. All shades of gray are painted black. Human beings become cogs in an engine that drives ever faster towards the bigot’s nightmare.
Today, such bigotry is unacceptable when it comes to African Americans, Jews, Muslims, etc. But it somehow remains acceptable — even laudable — when applied to evangelical Christians. Those of you tempted to dismiss talk of anti-Christian bigotry must read Miguel Espinoza’s July 25th article attacking Christian Zionism. Replace “Christian Zionist” with “Jewish Zionist” and you have what all would agree is an unacceptable example of prejudice. Leave in “Christian Zionist,” and you have a big lie that passes as gospel truth to far too many people who should know better.
For starters, Espinoza tells us that “Christian Zionists believe the Bible altogether precludes the formation of two-states” i.e. a Jewish state living next to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. This stance, he writes, puts Christian Zionists “at odds” with all who support the two-state solution. He adds that this “opposition to the two-state solution remains theologically steadfast.”
From the above you might conclude that the leading Christian Zionist organization (and the only such organization Espinoza mentions) — Christians United for Israel (“CUFI”) — is working to oppose a two-state solution with all of our strength and might. How could one conclude otherwise?
But here’s where reality challenges stereotype. The fact is that CUFI has a clear policy on the issue of land for peace: we support the position of the democratically elected government of Israel. We believe that only the Israelis — those who bear the burdens and face the risks — have the right to decide Israeli policy on the life-and-death issues of land, peace, war and security.
When Ehud Olmert was actively pursuing a two-state solution with Mahmoud Abbas, we didn’t oppose him. We simply told him that we support his country and his people. When Binyamin Netanyahu came out in support of a two-state solution, we didn’t critique him. We simply reiterated our support for the nation and people of Israel.
Espinoza cites no examples of CUFI actions to oppose a two-state solution because there are none. When it comes to land-for-peace, we’ve only weighed in to oppose outside pressure on Israel — from either side of the political spectrum — as she seeks to navigate treacherous waters. Had Espinoza done his homework, he could have found an extensive list of CUFI actions alerts and articles (for example: 1, 2, 3) documenting this fact. But why do homework when prejudice is so much easier?
To add insult to injury, Espinoza does not stop with his caricature of Christian behavior in the political realm. He proceeds to trot out the oldest and most offensive of myths about Christian Zionists and Christians in general: that Christian theology about the end of days — Christian eschatology — should somehow offend Jews. “For the Jewish community” he writes, “this theology presents one major problem: to gain eternal life, they must accept Jesus as Messiah.”
We Jews and Christians who labor together in support of Israel have a saying. When the Messiah comes, we’ll ask him, “Sir, is this your first of second visit.” Depending on His answer, one faith community will have a whole lot of adjusting to do. Our Christian friends believe that the Messiah will answer that his name is Jesus, and that this is His second visit. Our Jewish friends believe that He will answer that it’s His first visit to earth. In other words — hold on to your hats folks — Christians believe in Christian eschatology and Jews believe in Jewish eschatology! Why should either of these beliefs be offensive to the other? When it comes to this difference, we simply agree to disagree.
The Huffington Post aims to be a serious news site. Towards this end, it should seek to rise above the kind of petty bigotry and conspiracy theories that its writers so rightly criticize when propounded by others. Those of us who worry about the future of Israel and the Middle East have enough real differences to debate and overcome. Can we please leave the prejudice behind?
David Brog, the executive director of Christians United for Israel, is the author of Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State (Frontline 2006).