Hurray for the Times. On Tuesday it carried a profile of John McCain's friend, the Rev. John Hagee, that pointed up his maximalist position re the West Bank as Israeli territory forever and quoted Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Union for Reform Judaism, saying that these views were "extremist" and would plunge Israel into unending violence and international isolation. (Gosh, I thought we were there already...)
Today's Times prints a letter supporting Hagee from several leaders of the Daughters of the American Revolution--sorry, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations--including media baron Mort Zuckerman, Giants/Loews owner James Tisch, and Skadden, Arps powerhouse Ken Bialkin. The letter is short and to the point:
Pastor Hagee has been a true friend of Israel for many years. Christians United for Israel is among the strongest supporters of Israel in the United States.
This exchange is highly meaningful for a number of reasons:
1. The fat's in the fire. A few weeks ago I blogged about Fresh Air's Terry Gross and guest Steven Waldman of beliefnet talking all about religion in politics, including the repulsive Hagee, and completely ignoring the issue of Jews and Israel in the campaign. The Times story will hopefully get us past this type of charade. Yes, for many paragraphs it describes Hagee's views on the standard evangelical Christian bile, like gay rights, but as I have argued repeatedly here, these issues are largely passe. Huckabee's gone. McCain doesn't care about abortion. The religious right is growing up, some of them are even biblical treehuggers now. And the national consensus is only solidifying in favor of Terry Gross's social agenda, which I share. Which means that at last the divisions over Israel will come to the surface.
2. The fat's in the fire. I wish I had Mort's telephone number. There is a war now between him and Eric Yoffie, as there should be. There is a war between the traditional Israel lobby and the new alternative lobby, between those who secretly are for a Greater Israel and have sabotaged Palestinian statehood for 60 years because those degraded human beings are not worthy of self-determination, they will only kill us, and those who have an enlightened view of Arab humanity. Take your sides! As lukewarm as I am on the two-state solution, it doesn't matter, this is journalistically rivetting: this is at last the clarion call to American Jews to divide publicly. Look at it this way: The '67 War galvanized young Doug Feith to write to the New York Times to defend the Sinai occupation, galvanized young Gershom Gorenberg to move to Israel, galvanized young M.J. Rosenberg, an anti-Vietnam war activist, to take up the Israeli cause, and young Tom Friedman to lecture his school about Israel's security needs. Those boys would have been in the same club back then. The fight over Hagee is a call on American Jews who support Israel to choose Gorenberg and Rosenberg, who see the Arabs as human beings without a voice in American politics, or Friedman and Feith, parochialists, champions of the Iraq war. This is a great moment in American Jewish history. (Steve Waldman is a friend of mine; will you cover this on beliefnet?)
3. The fat's in the fire. Not just Jews, all Americans will at last be asked to take sides. In the general election, it will be Rev. Wright versus Rev. Hagee. Whose side are you on re Palestinian self-determination?