While few deny that Israel is feeling politically isolated these days, it is no pariah state. And it certainly isn’t time for its supporters to suspend all judgment out of gratitude to those who treat it well.
In August, TV and radio pundit Glenn Beck plans to stage a rally in Israel, with a guest list that currently includes more high-level “invitees” than guests. According to his website, the “Restoring Courage” rally in Jerusalem is an opportunity to “courageously stand with Israel.” Beck’s rally is of a piece with a series of strongly pro-Israel statements he has made in the past, earning him the thanks of Jewish leaders and lay people alike.
And yet there is a troubling side to Beck, who, for all his pro-Israel sentiments, seems tone deaf to the historically sinister messages he has trafficked in. The Washington Post’s Dana Millbank listed some of those episodes recently: “hosting a guest on his show who describes as ‘accurate’ the anti-Semitic tract ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’; likening Reform rabbis to ‘radicalized Islam’; calling Holocaust survivor George Soros a ‘puppet master,’ a bloodsucker, and a Nazi collaborator; touting the work of a Nazi sympathizer who referred to Eisenhower as ‘Ike the Kike’; and claiming the Jews killed Jesus.”
These are odd and complicated allegations. Beck is by nature a provocateur and often employs rhetoric intended to rile his opponents. Where some smell anti-Semitism, others see a populist or demagogue who either forgets or doesn’t pay attention to historic precedent.
In general, Beck embodies a dispiriting trend in American political rhetoric. For all his talk of bringing people of all faiths together, he has demonized his political opponents and denigrated average people who disagree with him. In some ways, his support for Israel is a two-edged sword: certainly welcome, but dulled by his gift for divisiveness.
We’re glad Glenn Beck is a friend of Israel and only hope that other influentials follow suit. But that doesn’t mean we are not going to hold him, or any supporter of Israel, responsible for their words and actions. Anything less would show a lack of courage.