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Glenn Beck's Absurd Jerusalem Rally: Why Religious Conservatives Are Obsessed With Israel

Beck's newfound adoration for Israel may seem comical, but it represents a convergence of right-wing ideologies that is in fact quite dangerous.
 
 
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Conservative huckster Glenn Beck is packing up his white board and floppy clown shoes and heading to Jerusalem, where he hopes to inspire the world to join him in scuttling any hope of a two-state solution to the 60-year-old Israel-Palestine conflict.

Of late, Beck has been making some mention of Israel on his show every day. He just returned from a “fact-finding” trip to the Holy Land, he's reportedly making a movie about the Jewish state, and this week he announced that he'll be holding a “restoring courage” rally in Jerusalem this summer, where he hopes his legion of devoted fans will take few days out of their retirements to join him.

Beck “thinks disaster is imminent for Israel, because of a 'two state solution that cuts off Jerusalem' from the world.” "God is involved in man's affairs, but so is the force of darkness," he continued. "I believe I've been asked to stand in Jerusalem. Many in the history of man have had the opportunity to stand with the Jewish people...and they have failed."

But Beck will succeed, because what the Middle East really needs is more slavish tribalism.

It's the stuff of comedy – Loathsome American Protagonist Saves the Holy Land! – but Beck's newfound adoration for Israel represents a convergence of right-wing ideologies that is in fact quite dangerous. Beck's trying to turn an audience of very low-information viewers into hawkish “pro-Israel” hardliners who will "stand with Israel" even against long-standing US foreign policy -- they'll support more settlements and oppose the "roadmap" if their beloved leader tells them to. And the region already has ample rejectionists on both sides.

In one sense, Beck is trying to undo some of the damage after his relentless, anti-Semitic-tinged attacks on George Soros were condemned by observers across the political spectrum. As Anthea Butler noted, Beck's “obsessions with Jews, from his attacks on George Soros, to his statement that Reform Judaism was like radical Islam, have brought the religious huckster condemnation and scorn,” and he now “wants to prove himself a true 'friend' of Israel with this rally.”

But Beck is also jumping on what has become an almost fetishistic “support” for Israel among much of the American Right in recent years. This is generally ascribed to conservative evangelists' end-times theology, and indeed Beck is going to be the keynote speaker for this year's Christians United for Israel (CUFI) summit in Washington, DC. CUFI is the brainchild of televangelist John Hagee, who has emerged as the most visible face of the conservative Christian faction of the “Israel lobby.”

Beck is a Mormon, and as Joanna Brooks wrote at Religion Dispatches, “Mormons may diverge from Hagee on some details of the last days (Mormon theology is usually characterized as premillenialist) but we do read the Book of Revelation.”

And in Mormon end-times scenarios, we don't call them "witnesses": they are described as apostles, or even prophets. Invading armies of Gentiles bent on the destruction of Israel will kill the two apostles, and their murdered bodies will lie dead in the streets of Jerusalem for three days without a decent burial. And then the Mount of Olives will split open. And then Jesus will return. That’s how Beck's guru, the LDS ultra-conservative Cleon Skousen described it in 1972.

But appeals to the rapture-ready don't tell the whole story. According to years of opinion polls, Americans don't follow foreign affairs closely (three years after our invasion of Iraq, two-thirds of young people couldn't find the country on a map), yet Gallup tells us the partisan gap between Americans whose sympathies rest with the Israelis or the Palestinians is at an all-time high.

 
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