Steve Hochstadt
My Journal Courier (Opinion)
October 4, 2011 - 12:00am

Some people think Jews are supposed to be smart.

A Mitt Romney fundraiser said in August that some Jews are so dumb they think Michele Bachmann, the fundamentalist Christian Republican raised in Iowa, is “the Jewish candidate.” He complained: “It’s a real problem. We’re working very hard in the Jewish community because of Obama’s Israel problem. This was surprising.”

So surprising that in one day the story spread across the world, from the New York Post to Fox News to the London Daily Mail to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Then a few skeptical people decided to check it out. Nobody could find a Jewish voter who believed Bachmann was Jewish, although New York magazine did encounter a Jewish scientist who likes Bachmann because the Democratic Party is “destroying our free society and pushing the U.S. on the road to widespread misery and eventual dictatorship.”

Even he knew Bachmann wasn’t Jewish.

This clumsy attempt by Romney’s campaign to use alleged Jewish gullibility to knock his opponent isn’t about Jews at all. It is part of a larger effort by conservative Republicans to use Jews to win Christian votes.

Every candidate argues that they are better for Israel, and thus better for American Jews, than the rest. What is unusual now is that all the Republican candidates for President say our President and his administration are deliberately bad for Israel. In May, Romney said, “President Obama threw Israel under the bus,” and the next day Herman Cain repeated it.

The Republican candidates have no plan to solve the world’s most dangerous crisis. They don’t even propose policies. Perry, Romney, Cain and the other conservative Republican politicians are not advocating any peace process nor seeking Jewish votes; they are appealing to fundamentalist Christians, for whom Israel has become a religious obsession.

They support the most fanatical settler organizations, who plan to make war forever with the Palestinians. In September, Rick Perry explained why he advocates continued Israeli building of settlements on the West Bank: “I also, as a Christian, have a clear directive to support Israel, so from my perspective it's pretty easy.” That “directive” comes right out of fundamentalist end-of-the-world dogma. For the Rapture they eagerly await, Jews must return to the Holy Land before the worldwide disaster of Armageddon breaks out.

According to a June poll by the Pew Center, about half of evangelical leaders across the world believe that establishment of the state of Israel was a crucial step on the path to Jesus' second coming and that Jesus will return in their lifetime.

The most vocal conservative Christian supporter of Israel is John Hagee, pastor of a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, and founder of Christians United for Israel. Although John McCain rejected his endorsement in 2008, appearing arm-in-arm with Hagee seems to be a requirement for today’s Republican presidential candidates. Hagee is so concerned about the safety of Israelis that he proposed a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran at Christians United for Israel’s Washington conference in 2007.

And what does Hagee think about Jews? In his 2006 book “Jerusalem Countdown,” he wrote:

“It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God's chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day. ...

Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of antisemitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come. ... it rises from the judgment of God upon his rebellious chosen people.”

Antisemitism is the Jews’ own fault, for rejecting Jesus, exactly what Christian antisemites have been saying for 2,000 years. Hagee said in a sermon in 2005 that Hitler and the Nazis were divine agents sent by God to chase Europe's Jews toward Palestine.

With friends like Hagee, who needs enemies?

Peace in the Middle East is not the goal of Christians United for Israel and other fundamentalist Christian organizations who focus on Israel. They are looking forward to Armageddon.

The peace process, or lack of it, in the Middle East concerns all Americans. Both of our unending wars come out of the international tensions which focus on the borders of Israel.

Only a minority of the young men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan were Jewish. Only a fraction of the billions of tax dollars we have spent fighting in Asia for the past 10 years came from Jewish households. Decisions about American policy toward Israel are not a matter for just Jews to be concerned about.

The only way that we as Americans can influence the state of terror alert under which we live every day is to elect the government which has the best ideas about how to find a solution to the state of mostly cold, but sometimes hot, war in the Holy Land.

Just as Hagee and his Republican followers hope, standing with the settlers could bring on Armageddon.

You had better hope you are in the elect.

Steve Hochstadt of Jacksonville is a professor of history at Illinois College. His column appears every Tuesday in the Journal-Courier and is available and on his blog at


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