The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
The American people have once again demonstrated that they are the most glorious on earth.
The entire world ganged up on them to dump a moral president whose signature issue was a belief that people have a right to be free. Europe mobilized its millions in the streets to show their hatred of this man and his ideals. The UN frowned at his speeches and treated him with contempt. Hollywood and the recording industry unleashed its superstars to prevail upon the American people that they dare not reelect a monster. And Osama bin Laden released a video tape informing individual states that if they voted against Bush they would be free from terrorist attack.
In the end, even American Jews abandoned this steadfast friend of Israel and gave John Kerry 75 percent of their votes.
Never in the history of the United States has more pressure been brought to bear on the American electorate to dump a leader whose values the world so loathed. But in the end, not the glamour of Hollywood, nor the threats of terrorists, nor the alienation of Europe, nor the condescension of the UN, could break the American people’s commitment to a moral presidency.
With all the pressure in the world to become like the rest of the world – overlooking genocide and making deals with tyrants – the American people voted to retain a faith-based presidency, even if it meant going it alone. Exit polls showed that morality, even more than security, was the single biggest issue animating American voters.
The rise of the moral voter is an earthquake that has forever changed the American political landscape. Who would ever have seriously believed that morality would be the single biggest consideration for politicians? But there it is. Gone are the days when politicians can seek office merely by pandering to voters by promising them jobs, health care, and pork. Now, politicians who want to connect with the electorate will be forced to articulate a powerful moral vision of something worth fighting for. Bush did this with his constant focus on the fight for human freedom and his pledge to protect the family.
This election was never really about Bush, Kerry, or even Iraq. Nor was it a referendum on conservative verses liberal. Rather, it was a challenge to the very notion of whether faith-as-policy had any place in a modern, technologically-advanced republic. And the victory was not for a man and his followers but for a belief in right and wrong and how religious conviction must be first translated into protecting human life through a fight against tyranny and state-sponsored murder.
Those Bush supporters who gloat over the blow inflicted on Bush’s opponents betray an arrogance which in turn betrays a lack of commitment to moral principles, thereby eroding the cause for which the victory was sought. Michael Moore and Al Gore can rant all they like that Bush is a religious fraud, that he went into Iraq for oil and power rather than security and humanitarian concerns. Why vindicate their meanspiritedness with a meanspiritedness of our own? Why trivialize a moral victory by making it a personal victory?
Right and wrong does not belong to President Bush or any of the people who voted for him, but is rather the eternal inheritance of all of God’s children, and in that sense, even those who voted against Bushshare in his victory.
I am well aware that many Americans approach the increasing religiosity and moral commitment of the body politic with foreboding. They fear a theocracy that will be oppressive and infringe upon their rights. It is for Bush supporters to refute this unjust fear by demonstrating not only magnanimity in victory but a deep commitment to harmony and unity.
In behaving modestly in victory, Bush’s supporters have no better example than President Bush himself. Many things have impressed me about this president over the past few years, but perhaps none more so than his refusal to respond in kind to those who called him a liar and compared him to Hitler. Here was the most powerful man on earth who consistently ignored the savage attacks on his character and instead went humbly on with his work. The American people have rewarded this humility with a considerable mandate which I trust he will continue to use over the next four years to fight evil and pursue justice.
Israel Can Learn From America
Although they have become the most hated nation on earth for doing so, Americans chose another four years of a faith-based presidency and were happy to continue with their pariah president, even if that meant being rejected by the international community for their commitment to a moral foreign policy.
If only Israelis would follow their close ally’s example and behave more like a chosen nation themselves. Unfortunately, the United States and Israel could not be headed in more different directions.
President Bush’s stunning victory was a mandate from the people for a more moral nation. The contrast with Israel could not be more stark; an Israeli prime minister speaking about God is the certain kiss of electoral death.
Most Americans would find it shocking that the political leaders of the Jewish nation, who gifted the Creator to the world, would never consider mentioning G-d for fear of alienating a majority secular electorate who are deeply distrustful of faith. In this respect, Israeli leaders are more like European leaders who are about as likely to invoke the name of God as they are the name of Zeus.
Then there is the fact that the majority of Americans just don’t care about being cut off from the rest of the world. In this election the American people made a resounding judgment: If America is right and the world is wrong, we will show them our contempt.
John Kerry’s central campaign platform was the need to rebuild frayed alliances with Europe and the UN that he said were damaged by Bush administration “arrogance.” In the end, Americans decided that their strength lay not in being popular but in being moral. An America that finds Europe and the UN arrogant, dishonorable, and condescending is content to live in splendid isolation. Kofi Annan can stick up for Saddam, and Jacques Chirac can visit Arafat in the hospital. We’d rather not be invited to that party.
Yet Israel continues to grovel before the Europeans for acceptance and has always been a supplicant for UN approval. I am well aware of the old argument, that America is a superpower that can go it alone but Israel is a tiny country in need of friends.
But that argument is unpersuasive, first because Israel has a phenomenal friend in the United States and can easily be strong and secure with that friendship alone. And second, because Israelis should have learned by now that no matter how many concessions they make to the Arabs, they will forever be rejected by the international community in favor of the Palestinians.
Since that is the case, better to build your walls, protect your people, and proclaim your contempt for the world’s amorality, just as Americans have.
Finally, there is the colossal discrepancy between how the United States and Israel have decided to deal with a terrorist insurgency. American soldiers are being attacked and killed in greater number in Iraq than even Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The pundits were convinced for this eason that the American people would choose John Kerry’s “wrong war” philosophy over George Bush’s “no retreat” pledge. In the end, the American people decided they would not be pushed out of Iraq by a bunch of murderous thugs, because that would only produce more murderous thugs.
But Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza under fire is sure to vastly increase terrorist pressure on Israel in every corner of its land. Any terrorist leader who sees the shrinking borders of Israel that began with the Camp David accords twenty-five years ago can only conclude that the goal of pushing Israel into the sea is slowly becoming a reality.
Nobody wants to see Israeli soldiers die in Gaza, just as no one wants to see American soldiers die in Iraq. But while the Americans understand that withdrawing the troops will lead to more American deaths at home, Sharon mistakenly believes that withdrawing the troops will lead to international acceptance of Israel’s claim to most of the West Bank and partial pacification of the Palestinians.
By retreating under fire, Sharon has proven himself to be the John Kerry of Israeli politics when what Israel really needs is its own George Bush.
From the earliest days of the American republic, the patriots who built this nation drew upon the biblical idea of a chosen nation as the inspiration behind the struggle against British tyranny. Yet, since its founding, Israel’s leaders have totally missed the universality of Israel’s chosenness to the rest of the world. Ever week hundreds of American Christians write to me about how much they love Israel and see in its founding the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy for the Jews to bring blessing to the world from their ancient homeland.
How ironic that while 70 million born-again Christians believe that with all their heart, the average secular Israeli would scoff at such a notion.
Why I Love Evangelical Christians
The impact the American evangelical voting block has had on world affairs is incalculable and explains why there has been a revolution in the way the world does business. The staunch support of evangelical Christians has enabled George W. Bush to pursue a foreign policy based not on expediency or realpolitik, but on a deep-seated morality wherein tyrants are punished and the oppressed liberated. These policies would have been unthinkable without the steadfast support of Bush’s die-hard constituency of evangelical Christians who comprise one-quarter of the American electorate.
I am a Jew who is deeply in love with evangelical Christians. Although I am at odds with them on various issues, they today constitute the most potent force for good in America, and the most influential constituency who consistently demands that America be a nation of justice, standing up for the persecuted and living up to its founding ideals of serving as a global beacon of freedom.
To be sure, I am devoted to Judaism. Wild horses and iron combs could never pry me away from my Jewish identity and I have devoted my life to the dissemination of Jewish ideas in the mainstream culture and to bringing wayward Jews back to their heritage. But I must give credit where credit is due. And evangelical Christians, more than any other group today, are responsible for America being a godly country.
Whenever I am in the company of evangelical Christians, I feel completely at home, among true brothers and sisters of faith. More so, I feel inspired. When evangelical Christians talk to me about God, they speak with an immediacy and sense of intimacy which is both inspiring and impressive. To the evangelicals, God is a loving father rather than a distant relative. And unlike secularists who love making up their own morality, evangelical Christians humbly submit to the Divine will. The potency of evangelical faith is manifest in their being at the forefront of feeding the hungry, curing the sick, and giving clothing to the poor.
Unlike so many Americans, evangelical Christians utterly reject materialism. They raise godl children who are open-hearted and uncorrupted. Evangelical Christian parents protect their children from a corrosive culture that is so harmful to America’s youth. The evangelicals have created their own music, TV and film industries which promote values-based entertainment as opposed to crude sexual exploitation. Their women are taught to value themselves and would never contemplate surrendering their bodies to a man who has not committed to them in marriage. And their men are taught to value women and to work to be worthy of them.
This is not to say I don’t have serious disagreements with evangelicals. It is on the subject of Jesus, especially, and other related theological questions, that I am, of course, most distant from my evangelical brothers and sisters. I have had many televised debates against leading evangelicals forcefully rejecting Jesus as the Jewish messiah. But for all that, I have never felt any emotional distance from the evangelicals.
Many of my Jewish brethren reject evangelical Christians as dogmatic and intolerant. In so doing they are guilty of themselves of rejecting one of Judaism’s most seminal teachings: to judge a man by his actions rather than his beliefs. Just try to find kinder, more compassionate people who are more willing to assist their fellow man in a time of crisis, than the evangelicals. And this is especially true of the evangelical love for Israel.
As an American Jew, I have two great loves: the United States and Israel. The Talmud says that what makes Israel unique is that God’s presence is a tangible reality in the Holy Land. In Israel, one can sense and feel God’s holy presence. Thanks largely to evangelical Christians, the same is true today of the United States. God is alive and well in America. And it is primarily for that reason that this great country is so blessed.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a nationally syndicated radio host daily from 2-5 p.m. EST on the Liberty Broadcasting Network, and was named by Talkers magazine as one of America’s 100 most important talk-radio hosts. A bestselling author of 14 books, his latest work is “The Private Adam: Becoming a Hero in a Selfish Age” (HarperCollins).
About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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