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But few who made these charges understood much about his actual beliefs. While Falwell was honest about the fact that he considered his own faith to be the truth, he always denied that his love for Israel was anything but unselfish. And given that most Jews never gave him anything but abuse for it, his critics ought to concede that point.
This unwillingness to accept conservative Christian support for Israel remains the great contradiction of modern American Jewish politics. Contrast this attitude toward Falwell with the enthusiasm with which many Jews continue to make coalitions with liberal Protestant denominations that have often joined efforts to wage economic warfare on the Jewish state via disinvestment schemes.
Jews didn’t have to agree with Falwell on abortion or anything else on which they differed any more than they do with liberal Protestants. But what they ought to have done is recognize his willingness to expend his own political capital in the defense of Israel.
Perhaps the main disconnect came from the fact that for Falwell and his friends, Israel was not the marginal point that it has become for many Jews who place its survival far below domestic issues on their list of priorities. Though Falwell never harmed a single Jew in his life, most of us still seemed to be more afraid of him than we were of Hamas.
At a time when Israel is under increasingly vitriolic attacks seeking to delegitimize Zionism, as well as outright physical assault, this reluctance to extend the hand of friendship to an ally remains, at best, shortsighted.
About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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