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With Glenn Beck by the Temple’s Walls

Glenn Beck’s program in Israel went off without a hitch, ending in a rally on the southern side of the Old City of Jerusalem. About 1000 people were in attendance, mostly Americans (contrary to the media coverage, a number of the Americans were Jews not Evangelicals) who’d come to Jerusalem at Beck’s urging, but with a sprinkling of Israelis, including a fair proportion of Orthodox Jews.

With the Old City walls to his right and in front of him, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque looming quite close, Beck handled himself with a mixture of audaciousness toward his enemies and sensitivity toward his friends. He announced a global movement, to be headquartered in Texas, to encourage average people to act against injustice, though the details of its scope and goals weren't clear. Since you won't get any real coverage in the media, here is the full text of the speech.

While many fulminated against Beck and his Israel project it was hard to find something he specifically said or did that should provoke such negative feelings. For example, a presentation on the history of Jerusalem was careful to cite Jewish, Christian, and Muslim connections with the city in a very balanced manner, as the call for prayer wafted from a nearby minaret.

Beck’s mission was to raise support for Israel, and the 1500 viewing parties around the world — including such places as China and Pakistan — guaranteed that many heard the message. He is seeking to reverse the trend in which “sophisticated folk,” my phrase, sympathize with terrorist groups and revolutionary Islamist organizations rather than a democratic state defending itself.

While listening to Beck I realized what a pity it is that so few people who should be doing so analyze him fairly, which doesn’t mean uncritically. He should be seen as a serious and sincere, morally oriented leader who gets some things wrong but is open to dialogue, has admitted mistakes, and has shown a real capacity to learn and grow over time. Only if his ideas are considered fairly can some of them be challenged in an honest way. Instead, we get the kind of baseless hatred (sinat hinam) that is denounced in Jewish tradition. Indeed, that vice is held to be the very reason that the Second Temple, by whose ruins the Beck rally was held, was destroyed.

Here is a hilarious example of the hysterical hatred that many in the media try to whip up against Beck, an AP story that practically draws horns and a tail on Beck. The author is so eager to tell the audience to hate this evil person that any pretense of journalistic fairness is thrown overboard.

The article says that Jews call the place the Temple Mount and the Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary. Hmm, I wonder what Christians call it? No prizes given. The author also says Beck has engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric. Really? Can you provide a few examples? Of course not. The article gives a big proportion of space -- two of nine paragraphs -- to a Peace Now leader who condemns Beck. Everyone in Israel knows that Peace Now is a dead organization. Another paragraph is devoted to Beck's position on financier George Soros, trying to make it sound antisemitic.

Not a single quote from anyone favorable to Beck is given. Remember that AP dispatches are supposed to be bland and super-neutral since they are supplied to many different newspapers. This one reads more like a Soviet newspaper under Stalin talking about Trotsky. The article finds no space to report anything that Beck actually said. There is no pretense of fair or accurate reporting because the author knows that editors will let it pass without any professional integrity at all.

So it shouldn't be any surprise that Beck understands how the media treats Israel.

On one hand, Beck is very much in the Protestant moral revival tradition of America. He could have been a preacher and indeed he is partly that. While often dubbed, as one reporter remarked at the event, “a raving lunatic,” in part, too, Beck is a voice of relative sanity in a society where much of the mass media and universities have come under the control of people who, beyond their elegant phrases and superficially impressive credentials, better deserve that label.

Aside from his view that Christianity cannot exist without Judaism, that the Judeo-Christian heritage is a lynchpin of Western civilization, and that the divine being loves the Jewish people and favors them having a homeland in this land, I think what attracts Beck to the Israel issue is that its demonization so well exemplifies the upside-down craziness of this era. And Beck also knows something about what it's like to be demonized.