Recently, I attended the wedding of a college friend, Huwaida Arraf. She has been working for some time now in the International Solidarity Movement protecting the rights of Palestinians living under brutal Israeli military occupation. She wed Adam Shapiro, a man whose courage as a member of the ISM has caused him much heartache, as his family had to endure him being called a “Jewish John Walker.” Huwaida and Adam achieved something at their wedding that has been so elusive for so long: A peaceful coexistence of Jews and Palestinians, in the union of their children nonetheless! For one night, we were all able to escape the realities of horror injustice, war and humiliation. And after a brief honeymoon, Huwaida and Adam will return to Palestine and continue their work.

One of the new influences they will have to face upon their return is the visible increase of conservative American Christians traveling to Israel in support of the Jewish state. It is a curious alliance and begs many questions about the motives of the Christian Right. I would implore Americans, and American Jews in particular, not to forget the now infamous words of the Rev. Billy Graham, who told Richard Nixon that Jews in America had a “stranglehold on the media … They swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I’m friendly with Israel. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country.” A political alliance between mostly secular neo-conservative Jews and evangelical Christians is driving U.S. policy toward Israel and is behind the unconditional support for hard-liner Ariel Sharon, prompting our president to call him “a man of peace.” This remark is most absurd because Sharon has a long history of war crimes and using violence as a political tool (otherwise known as “terrorism”). Further, he ran for prime minster on a platform of militarism, as a man of war. Ariel Sharon doesn’t even think Ariel Sharon is a man of peace!

But while the alliance between the American Christian Right and the Israeli Right may seem natural, its deeper layers are quite disturbing. During the most recent Israeli offensive which left tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless, maimed and dead, House Republicans urged President Bush to stop pressuring Sharon to ease up. This support lies in a shared belief that the West Bank and Gaza are part of a “Greater Israel.” In other words, these lands are not to be exchanged for any kind of peace with Palestinians. Sharon’s own Likud Party made this belief known in its most recent convention, declaring that it will not support any Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. Conservative leaders in the Republican Party have made this conviction known as well. In a recent appearance on “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) expressed his support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. “I’m content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank … I happen to believe that the Palestinians should leave.” A stunned Matthews tried to get clarification, “Well, just to repeat, you believe that the Palestinians who are now living on the West Bank should get out of there?” Armey replied firmly, “Yes.”

The real support for Israel among conservative Christians lies in a sort of religious extremism. After the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel grabbed all of Jerusalem, conservative Christian groups celebrated the fulfillment of their biblical prophecies. That’s what this is all about. The religious beliefs of the Christian Right push their support for Israel, which would not be so bad except for that their religious beliefs are highly anti-Semitic. The hope is that Jews will regain control of the entire Holy Land and restore their kingdom, prompting the Messiah to return. Jews will then either be converted to Christianity or eternally damned. So what lies behind the Christian Right’s support for Israeli actions is not a belief in the existence of a Jewish state, but rather a faith in the eventual destruction of the Jewish people.

All the while, the Israeli military desecrates Christian sites, including occupied Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, depopulates Christian villages and strips Palestinian Christians of their rights. The highest flight rate from Israeli occupied lands, especially Arab East Jerusalem, has been among the Palestinian Christian community. One would hope that mainstream American Christians would not be duped by the Christian Right and instead announce their support for the Palestinians in the face of injustice and oppression.

Zahr is a Rackham student.

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