Via Helena Cobban over at Just World News, I found this enlightening huffpost piece by Max Blumenthal. Accompanied by producer Thomas Shoemaker, Blumenthal attended the July 16 conference of Christians United For Israel and began asking folks there how they felt about Jews and the End Times. Along the way he scored interviews with Tom Delay and Israeli mouthbreather Dore Gold, asked a loaded question of Hagee himself, and got footage of Lyin' Joe praising his ideological confrere Rick Santorum. By the end of the ten-minute flash video, Max and his pal are being shown the door of the conference by beefy off-duty DC police hired as security by the Christian Zionist whackjobs.
Details of this and more goodies on the flip...
Here are some of the highlight's from Cobban's post:
The "vox pop" discussions with CUFI members in the hotel lobby are really revealing... Also, the extremely scary parts where you see a large roomful of people swaying and dancing-- one even doing a cheerleading-type hop-- with Israeli and US flags clasped to their breasts... And we see two uniformed soldiers, one in US camo and the other in Israeli camo and a prayer shawl, come up to the front and salute each other. Religion, ecstasy, and militarism all tied up together in one big package.
I believe that use of a US forces uniform in such a context is actually illegal?
....I think it's been the case for a while now that the Christian Zionists-- who have very, very long roots in this country-- have been a stronger base of support for Israel here than the Jewish-American Zionists. And of course, given that the beliefs of many of these Evangelical Zionists are that at the time of "Armageddon" all the Jews will either become converted to Christianity or get consumed by fire, there are many Jewish Americans who are still fairly wary about the Evangelicals' strong support for Israel.
The game plan for these Evangelicals (as also laid out lovingly in their extremely well-selling though in practice almost unreadable novels about "the End Time") is that first, the Jewish people all need to be "ingathered" into Israel, and then soon after there will be "Armageddon" and the "Second Coming." And along the way there, there'll be great fighting against "Babylon" (or Baghdad) and perhaps even some nuclear war...
Blumenthal himself describes the video this way:
On July 16, I attended Christians United for Israel's annual Washington-Israel Summit. Founded by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee, CUFI has added the grassroots muscle of the Christian right to the already potent Israel lobby. Hagee and his minions have forged close ties with the Bush White House and members of Congress from Sen. Joseph Lieberman to Sen. John McCain. In its call for a unilateral military attack on Iran and the expansion of Israeli territory, CUFI has found unwavering encouragement from traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and elements of the Israeli government.
But CUFI has an ulterior agenda: its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil. In the end, all the non-believers - Jews, Muslims, Hindus, mainline Christians, etc. - must convert or suffer the torture of eternal damnation. Over a dozen CUFI members eagerly revealed to me their excitement at the prospect of Armageddon occurring tomorrow. Among the rapture ready was Republican Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. None of this seemed to matter to Lieberman, who delivered a long sermon hailing Hagee as nothing less than a modern-day Moses. Lieberman went on to describe Hagee's flock as "even greater than the multitude Moses commanded."
Neither Cobban nor Blumenthal mention the fifteen seconds or so clip of his interview with Likudnik ideologue Dore Gold, present at the CUFI conference. Blumenthal asked Gold if he was concerned about CUFI's eschatology -- that ingathering of the Jews both mentioned as a necessary prelude to Armageddon. Gold responded (my transcription):
All religions have eschatology. The question is whether somebody believes they can move the clock of eschatology forward by themselves. The only one who says that is Mahmoud Amadenijad, the president of Iran.
In other words, instead of answering the question Gold preferred to blame an Islamist scapegoat.
I found Cobban's post on Blumenthal while taking a spin through the Arabist blogosphere this morning looking for some decent analysis on the resignation last week of Mohammed Dahlan as the head of security for the Palestinian National Authority, but unfortunately I still can't find anything that even addresses the internal splits in Fatah as a possible factor leading up to Abbas's decision to reform the security services. In addition to the CUFI piece, I got a bunch more interesting stuff. For example, Charles Levinson had a post up yesterday headlined "World opinion shifting in favor of Hamas" which includes this passage:
the conclusion is not that Hamas is some angelic and misunderstood organization that deserves a warm fuzzy embrace by the international community. All those calling for engagement with Hamas understand that 1) the Palestinians can make no political progress toward new elections, a legitimate government, consensus on peace talks with Israel, etc, without some kind of agreement between Hamas and Fatah; 2) no peace process is possible without Hamas having a stake in the process; and 3) the best way to empower those voices inside Hamas who are truly moderate and inclined to compromise is through dialog and engagement.
Levinson also throws a telling jab at the rightwing critics that infest his blog:
The angry reactionary sorts who often comment on this blog seem to think that the above argument is akin to an unreserved endorsement for all Hamas stands for. Quite the opposite, it is simply a sober analysis of which tactics are most likely to achieve the West’s desired strategic aims.
And he cites a report by the Centre for European Policy Studies Nathalie Tocci entitled "What Went Wrong? The Impact of Western Policies towards Hamas and Hizbollah" and which details how the policies pursued to date seem to have contributed to an actual strenghthening of both Islamist organizations.
Finally, McClatchy has a report on the wire today on Hamas's new public relations campaign touting the "Gaza Riviera." Here's the real good news the McClatchy reporter found:
Using a mix of military force and political persuasion, Hamas has succeeded in creating a sense of safety in the Gaza Strip. But many Palestinians don't believe this quiet will last very long.
Attacks on Internet cafes have come to a halt. For the time being, rival Gaza Strip families have stopped taking up arms to resolve their disputes. And fears of renewed factional fighting between disciplined Hamas forces and demoralized Fatah fighters are virtually nil.
Before we get too excited, however, there are still real problems:
But Hamas hasn't reined in Islamic Jihad and other militant groups, which regularly fire rudimentary Qassam rockets at southern Israeli towns and could provoke an Israeli invasion. Israel routinely responds by launching air strikes on Palestinian militants.
The Hamas "safe streets" marketing campaign also obscures intractable problems facing the group as it tries to use its impoverished base in Gaza to establish itself as a key player in the new Middle East.
Hundreds of Gaza Strip police officers, judges and soldiers loyal to Abbas refuse to work for Hamas. Israel allows almost nothing but critical food and medical supplies across its border with Gaza, creating a shortage of everything from cigarettes to concrete mix. Major Gaza Strip factories, unable to get raw material in and finished goods out, have been shuttered.
Short term security is good for the people in Gaza. What they really need, however, is a long term political solution that will for the first time allow them the possibility of peace and prosperity. End Times-inspired isolationism won't do it for them. An honest peace process, one which allows a voice to all the parties in the conflict, is the only thing that will.
Update: via Avenging Angel in comments, the New York Times is reporting in today's editions that a group of 34 evangelical leaders have written Bush calling for the creation and recognition of a Palestinian state:
On Friday, these leaders sent a letter to President Bush saying that both Israelis and Palestinians have "legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine," and that they support the creation of a Palestinian state "that includes the vast majority of the West Bank...."
They say that being a friend to Jews and to Israel "does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted." The letter adds, "Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other."
"This group is in no way anti-Israel, and we make it very clear we’re committed to the security of Israel," said Ronald J. Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, which often takes liberal positions on issues. "But we want a solution that is viable. Obviously there would have to be compromises."