“Please don’t write about this,” a colleague pleaded with me when I told him I was planning on writing an opinion piece about the shocking call by former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for an intensified effort to convert Jews.
“The religious right isn’t a threat to Jews; they are allies in our battle against the far left,” he insisted.
His point is well taken.
At a time when our moral values and even our ability to live as Torah Jews is under unprecedented attack by the forces of the left, the religious right are our natural allies in battles we must wage in both courtrooms and voting booths.
At the same time, with all due respect to my colleague, whom I greatly admire, it would be a profound error to ignore the remarks made by Bachmann, a former Minnesota congresswomen and Tea Party supporter, who unsuccessfully sought the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. She later retired from Congress under the cloud of an ethics investigation.
Bachmann, during a trip to Israel organized by the conservative Family Research Council, gave an interview with a right-wing radio station and spoke of a religious obligation “to help bring in [to Christianity] as many as we can — even among the Jews.”
The remarks by the controversial politician — who in the past has been an outspoken supporter of Israel — raise a fundamental and crucial question: What is the real agenda of the religious right when it comes to their friendship with Israel?
Or to put it another way, do we really know who our friends are?
Ironically, when it comes to those who make no effort to hide their hostility to Israel, the issue is clear cut. It is said in the name of the Satmar Rebbe, zy”a — one of the foremost opponents of Zionism and the government of Israel — that when an American politician attacks Israel, he isn’t motivated by hashkafah but by anti-Semitism. While it is perfectly appropriate to express disagreement with the policies of a particular Israeli prime minister, when Israel is singled out for vitriolic verbal attacks — let alone boycotts and divestments — while terrorist entities and countries guilty of infamous human rights abuses are ignored, that is old-fashioned anti-Semitism, dressed in a cloak of political correctness.
But when it comes to those who support Israel, things aren’t so simple.
There are a number of reasons why American politicians support — or at least claim to support — Israel. For some it is all about local politics. In areas with a significant Jewish vote, even someone who is running for election on the local school board professes to be a dear friend of Israel.
On a broader level, it is often a matter of common sense. Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East and has been a staunch, dependable ally of the United States for more than six decades. While Israel is heavily dependent on American military aid, Washington presumably takes full advantage of information gathered by Israeli intelligence agencies as they seek to fight international terror.
When it comes to those whose dedication to Israel is based on religious reasons, however, we must be extremely wary. For, at the end of the day, as Bachmann’s comments illustrated, often their allegiance to the defense of Israel is actually part of an agenda that includes the spiritual destruction of the Jewish people. In reality, this isn’t friendship. This is unadulterated enmity.
Our message to Ms. Bachmann and her cohorts is a simple but powerful one: We are the spiritual heirs to Avraham Avinu, who chose to be hurled into a fiery furnace rather than renounce his emunah in Hashem. It was with the strength of this lofty inheritance that we chose to be massacred by the Crusaders and burnt alive at the stake by the Inquisition as Jews rather than convert. They didn’t succeed back then and, with the help of our Creator, you won’t succeed either.