Will Growing Alliance With Christian Zionists Split the American Jewish Establishment?

Peter Beinart, writing about Sheldon Adelson’s remarks at the inaugural conference of the Israeli American Council (which I wrote about here), argues that Adelson’s comment “I don’t think the Bible says anything about democracy” “lobbed a grenade at the American Jewish establishment.” In other words, at the heart of the American Jewish establishment’s pro-Israel cause is a claim to support democratic values in the Jewish state. “By claiming democracy doesn’t matter, Adelson was sabotaging the case for Israel that the American Jewish establishment has been making for decades,” Beinart writes.

This is evidence, Beinart argues, of new pressure on the American Jewish establishment—not, Beinart maintains, just from J Street on its left, but from its right, for example, from the Adelson-financed Zionist Organization of America. These changing dynamics are the product of demographic changes: the children of establishment but largely secular American Jews, Beinart says, are less likely to be strident or even care that much about Israel, whereas Orthodox Jews are generally more conservative, Republican, and ardently opposed to the two-state solution. “All of which,” Beinart concludes, “makes them more willing to embrace the right-wing Christian evangelicals who more secular American Jews fear. In recent years, for instance, the Adelson-backed ZOA has given awards to Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee and Michelle Bachmann.”

This year, according to ZOA’s announcement, it will be honoring Christians United for Israel founder John Hagee with the “prestigious” Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson award on November 23. (Ted Cruz will be honored, too.)

But the alliance with Christian Zionists is not limited to the ZOA or like-minded, right-wing organizations. The public dissent over a Jewish embrace of Hagee reached its apex around 2008 or so, when John McCain rejected Hagee’s endorsement of his presidential run, and has since largely faded away. Christian Zionist support for Israel is still largely accepted, or at least not openly criticized by the establishment. If that’s changing, I haven’t yet seen much evidence of it.