American media superstar Glenn Beck's visit to Israel this week was a revealing and remarkable event. It revealed what it takes to be a friend of Israel. And it revealed the causes of Israel's difficulty in telling its enemies from its friends.
Many world leaders, opinion-shapers and other notables profess enduring friendship with Israel. From Washington to London, Paris to Spain, policymakers and other luminaries preface all their remarks to Jewish audiences with such statements. Once their declarations are complete - and often without taking a breath - they proceed to denounce Israel's policies and to deny its basic rights.
US President Barack Obama exemplifies this practice. Obama always begins his statements on Israel by proclaiming his enduring friendship for Israel. Then he tells us to deny Jewish property rights, accept indefensible borders, or desist from defending ourselves from aggression.
The Israeli Left habitually embraces self-proclaimed friends such as Obama. Often leftist leaders encourage such friends to harm Israel in the name of helping it. For instance, in 2007, speaking to then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice - who had a habit of comparing her friend Israel to the Jim Crow South - then-Haaretz editor David Landau asked her to "rape" the Jewish state. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni recently encouraged Obama to increase pressure on Israel.
When anti-Semitic public intellectuals such as the late Nobel laureate Jose Saramago compare Israel to Nazi Germany, the Israeli Left makes light of their remarks. For instance, when at the height of the Palestinian terror war in 2002 Saramago said Israel was worse than the Nazis and that Jews had no right to speak of the Holocaust, Yediot Aharonot's Ariella Melamed referred to Saramago as "one of the most beloved foreign novelists in Israel."
On Thursday, Israeli Arab actor and filmmaker Muhammad Bakri was the subject of a two-page hagiographic profile in Yediot. Bakri's libelous 2003 film Jenin, Jenin, in which he falsely portrayed IDF soldiers as murderers and war criminals, was brushed off as merely "controversial."
Making no mention of Bakri's family ties to terrorist murderers or supportive statements regarding terrorism and war against Israel, Yediot portrayed this foe as a hero. Bakri, who has used his considerable talents to criminalize and demonize the country and to support its terrorist enemies, was lionized as an unwilling culture warrior who would much rather be acting than fighting, but feels he cannot escape his duty to fight for the great causes he holds dear.
Also Thursday, Yediot ran a story about Beck's Restoring Courage Rally beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The headline read, "Glenn Beck's Messianic Show."
In general, the Israeli media responded to Beck's visit to Israel either as a non-event, or they distorted who Beck is and what he is trying to do. Thursday's print edition of Ma'ariv sufficed with a photograph from Beck's rally in Jerusalem the previous day.
By casting Beck's visit as insignificant, Ma'ariv disserved its readers. Beck is one of the most influential media personalities in the US today.
Unlike the leftist public intellectuals such as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman who are celebrated and obsessively covered by the Israeli media, Beck exerts real influence on public opinion in the US. His calls for action are answered by hundreds of thousands of people. His statements are a guidepost for millions of Americans. Aside from radio host Rush Limbaugh, no media personality in the US has such influence.
It is highly significant that thousands of Beck's supporters followed his call and came with him to Israel for a week to express their support for Israel and the Jewish people. It is similarly significant that millions more of his supporters followed his actions on Internet.
Those media that did not seek to downplay the importance of Beck's visit opted instead to distort who he is and what he is doing. As the Yediot headline indicated, the media portrayed him as an unstable messianic, or they castigated him as an extremist and marginal force in the US. Haaretz and Globes both ran articles attacking Beck as an anti-Semite.
These claims are outrageous and represent yet another gross disservice to Israeli news consumers who do not have an independent means of judging Beck, his message and his actions for themselves.
Beck came to Israel to launch a global movement of activists committed to supporting Israel, not in order to "rape" it, but in order to empower it to defeat its enemies and to stand up to an increasingly hostile world. In his speech under the Temple Mount, Beck roused his audience - which contrary to media reports was a mix of American Christians and American Jews joined by scores of Israelis - to action. With gripping prose, Beck told his audience to disregard the "convenient" lies about Israel and embrace the truth.
That truth, he said, is that "In Israel, there is more courage in one square mile than in all of Europe. In Israel, there is more courage in one Israeli soldier than in the combined and cold hearts of every bureaucrat at the United Nations. In Israel, you can find people who will stand against incredible odds, against the entire tide of global opinion, for what is right and good and true. Israel is not a perfect country. No country is perfect. But it tries, and it is courageous."
From Israel he proceeded Wednesday night to South Africa to tell the true story of Apartheid and to dispel the popular falsehood that Israel bears any similarity to Apartheid South Africa. From there he will continue on to Latin America to meet with communal leaders and mobilize them to support Israel. And from there he will return to the US where he will launch his global movement to support Israel before a mass audience in Dallas early next week.
What was most remarkable about Beck's message was its rarity. Beck did not say anything factually inaccurate. The vast majority of Israelis certainly would find nothing controversial in any of his assertions. Yet despite his honesty, and his reasonable interpretation of Israel's strategic and diplomatic circumstances, Beck's is a voice in the wilderness. One almost never comes across a foreigner - or even an Israeli - who is willing to speak such basic truths in public.
Both the rarity of truthful assessments of reality such as Beck's and the gross distortion of his message and importance by the media are the consequence of intellectual and social intimidation that has led to groupthink among members of the media and of the cultural elites in Israel and throughout much of the Western world.
As Beck put it, "The grand councils of the earth condemn Israel. Across the border, Syria slaughters its own citizens. The grand councils are silent...
"These international councils, these panels of so-called diplomats, condemn Israel not because they believe Israel needs to be corrected. They do so because it is convenient.
"Everyone does it. In some countries, it's a crime not to.
"The diplomats are afraid, and so they submit. They surrender to falsehood. The truth matters not. To the keepers of conventional wisdom, a sacrifice of the truth is a small price to pay. What difference does it make if we beat up on little Israel? These are the actions of the fearful and cowards."
And in the face of this cowardice, Beck organized his visit to Israel under the banner "Restoring Courage."
He told his audience, "I stand here to tell you this: Fear is the pathway to surrender. And to overcome fear, we must have courage."
Beck is rare, because he refuses to bow to the intellectual intimidation and groupthink that plagues the discourse on Israel in Israel itself and throughout the world. He refuses to play by the rules in which friends of Israel are castigated as messianic crazies and extremists and Israel's enemies are praised as friends and great artists and courageous dissidents. He is an exception to a demented rule.
Israel's media didn't come to their hatred of Beck on their own. Most of it is fueled by American Jewish leftists. Beck ran afoul of the liberal American Jewish establishment through his outspoken attacks on George Soros. In January, Beck ran several shows on Soros, the extremist leftist anti-American and anti-Zionist global financier who has given more than $100 million to radical leftist groups.
Among other things, Beck ran a 1998 interview that Soros gave to CBS News's Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes. During the course of the interview, Soros admitted that as a boy in Nazi occupied Hungary he collaborated with the Nazis in confiscating Jewish property. Beck dwelled on Soros's statement and his stated lack of guilt for his actions. Beck considered its impact on the shaping of Soros's personality.
For his actions, Beck was attacked as an anti- Semite by the Soros-funded Jewish Funds for Justice. The group which conducts community organizing in liberal Jewish congregations collected the signatures of several dozen rabbis and ran a $100,000 ad in The Wall Street Journal asking Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch to take action against Beck. According to JCCWatch.org, New York's UJA-Jewish Federation has given more than a million dollars to the Soros-funded organization.
The Left's attacks on Beck are fueled by the fact that he is a Christian Zionist. The Left's default mode is to accuse Christian Zionists of a hidden agenda to convert Jews and a secret desire to see us killed in an Armageddon.
But in truth the media's embrace of Israel's enemies, their rejection of Beck, and most importantly Beck's refusal to bow to their conventional wisdom that Israel's enemies should be praised and its friends should be condemned all reveal the reason that Christian Zionists can be trusted and embraced by Israelis.
Christian Zionists - like Jewish religious Zionists - are unmoved by the media's intimidation because of their faith in God, and their reliance on scripture. Their faith provides them with a means of judging reality that is independent of the largely post-religious intellectual commissariat that runs the media and the cultural elite in the Western world. They don't seek or care about receiving the accolades of the New York Times or other post-religious totems for their actions. And Beck's message to Israelis is that we shouldn't care either.
For most Israelis, this message rings powerful and true. But for the media, in Israel and throughout the West, it is dangerous sedition that must be marginalized and destroyed.
Beck said that his movement will be one of individuals who work together to defend Israel and the Jews from those who seek our destruction. He argued that regular people are far more capable of understanding what needs to be done than the well-heeled experts who lead us down the garden path of weakness and demoralization.
And he is right.And in bringing this message to Israel, he demonstrated his friendship. We should return the favor by taking his advice. We should trust ourselves and our instincts and stop listening to the "experts" who preach weakness and surrender.