Daily Israel Report

Glenn Beck and the Jewish Problem

Unsurprisingly, the debate continues on whether the staunchly pro-Israel Beck, in Israel for a short visit, is good or bad for the Jews.
By Rachel Sylvetsky
First Publish: 7/12/2011, 8:37 AM / Last Update: 7/12/2011, 10:08 AM

Israel news photo

At a special reception held Monday night for broadcaster Glenn Beck in the Ma'ale Zeitim  home of philanthropists Irving and Cherna Moskowitz , staunch supporters -and enablers- of the rights of Jews to live anywhere in Israel, this Arutz Sheva writer observed the charismatic Beck give each of the scores of carefully chosen guests who spoke to him the feeling that he was riveted on what that person had to say to him. 

A significant number of figures in the activist pro-Israel and pro-Judea and Samaria world were there, including, the head of the Yesha Authority, Danny Dayan, several Gush Katif spokespeople, the heads of Young Israel USA, and the terror victim association Almagor. Also on the scene were the three Israel Day activists who first broached the idea of an Israel visit to Beck, Drs. Brody and Frager and Odelya Jacobs.

The schedule for this short and unexpected visit includes traveling to Sderot, broadcasting his syndicated radio show from Israel, ascending the Temple Mount, appearing in the Knesset, visiting Yad VaShem and meeting with various Israeli figures.

Beck is a controversial figure because of his outspoken opinions on every subject that interests him, expressed on his just-ended Fox News slot, to be continued on his private media outlets .

There is no question that he goes out on a limb defending Israel and criticizing Obama and George Soros, making him stand out in this period of Israel bashing and virulent anti-Semitism and consequently making the Israeli left uneasy.

There is also no question that he is a devout Mormon, that this is the basis for his worldview and that he sees the world through the parameters of his faith, making some Orthodox rightists uncomfortable.

Consequently, Glenn Beck's visit to Israel sparked the traditional Jewish debate on every subject,  typified in the famous anecdote on The Elephant and the Jewish Problem--that is, whether "he is good for the Jews or bad for the Jews."

The anti-missionary Jewish Israel blog wrote:

"Glenn Beck is a master at portraying the Jews as a victims, and Israelis as being in deep, dark straits. Upon announcing the upcoming 'Restoring Courage' event, he declared on the Fox News "O'Reilly Factor" that, 'The Jews are in real trouble.' Beck regularly implies that a second Holocaust is in the making. Beck's concerns about the modern state of Israel appear to be sincere and heartfelt, but his presentation is problematic and inaccurate.

"Jews both in Israel and the Diaspora need to ask themselves and Mr. Beck if this approach, or  "scare tactic," is the best way to "restore courage" among supporters of Israel?  Wouldn't it be more truthful to present Israel as secure and thriving nation which is fully aware of the challenges she faces?"

The anti-missionary site suggested that he change his style, saying, "...Those who are close to Mr. Beck respectfully convey to him that many Torah observant as well as secular Zionists are naturally uncomfortable with the Christian theological direction and focus of some of his oratory.  Perhaps a more universal, and inclusive approach to his stand with Israel -  with an emphasis on morality rather than religious faith -  would be more appropriate and could heal, rather than exacerbate, political rifts and divisiveness."

MKs and guests in the packed Knesset's Monday meeting with Beck chaired by MKs Danny Danon (who ascended the Temple Mount with Beck) and Nissim Ze'ev (who came despite his son's marriage Monday night) had no such qualms, breaking into warm applause, talking to him as an old, trusted friend to whom they can explain their take on Israel's problems. 

A hareidi-religious Israeli partner in a hi-tech firm hired a crane to post a gigantic banner thanking him down the street from the Knesset. The Hebrew words said, "The left is correct in being afraid [of his influence, ed.]" Present at the meeting, he explained that he had to show his gratitude because whenever he is asked abroad by clients to explain Israel's actions, he tells them to watch Glenn Beck and they turn pro-Israel.

MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) said that he wished that Israel's mainstream media would sound like Beck.  MK Yulia Shamalov (Kadima) said that he gives Israelis hope.

MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), seated next to Baruch Merzel of Hevron, told Beck that to understand the miracle of Israel, one has only to read Mark Twain's 19th century description of the barren country he visited and then thank G-d for his being stuck in the nation's endless traffic jams.

MK Dr. Aryeh Eldad (National Union) explained that the real problem is the 300-year-old occupation of Israel by the Arabs, not the other way around, while Jordan is the real Palestine. A physician, he recalled the Arab woman whose life he saved at Siroka Hospital, who was caught with a bomb on her body when she came for a follow up visit.

MK Einat Wilf (Independence) said that the entire Zionist idea is being negated by the world today. Marina Solodkin (Kadima) reminded Beck of Jonathan Pollard's continued captivity, as did leaders of Zionist organizations that were present.

A MyIsrael Organization representative talked about college students' work to present the varied face of Israel to the world.

MK Hotovely (Likud) quoted Prime Minister Netanyahu's remark that the truth can only win out if it is said loudly and often, and that Beck's being religious makes him uniquely able to realize that the conflict is not territorial, but religious.