We’re facing a problem in our politics. Extremists — both far right and far left — no longer wish to debate those with whom they disagree. They’d rather demonize and silence dissenters. In a prior era, thugs burned books to suppress ideas. Today’s thought police shout down speakers. Is there really a difference in this distinction?
This new censorship is now tragically common on our college campuses, where radicals rush to suppress conservative and pro-Israel speakers. And this intolerance is quickly spreading beyond campus to our communities, churches and synagogues.
Now the thought police are coming after me.
On Thursday, Sept. 7, I am scheduled to give a speech at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco about Christian support for Israel, as I am the founding executive director of Christians United for Israel.
But a group called IfNotNow doesn’t like my ideas, and they’ve launched an effort to pressure the synagogue to cancel my talk.
I know a few things about Christian support for Israel. Despite once holding some embarrassingly ignorant views about evangelicals, I’ve spent the last decade working alongside them as we built Christians United for Israel into America’s largest pro-Israel organization.
I can help my fellow Jews separate fact from fiction so that they may better understand this fascinating and diverse community. But instead of wanting to learn a thing or two — and asking me the tough questions I always welcome — the closed minds of IfNotNow would prefer to silence me. Why challenge your prejudices when they make you feel so superior to others?
The IfNotNow petition to cancel my talk is a textbook example of modern anti-Christian prejudice. They start off with a real whopper, calling Christians United for Israel an “anti-Semitic organization.” That’s right. They claim that millions of Christians have banded together to contribute their time and money to the Jewish state because — wait for it — they hate Jews.
They back up this bizarre assertion by trotting out long discredited anti-Christian tropes.
The great danger of hate speech is that it can lead to hate actions.
They claim that Christians support Israel to “precipitate” a “Christian apocalypse.” There’s just one problem with this little theory: It completely misunderstands Christian theology. Modern Christians don’t believe that they have the ability to change God’s timetable. They see themselves as powerless to speed the apocalypse or any other prophesied event. Those who insist that Christians take action in the world to speed the Messianic era are actually projecting a Jewish belief onto Christians who simply don’t share it.
The IfNotNow petition then proceeds to indulge a fascinating series of fantasies about Christians who support Israel. To cite just one more example, they claim that CUFI’s members “demonize Jews of color.” Well, what exactly do they mean by “Jews of color”? Are they referring to Jews of North African descent, such as my wife? Are they referring to Jews from Muslim lands in general, like the people whose stories we so compassionately share through our Mizrahi Project videos? Or are they referring to the Ethiopian Jews to whom John Hagee Ministries has donated millions of dollars over the years?
The great danger of hate speech is that it can lead to hate actions. And it already has.
On June 4, a cell of IfNotNow thugs burst into an African American church in Stockton and began shouting slogans from in front of the stage, disrupting the evening’s worship.
They did this because the church had chosen to dedicate that night’s service to celebrating Israel. After the intruders left, Pastor Dumisani Washington said, “I and my church members are having a hard time distinguishing between this harassment and the appalling racist harassment we have suffered previously in our lives.”
Can you imagine if a group of Jews had disrupted worship in a mosque instead of a church? IfNotNow would be in the forefront of those condemning them as Islamophobes. But these same people have no qualms about disrespecting Christians of color in their house of worship. This selective morality should concern all of us.
Making false claims about people’s theology. Accusing a community of pursuing evil conspiracies. Disrespecting their faith and disrupting their worship.
We Jews know these evils all too well.
We should be the last people on Earth to do this to other faith groups. Yet this is exactly what IfNotNow and their fellow travelers are doing to our Christian friends. After Charlottesville, all decent people must reject such hate more forcefully than ever.