Reaching out to the Muslim world may help in creating an environment for peace in the Middle East, but we must insist as Americans that our policies be firmly grounded in the beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which this country was founded. ~Eric Cantor

Via Steve Benen

So Cantor means that he will offer support to opposition Maronites in Lebanon and work to realign U.S. policies in the Near East to favor Armenia, right? No, I guess that wasn’t quite it. When he says that policy should be “grounded in the beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition,” maybe he means that we should repudiate aggressive warfare, collective punishment and indiscriminate bombing, especially when those methods also adversely affect local Christian populations. Oh, that’s not it, either? Of course, it means exactly what you would think that it does, which is that we must support Israel to the hilt with support defined as the embrace of the most hawkish, counterproductive policies possible.

What I don’t understand is why Benen and others are finding this statement to be so far “out there.” Don’t get me wrong–it’s a fairly ridiculous statement. It is also quite common, and not just on the right. After all, it isn’t just conservative pundits and activists who are constantly burdening Israel as the front-line state of “civilization” and “Enlightenment,” which is the polite, secular way of saying “they are like us.” Making explicit references to religious heritage as a basis for supporting another state may be embarrassing to secular supporters, but these are the effective political allies they have chosen to tolerate and embrace to one degree or another.

Politicians annually line up to praise a lot more than Israel’s “democratic character and desire to live in peace,” and Cantor’s Christian Zionist audience wouldn’t give a fig for a small eastern Mediterranean country were it not for the religious heritage of its majority, the religious significance of the land in which they live and their conviction that their support is authorized and required by Scripture. Normally politicians prefer to use more vague language, such as “common heritage” or “common values,” but most of them are referring at least in part to cultural and religious identity. By the standards of Christian Zionist discourse, what Cantor said was unexceptional and actually rather mild. Supporters of Israel routinely rely on the support of people who fervently believe what Cantor said, but then profess shock and dismay when confronted with what they believe.

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