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Protestants and Zionism, an Old Question Resurfaces

For those in the area and interested in the Mideast, there’s a good panel discussion tomorrow sponsored by the Middle East Policy Council on Capitol Hill. I’m participating, and going to be putting some emphasis on the new weakness of the Israel Lobby, and what that portends for the future. But I’d go especially to hear Paul Pillar, who knows about ten times more about the region than just about anyone I know.

I plan there to touch briefly on the upsurge of mainline Protestant activity concerning the region, perhaps epitomized by this letter written by leaders of several denominations, calling upon Congress to explore whether Israel is in compliance with US laws when it uses US weapons against Palestinian civilians. The letter is part of new wave of Protestants overcoming their natural tendency to keep quiet about Israel and Palestine, a welcome development.

Boatloads of ink have been spilled about the black-Jewish alliance of the ’60s, and its eventual fracturing. But the alliance between mainline establishment Protestant liberalism and reform Judaism was, I believe, more important: it practically defined the liberal estabishment, which is still all powerful if you believe some conservatives, and certainly set the dominant tone in the ’60s and ’70s. Jews and Protestant liberals acted as blood brothers over civil rights, and in opposing the Vietnam war, and not so incidentally, opposing anti-Semitism–and this alliance was critical to the forging of the post-Eisenhower American elite consensus.

But now it’s in the process of breaking, or is already broken–essentially over Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and denial of political rights to the Palestinians. If you follow the comments directed at Protestants in the link above, you could certainly get the impression that some commenters don’t have a very high regard for their former allies.

about the author

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of Ex-Neocon: Dispatches From the Post-9/11 Ideological Wars. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottMcConnell9.

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