Dana Milbank loses it

David Brog Executive Director, Christians United for Israel
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These are dangerous times for Israel and the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism — especially the anti-Semitism that cloaks itself as anti-Zionism — is thriving. Visit the United Nations, most world capitals or America’s college campuses and you would think that Israel is the most bloodthirsty power on the world stage. Politics aside, decent people should be able to agree that this increasing demonization of Israel is a dangerous trend.

Anyone who’s been watching Glenn Beck over the past few months with anything approaching objectivity cannot fail to have noticed that Beck has not only recognized the threat of this new anti-Semitism, but he’s become a leading opponent of it. How often do cable news shows devote entire episodes to such ratings busters as reviewing the history of anti-Semitism — with a special focus on Christian anti-Semitism — or interviewing Holocaust survivors? When is the last time that an American television host has shed tears for murdered Israeli children? Glenn Beck has done all the above. And now he’s going beyond mourning this hate to trying to combat it by organizing a non-partisan international rally in support of Israel in Jerusalem this August.

But here comes Dana Milbank to find the needle of anti-Semitism in this haystack of philo-Semitism. In his June 17th article blasting Senator Joseph Lieberman for agreeing to support Beck’s Jerusalem rally, Milbank doesn’t merely disagree with Beck on Middle East policy or the virtue of his planned rally. He skips right to the accusation of Jew hatred. In the process, Milbank abandons all standards of decency and objective journalism.

Given the complete absence of any facts with which to back up his ugly accusation, Milbank resorts to the tired old tactic of guilt by association. Milbank leads his argument by claiming that of the thousands of guests that Beck has had on the air over the years, one guest — G. Edward Griffin — once made an anti-Semitic comment. Milbank notes that Griffin described as “accurate” the anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

But Milbank leaves out some rather relevant context. Beck had Griffin on his show to discuss the Federal Reserve, not the Protocols. Even more importantly, Griffin’s position vis-à-vis the Protocols is exactly the opposite of what Milbank asserts. It turns out the Milbank pulled his one-word quote from an article in which Griffin argues quite passionately that the Protocols are a forgery and a tool of anti-Semites. His point is that while some of what the Protocols say about the world might be “accurate,” readers shouldn’t be fooled into believing that the document is authentic.

Next, Milbank notes that Glenn Beck likened Reform rabbis to “radicalized Islam.” On this point Milbank is correct. Beck did say that. What Milbank fails to mention, however, is that on the very next day Beck did something quite rare in our current political discourse: he issued a heartfelt retraction. Among the statements Beck made during the course of his six-minute radio apology were: “I made a mistake, and I want to make sure that you understand that I was wrong in this and that I apologize for it…. Some called me ignorant for what I said, and I think that’s a pretty good description…. I made one of the worst analogies of all time.”

Don’t they have fact-checkers at The Washington Post?

What’s even more troubling than Milbank’s blatant disregard for the facts is his easy resort to bigotry. In his zeal to accuse Beck of anti-Semitism, Milbank trots out the tired anti-Christian slur that Christians only support Israel to bring all the Jews back to their ancestral home and thereby speed the second coming of Jesus.

This claim is demonstrably false. It is a matter of black-letter theology among today’s Christian Zionists (who are predominantly premillennial dispensationalists) that man cannot speed the Second Coming by so much as one second. So why do good Christian people get out of bed and go to pro-Israel rallies? Why do they fly to Washington, or Israel, to stand with the Jewish people? It can’t be to speed the End Times, because they believe they are utterly powerless to do so. Thus their motivation must come from another place. And indeed it does. Christians typically support Israel because of the promises in the book of Genesis combined with a powerful sense of guilt for the way that Christians have often treated Jews throughout the centuries.

Doesn’t The Washington Post have any guidelines regarding religious slurs?

It is a strange anti-Semitism indeed that hides behind consistent and forceful advocacy for Israel and the Jewish people. Especially since standing with Israel these days is far from popular. The day Glenn Beck first spoke out for Israel on the radio was the day he received his first death threat from a Muslim extremist. Many more such threats have followed. We don’t have to agree with Glenn Beck on everything — or even anything else — to recognize that on the issue of Israel he’s recognized a real threat and is demonstrating the courage of his convictions in confronting it. For this he deserves our respect and our support.

As children like Milbank hurl their mud and hate, Senator Joseph Lieberman remains one of the few adults in our public square. While others look at labels, Lieberman looks at the facts. While others construct silos, Lieberman builds bridges. As much as Dana Milbank demonstrates what is wrong with our current discourse, Senator Lieberman demonstrates the way out. By having the guts to cross ideological lines and embrace Glenn Beck’s plan to hold a non-political and non-partisan rally in support of Israel, Senator Joseph Lieberman demonstrates once again why he’s become a hero to so many of us.

David Brog is the executive director of Christians United for Israel and the author of “In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity” (Encounter 2010).