The Israeli tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth came out last week with a shocking report: Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann would join Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., at Glenn Beck’s rally in Israel in August.
It turned out that much of the report was wrong. The three candidates quickly said they had no such plans — a sensible decision. Beck’s hateful shtick encouraged even Fox News to end his show later this month. But, incredibly, another piece of the report was true. “I’d love to participate,” Lieberman confirmed when The Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez found him in a Capitol hallway. “It’s just going to be a rally to support Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
This nearly caused me to plotz.
Joe Lieberman, the first Jew on a presidential ticket, was embracing Beck, the leading purveyor of anti-Semitic memes in the mass media. One of the most visible Jews in America was making common cause with a man who invoked apocalyptic Christian theology in promoting his rally in Israel.
I admire Lieberman, and I’ve defended him over the years when he defied party and faction. But if he shares a stage with this creature, he will surrender the decency that has defined his public life.
When I spoke to Lieberman, he sounded less definite. “Am I going to go? I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of other things going on.” I hope he finds something else to do on Aug. 24. As he approaches his Senate retirement, it would spare him a shameful end to a dignified career.
Lieberman, who knew Beck back when he was a morning DJ in New Haven, may have missed some of the broadcaster’s recent feats: hosting a guest on his show who describes as “accurate” the anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; likening Reform rabbis to “radicalized Islam”; calling Holocaust survivor George Soros a “puppet master,” a bloodsucker and a Nazi collaborator; touting the work of a Nazi sympathizer who referred to Dwight Eisenhower as “Ike the Kike”; and claiming the Jews killed Jesus.
“Obviously,” Lieberman said after I presented some of this to him, “that’s troubling stuff.”
Since Fox decided to part with Beck, the broadcaster has tried to repair the damage to his reputation by doing a couple of shows about the evils of anti-Semitism — and by proclaiming a “gathering” in Israel for “restoring courage.”
It’s nice that Beck wants to defend Israel before the United Nations attempts in September to create a Palestinian state. But this support comes with an asterisk. Beck’s descriptions of his event as a gathering and a restoration echo his Mormon faith’s theology: There will be a “Gathering of Scattered Israel” in which Jews return to the Holy Land and are converted to Christianity as part of “the restoration of all things” and the Second Coming.
Announcing his event on the radio last month, Beck invoked “the words of Ezekiel” — a prophet associated with end times theology — and said: “There will be people who will say, ‘Oh you are crazy, that’s not going to happen. People have been saying this is Ezekiel for 5,000 years, yadda yadda yadda.’ I have no idea if these are the times. I just know that the old hatreds are starting up and, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, God will not hold us blameless. I choose to stand and be counted.”
In the same broadcast, Beck offered the apocalyptic prediction that “the force of darkness” would “attack the center of our faith” with “a two-state solution that cuts off Jerusalem.” He further predicted that, at his rally in Jerusalem, “the very gates of hell are going to open up against us.” Later, he said that Israel may be destroyed “by Labor Day weekend” and that his gathering “may be the last time you get to see the holy sights.”
Beck assumed a Messianic role: “The peace that is promised comes from standing in the place where He asks us to stand. I believe I have been asked to stand in Jerusalem.” He predicted his gathering would send “a global shockwave. It will ripple across the earth.”
Mainstream Mormonism has de-emphasized this notion of a literal gathering of Jews in Israel, but megalomaniacal Beck sees value in it. His website is promoting tour packages and selling merchandise.
Given all this, it’s little surprise that AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, hasn’t endorsed Beck’s “gathering.” Lieberman still has time to reconsider. For the sake of everything you have stood for, Joe, please: Say it ain’t so.
Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.