‘It’s not our agenda’: An interview with Abraham Foxman

By Tzvee Zahavy | Published 08/31/2006 | Cover Story |

The Jewish Standard interviewed Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, about Christian Zionism.

Jewish Standard: The Rev. Hagee has assured people that there will be no proselytizing or missionizing associated with his organization, Christians United for Israel. Do you believe he is sincere?

Abraham Foxman: There is a Hebrew saying, "Kabdehu vechashdehu" [respect him but suspect him]. We welcome the support and we watch him. When you study his Website and his history - there is proselytizing. He promised some people that he won’t — but that is contrary to what his mission is. His Christian mission is to bear witness — first to Jews. If he can restrain himself, fine. But we have to watch him. I’m not, God forbid, saying, "Don’t do what your doing." We welcome it. Israel can use his support, it’s important. But chances are he has an ulterior motive.... We will be watching.

JS: What do you think about the Christians who follow the dispensationalist theology and their support of Zionism?

AF: They have another agenda. For Jews, Zionism means to go back to our Jewish homeland, to have our own sovereignty and identity. For them this [Zionism] is a way station either to hasten the second coming or, for a minority, leading to the [apocalyptic] war of Gog and Magog. For most of them, a strong Israel will hasten the coming of their messiah and they are entitled to [believe] this.

Their love and their enthusiasm do have ulterior motives. When politicians pledge support of Israel, do we ask them what’s in their kishkes? No. Do we know that they are doing it because they want votes? Sure they want votes and financial support. If it is okay for them to have ulterior motives, why shouldn’t it be okay for religious leaders to have ulterior motives? I don’t negate it.

JS: What is your opinion of the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson?

AF: I think the time has come for Israel to say to Pat Robertson Baruch "shepotrani" [the blessing for separating us from responsibility for his transgressions]. His outrageous judgment on [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, when he said God punished Sharon [with a stroke] for giving away God’s land — I don’t think he should have been forgiven. He showed what kind of a character he is by going to Israel, praying with Olmert, and then, when the cease-fire came, he made nothing of it. He has a different agenda. It’s not our agenda. He wants Israel in all its glory to serve his agenda.

Falwell is a lot more careful. The last time that he crossed the line is on [his statements concerning] the anti-Christ. He tries to be sensitive, but it is difficult. Evangelicals are struggling with a religion of bearing witness with the purpose of attracting and converting. This is a major principle of their faith....

JS: Do you find that the Christian Zionists understand the dramatic impact of the suffering of the Holocaust and the salvation of modern Israel?

AF: Who knows?

JS: Is George Bush a Christian Zionist?

AF: He is supportive, but not everything he does is based on religious spirituality. He has a clear moral compass. He knows the differences between good and evil and friend and foe. We are part of the good and the friends. We fit into his world based on his moral compass, not necessarily based on religion. Evangelicals have been critical of him because he hasn’t been tougher on Israel. They say he shouldn’t have supported Sharon on disengagement. God promised [the land to] Abraham and man cannot abrogate that.

JS: In light of recent events in Israel, what kind of impact do you expect Christian Zionists to have on public policy?

AF: They are supportive.

JS: Do you harbor an ongoing suspicion of any Christian group that supports Israel?

AF: Yes, but it doesn’t interfere with my ability to say, "Welcome, thank you, we appreciate it." The only problem I have is those who say, "I support Israel, therefore you need to support my social agenda." Or some of them said to me, "Gibson is important to me. Why don’t you shut up? We are friends of Israel."

I wrote to Pat Robertson several years ago about a cartoon on his 700 Club that was anti-Semitic. His answer to me was, "Why are you wasting time on this? I support Israel." If they use their support of Israel as a quid pro quo demanding or expecting us to do x, y, or z, or as a shield against their insensitivity, then I don’t need their support of Israel.