Pat Robertson: A Problematic Friend of the Jews, but a Friend Nonetheless

June 12 2023

Last Thursday, the pastor and broadcaster Pat Robertson died at the age of ninety-three. Few individuals did more than he to shape evangelical Christianity, and the religious right, in America today. That influence can be found in his vigorous support for Israel, as well as such efforts on behalf of the Jewish people as raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to aid Jews leaving the former Soviet Union. Yet the same Robertson railed against “cosmopolitan, liberal, secular Jews” and promoted baroque conspiracy theories about Jewish freemasons, the Rothschilds, and various other renowned Jewish financiers that bore much more than a whiff of anti-Semitism.

What then should Jews make of Robertson and his legacy? Norman Podhoretz considered this question in 1995, in response to several broadsides against the pastor by prominent liberal journalists:

Michael Lind, Frank Rich (who has turned his column in the New York Times into an echo chamber for Lind’s article), and a number of others have compared Robertson to the Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan, presumably because both subscribe to off-the-wall conspiracy theories involving the Jews. But the comparison is intellectually absurd and morally outrageous. Farrakhan attacks Israel while Robertson defends it; and whereas Farrakhan calls Judaism a “gutter religion,” Robertson speaks throughout [his conspiracy-addled book] The New World Order with the greatest respect of the faith of “the God of Jacob.”

Robertson could . . . point as well to earlier statements condemning anti-Semitism which there could be no suspicion of his having been pushed by Jewish pressure into making. Thus, for example in his book, The New Millennium (1990), in a chapter entitled “The Rise of Anti-Semitism,” which expressed anxiety over a “a rising tide of anti-Jewish feeling the world over,” he wrote: “Intolerance in any quarter is wrong, but inasmuch as we are able, we must ensure that the trend throughout the 1990s remains in favor of a Jewish homeland in Israel and not for the elimination of the Jews.”

With such a record, why were so many American Jews eager to embrace the charge that Robertson was an anti-Semite? Podhoretz believes he has an answer:

Since many Jews have great difficulty in distinguishing between Judaism and liberalism, they also seem unable to detect any difference between anti-Semitism and the anti-liberal Christian conservatism of a Pat Robertson. Some of Robertson’s accusers, however, are less confused than devious, rather like the woman in the Yiddish saying who tries to get away with criticizing her daughter-in-law by pretending to be talking about the girl’s mother (zi zogt di shviger; zi meynt di shnir).

[Yet such arguments] still leave open the issue of Robertson’s threatening tone—and here I think he deserves to be castigated. He has every right to criticize Jews for taking positions he considers immoral and dangerous and to characterize those positions in the most unflattering terms. But in resorting to intimidation, as he for all practical purposes does when he warns of a Christian backlash against this “strident minority,” he lends credibility to and reinforces the fear that Christian fundamentalism still inspires in many Jews and that helps account for their stubborn adherence to some of the very policies against which he inveighs.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Evangelical Christianity, Evangelical Zionism


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount