“Why Israel, From Why Should I Care to What Can I Do?” was the multi-part question asked and answered this week, as more than 5,000 members of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) braved biblically bad rain to gather in Washington, D.C., and stand with Israel.
Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Paul Teller all visited. They were greeted by countless standing ovations and periodic, enthusiastic chants of “USA!” and “Four more years!”
At the summit, significant time was devoted to exciting new archaeological discoveries like the pilgrimage road and biblical kings’ seals, as well as security threats posed by Hamas and Hezbollah’s terror tunnels and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But a non-trivial amount of time was also devoted to domestic anti-Semitism and the urgency of opposing it, whether it’s found on campus or in Congress.
Several speakers reminded the overwhelmingly Christian audience (with a smattering of observant Jews) that anti-Semitism is a cancer, and it’s everybody’s problem. Sen. Ted Cruz listed the Senate’s unanimously condemning anti-Semitism among five recent pro-Israel victories, and CUFI showcased a video urging attendees to “shine a light” on anti-Semitism wherever they find it, whether on the right, the left, or among Islamists.
Multiple speakers alluded to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic comments about dual loyalty and American support for Israel’s being cash-fueled, offering them as examples of anti-Semitism to vigorously oppose. In fact, CUFI’s top legislative priority this year is Sen. Tim Scott’s Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which combats campus anti-Semitism.
So, why do these Americans—who heard calls to emulate Joshua, Caleb, and Esther—support Israel? Sen. Marco Rubio, noting that 70 years of bipartisan consensus on Israel are now being challenged, urged the audience to explain that the alliance with Israel is in our strategic and national interest, in addition to being a moral imperative.
Several speakers praised President Harry Truman for having the courage to buck American foreign policy experts and recognize Israel in 1948, including Pompeo. Pompeo noted that “modern Israel is the only truly free nation throughout the entire Middle East. It has enormous respect for religious freedom . . . No country is perfect, but Israel, like America, holds itself to an incredibly high standard.”
Pence, who received a hero’s welcome, unequivocally told the audience: “We stand with Israel because her cause is our cause, her values are our values, and her fight is our fight. We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, in liberty over tyranny. And we stand with Israel because we cherish that ancient promise that Americans have always cherished throughout our history: that those who bless her will be blessed.”
Pence also declared, “Anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States of America or anywhere in this nation. And anyone who slanders the historic alliance between the United States and Israel should not be sitting on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives.”
CUFI takes not only Israel’s security and anti-Semitism, but also Holocaust education seriously. Toward that end, Holocaust survivor Irving Roth, who spoke last summer, returned warning that words matter; words can be transformed into slogans that legitimize hatred and murder. He also reminded the crowd that the first step toward the Holocaust was an anti-Jewish boycott, which sounded all too familiar.
Pastor Chris Edmonds talked about his father, the highest-ranking American in a POW camp during World War II. Edmonds senior saved the lives of more than 200 Jewish soldiers by defying a Nazi commander’s order to send only Jewish soldiers to morning roll call. Instead, he ensured that every American, nearly 1,300 soldiers, arrived in sharp formation and told the furious Nazi, “We are all Jews here.” Edmonds closed by encouraging the crowd to stand up for their convictions about G-d, Israel, and their fellow man, telling them to “be the hero.”
If any speaker is living his convictions, it’s Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), who’s become the first Israeli to ever chair a UN committee. Danon described Turkey leading a resolution at the UN to condemn religion-based hatred and violence that excluded anti-Semitism. Danon personally visited fellow UN ambassadors, showing them the flawed resolution.
The upshot? The UN actually condemned anti-Semitism. He was also proud of persuading 87 member states to join a resolution condemning Hamas and the Security Council adopting its first-ever resolution on people missing in armed conflict last month.
Tasked with representing the United Nations’ most criticized nation, Danon exudes optimism. During our interview, I asked Danon, who describes himself as “heavily involved with opening doors and building bridges” how he does it.
He replied, “Anti-Semitism is a problem at the UN, but if you’re determined enough, you can win even in a place like the UN. Every day you wake up for another fight, but when you have moral clarity you can bring others to work with you.” Danon also observed, “When we respect our religion, others will respect us as well.”
Asked if he had any advice for readers, Danon shared: “Be proud of standing with Israel, don’t be shy or hide it. Be more vocal and more active. Once you do it, you become stronger. That’s what happened to me the last four years in a hostile environment. It gave me tools and techniques I apply on many other challenges. I’m optimistic about the future of Israel. What we’ve built in 71 years is a miracle, that we have diplomatic relations with more than 160 countries is a miracle. We have a very bright future ahead of us.”