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Goldberg is Wrong to Conflate Spirituality with Ignorance

In late June, JTA’s Ron Kampeas wrote an in-depth profile of Michele Bachmann, highlighting her pro-Israel bona fides and her excellent relationship with the Jewish community in her congressional district. The article noted that unlike many politicians, Bachmann’s affinity for Israel was sparked by her time living there for a summer as a teenager.

“She was informed on the minor details of what’s going on,” Jenna Mitelman (who interviewed Bachmann for the blog site TCJewFolk), told Kampeas for the piece. The comment is consistent with what others say about her–that Bachmann’s firsthand experience in Israel during her formative years, as well as her religious upbringing that taught the value in the relationship between the Jewish people and the Christian community, has given her an informed, sensitive and heartfelt appreciation for the state of Israel.

“Many of her pro-Israel supporters said they were especially impressed by her command of Middle East issues, pointing in particular to a recent video on Israel posted by her campaign,” Kampeas wrote. “The video showcases Bachmann’s understanding of how Israelis view their alliance with the United States as nuanced, emotive and consistent with her pronounced Christian identity.”

All this sounded fair-minded and respectful (I’ll admit, a pleasant surprise given Bachmann’s coverage in the liberal press) particularly with regard to her religious convictions. But for an example of what I feared, look no further than Jeffrey Goldberg’s column in Bloomberg about her today.

Goldberg’s premise rests on an apparent contradiction that Bachmann loves Israel but dislikes gay people. Therefore, she should be whisked away to the Tel Aviv gay pride parade, where she will be forced to confront the fact there are gay Israelis. I, too, believe Israel’s welcoming and accepting attitude toward gay men and women is something of which we should be proud. It is not a contradiction for Bachmann to stand against gay marriage and still love Israel. Perhaps a more beneficial stunt would be to take American liberals to the Tel Aviv gay pride parade, since so much of the Left endorses the theory that Israel is an apartheid state yet somehow cannot find the time to lead a flotilla to one of Israel’s many neighbors who imprison or execute gays.

Goldberg’s thesis continues—Bachmann “doesn’t seem to know much at all [about Israel], apart from what she reads in the Bible.” Unfortunately for Goldberg, his theory has already been blown to pieces by Kampeas (and other journalists who have actually interviewed Bachmann and those who know her well). What is risible, though, is the genesis of the thesis. This is a statement Bachmann made: “We have to show that we are inextricably entwined, that as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play.”

That is the second and last time Bachmann is quoted in the article. Presumably, Bachmann quoting theology is sufficient to establish ignorance. But Israel is a country full of those who, like Bachmann, support Israel, understand the geostrategic threats facing the Jewish state, and respect the theological underpinnings of the Jewish state’s existence and continued survival. The uncomfortable fact for Bachmann’s detractors on the Left is that she is both deeply spiritual and well-informed about the Middle East. Israel has been led by such people for decades; it shouldn’t be so objectionable for the U.S. to be as well.


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