MSNBC Blames Conservative Israelis for No Peace, Frets Over 'Dangerous' Christian Right
On Wednesday's Last Word on MSNBC, substitute host Chris Hayes of the left-wing Nation magazine used conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck's rally in Israel as an occasion to blame conservative Israelis like Prime Minister Netanyahu for the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians and asserted that it was "dangerous" for such Israelis to ally with America's Christian Zionist movement.
Hayes - who will soon be host of his own MSNBC show - brought aboard Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of the left-wing J Street organization which is infamous for criticizing Israel and promoting a liberal approach for the Jewish state to deal with its Arab neighbors. Before introducing Ben-Ami, Hayes showed clips of Beck's rally and fretted:
The reason that there is something both important and dangerous here is the alliance between the Christian right and the most reactionary forces in Israeli life that create political obstacles to peace in the most tumultuous region in the world. This week, there's Glenn Beck right there in the middle of all of it.
Even though, during the past decade, left-leaning Israeli pime ministers have offered a two-state solution several times - the Palestinian Authority rejecting the offer each time - Hayes soon implicated Netanyahu and his supporters in holding up the process. Hayes:
For a long time, this kind of alliance between the Christian right - Christian Zionists - and the Israeli settler movement and the right wing of Israeli politics have sort of happened at a time when the center of Israeli debate has seemed to move to the right, and positions have gotten more dug in, and we've seen Netanyahu saying things that - and people in his cabinet saying things that really would have been outside the mainstream 10 years earlier.
In fact, in recent years, Netanyahu has repeatedly offered to hold discussions while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused unless the Israel government halts construction within the borders of existing Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem. When the Prime Minister agreed to a 10-month moratorium, Abbas delayed holding talks until the month before the moratorium would expire, and has refused negotiations since that expiration.
And, as he seemed to miss the point that the violent actions of terrorist groups against Israel - as well as anti-Jew rhetoric and indoctrination by the Palestinian Authority - are major obstacles to peace, Hayes concluded the segment by fretting that Americans are not more aware of the activities of peaceful Palestinians:
CHRIS HAYES: Final question, and this is slightly off topic, but I want to get your thoughts on: Do you think Americans know enough about nonviolent resistance and nonviolent political action that happens in the Palestinian occupied territories against the occupation?
JEREMY BEN-AMI: I don't think so. I think that there's an image of Palestinian and Arab and Muslim terrorism, and it is the face of the resistance movements in place that the far right in this country and in Israel wants to promote.
As for the left-leaning political nature of J Street, the pro-Israel group CAMERA recently noted some of its out-of-the-mainstream activities:
J Street is the self-described "pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby." Yet it has criticized Israeli counter-terrorism campaigns like Operation Cast Lead, lobbied against a congressional letter condemning the murder of an Israeli family by Palestinian terrorists, joined with the pro-Tehran National Iranian American Council to oppose U.S. sanctions on the mullahsm and, through Ben-Ami, repeatedly lied about its financial dependence on billionaire George Soros.
CAMERA also notes "Representative Gary Ackerman's (D-NY) break with the group early this year when he learned J Street had asked the White House not to veto a U.N. resolution condemning Israel for building in West Bank Jewish communities."
Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Wednesday, August 24, Last Word on MSNBC:
CHRIS HAYES, AFTER A CLIP OF GLENN BECK SPEAKING IN ISRAEL: Oh, Last Word viewers, hear the words of my mouth. We're thinking of naming my show on the weekends, "Hear the Words of My Mouth." Ex-Fox News host and the king of conspiracy theory radio was in Israel today, all part of a four-day event to, in his words, "Restore Courage." During today's production meeting, we had a blessed conversation asking: Is Glenn Beck now just a side show? Cast aside from his Fox News perch, he's sort of fallen by the wayside. There's something about this rally we decided we had to talk about. Partly because, to be honest, there's tape.
GLENN BECK: Somebody said this week that we were going to bring chaos and mayhem, and I thought, it's the Middle East, how would you know?
HAYES: Ha, ha, ha, ha. That was the beginning of Beck's speech today, that speech that this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) event has been leading to, and one that, in Beck's mind, people all over the world have been waiting for. Take this passage when he quotes from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah.
BECK: In synagogues all over the world just last week, the words of the prophet Isaiah.: "Comfort, oh, comfort your people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and to declare to her, her term of hard service is over."
Look. Look at us. Look at where we are. Look at what we say. We declare words of comfort to Israel and to Jerusalem.
HAYES: Call me crazy, but it almost sounds like Beck is saying that the prophet Isaiah foretold of Glenn Beck giving a speech in Jerusalem, even though only 1,700 people showed up to hear him speak today. The reason that there is something both important and dangerous here is the alliance between the Christian right and the most reactionary forces in Israeli life that create political obstacles to peace in the most tumultuous region in the world. This week, there's Glenn Beck right there in the middle of all of it.
Joining me now is Jeremy Ben-Ami, the author of the new book, A Voice for Israel. He is the president and founder of J Street, D.C.-based pro-Israel peace lobbying organization. Jeremy, what did you make of the Glenn Beck spectacle today?
JEREMY BEN-AMI, FOUNDER OF J STREET: Well, I think you're right, and you don't know whether to laugh or to cry because, on the one hand, the tape is too good, you've got to run it because you've got to laugh at the idea of this guy pretending to be a modern-day messiah, a modern-day prophet at the gates of Jerusalem. But, on the other hand, it is tragic that there are those in Israeli politics and, frankly, in American Jewish life and Jewish politics in this country who thinks that this is what it means to be a friend of Israel, and they're ready to embrace him on his terms as he's defining a new holy war that's going to engulf the Middle East.
HAYES: The reception in Israel has been quite polarized to Beck since he's a polarizing figure. How has it seemed to break down?
BEN-AMI: Well, you do have people on the right and on the left who've criticized him and said we should have nothing to do with him, but there are very, very strong elements among Israeli settlers on the West Bank, there are people within Prime Minister Netanyahu's own party who really seem determined to cement an alliance with the farthest right of the Christian Zionist movement in this country, and Glenn Beck is clearly aligned with them as well as a way of shoring up support in this country politically for Israel.
HAYES: For a long time, this kind of alliance between the Christian right - Christian Zionists - and the Israeli settler movement and the right wing of israeli politics have sort of happened at a time when the center of Israeli debate has seemed to move to the right, and positions have gotten more dug in, and we've seen Netanyahu saying things that - and people in his cabinet saying things that really would have been outside the mainstream 10 years earlier. Att he same time, very recently, it does seem like that there has been a real kind of uprising in Israeli against the Netanyahu government. There's hundreds of thousands of people in the street. Where is Israeli public opinion right now on the issue of the settlements and on the issue of peace?
BEN-AMI: Well, the settlements have never been popular, and the Israelis have always believed that, at the end of the day, there would be a two-state solution with the Palestinian people. The problem is that they've never thought that it could actually happen. So when Glenn Beck shows up in Jerusalem and says I'm here to save Israel from the two-state solution, that this is a greater threat than bombs and bullets to Israel is that we may actually have a two-state solution, or that you have members of Congress here and candidates frankly running for the presidency of the United States on the Republican line who are saying that they don't believe a two-state solution is in Israel's interests, they are way out of line with the majority not only of Israelis but also of Jewish-Americans who do believe we've got to have peace, we've got to have a two-state solution.
HAYES: Final question, and this is slightly off topic, but I want to get your thoughts on: Do you think Americans know enough about nonviolent resistance and nonviolent political action that happens in the Palestinian occupied territories against the occupation?
BEN-AMI: I don't think so. I think that there's an image of Palestinian and Arab and Muslim terrorism, and it is the face of the resistance movements in place that the far right in this country and in Israel wants to promote. But, at the same time, you have a massive movement on the West Bank now that has been nonviolently protesting for years the exact route of the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank and is asking now peacefully for their statehood and for freedom and independence. It's in line with the Arab Spring and the Arab Awakening, and it's unlikely that all of the movement towards freedom and independence that's happening in the rest of the Arab world is going to stop at the gates of Israel.
HAYES: Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of J Street, thanks for joining me tonight.