Ranking Righteous Gentiles

April 12, 2010

On Yom HaShoah we are reminded of the choice we have in how we memorialize the millions who perished in the Holocaust. It is the choice between defining “never again” as “never again to anyone” or “never again to us.” This includes the type of activism we pursue, and with whom we choose to partner in pursuing our vision of the future.

Holocaust museums and centers across the nation have taught a lesson of “never again to anyone,” and while our record on this commitment is certainly far from perfect, the educational programming offered is that of tolerance for all, not just Jews. Each year at this time I am reminded of one of the more blatant examples of the opposing message, that of “never again to us,” found in the 2006 book Standing with Israel by David Brog of John Hagee’s Christian’s United for Israel (CUFI).

While marketing Christian Zionists as partners for Jews and Israel, Brog conducts a comparison of the motives of Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to rescue Jews. He first points out that the founders of Yad Vashem chose to recognize Righteous Gentiles in the center’s Garden of Righteousness based on their actions, regardless of their motivations. He states, “They did not dare sit in judgment upon heroism so sublime.” But then Brog proceeds to do just that.

Brog compares three types of Righteous Gentiles, critiquing each in terms of their fitness as supporters of Jews and Israel. The first example is the Dutch family of Corrie ten Boom, whose support of Jews in the Holocaust was based on their religious beliefs which included a narrative of Jews as the “chosen people.” The family saved the lives of many Jews by using a hiding place in their home, but they were eventually turned in by an informant. Corrie survived Ravensbruck, but lost four relatives including her father and her sister Betsie. In her later years Corrie ten Boom became well known in evangelical circles for her book The Hiding Place.

Other family members, including her nephew, became involved in Christian Zionist activities. A family friend, Jan Willem van der Hoeven, co-founded the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ) and the Feast of Tabernacles event which brings thousands of Christian Zionists to Israel each year. Brog applauds the sacrifice and efforts of the ten Booms because, as he states, “They saved Jews because of a worldview that assigned a special significance to them.”

The second example was Pastor André Trocmé and the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Under the leadership of Pastor Trocmé and his wife Magda, and a network of other pastors, the people of this small village and surrounding area in France managed to save the lives of approximately five thousand Jews. Trocme is known for his famous statement when pressured by Vichy authorities. “I do not know what a Jew is. I know only human beings.” The family’s rescue operation also included nephew Daniel Trocme, who died in Majdanek at the age of thirty-four.

Courtesy of ajpn.org

Exemplary humanitarians: André and Magda Trocmé

The Trocme’s motivations do not suit Brog. “Corrie ten Boom stressed a love for a specific tribe - the Jews - and as a result her ideological heirs can be found planted firmly in the pro-Israel camp today. Pastor Trocme was a universalist who eschewed narrow loyalties to any one tribe or ethnicity. Trocme’s followers thus inherit no particular commitment to Israel or the Jewish people.” Brog continues to attack Trome’s ideological heirs as “among Israel’s vocal critics.”

The third example of a type of Righteous Gentile critiqued by Brog is Oskar Schindler who was not motivated by religious beliefs. The story of how he saved the lives of more than one thousand Jews is now well-known, as a result of the popular movie Schindler’s List. However, Schindler’s motivations also do not suit Brog who states, “Schindler’s secular righteousness transcended loyalty to any particular tribe or clan.”

Brog’s critique concludes that the latter two categories of Righteous Gentiles were inferior because they “were never dedicated specifically to the Jewish people. These individuals saved Jews not because they were Jews but because they were human beings in danger.”

Brog also points out that Corrie ten Boom is “a compelling symbol of a deeper phenomenon. The fact is that most Christian Zionists are obsessed with the Holocaust.” In this Brog is correct, but his next conclusion is demonstrably false. Brog claims that the obsession is motivated by Christian Zionist desire to make amends for the Holocaust, and is secondary to their desire to pursue the fulfillment of their prophecy narrative. He quotes Gustav Scheller from his book Operation Exodus as wanting to “turn past curses into blessings.”

Brog’s insistence on Jewish exceptionalism is a direct contradiction of the very essence of Jewish social justice and certainly of the concept of “never again to anyone.” However, there is another problem with Brog’s accounts about the motivations of Christian Zionists. Either willfully or out of ignorance Brog chooses to look only at what he views as positive aspects of an obsession. He chooses not to see the glaring warning signs that this obsession is a two-edged sword.

He quotes from the same book by Gustav Scheller which I quoted in my recent article about the theme of fishers and hunters. (The book’s full title is Operation Exodus: Prophecy Being Fulfilled.) This is the motif widely used in Christian Zionist media in which there must be a second Holocaust which forces the Jews of the world to flee to Israel so that the prophetic drama can be fulfilled. This was the theme of John Hagee’s infamous quote in which he claimed that Hitler was a hunter sent by God. It was also a theme in the book [Hastening the Coming of the Messiah: Your Role in Fulfilling Prophecy}(http://www.armageddonbooks.com/253hasten.html), by Johannes Facius who followed Scheller as head of Operation Exodus.

Brog is surrounded by CUFI leadership who constantly preach, teach, and write about preparing the way for the “End-Times”, while they have simultaneously mastered the talking points that are required to appeal to their Jewish audiences absolute worst fears. Particularly third whose inherited Shoah trauma makes them easily susceptible to rightist ideologies, for which slogans such as “never again” remain a central motif.

For decades, Holocaust education has warned of the dangers of demonization of any group of people based on their race or religion. The narrative of Christian Zionism directly contradicts this lesson through the teaching of narratives in which the future of entire nations is based simply on their biblical heritage. In end times prophecy media, millions of people are slated to be ruthlessly destroyed. Christian Zionists claim that they are not responsible for the outcome of promoting these beliefs.

As John Hagee bellowed just before his infamous sermon quote about Hitler as God’s hunter, “They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks meaning - there’s no place to hide. And that will be offensive to some people. Well, dear heart, be offended. I didn’t write it. Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth.” In other words, John Hagee is not responsible for broadcasting to millions around the globe that Jews of the world must be forced by “hunters” to move to Israel.

In his bio, Bob Westbrook describes himself as the “Bible Prophecy Moderator” for Israel My Beloved, the website of Jan Willem van der Hoeven, mentioned previously as the founder of ICEJ, the annual Feast of Tabernacles event, and a family friend of Corrie ten Boom. Westbrook’s own website is currently being refurbished, but his previous site included an animated feature titled “Demise of the Dome,” flashmaps of an expanding Israel, and a map of “Israel’s Borders After Next War With Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinians.” One of the maps includes this commentary about Israel. “The idea that they will dispossess other peoples from their lands may not be acceptable to many modern minds but the Lord has declared it and it will surely take place. It is his will, it is his command, it is his directive, and he has confirmed that it will happen.”

The millions of people dispossessed in this scenario are of no concern to Christian Zionists because they have been condemned in the prophetic drama, the culmination of which is celebrated in the annual Feast of Tabernacles event. Furthermore, as Brigitte Gabriel yelled out at when she spoke at the 2007 CUFI summit, “they have no soul.”

Even if one overlooks the moral repugnance of this ideology, self-preservation should warn us that these beliefs are problematic. If Muslims or Arabs can be demonized based on their supposed biblical lineage, then so can Jews. If Muslims or Arabs can be dehumanized as genetically inclined to terrorism, so can Jews. Brog may reject “universalism” for being too relativistic, but his particularism keeps Jews at risk.

David Brog’s book presents a romanticized version of Christian Zionism that commits the sin of omission in chapter after chapter. Nevertheless it laid the groundwork for much of the propaganda that has continued to be directed at the Jewish community for the last several years. Brog’s book has been followed by equally starry-eyed and even more seriously flawed portrayals of Christian Zionism, including Stephen Spector’s Evangelicals and Israel, which was endorsed by Abraham Foxman and Walter Russell Mead. In a recent article in Tablet, both Brog and Mead repeat the current talking points for why these Christian Zionists are Israel’s greatest supporters. But supporters of what?

This millennialist obsession has been consistently Judeo-centric, but not consistently Jewish-friendly. It is Christian Zionists who set the parameters which determine which humans have value and which do not in this prophetic saga. Not Jews. End times prophecy becomes volatile when Jewry fails to play its required role in bringing about the Christian Millennium. This is a lesson repeated in history over hundreds of years.

David Brog is pouring fuel on millennialist flames while demeaning those Jews, as well as Christians, who have a very different interpretation of the lessons of the Holocaust.

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