April 5, 2006

"Jerusalem Syndrome"

Every year, a number of tourists visiting Jerusalem go bonkers, declaring themselves to be the messiah or suffering other psychotic episodes. Less well known, but more important, is the deranging effect that the Holy Land has on the rest of the world, day in and day out.

The impact of Holy Land-Related Derangement Syndrome on the Muslim world is well-known, but here are four examples of Jerusalem Syndrome playing out in America.

1. Haaretz reports:

New Christian pro-Israel lobby aims to be stronger than AIPAC
By Shlomo Shamir

NEW YORK - Televangelist John Hagee told Jewish community leaders over the weekend that the 40 million evangelical Christians in the United States support Israel and that he plans to utilize this power to help Israel by launching a Christian pro-Israel lobby.

The lobby is slated to launch in July, during a Washington conference in which hundreds of American evangelicals are slated to participate, Hagee said at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represents 52 national Jewish groups. He also discussed the lobby with Israel's consul general in New York, Aryeh Mekel.

Hagee said his group would be a Christian - and more powerful - version of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a large pro-Israel lobby, and would target senators and congressmen on Capitol Hill. A quarter of congressmen are evangelicals, and many American legislators represent regions that include a large evangelical population, he said.

Hagee - the founder and senior pastor of the evangelical Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, that claims an active membership of more than 18,000 - said the lobby's activities would be a "political earthquake."

To be more powerful than AIPAC would be powerful indeed. I once interviewed spokesmen for various lobbies -- the Arab, Muslim, Armenian, and Turkish -- and they all said that they fashion themselves on the lines pioneered by AIPAC, that AIPAC was their professional role model as the 800 pound gorilla of foreign lobbies, and they all dreamed of someday having as much clout as AIPAC. Exactly how much need there is for a second AIPAC is less than crystal clear, since the first one seems to be doing fine. As Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post last year:

How much clout does AIPAC have?

Well, consider that during the pro-Israel lobby's annual conference yesterday, a fleet of police cars, sirens wailing, blocked intersections and formed a motorcade to escort buses carrying its conventioneers -- to lunch.

The annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has long produced a massive show of bipartisan pandering, as lawmakers praise the well-financed and well-connected group. But this has been a rough year for AIPAC -- it has dismissed its policy director and another employee while the FBI examines whether they passed classified U.S. information to Israel -- and the organization is eager to show how big it is...

Another fact sheet announced that this is the "largest ever" conference, with its 5,000 participants attending "the largest annual seated dinner in Washington" joined by "more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address." The group added that its membership "has nearly doubled" over four years to 100,000 and that the National Journal calls it "one of the top four most effective lobbying organizations."

The Rev. Hagee didn't mention whether his organization would facilitate treasonous espionage against the United States, like AIPAC did in the Larry Franklin affair.

Of course, a big part of what drives the Christian fundamentalists'' obsession with Israel is that wacky Left Behind eschatology that believes that the fulfillment of Likud's plans will set off the Rapture. Granted, it will be tough toast for the Christ-rejecting Jews when Israeli dominance triggers the Apocalypse, but until then, the Book of Revelation-worshippers are all for Israel kicking ass.

In the world of politics, can something be too stupid to be true? I guess not.

2. But sometimes the Jerusalem Syndrome doesn't even have to have anything to do with actual Jews. If you are as deranged as appears to be Utah Congressman Chris Cannon, President Bush's point man in the House on pushing through Open Borders, well, even Mexicans qualify as the Lost Tribes of Israel. The Denver Post reports:

Utah is the most Republican state in the country. But the state's more than 95,000 undocumented immigrants can legally drive with a "driving privilege card" created last year. They can go to any public university or community college and pay in-state tuition.

Many of the state's otherwise conservative lawmakers are major players nationally in pushing for a more open immigration policy. In 2003, no less a conservative stalwart than Sen. Orrin Hatch sponsored the Dream Act, a bill that would have removed federal penalties for states that want to give illegal immigrants a college tuition break...

Political observers seeking to explain the state's unusual embrace of immigrants point to a variety of factors, many involving the state's dominant faith.

Over the past several decades, the Mormon Church has sent thousands of Utahns to Latin America on two-year missions to preach and proselytize, creating strong links between the region and people who went on to become some of the state's top policymakers. Utah Republican Rep. Chris Cannon went on a mission in Guatemala in the 1970s...

But one of the strongest influences, experts say, is embedded in the central doctrine of the Mormon faith, a force with enormous influence over both politics and society here. The Book of Mormon teaches that a lost tribe of Israelites known as the Lamanites landed on the American continent in 600 B.C. and they are the forefathers of the native peoples of Mexico and Central and South America.

Many Mormons see the tens of thousands of Latin American immigrants who have arrived in the seat of the church as guided by the hand of God in order to be converted, critical players in an unfolding religious tale of biblical proportions.

"Mormons have the Book of Mormon, and the Latin American, aboriginal ancestry is relevant to their views. Those notions, if sometimes misunderstood, are at least widely held," said Cannon, a four-term congressman and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"The Mormon Church has taken a position that is pretty clear. They are a proselytizing church, and they view the people coming to Utah as a great group of people to convert," Cannon said.

That faith has helped fire actions on the issue from Salt Lake to Washington. Cannon is in many ways the mirror image of Colorado's Tom Tancredo, the Littleton Republican who has crusaded for a federal immigration crackdown. The Utah lawmaker was the architect in 2003 of AgJobs, an unsuccessful bill in Congress that would have legalized 500,000 farm workers nationwide.

It's hard to tell from this if Rep. Cannon really believes Joseph's Smith's sci-fi anthropology, or whether he's just cynically playing coy to persuade Mormons to back the agenda of the Low Wages Lobby.

3. Meanwhile, in the real Holy Land, they recently had an election, as you might have heard if you didn't spend last week in a cave. Israeli elections seem to get more coverage in the American national press than any American state election not involving Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If I was an Israeli citizen, I would have voted for the winning Kadima Party organized by Ariel Sharon before his collapse, but I'm not, so I don't spend a lot of time thinking about Israeli politics. It's a country with a population only two-thirds of Los Angeles County's, and it's just not that important.

It's safe to say that in recent years, Sharon arrived at sensible conclusions such as the need for a border fence to keep out terrorists, and for evacuation of the more useless Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory. The defeat of Likud by the Israeli voters was a real thumb in the eye to the American neocons, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer set.

Here, however, is one interesting aspect to the election that hasn't gotten much coverage:

American traitor Jonathan Pollard's old handler is a new political power in Israel's Knesset. Dave in Boca, who has a lot of inside sources on this kind of thing, reports:

The Pensioners' Party has come out of nowhere to win seven seats to the Knesset under the leadership of Rafi Eitan, a well-known figure in Israel's turbulent history, who at 79 years old is playing his third act in a lifetime full of skullduggery.

Eitan was the mastermind of the kidnapping of Adolph Eichmann from Argentina, resulting in that Nazi war criminal's trial and execution for war crimes during the Second World War.

Then, in a less glorious episode, Eitan set up Jonathon Pollard as a spy who stole US secrets which informed observers say Israel subsequently traded to the USSR for spy info on its enemies in the Middle East. This was the reason that recently-deceased Caspar Weinberger reportedly gave for ordering Pollard to be kept in a maximum-security facility for life with no hope of parole or early release.

Reports that Rafi Eitan has a document that Israel never handed over to the Americans after Pollard's conviction is not likely to lead to Pollard's release, say these sources. The case for keeping Pollard in prison lies not only on his extensive spying for Israel, but also on the allegations that

Pollard's information led to revealing the identity of American spies operating in the Soviet Union.

There are reports that other information that the Israelis handed the USSR was also harmful to American foreign policy interests and that the harm done has led to the US's tough stance on Pollard's imprisonment.

Do you think anybody ever mentioned any of this to the Rev. Hagee's congregation?

4. Speaking of bizarre religious obsessions, the "debate" over immigration has been notable for the lack of debate as the arguments put forward by immigration restrictionists are ignored and their proponents demonized as "angry" "rabble-rousing" "haters.". The pro-illegal immigration supporters, on the other hand, are driven largely by a wholly emotional irrationality.

From whence does this hatred of facts and logic about immigration spring? When reading economist Paul Krugman's 3/27 NYT column "North of the Board," an admirable mea culpa on his part for all the hatred he has spewed at immigration restrictionists over the years, one of the prime answers became clear. Krugman wrote:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," wrote Emma Lazarus, in a poem that still puts a lump in my throat. I'm proud of America's immigrant history, and grateful that the door was open when my grandparents fled Russia.

In other words, I'm instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration. But a review of serious, nonpartisan research reveals some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular. If people like me are going to respond effectively to anti-immigrant demagogues, we have to acknowledge those facts.

First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small.... Second, while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration — especially immigration from Mexico.

From my experience of dealing with Krugman via email, he's a nasty son-of-a-gun, but I have to compliment him on finally developing the intellectual honesty to admit that his overwhelming urge to vomit abuse at immigration restrictionists has little basis in facts.

So, where, does this mindless passion that has been so prevalent in the media over the last week originate?

To be frank, much of what we see in the press appear to be examples of Jewish-American ancestor worship, a bizarre religious urge to make Ellis Island into a sacred site. Other groups, such as the Italian and Irish, share this to some extent, but Jews with their vast talent at nostalgic myth-making seem much more taken in by their own concoction than are Catholic ethnics, who are, sensibly, more focused on the future than the past. On the right, the main cheerleaders among journalists for massive immigration have been Jewish neocons like William Kristol, John Podhoretz, Tamar Jacoby, Michael Barone, and James Taranto.

Is unchecked immigration good for the Jews? Of course not. It will bring in more anti-Semites and terrorists, like Egyptian immigrant Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who murdered two Jews at the Israeli El Al Airline counter of LAX on the July 4, 2002. Nor does it make sense for America to hold open the gates to the whole world just in case anything happened, God forbid, to Israel. If it did, Israeli Jews would immediately get a special deal as refugees, not as ordinary immigrants, like Cubans did. Granted, Jews suffer less from economic competition with illegal immigrants than any other ethnic group due to their high average IQs and educational levels, but, rationally, security concerns should be high on their priority list.

No, the ferocious resistance of so many Jews in the media to thinking sensibly about immigration (there are, of course, numerous honorable exceptions such as Robert Samuelson, Dan Stein, and Steven Steinlight) is rooted in nostalgia.

Now, nostalgia is a pleasant luxury, but can Jews, even in America, really afford to give up thinking "Is it good for the Jews?" in favor of "Was it good for the Jews?"

UPDATE: 5. Hasidic riot last night in Brooklyn: WNBC reports:

Claiming police had mistreated a 75-year-old man after a routine traffic stop, hundreds of residents stormed the streets and set fires as officers in riot gear fanned out to clear the crowd.

Images: Hasidim Protest Man's Arrest

Police denied mistreating the man, Arthur Schick, after he was pulled over Tuesday night in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn for talking on his cell phone while driving. Police said he resisted the officers during the stop, which occurred around 6:30 p.m., and was arrested with two other people who meddled in the incident.

Protesters set small fires and blocked streets in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood while Schick's car sat parked in front of the bakery bearing his family's name.

Dozens of young Orthodox Jews in traditional black suits and hats gathered on street corners in the neighborhood, which sees very little crime. Charred garbage pockmarked the streets.

Police officers herded away onlookers, who yelled back angrily. The crowd had mostly dispersed by late Tuesday night.

Reader Comments:

As a recently apostate/quit/on-hiatus evangelical Christian, the fate of the Jews in general and Israeli ones in particular, during a Left Behind-style Rapture often takes one of these forms:

1) They are all genetically exempt from judgement through Yahweh's original covenant with their ancestors.

2) A whole bunch of them will become Christians/Messianic or "Completed" Jews as in the greatest hopes of the Jews for Jesus ministry. This is sometimes caused by a world-wide wave of anti-Jewish persecution.

3) Most of them in Israel are done for though 144,000, (probably all men as specified in the Book of Revelation) are delivered from whatever tribulation the anti-Christ doles out on Israel.

That advantage from Hagee's perspective of his proposed Evangelicals for Israel group is more cash and an Israel lobby that is overtly pro-Christian. I've never looked into it, but I'd imagine AIPAC is kind of uneasy about Christians who may be obsessed with converting Jews.


Steve, some of us have been working for years to get Chris Cannon out of office.

Most of us who have been doing that believe in Joseph Smith's "sci-fi anthropology". Not surprising--Cannon's district is over 80% Mormon.

Your question presents two answers that are not mutually exclusive: having talked to Cannon several times, I believe he both accepts Mormon theology AND cynically applies it to justify his pro-amnesty position.

Some of us think his justification is both politically and theologically wrong. We oppose amnesties, unlimited immigration generally, illegal immigration specifically, etc etc. In other words, sir, there are (or were) a whole lot of Mormons on YOUR side of the issue.

Republican Mormons in Utah who oppose amnesty have already been betrayed by our party and our Congresscritters. It isn't any fun to also be stabbed in the back and insulted by someone we thought was an ally.


I'm an evangelical Christian myself, but in the old-fashioned sense--one who believes that God still expects us to spread the good news among the nations. The oddest thing about the fiercely pro-Israel evangelical Christians is their treatment of Jews as the one group not in need of conversion to be saved. I hope that this is due to a certain theological reading of Revelation, leading them to believe that the Jews will be saved by God's grace somehow in the end. I'm not a biblical scholar myself, but there seems to be disagreement among theologians on this point.

But to be fair to the evangelicals who strongly support the secular state of Israel, I think there is more to it than "end times" tunnel vision. I've heard a number of sermons in evangelical churches on the Christian duty to look after the welfare of the Jews in general, in part because of past persecution. Many evangelical churches try to model themselves after the 1st century church, which was strongly Jewish in tradition. I suspect that feeling an emotional tie to the Jews of today is like reaching back into the past for them. I see the sin of pride lurking, though, in believing that the God of the Old Testament, the deliverer of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. needs Americans to protect his people above all others.


Most of my relatives are Mormon and are instinctively pro-immigration. Hispanics are among those most inclined to convert to Mormonism, so Mormons have positive feelings about them. Many Mormons in the mountain states are farmers who enjoy the cheap labor too. Mormons like to see the these new little congregations of Hispanic Mormons spreading rapidly through their neighborhoods. Eveidently, the American Catholic Church has a similar attitude: it favors open borders in order to fill the pews. But Mormons' immigration feelings are not that difficult to change. All I have to do is share a few facts from VDARE, and their natural conservatism does the rest. Just tell them they join the church just as fast in Mexico. All I have to do with my Dad, for example, is to remind him how 90% of the inmates housed at the county jail where he works are Mexican.


You underrate the evangelicals, I think. An evangelical pro-Israel lobby needn't be predicated on radical eschatology...

What this actually is, is an evangelical anti-Islamic lobby. Can't call it that, of course - too "intolerant", and folks would far rather be "for" something than "against" something else. So...let's get together and be "for" whatever Moslems hate most - which is the state of Israel.

As a bonus, philo-semitism is a public contradiction of left-wing stereotypes about evangelicals, and critics are hard-pressed to come up with arguments they can make in public against...supporting Jews. Let the liberals find out what it's like to be aligned against a minority immune to criticism.

I think it's brilliant, personally.


Lots of readers have written in to say they are sure that Michael Barone is Catholic by upbringing. I haven't been able to find anything on Google on the question, one way or another. Can you? Remember, being Italian is not absolute proof of Catholicism.

NYC mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, for example, was an Episcopalian with an Italian father and Jewish mother. No wonder he was such a political powerhouse in NYC!

Here is Barone discussing his ancestors and schooling in detail. He mentions his Irish Catholic grandmother, but not the religion of his Sicilian ancestors. He attended a public school and elite (i.e., non-parochial) private schools.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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