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Zion's Christian Soldiers
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SHOW: 60 Minutes
DATE: October 6, 2002
ZION'S CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
BOB SIMON reporting:
What's the number-one item on the agenda of the Christian right? Abortion?School prayer? No and no. Believe it or not, what's most important to a lot of conservative Christians is the Jewish state, Israel; its size, its strength, its survival. Why so? Well, there is the alliance between America and Israel in the war on Islamic terror, but it goes deeper. For Christians who interpret the Bible in a literal fashion, Israel has a crucial role to play in bringing on the Second Coming of Christ.
This Friday, thousands are expected to gather on the Mall in Washington to express their faith and to lobby the administration. The rally is being organized by the Christian Coalition, which wants to make sure that the Bush administration sees the struggle in the Middle East between Jews and Muslims their way, the Christian way.
(Footage of people dancing at pep rallies; audience members)
SIMON: (Voiceover) At a congregation in Colorado, it's Israel Awareness Day. But this is not a Jewish congregation, and these are not Jewish dancers. They're all Christians. Not only are they holding these pep rallies all across America, they're also streaming here to Israel...
(Footage of parade)
SIMON: (Voiceover) ...to the dangerous streets of Jerusalem to express their undying devotion.
Unidentified Woman 1: We're forever with Israel! Hallelujah! God bless you!
(Footage of parade)
SIMON: (Voiceover) American Christian Zionists say they're now a more important source of support for Israel than American Jews, than the traditional Jewish lobby.
Reverend JERRY FALWELL: It is my belief that the Bible Belt in America is Israel's only safety belt right now.
(Footage of Falwell; congregation)
SIMON: (Voiceover) The Reverend Jerry Falwell is one of the leaders of the Christian right. That's the bulk of evangelical Christians, and Falwell claims to speak for all of them.
Rev. FALWELL: There are 70 million of us, and if there's one thing that brings us together quickly, it's whenever we begin to detect our government becoming a little anti-Israel.
(Footage of tanks, troops)
SIMON: (Voiceover) Falwell began to detect just that last April when President Bush called on Israel to withdraw its tanks from Palestinian towns on the West Bank.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Withdraw without delay.
(Footage of the White House; tanks)
SIMON: (Voiceover) So Falwell shot off a letter of protest to the White House, which was followed by 100,000 e-mails from Christian conservatives. Israel did not move its tanks. Bush did not ask again.
Rev. FALWELL: There's nothing that would bring the wrath of the Christian public in this country down on this government like abandoning or opposing Israel in a critical matter.
SIMON: This is his core constituency.
Rev. FALWELL: It is. And I don't think for a moment he's going to do that. I--I--I really believe when the chips are down, Ariel Sharon can trust George Bush to do the right thing every time.
(Footage of crowd, Prime Minister Sharon)
SIMON: (Voiceover) Prime Minister Sharon can apparently trust the Christian evangelicals to do the right thing, too. They treated him like a rock star when they flocked to Jerusalem last week to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
Prime Minister ARIEL SHARON (Israel): United, with God's help and your solidarity, we will win! We will win!
(Footage of crowd, celebration)
SIMON: (Voiceover) With the flags of 60 nations on display, there was an Olympic air about the event.
Unidentified Woman 2: The United States of America!
SIMON: (Voiceover) Gold went to those who loved Israel the most.
Crowd: (In unison) Israel! Israel! Israel! Israel!
(Footage of celebration; historical footage from Israel)
SIMON: (Voiceover) But what propels them? Why do they love Israel so much? Because the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland is seen by evangelicals as a precondition for the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, when the Jewish state was created in 1948, they saw it as a sign. Israel's conquest of Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 deepened their excitement, heightened their anticipation.
(Footage of tanks; buildings being blown up; wounded people; soldiers)
SIMON: (Voiceover) And today's war between Jews and Arabs was also prophesized, they say. They've seen it all before in the pages of the Bible.
Mr. ED McATEER: The Bible does not contain the Word of God, Bob. Listen to me closely. The Bible is the Word of God.
(Footage of McAteer)
SIMON: (Voiceover) Ed McAteer is known as the godfather of the Christian right. He's a former Colgate marketing executive from Memphis and was a founder of the Moral Majority. He wears his religion on his sleeve and his politics on his tie.
There is a battle going on in the Middle East right now.
Mr. McATEER: No question about it.
SIMON: Is this the beginning of the final battle?
Mr. McATEER: Bob, a--as I used to tell my salesmen, don't give me a happiness report. Tell me like it is. And so I don't push my views on people, but I'm telling you from my heart I believe that. I believe th...
SIMON: The end of days is upon us?
Mr. McATEER: ...I believe that we are seeing prophecy unfold so rapidly and dramatically and wonderfully and, without exaggerating, makes me breathless.
(Footage of books; excerpt from "Left Behind")
SIMON: (Voiceover) And he's not the only one. Countless millions of Americans are reading a series of novels called "Left Behind." They're topping best-seller lists all over the country, and they're being made into movies. They chronicle apocalyptic times. The setting is the 21st century, complete with warplanes and TV correspondents.
(Excerpt from "Left Behind")
SIMON: (Voiceover) But the plot is ripped from the pages of the Bible, so it all winds up here in Israel, where according to the Book of Revelations...
The final battle in the history of the future will be fought on this ancient battleground in northern Israel called Armageddon. It will follow seven years of tribulation during which the Earth will be shaken by such disasters that previous human history will seem like a day in the country. The blood will rise as high as a horse's bridle here at Armageddon, before Christ triumphs to begin his 1,000-year rule. And the Jews? Well, two-thirds of them will have been wiped out by now, and the survivors will accept Jesus at last.
Mr. GERSHOM GORENBERG (Author): The Jews die or convert. As a Jew, I can't feel very comfortable with the affections of somebody who looks forward to that scenario.
(Footage of Gorenberg; book, "The End of Days")
SIMON: (Voiceover) Gershom Gorenberg knows that scenario well. He's the author of "The End of Days," a book about those Christian evangelicals who choose to read the Bible literally.
Mr. GORENBERG: They don't love the real Jewish people. They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that's not who we are. And we never auditioned for that part, and the play is not one that ends up good for us.
SIMON: It ends up with salvation for the Christians, for the people who wrote the play, but not for you.
Mr. GORENBERG: Correct. If you listen to the drama that they are prescri--they're describing, essentially, it's a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act.
(Footage of Simon and Gorenberg)
SIMON: (Voiceover) But if that makes Gershom Gorenberg feel uncomfortable, these Christians maintain, it's only because he doesn't understand how deeply they love him.
Ms. KAY ARTHUR (Precept Ministries): The Jews need conversion. They need to know that Messiah is coming. And the Bible tells us what's going to happen.
(Footage of service)
Ms. ARTHUR: You're going to have to take the Word of God and get to know God so that a fellowship...
(Footage of "Precepts For Life With Kay Arthur")
SIMON: (Voiceover) Kay Arthur heads an organization called Precept Ministries in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She brings thousands of pilgrims to the Holy Land and has an answer for every question.
This is what confuses me. Here you are, a great friend of Israel...
Ms. ARTHUR: Yes.
SIMON: ...great friend of the Jews.
Ms. ARTHUR: Yes, and they would tell you.
SIMON: But what you're saying is that some of them are going to be destroyed and some of them are going to be converted.
Ms. ARTHUR: But see, I'm not saying it; God's saying it.
(Footage of West Bank and Gaza; people hiking up mountain; housing)
SIMON: (Voiceover) The Christian fundamentalists believe the only Israelis who are really listening to God are the hard-line Jewish settlers who live on the West Bank and Gaza and refuse to move. The Christians trudge up to these settlements as if they were making pilgrimages to holy shrines. That's because they and the settlers share a core conviction.
You believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people.
Mr. McATEER: I believe it as much as I believe I'm sitting here looking at you right now.
SIMON: It is theirs?
Mr. McATEER: It is theirs. Every grain of sand between the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and the--and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Jew.
SIMON: That includes the West Bank.
Mr. McATEER: That includes every s--grain of sand...
SIMON: It includes Gaza.
Mr. McATEER: Every bit of it, every bit of it.
(Footage of man smoking; children playing; farmers' market; cattle; from Oslo Accords ceremony)
SIMON: (Voiceover) And the three million Palestinians who live on the West Bank and Gaza? McAteer suggests the bulk of them could be cleansed from this God-given real estate and moved to some Arab country. Nothing can come between the Jews and their land. In fact, many fundamentalists believe that when Prime Minister Rabin signed the Oslo Accords and offered to trade land for peace, it was not only a mistake, it was a sin.
Ms. ARTHUR: They were going against the Word of God. You cannot go against the Word of God. And I believe that God stopped it.
Ms. ARTHUR: Well, by the things that happened.
SIMON: By the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin?
Ms. ARTHUR: If God--if God wounds and he heals, if he kills and if he makes alive, if he is the Lord and he does these things, then no person dies accidentally.
SIMON: You think Rabin was being punished for getting involved in the peace process?
Ms. ARTHUR: I think that God did not want that Oslo Accord to go through.
Mr. YOSSI ALFER (Political Analyst): God save us from these people.
(Footage of Yossi Alfer)
SIMON: (Voiceover) Political analyst Yossi Alfer served 12 years in Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad. Later, he became Israel director of the American Jewish Committee.
Mr. ALFER: When you see what these people are encouraging Israel and the US administration to do--that is, ignore the Palestinians, if not worse, if not kick them out; expand the settlements to the greatest extent possible--they are leading us into a scenario of out-and-out disaster.
(Footage of Simon and Abe Foxman)
SIMON: (Voiceover) But many American Jewish leaders who used to shun support from the Christian right have changed their minds. Abe Foxman is head of the Anti-Defamation League.
Do you think Israel is in such dire straits that you need to get support from whatever quarter you can?
Mr. ABE FOXMAN (Anti-Defamation League): No, I wouldn't put it that way. I--again, this quarter, these evangelicals, have been supporting Israel throughout; some for religious reasons, some for theological reasons, some for political reasons. Doesn't matter. They've been there.
SIMON: When you're standing next to a Christian evangelist at a pro-Israel rally, does it bother you that in his vision of the end of days, you, Abe Foxman, will disappear or be converted?
Mr. FOXMAN: We believe--I believe--I'm waiting for the First Coming of the Messiah. He's waiting for the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Mr. FOXMAN: There are--it--it could be a detail. But that doesn't change the fact that on this specific issue on this day, we come together. And what is the issue? The issue is fighting terrorism.
(Footage of Bush and Sharon)
Pres. BUSH: Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister. Glad you're here.
SIMON: (Voiceover) That's precisely what the Bush administration and the Israeli government have been saying since September 11th, that they're allies in the war on terror. But the Christian fundamentalists go further. They say it's not just an alliance between nations, but between religions.
I think a lot of Muslims feel these days that Christians and Jews are getting together and ganging up on them.
Rev. FALWELL: That's true. I'm sorry that's true. I hope it will cease to be so, but I think that is the fact right now.
(Footage of window; from Israel)
SIMON: (Voiceover) Falwell believes most Muslims want to live in peace but, he says, the lines have been drawn: Christians and Jews on one side, Muslims on the other. And, he says, those lines were drawn more than 1,000 years ago.
Rev. FALWELL: I think Mohammed was a terrorist. He--I've read enough of the history of his life written by both Muslims and--and non-Muslims, that he was a--a violent man, a man of war.
SIMON: So the same way that Moses provided the ultimate example for the Jews and the same way that Jesus provided the ultimate example for Christians, Mohammed provided the ultimate example for Muslims, and he was a terrorist?
Rev. FALWELL: In my opinion. And I do believe that Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. And I think that Mohammed set an opposite example.
(Footage of Simon and Alfer)
SIMON: (Voiceover) What frightens Yossi Alfer is that he hears much of Falwell's world view reflected in the words of the Bush administration.
Mr. ALFER: When we hear expressions like `the evil ones,' this kind of black-and-white view of good guys and bad guys who are either with us...
SIMON: But you're the good guys in Bush's mind.
Mr. ALFER: ...or against us--I understand we're the good guys.
SIMON: But as long as you're the good guys, this is good for the Jews, isn't it?
Mr. ALFER: It's not good for the Jews. We have to get God out of this conflict if we're going to have any chance to survive as a healthy, secure Jewish state.
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