Posted by Tony from ? (220.127.116.11) on Thursday, October 10, 2002 at 1:30PM :
POLITICS-US - Conservative Christians Biggest Backers of
WASHINGTON, Oct 9 (IPS) - Of the major religious groups in the
United States, evangelical Christians are the biggest backers of Israel
and Washington's planned war against Iraq, says a new survey released
here Wednesday by a politically potent group of fundamentalist
Christians and Jews.
Some 69 percent of conservative Christians favour military action
against Baghdad; 10 percentage points more than the U.S. adult
population as a whole.
And almost two-thirds of evangelical Christians say they support
Israeli actions towards "Palestinian terrorism", compared with 54
percent of the general population, according to the survey, which was
released by Stand For Israel, a six-month-old spin-off of the
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
"The single strongest group for Israel in the United States, apart from
Jews, is conservative Christians," declared Ralph Reed, co-chairman
of Stand for Israel and former executive director of the Christian
Coalition. He also noted that 80 percent of self-identified Republicans
also favour military action against Baghdad.
Reed, who was widely regarded as the wunderkind of the Christian
Right during the 1990s, said the poll results might have important
political implications in upcoming U.S. elections, particularly for the
Jewish vote, which has traditionally gone overwhelmingly to
Democrats. In 2000, for example, only 18 percent of Jewish voters cast
ballots for President George W. Bush.
"There is a new openness among Jewish voters to support this
president and other Republicans who strongly support Israel," Reed
said, adding that he believes Bush in 2004 may reap close to the 38
percent of the Jewish vote harvested by Ronald Reagan in 1984, the
highest percentage ever received by a Republican presidential
Some 81 percent of Jewish respondents said they see Bush as a strong
supporter of Israel, and 46 percent said they were more likely to vote
for him based on his handling of the "war on terrorism". The poll also
found that two-thirds of Republicans said they supported Israel in the
current conflict, compared to 46 percent of Democrats.
"The bottom line is that Bush appears to be making some significant
inroads with this heavily Democratic group, something that could have
an impact on the next two election cycles," said Ed Goeas, head of the
Tarrance Group, which carried out the poll.
The survey, which included 1,200 respondents contacted last week,
tends to confirm the findings of similar polls over the last several years
that have shown strong support for Israel on the part of evangelical
Christians, who together make up about one third of the U.S. adult
Historically apolitical, the group first came to the attention of the
political elite in 1976 when large numbers of them helped elect Jimmy
Carter, a "born-again" Christian. Disillusioned by Carter's liberal
politics and social attitudes, they became a major recruiting ground for
the "New Right" that in turn paved the way for the election in 1980 of
former president Ronald Reagan.
At the same time, Christian fundamentalists were also avidly courted
by the right-wing Likud government in Israel, which saw in them a
promising new constituency that, for theological reasons, could be
persuaded to oppose the return of Jerusalem and the West Bank to
In 1979, the government of Israel reportedly gave Jerry Falwell, head
of the "Moral Majority" and the leading Christian Right figure of the
time, his first private jet.
The Israeli government has also arranged special tours for evangelical
Christian groups that have contributed tens of millions of dollars to
Jewish and Israeli agencies involved in resettling Jews to Israel and in
building Israeli settlements on the occupied territories.
With offices in Chicago and Jerusalem, the IFCJ has acted as a key
forum for promoting the relationship between conservative U.S. Jews
and evangelical Christians since 1983. As violence between Israelis
and Palestinians intensified last spring, the group created "Stand for
Israel", which it called "an effort to strategically mobilise leadership
and grassroots support in the Christian community for the State of
"Jews are only now beginning to understand the depth of support they
have among conservative Christians," said IFCJ's founder-director and
Stand for Israel co-chairman, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, at the time.
"Once the potential of this immense reservoir of good will is fully
comprehended by the Jewish people and strategically tapped by the
Stand for Israel campaign, you will see support for Israel in the United
States swell dramatically."
The new survey's results appear to bear out that prediction, at least in
part. Two thirds of conservative Christians queried in the poll said that
they believed they shared the same or similar perspective as Jews
when it comes to the issue of "Israel and its current struggle against
Reed and Eckstein also claimed that the survey effectively debunked
the notion that evangelical Christian support for Israel was based on
New Testament prophecy that the reconstruction of the ancient Jewish
kingdom of David would usher in the "end times" and the second
coming of Christ.
Asked which was the most important of four possible reasons why they
supported Israel, 56 percent of fundamentalist Christian respondents
chose political reasons, particularly Israel's democratic values, its
alliance with the United States in the war against terrorism, and its role
as a safe haven for persecuted Jews elsewhere. Thirty-five percent
opted for the "end-times" option.
But when given a choice of four religious alternatives, only 28 percent
cited the end-times alternative. Almost two thirds said that God had
given the Jews the land of Israel as the main theological reason for
backing the Jewish state.
"This survey bears out my view that Christians are trustworthy and
vital allies," said Eckstein. "I've seen more positive changes (in
Jewish and conservative Christian relations) in the past six months than
I have for the past 25 years," he added.
Along with announcing the survey results, Eckstein, who co-chairs
Stand for Israel with Reed, unveiled a one-minute video which will be
run in "tens of thousands" of churches with combined memberships of
3.2 million people on Sunday, Oct. 20, exhorting Christians to pray for
Israel whose enemies, it says, "are on the attack again".
"God has promised that those who bless Israel will themselves be
blessed," says the video, which is filled with recent images of violence
in Israel and the West Bank.
Reed conceded that not all conservative Christians were as supportive
of Israel as those involved in the "Stand for Israel" campaign.
Indeed, some 50 evangelical ministers recently issued a statement
opposing unilateral military action against Iraq, and at least one
national evangelical group has urged a more-balanced policy toward
Israel and the Palestinians. But Reed insisted that his views
represented those of a "very, very large majority" of evangelical
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