Let's set aside the debate over Palestine, Israel and whether a two-state solution is viable or justifiable and instead just look at the strange circumstances surrounding Wednesday's pro-Israel "Restoring Courage" event.
Organized by local young, conservative dynamo Gabrielle Hoffman, "Restoring Courage U.S." is a nationwide series of simultaneous events to watch and celebrate talk-show host Glenn Beck's trip to Israel and television special.
Locally, it will be in Point Loma:
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
7:00pm – 10:00pm
Bldg 177 Truxton Road San Diego, CA 92106
Now, here's where it gets weird:
Hoffman's partner in the event, Nicole Pearce, has an interesting history as an activist. In 2008, she campaigned for Democratic presidential candidates, but then, in 2009, she joined the Neo-Nazi movement.
"I went along and even attended meetings where they discussed many of the things that are being discussed by those who are pro-Palestine in the press now," she writes on the Restoring Courage U.S. site. "I was told that Israel and the Jews were the cause of all that was wrong in the world and that Hitler had it right."
She claims she was "saved" by Glenn Beck last year when he coined the rallying cry, "Not Racist, Not Violent, No Longer Silent."
"I prayed and thought on that, and came to realize that I had been duped into believing something that I had all along known was wrong just because I did not want to feel alone as a conservative in Boston," she writes. "After that, I returned to being an active member of my church, began donating to Israel again, and overall became the person I was prior to the Neo-Nazi encounter, just conservative."
The driving force behind the events nationwide aren't Jewish organizations, but rather churches and Tea Party organizations, at least according to Beck's official watch party list, while many of the events organized by Hoffman's group are based at universities. Not all, though: Hosts range from You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, a controversial anti-gay Christian group in Michigan, to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Connecticut.
Locally, no actual Jewish Zionist groups are lead sponsors of the event, though the local chapters of the Zionist Organization of America and StandWithUs, an organization that recently emerged from the San Diego Israel Coalition, will have a presence.
The San Diego event is hosted by two right-wing evangelical groups: Christians United for Israel, an organization formed by evangelist John Hagee (remember his controversial McCain endorsement from the 2008 election?) and the Eagle Forum for San Diego. If you're not familiar with the Eagle Forum, you can visit their website. Of particular interest for progressives would be the page on the "Homosexual Agenda" and "America's Muslim Threat." This is a representative sentiment about Muslims:
"It's time to stop being a chicken and fight them until they leave our country. The peaceful ones can stay...if we can find them."
This would seem to present a challenge to the goal Hoffman posted on SDRostra.com that "this program calls for unity among all faiths."
Audrey Jacobs, who heads the local chapter of the pro-Israel group StandWithUS, tells us she was unaware of Eagle Forum's conservative position on gays and says it does not reflect her group's policies (for example, StandWithUs hosted a gay Israeli soldier during San Diego Pride). Nevertheless, she says Eagle Forum's position on gay issues is irrelevant as long as it supports Israel.
"For us it’s all about showing that Israel is a beacon of light for human rights and it’s the one true democracy in the Middle East," she says. "We have a big tent of Israel supporters. This particular event, this rally, is not about politics, but just addressing the issues of supporting Israel ... We’re about one issue and it's a very diverse group of people that support Israel and that’s what we want. We may not agree on other issues but if we can all agree to support Israel, that is what we hope to achieve."
We asked Hoffman whether the prevalence of conservative groups at these events would make it unpalatable for Zionists and Israel supporters who just happen to be progressives or Democrats.
"Both are pro-Israel groups, even though they have conservative undertones," Hoffman writes via email of the Eagle Forum and Christians United for Israel. "Many conservative groups support Israel and focus on many issues. Nevertheless, August 24th will be about Israel and not conservative politics."