Last week I questioned whether Pat Robertson had the moral standing to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian hanged for resisting Hitler. Robertson had used Bonhoeffer, who participated in a failed plot to kill Hitler, to justify his own Khomeini-style fatwa against Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela (” … if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it”). Apart from setting up an unpersuasive parallel between Hitler and Chavez, Robertson has a history of spouting anti-Semitic nonsense about “European bankers” and “the Bavarian Illuminati,” ably documented a decade ago by Michael Lind in the New York Review of Books. Surely Bonhoeffer would have wanted nothing to do with anyone who stooped to peddle such trash.
After Lind published his piece, Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary (published by the American Jewish Committee), said that Robertson’s “hoary anti-Semitic fantasies” were “trivial—or academic—as compared with his support of Israel in the living present.” For years, that’s been the neoconservative line on the Christian right in general and Robertson in particular: You can say whatever you like about Jews provided you give strong support to the state of Israel. But Robertson has now complicated that equation by denouncing Israel’s Likud government for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip: “God says ‘I am going to judge the nations who have parted my land.’ He said ‘I am going to bring judgment against them.’ ” It was a useful reminder that Robertson’s interest in Israel has always been confined to its role in end times prophecy. The Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman swiftly condemned Robertson. Is Podhoretz, who supports the withdrawal from Gaza, still willing to shrug off Robertson’s “hoary anti-Semitic fantasies”? It’s too much to hope that the decades-long alliance between neocons and the Christian right will unravel anytime soon; Robertson and Podhoretz are both well past their prime. But perhaps it’s starting to fray.