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Huckabee in the Holy Land

Evangelical ex-governor loves the Jews; will they love him back?

Marc Tracy
June 22, 2010
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.(
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.(

A New Yorker writer catches up with Mike Huckabee—the former Arkansas governor; the once and probably future Republican presidential candidate—at the Western Wall, where he and country singer Pat Boone are leading more than 100 Christian evangelicals on what is Huckabee’s 14th trip to Israel. “I think what I should do is convert,” he says. “This covers my bald spot completely.” He continues: “I have a lot of Jewish friends, and they’re kind of, like, ‘You evangelicals love Israel more than we do.’ I’m, like, ‘Do you not get it? If there weren’t a Jewish faith, there wouldn’t be a Christian faith!’”

While most of the article is a look at Huckabee as a ’12 contender and as the apotheosis of an evangelical political movement four decades in the making, it does address the phenomenon of Christian Zionism—the same thing Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith was pointing to when he noted that American evangelicals had proven Israel’s “unshakable ally.” A prime reason for that, of course, is that Jewish control of the Holy Land is a prerequisite for Jesus’s Second Coming … which will incidentally entail the eternal damnation of all non-Christians. Israelis are evangelicals’ useful idiots.

In the meantime, though, much of Huckabee’s rhetoric matches that of some of the Jewish right. “There’s really no such thing as a Palestinian,” The New Yorker has him saying. “That’s been a political tool to try to force land away from Israel.” Whether intentionally or not, Huckabee is setting himself up to benefit from American Jews’ increasing disenchantment with the current administration. “There’s a lot of Jewish money on the right that’s got to go someplace,” says journalist Zev Chafets, who once worked for Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin, “especially if Obama continues to be perceived as unfriendly to Israel.” (The New Yorker doesn’t note that Chafets has himself profiled Huckabee!)

As always, the tension for many American Jews will be where to place Israel among their political priorities. For the American Likudnik, Huckabee would seem a more favorable choice than Obama. But the former governor is also the guy who refers to “the holocaust of liberalized abortion.” Faced with a Huckabee, what’s an Abe Foxman to do?

Prodigal Son [New Yorker]
Related: Friends In Deed [Tablet Magazine]

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.