Originally posted in Jewish Week
Pro-Israel critics of the media, and particularly of CNN, should check out “The Glenn Beck Program” to give their high blood pressure a respite.
Beck, 42 and host of what is considered the fastest-growing TV show in cable news, can make Bibi Netanyahu look like a dove. The baby-faced former Top 40 radio disc jockey has been known to describe Saudi Arabian leaders as “nut jobs” and “dirt bags” and says that if America doesn’t support and protect Israel, “we will lose our only strategic ally in the Mideast and we will lose our souls.”
Yes, Beck, an admitted former alcoholic and drug addict, is now a devout Christian who believes in an Armageddon in which millions will die. He also believes in God’s love for Israel, and he is not shy about discussing his own support for the Jewish state on his hour-long show that airs nightly at 7 p.m. on CNN Headline News, perhaps positioned to counter the success of Fox’s right-wing programming.
Beck, whose manner is pleasant and friendly, bordering on gee-whiz, also hosts a daily radio talk show heard on more than 230 stations and is a regular contributor on “Good Morning America.”
“It’s a horrible thing to admit, but prior to 9/11 my view of the Mideast was basically, ‘will this fighting never stop, and just solve it yourselves’,” he explained during a recent interview.
The World Trade Center tragedy forced him to think about why “so much hatred was generated toward the U.S., and I started to do my homework.” He said he did a great deal of reading (including the Bible and the Koran) and talking to people, focusing on why the U.S. “sends so much money to the Mideast for oil” and trying to discern who are America’s real friends in the region.
He concluded that Israel is “our only real hope for sanity” in the Mideast, and “my gut tells me that Israel is one of the world’s great hopes.”
Beck visited Israel several years ago and said he had two powerful moments there that reinforced his positive feelings toward the Jewish state. One was when he visited a bomb shelter where gas masks and injection kits were being distributed in case of attack. He said that when he noticed that the signs were in Hebrew, English and Arabic, he wondered why, if Israelis really hated the Arabs, they would “hand out medicine to save Arab lives.
“That experience really opened my eyes and showed me that Israel is the closest to America” in shared values, he said.
The second experience was walking from the Jewish section of Jerusalem to the Palestinian side and feeling that, within a few steps, he had gone “from clean to dirty and dark and dank.”
Beck said he realized that the Jews shared a belief that “we can make it,” whatever the circumstances, while the Arabs have leaders who tell their people “you’ve been conquered and you’ll never make it.
“It’s all about control and power and politics,” he said.
Beck’s outspoken support for Israel, beginning on his nationally syndicated radio show in 2002, brought death threats almost immediately, he recalled, and he was given extra protection.
He calls himself “a realist,” though, and not “a blind supporter of Israel,” asserting that the leadership of Israel has made “horrible mistakes, but who hasn’t? Every country has its bloody noses.”
Critics, particularly on the left, have accused Beck of using “hateful rhetoric,” and he apologized for questioning the patriotism of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. “That might come from my lack of intelligence,” Beck said, saying his remark to Ellison was “quite possibly the poorest-worded question of all time.”
Of late, Beck has talked a great deal about what he calls the “perfect storm,” a combination of terrorism, Islamic militancy, hatred of the West and oil that could spell doom for the free world.
“I believe we are headed for dark times,” he says. “I truly believe that we are living in 1938 and the trains are loaded.” The only way to prevent disaster, he says, is for liberals and conservatives to come together and look for ways to work together to defeat our common enemy.
Beck thinks the media spin on the Mideast situation is “horribly out of whack” and biased against Israel. The only solution, which he says applies to the U.S. as well as Israel, is to “to do the right thing, be good and just continue to beat your head against the wall until the truth prevails.”