Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Michael Medved brings his listeners to see Israel
Popular US radio talk show hosts has just brought a group of over 100 Jews and non-Jews to engage with the ‘life-affirming aspects’ of Israel.
The Tourism Ministry could do a far greater job attracting all streams of potential Christian visitors to Israel, popular US radio talk show host Michael Medved said Tuesday, after wrapping up an eight-day trip here with over 100 of his listeners from America.
“The Israeli government and the Ministry of Tourism, which is advertising very heavily in the United States, is tone-deaf and makes the ads for tourism to Israel too explicitly Christian,” he asserted.
“Yes, there are some people who are evangelical on our trips, but they don’t gear these trips to secular people, to secular conservatives; these are disproportionately people who are high-income with disposable income. Israel shouldn’t be a conservative or liberal issue in America or an issue of religious people vs. secular people. Israel is an issue of decency and right vs. wrong and America’s own welfare and interests.”
A Jewish conservative, Medved consistently rates among the top 10 political talk radio hosts in America and is syndicated on over 200 channels reaching between two and four million listeners weekly.
This year’s trip was his sixth time leading a group to Israel, and according to Medved, the participants represent “a combination [of Jews and non-Jews], probably two-thirds non-Jewish and a third are Jewish.
Overall, with the six different trips, we’ve probably come close to 1,000 different people who have spent their first trip in Israel with us.”
For Medved, leading trips to Israel is a chance to highlight a different side of the country.
“The point is to allow people to see that Israel is not just a terrorist Disneyland... one of the characteristics of Disneyland is that you go in a little train or bus and they basically take you by robots, animated people and things that happen, but people never engage, and we really try to get people to engage and have a more personal experience.”
Medved said that engagement does involve speaking to some Palestinians, including an excursion on Tuesday to meet with a Muslim leader in the Old City who teaches classes on the Holocaust. On a previous trip, he said, he took his listeners to Hebron for a Purim meal at the same time that the Palestinian leadership was in town, and “we waved at them; some of them waved back. Also, an interesting thing, when the bus pulled up at the [Cave of the Patriarchs], there were a few Palestinian kids who waved, not angry, not throwing rocks. I don’t know if that would be the case today.”
According to the talk radio host, “the basic idea is, again, to give people a more rounded picture, because the one thing you perpetually hear in the States is, how do they [Israelis] live there, how can people live there knowing that they could be blown up at any moment? The truth is, we emphasize that even with the terrorism statistics, Israel remains one of the safer countries in the Western world; your chances of being victimized by violence in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa are significantly less than in most American cities. Basically we try to look at the positive and life-affirming aspects of Israel instead of focusing on it as a center of conflict.”
Medved said his group had visited the Samaritan community of Mount Grizim in the northern West Bank, where they met a local high priest and visited the community’s museum. They also lunched with a Druse family in Daliat al-Carmel and made the requisite visits to Yad Vashem, the Western Wall, and Mount Herzl. Medved said the participants in the trips he leads are largely US military veterans, some on active duty, and that sights like Mount Herzl and visits with Israeli soldiers are of special significance to them.
WHEN ASKED if Israelis should be suspicious of evangelical support for the country, he said, “Absolutely not. You have to ask yourself, if you’re stuck in a foxhole with someone and you’re defending your life, would you rather have someone standing next to you because he decided this is a good thing politically, or someone standing next to you because God told them to?” Still, he said, he draws the line at “those who are a little too enthusiastic about building a Third Temple,” adding that “sometimes evangelicals can come here and really shock people with some of the stuff they’ll say [in support of Israel].”
A native of Philadelphia, Medved has long been outspoken in his conservative political views and his support of Israel, but has also been a harsh critic of pop culture, as well as a heavily published film critic.
He has written more than 10 books in his career, including The 5 Big Lies About American Business: Combating Smears Against the Free-Market Economy, Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values, The Fifty Worst Films of All Time and The Golden Turkey Awards.
He also co-authored Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence with his wife, clinical psychologist and author Dr.
Diane Medved, as well as the 1976 book What Really Happened to the Class of ’65?, which followed the lives of a group of 1965 graduates from Pacific Palisades high school and became the subject of a TV series on NBC.
Medved has been especially outspoken on his radio show and in blogs and columns that he has written recently, about what he sees as President Barack Obama’s flawed approach to the Middle East conflict and his recent spat with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the 1967 lines. Medved said he wasn’t alone in this criticism and had heard affirming voices pour in on his radio show and by e-mail.
“The overwhelming percentage of Americans felt that Obama lost the argument, that Bibi [Netanyahu] won the argument. It’s from everywhere, from callers and from e-mailers. It’s remarkable; there are more reservations about what Bibi said among Israelis than there are among Americans.”
Medved said he didn’t believe that there was necessarily a disagreement between Netanyahu and Obama on the 1967 lines, but that “there is a strong consensus in America that Obama has handled this thing poorly, and it will hurt him politically, and not only with Jews, and not just with evangelicals. He looks uncertain and confused, and Bibi looked sure.”
All in all, Medved seemed a bit uncertain about what exactly differed in Obama’s position on the 1967 lines as a departure point for peace talks with agreed-upon land swaps, saying mainly that Netanyahu seemed clearer and that Obama didn’t seem to be asking enough from the Palestinians. He also expressed his dismay that Obama did not consult Netanyahu before mentioning the 1967 lines in his State Department speech.
In addition, Medved believes that “the core problem with Obama’s approach is that he’s taking it as a given that the Palestinian narrative is correct.”
“Palestinian narratives” is another issue that gets Medved riled up, especially in the midst of renewed debate about the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and the Palestinian refugee issue.
“Most Americans, by the way, don’t know much about Israel and the Palestinians, and they’re a bit confused on the whole thing. But of those who do follow the issues, there is a majority of Americans who understand that this narrative of a flourishing and beautiful community of Palestine [pre-1948] is false.”
He added that “the whole idea of saying the creation of the State of Israel, of course, does make it sound like it’s arbitrary; no one would say that the United States of America was created. The United States won its independence after a very bloody war, Israel won its independence after a very bloody war. The point is, whenever you get into commentary about a right to exist, there’s an implicit sub-row of anti-Semitism, because why should anyone question Israel’s right to exist when we don’t question the rights of other nations to exist?” For Medved, those who question Israel’s right to exist should look elsewhere to ask questions.
“If you’re going to question the right of Israel to exist, what right does the US have to exist? Israel actually has a better right to exist than America, and I say that as a patriotic American who loves the United States – but anyone who’s going to question Israel’s right to exist is probably someone on the extreme Left who also questions America’s right to exist.”
He noted that Americans had no historic ties to their land when they first settled the continent and that “they came to an underpopulated area, which both this chunk of the Middle East and North America were.”
Regardless of warring narratives and interpretations of history, Medved said one thing was clear: Obama could learn a lot from Netanyahu.
“People are calling up and saying, ‘I support Obama and I love Obama and will support him again, but I wish he could speak like Prime Minister Netanyahu.”