Monday, April 16, 2012

Caitlin Carenen's "The Fervent Embrace"

Caitlin Carenen is Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Connecticut State University.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, The Fervent Embrace: Liberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a perfect snapshot of behind the scenes intrigues of lobby groups involved in shaping U.S.-Middle East foreign policy. On this page, we see two major groups—the American Christian Palestine Committee (the ACPC--a pro-Israel lobby group made up of notable Christian religious leaders and politicians) and the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME--a pro-Arab interest group) duking it out. Their respective leaders (Carl Hermann Voss and Karl Baehr for the ACPC and Garland Evans Hopkins for the AFME) decide to meet to discuss their groups’ goals and to determine potential common ground. They find none. Each has a Jewish special interest group on their side: the Emergency Zionist Council for the ACPC and the American Council of Judaism for the AFME. The material for this section of the book came from the internal papers of the ACPC (found in the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem) and reveals deep mutual distrust between the two lobby groups. Charges of bias in Christian news reporting on Israel, accusations of “mysterious” funding sources and the ACPC’s decision to plant undercover “observers” at the AFME functions reveal the passionate attempts among Americans to shape the emerging U.S.-Israeli alliance in the years immediately following Israel’s establishment.

The ACPC were comprised of liberal Protestants who viewed Israel as a nation worth supporting in light of centuries of Christian antisemitism that culminated in the Holocaust. They also believed that having a democratic, stable ally in a notoriously volatile region of the world would only help U.S. foreign policy interests. Conversely, the AFME, also made up of liberal Protestants, believed alienating oil rich Arab countries by supporting Israel would hurt U.S. interests. The formation of a strong U.S.-Israeli alliance is a macro-issue in American history, yet this page reveals a part of the micro-stories that help explain why the United States and Israel have such a close alliance.

Liberal Protestants helped to build much of that alliance in the two decades following World War II, despite internal disagreements over the moral and political issues involved in Israel’s establishment (as page 99 shows). Later on, as liberal Protestants faded in numbers and influence, the foundation they helped to build between the United States and Israel would be overtaken, and altered, by a second group of increasingly powerful American Protestants—the evangelicals who viewed Israel as essential to God’s plan for the end of days and supported it not for the humanitarian and politically pragmatic reasons their liberal predecessors had, but in preparation for the coming Armageddon.
Learn more about The Fervent Embrace at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue