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January 10, 2014 11:44 AM Abortion and Christian Zionism

By Ed Kilgore

Because I don’t really want to write five posts today about Chris Christie, I did a broader than usual search for morning topics today, and struck some interesting gold (via Sarah Posner) in a Daily Beast piece by Jonathan Krohn about the relative indifference of Christian Zionists to a new and very liberal abortion law in Israel:

Israel will pay for all approved abortions for women aged 20 to 33, thanks to a recommendation accepted by its health ministry. Starting this year, Israel will spend 16 million shekels ($4.6 million) to cover abortions for approximately 6,300 women….
Ari Morgenstern, spokesman for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which boasts more than 1 million members nationwide, the abortion policy won’t change the organization’s support for the Jewish State.
“CUFI is a single-issue organization that supports the democratically elected government of Israel regardless of whether or not we agree with the decisions taken by that government,” he said.

But some U.S. anti-choicers have the temerity to suggest Israeli abortion policy is not in accord with Judaism:

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, the CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), decided to use Jewish law as a defense, saying “In a meaningful passage, the Talmud teaches that ‘Whosoever preserves a single soul…, [it is] as though he had preserved a complete world.’ Unborn lives are rich with possibilities and worth saving and government should never be used to harm life and harm women.”

Let’s just say this is not the prevailing view of Talmudic scholars, to put it mildly. As Posner notes:

[M]ost streams of Judaism reject the notion that life begins at conception, and focus on the health and well-being of the pregnant woman in assessing the morality of abortion. Nancy Kaufman, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, which is pro-choice, told me in an interview that she found it “ironic” that in the United States, where there is separation of church and state, activists want to impose their religion through anti-abortion laws, but that in Israel, where there is no barrier between religion and state, abortion is merely a matter of health and safety, and its coverage and availability a part of the country’s uncontroversial system of universal health care.

Most antichoicers who are also aggressive supporters of a Greater Israel form of Zionism clearly just don’t want to “go there” in examining Israel’s abortion policies. It just would not do for them to apply the sort of “abortion as Holocaust” rhetoric to Israel as they routinely do with respect to America’s less liberal laws.

The bottom line is that many of the most adamant conservative Christian supporters of Israel (or at least the Israel represented by politicians like Bibi Netanyahu and those to his right) treat that country as an instrument for their own fantasies about the Middle East, not as a society representing their own values. Jewish Zionists who welcome their support ought to keep that in mind.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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