In most cases, such accusations should set off alarm bells in the Jewish community. But not so this time. Barr’s charges are not only false, they’re entirely backwards. This alleged hater of Israel and the Jews, David Barton, is actually one of Israel’s most important allies in America today.
The Republican Party continues to be dominated by two overlapping voting blocs: Christian conservatives and tea party conservatives. Among these groups, there are few leaders who are as influential and respected as Barton. Thus as some national figures have endeavored to turn these conservative voters against Israel, Israel’s supporters have turned to Barton for help. It is no exaggeration to say that Barton has played a pivotal role in ensuring that conservatives continue to be among the most pro-Israel voters in America.
My appreciation for David Barton comes not only from what I’ve read about him, but from long hours working with him on behalf of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Barton has invited me to his conferences to teach rising conservative leaders about the importance of supporting Israel. And when I’ve needed help organizing leadership missions to Israel, Barton has not only provided me with valuable contacts; he’s volunteered to join me in leading the trips.
I have traveled across Israel multiple times with David Barton. I have seen his joy at the sites of Israel’s triumphs. I’ve seen his resolve in discussions of Israel’s challenges. I’ve seen his tears at Yad Vashem. This man’s support for Israel and the Jewish people is not merely academic, it is visceral. No matter how bad things get for Israel or Jews around the world, I know that David Barton will continue to stand by our side. I wish I could say the same for other prominent leaders I’ve known.
Despite his years of hard work on behalf of Israel, Barton stands accused of anti-Semitism because back in 1991, he spoke at two events – one hosted by Scriptures for America and the other by Kingdom Covenant College – which were allegedly organized by individuals affiliated with the “Christian Identity Movement.” The Anti-Defamation League has accused the Christian Identity Movement of racism and anti-Semitism.
Barton speaks to hundreds of groups across the country every year. He had no knowledge that some involved in these two events were accused of beliefs which he so deeply abhors. Thus his appearance at these events was, at worst, a vetting failure. We should remember, however, that in the pre-Internet days of 1991 such vetting was far more difficult to do, especially with reference to a movement that is typically described as “loosely affiliated” and “shadowy.”
Such guilt by association simply doesn’t work when the nexus is so tenuous. This is exactly why earlier this month Barton won a defamation lawsuit against two Texas politicians who made a claim almost identical to Barr’s. Even Right Wing Watch – a devoted critic of Barton’s Constitutional analysis – has had the decency to note that “We have listened to literally thousands of hours of Barton’s programs and presentations and he can be justifiably criticized for a lot of things, but being anti-Semitic … should not be among them.”
Of course if anyone should be wary of guilt by association, it’s Bob Barr. In 1998 – when there was an internet for easy vetting — Barr himself spoke to a group called the Council of Conservative Citizens. The ADL has accused the CCC of having a “racist agenda.” When the Anti-Defamation league criticized Barr for this appearance, Barr apologized and claimed that he was unaware of these allegations.
While Bob Barr is spreading distortion, David Barton has been teaching truths. Barton has taught me things about the Jewish contributions to America and the American Revolution that I had never known. In fact, Barton was the one who introduced me to one of my favorite quotes from an American Founder.
On July 4, 1788 a parade was held in Philadelphia to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution. Founding father Benjamin Rush attended the parade, and he reported that a diverse group of clergy played a prominent role in its lead. In particular, Rush noted that:
Pains were taken to connect ministers of the most dissimilar religious principles together…. The rabbi of the Jews locked in the arms of two ministers of the Gospel was a most delightful sight. There could not have been a more happy emblem.
This vision of America which David Barton taught me is one to which he has dedicated his life. It is a vision which all Americans should hold sacred. As he flails for traction, Bob Barr should be careful to do no violence to so lofty an ideal.