Israeli advocates of Glenn Beck say support for the controversial right-wing pundit who visited Israel this week doesn't carry with it the baggage of all the man's views.
Many Israelis find something to like in what the U.S. commentator calls his steadfast support for Israel, while free-market advocates here, Anglos among them, say his ultra-capitalist views jibe nicely with their own.
"I am a secular atheist. I don't identify with Glenn Beck in his religious views," said Boaz Arad, who edits the web journal Anochi, based on the ideas of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy. "But it doesn't matter, I identify with him on the main principles of freedom and economics, and we cooperate in those areas in which we agree."
As an evangelical Christian Zionist who is openly disdainful of everything from U.S. President Barack Obama to Muslim activism and socialism, Beck cuts a polarizing figure. Before and during his tour here, he was condemned by many for his views, including by far-right politician Moshe Feiglin and left-wing activists from Peace Now, who demonstrated outside his rally in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
While most of the audience at his rallies in Caesarea and Jerusalem were visiting Christian Americans, there were pockets of Anglo-Israelis who also came out in support.
Moshe and Yafah Sharon, Americans who immigrated here 22 years ago, came from Jerusalem for the Caesarea concert and called it "a tremendous show of solidarity", believing Beck's philo-Semitism to be authentic.
"We shouldn't be so cynical, that anybody who we hear loves Israel, right away assume that it can't be, it must be something else," said Yafah.
Beck's rallies came in the midst of cost-of-living protests that have swept Israel over the past month. Beck came out against the tent protest and his visit was something of a bulwark for Israelis, Arad among them, who disagree with the protesters' main demand that government step in to lasso rising prices.
Hours before Beck held his "Restoring Courage" rally in the Old City of Jerusalem Wednesday, the free-market Israeli New Liberal Movement met with pilgrims from FreedomWorks, an NGO that sponsored Beck's trip, and the Jewish Tea Party, known as Kosher Tea, in Tel Aviv.
Arad, who organized the meeting, says the movement is made up of thousands who loosely subscribe to a set of ultra-capitalist beliefs, but that there had been very little coordination between them until the tent protests brought them out of the woodwork.
Cincinnati-born immigrant Ariel Karlinsky, 21, said he agreed with Beck on issues of big government and on support for Zionism, but said he decided not to attend the Jerusalem rally because of Beck's extremist views. Karlinsky noted that Beck "uses comparisons to Nazism and to extreme communism, which I find, as a Jew, distasteful."
"Yes, I'm against Obama-care," he said, referring to the overhaul of the American health care system, "but when Obama says we have to take care of old people, he doesn't means he wants to put us in concentration camps."
On the ideological kitty corner from Karlinsky was rally attendee Paul Segal, who immigrated from Denver four years ago and now lives in Efrat.
Segal said that he came to the concert to support the Christian Zionists, who in turn support Israel. "I believe that they're doing this very sincerely," he said. "They don't have ulterior motives, I think it's genuine."
While Segal supports Beck's political message, he diverges when it comes to the tent protests.
"The good thing about the protests is that what they're protesting about is the truth. It's true that we pay more, we earn less, and we're over-taxed, and there really is a problem with not enough housing in Israel," said Segal, though he tempered his comments by saying he didn't want to see Israel return to the socialism of its salad days. "Some of the solutions that they're looking for, I think, are a step backwards. I think that these are real problems, they need real solutions, and I would hate to see the country slide back into the socialism that it had in the 1950s. We need to move past that with new solutions."
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