Glenn Beck held a rally in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the culmination of several events that the rightwing TV and radio personality planned in Israeli this week.
By chance, I ran into a member of Beck's entourage in Israel a few days ago: the actor Jon Voight. We met in the rocket-damaged bathroom of a school gymnasium in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Like me, Voight was there to see the scene first hand. Voight told me Israel made a big mistake when it decided to pull out of lands it had conquered from Arab armies in decades past, and he named southern Lebanon, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
"They got back the land, and then they gave it away," Voight said. "I would have instructed them not to. I would have said, 'Don't give it away; who are you giving it to? These people don't appreciate it. They're going to fight you.' So they gave away Gaza, and what happened? This – this happened."
Voight went on to say that no one should pressure Israel to give away any more land for the sake of peace.
This is the kind of talk that Jonathan Daniels loves to hear from Americans. Daniels is excited to be part of the Israeli team helping out on Glenn Beck's highest-profile visit yet to the Jewish state.
"Glenn is an incredibly unique, decent and truthful human being," Daniels said. Daniels is an adviser to the conservative lawmaker Danny Danon, probably Beck's most prominent supporter in the Israeli government. Last month, Danon invited Beck to speak at the Israeli parliament. Daniels said Beck is a rare example of a powerful media personality who gives full-throated support for Israel.
"It's like whoa, hold on a second, we've got a friend. We've got somebody that's willing to take our side and not be afraid of doing that," Daniels said. "This is one of the most influential men in America, willing to stand up and stand with Israel, and we were so glad to be able to embrace that and give him everything that we possibly could."
But there's been no shortage of Israelis who are doing just the opposite. A Facebook group called "Glenn Beck Stay Home" put out a video with some particularly colorful comments by Beck, including one where said that "Jesus would have come back from the dead and made the Jews pay for what they did."
"If Glenn Beck is our biggest friend, I think we are in a big problem," said Etai Mizrav, with the Israeli group Peace Now. The group organized a counter rally Wednesday against Glenn Beck's appearance in Jerusalem. Mizrav said he doesn't appreciate Glenn Beck's vocal opposition to a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mizrav pointed out that he's a soldier in the Israeli army and Glenn Beck is not. "Since he's not going to be here to fight the next war, we say to Glenn Beck, please stay out of our business. If we want to make peace it's probably in our best interest."
One thing that's fueled criticism of Beck from both the left and the right in Israel is the location of his Wednesday rally. The live stage was set up in the shadow of the Al Aqsa mosque — holy to Muslims — and just steps away from the Western Wall — revered by Jews. The fact that a controversial American broadcaster was allowed to use one of Jerusalem's most sacred sites as a backdrop for a TV event strikes some Israelis as inappropriate.