* Beck visit stirs controversy in Israel
* Former Fox News TV host critical of Obama's Israel policy
* Rally held near Western Wall
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM, Aug 24 (Reuters) - On the fringes of Jerusalem's
most volatile holy sites, U.S. conservative broadcaster Glenn
Beck declared his support for Israel on Wednesday at a rally
showcasing fundamentalist Christian backing for the Jewish
Beck's "Restoring Courage" event, in an archaeological park
Israel has built in an area of Jerusalem it captured in a 1967
war, has stirred little interest among most Israelis, who are
unfamiliar with the controversial right-wing commentator who is
an outspoken critic of U.S. President Barack Obama.
But Beck's visit to Israel, where he was accompanied by
evangelical U.S. Christian preachers, has been followed with
trepidation by American Jewish critics, Israeli left-wing
activists and Arab legislators who cautioned that he could stoke
tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
"In Israel you can find people who will stand against
incredible odds, against the entire tide of global opinion, just
because it's right, just because it's good and just because it's
true," Beck told an adoring audience of some 1,700 that included
leaders of Jewish settlers in the
occupied West Bank as well as right-wing Israeli
Beck said the event, held in Jerusalem's walled Old City,
was beamed to more than 1,400 venues in the United States,
Europe, Asia and South America where Christian supporters of
Israel held viewing parties.
Israeli security was tight around the East Jerusalem site,
described by Beck as "the throne of God", adjacent to Judaism's
Western Wall and the sacred plaza known to Jews as the Temple
Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.
No violence was reported.
A Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000 after then-Israeli
opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the compound, which
houses Islam's al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine and
where two biblical Jewish temples once stood.
About 30 protesters from the anti-settler group Peace Now
that was opposed to the rally held up placards nearby with signs
reading "Go Beck Home", among others.
Beck warned his audience with his powerful rhetoric of
impending dangers around the world.
"The world needs courage more than ever before ... you don't
really have to be a prophet to know that things aren't really
going that well. The threats are mounting and evil is growing,
darkness is falling. Far too many politicians are just too
willing to look away," he said.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, a claim that
is not recognised internationally. Palestinians want East
Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli
war , as the capital of a state they aspire to
establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel withdrew
settlers from Gaza in 2005.
ISRAELI ARABS OBJECT TO BECK
Arab legislators in the Israeli parliament have bristled at
the visit of Beck, the former Fox News television host, who
called on supporters "to courageously stand with Israel".
One of the lawmakers, Ahmed Tibi, accused Beck of being
"motivated by a hatred of Islam". And Americans for Peace Now, a
U.S.-based group that supports the Israeli movement, called
Beck's East Jerusalem rally an outrage.
"A real friend of Israel would seek to help Israel make
peace. No friend of Israel would seek to sow greater enmity
between Israelis and Palestinians," Americans for Peace Now said
on its website.
Beck has been highly critical of Obama's policies towards
Israel, accusing him of betraying Washington's "last strong
ally" by proposing that any future peace deal with the
Palestinians be based on pre-1967 borders, with mutually agreed
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has clashed
publicly with Obama by describing those frontiers at
indefensible in an address to a joint meeting of Congress in
May, did not attend the Beck event.
But Netanyahu has hailed the "unwavering friendship" of the
Jewish state's evangelical Christian supporters. This month, he
met 52 Republican and 26 Democratic legislators who visited
Israel ahead of the 2012 U.S. election in a sign of the
bipartisan backing the Jewish state enjoys in Congress.
Some Christian fundamentalists believe the ingathering of
the Jewish people to the biblical Land of Israel is a
prerequisite for the second coming of Jesus and that the State
of Israel is the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures.
Last year, Beck, a libertarian and a favorite of the Tea
Party political movement, was a key speaker at a huge "Restoring
Honor" public rally, a conservative show of strength, in
Washington in the run-up to the 2012 U.S. presidential ballot.
But his scathing comments on topics ranging from global
warming to political conspiracy theories have proved
In January several hundred rabbis called on Fox News, which
has since dropped his television show over falling ratings, to
sanction Beck for repeated use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery and
for airing attacks on Holocaust survivor and financier George
Beck also has a syndicated radio show that reaches 10
million weekly listeners and is heard on more than 400 radio
stations across the United States.
Alan Dershowitz, a pro-Israel advocate and a Harvard law
school professor who successfully defended O.J. Simpson and
other unpopular public figures, said in a blog this week that
Beck's willingness to stand up for Israel must be accepted with
"I, for one, do not question his motives. I believe they are
genuine. One need not accept all of Beck's positions on Israel
-- and I certainly do not -- in order to agree with him that
support of Israel is one of the great moral issues of the 21st
Century," Dershowitz wrote.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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