Many Jews know John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel and leading Christian Zionist zealot, as an anti-Semite who believes Hitler was sent by God to help create the State of Israel. They may also know he supports an Israeli attack on Iran and that he likens Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler. They may also know that he is a pro-settler, not-one-incher, who believes every bit of Biblical Israel was given to the Jewish people by God. Hagee condemns any peace settlement or Israeli leader who considers withdrawing from a single settlement and labels withdrawal or territorial compromise a betrayal of God’s covenant with Israel. Perhaps he is most notoriously known for embracing an End Times narrative that calls for Jews who refuse to convert to be killed with the remaining remnant coming to Jesus to be reborn in the blood of the Christian lamb. Less well-known is his classical anti-Semitic view that the world economic order is controlled by a group like the Illuminati, one of whose primary members are the Rothschild family:
Our economic destiny is controlled by the Federal Reserve system that is now headed by Alan Greenspan. Think about this. It is not a government institution. It is controlled by a group of Class A stockholders including the Rothschilds of Europe…So get this one thought : The value of your dollar is controlled by an organization that is not controlled by America.
Jewish leaders like Rabbi Eric Yoffie have railed against Hagee in the pages of the Jewish Forward, urging their members not to collaborate with or participate in events sponsored by CUFI.
So imagine my surprise when I read John Hagee’s name plastered on The Forward’s website this week. Astonishingly, the liberal Jewish publication had given the uber-Zionist. anti-Semite a platform for his noxious views. The piece the Forward published is extraordinary in so many ways. I have read many speeches and sermons by John Hagee. While they are always deeply disturbing, the Forward op ed is startingly different because it advances a revisionist version of Hagee as philo-Semite, two-stater, land-for peacer that is entirely at variance with his preceding career. It’s as if a plastic surgeon took a flabby, balding, flat-footed, nondescript man and turned him into George Clooney (or to be more political accurate, Charlton Heston–when he was alive at least).
In fact, the Forward column is so poles apart from the Hagee that anyone who’s read him knows that I half-believe it wasn’t written by him; but rather by a Jewish ghost-writer (possibly like his PR flack Ari Morgenstern or political lobbyist, David Brog).
In short, the Forward piece is a tissue of lies easily disproved by the most basic Google searches of his previous writings. For the most detailed and cmprehensive refutation of Hagee’s claims read this primer researched and published by Talk2Action’s Rachel Tabachnick, one of the most authoritative of the former’s Jewish critics. The main howlers are his claim that he is willing to accept a two-state solution (although he doesn’t endorse this path himself even in this column) if Israel itself does:
Another concern that some individuals have expressed is that Christian Zionists will use our influence to stand in the way of efforts to advance a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Such a claim shows a complete disregard for our record.
What is Hagee’s record? Just after 30 evangelical leaders wrote a letter to Pres. Bush endorsing a two-state solution, the good Pastor penned his own letter which laid out his negative views of a two-state solution. It read in part:
Mr. President, we write this letter to state we are opposed to America pressuring Israel to give up more land for any reason.
…Simply stated, land for peace is a policy is a failed policy of the past that has produced nothing but more war.
There will be grave consequences for the nation or nations that attempt to divide the land of Israel… This is not a time to provoke God and defy him to pour out judgment on our nation for being a principal in the division of the land of Israel.”
–from Hagee’s Jerusalem Countdown: a Warning to the World
In this video, Hagee argues that if the U.S. pressures Israel to give up land for peace that God will judge this country be releasing a terrorist who will wreak havoc on us:
To give up more land for peace, Joel 3:2, says any nation that tries to get Israel to divide my land, I will bring it into judgement, I want those of you in the State Department and in Washington to hear this.. If America does not stop pressuring Israel to give up land I believe that God will bring this nation into judgment because I believe what this book says. And if God brings this nation into judgement he will very likely release the terrorist that you’ve already let here through the ridiculous immigration policy that you refuse to stop and this nation is going to go through a blood bath that you have permitted because of what you have done.”
In fact, Hagee defines for us what he believes Israel’s legitimate modern borders should be, which if implemented, would be a whopper of a land for peace deal in Israel’s favor!
“In modern terms, Israel rightfully owns all of present-day Israel, all of Lebanon, half of Syria, two-thirds of Jordan, all of Iraq, and the northern portion of Saudi Arabia.”
—The Battle for Jerusalem
So, if you read Hagee’s Forward screed carefully you will see what he is really saying is I detest a two state solution and land for peace. But if Israel embraces it, I won’t stand in the way. But even that is undermined by his seeming endorsement of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin as detailed by Max Blumenthal in The Nation:
…In his 1996 book The Beginning of the End, Hagee described the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as fulfillment of prophecy and suggested admiration for Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir.
Imagining Amir’s mindset as he prepared himself to kill Rabin, Hagee wrote, “Tonight, if God was good, an opportunity would show itself. No longer would Rabin be able to transfer Israeli lands to Palestinians. The damage he’d done in the West Bank and Gaza was enough. Israel had a divine right to the land, and to give it away was an act of treason against Israel and an abomination against God.”
Does this suggest to you someone who’s prepared to accept an Israeli peace plan that betrays such principles?
Hagee claims, in the Forward, to be uninterested in the conversion of Jews:
The first rule adopted by Christians United for Israel was that there would be no proselytizing at our events. CUFI exists only to honor and support the Jewish people, never to convert them.
Well, get a gander of this:
“There are several purposes [in the Tribulation which accompanies the End Times], and the first is to bring Israel to the place where she will recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah…
While CUFI itself may not proselytize, Hagee has in fact endorsed a Christian ministry preaching to Jews in Israel:
“Your gift to support the ongoing work of Maoz Israel Ministries enables us to continue on our mission – to bring the Good News of the Gospel of Messiah to the people of Israel until ALL ISRAEL IS SAVED!”
A CUFI director, Stephen Strang, who publishes much of Hagee and CUFI’s materials also brings out a magazine, Charisma, which offered this appraisal of missionary work in Israel :
“In this issue, we offer a look at the Christian peacemakers who are taking the gospel of Jesus Christ not only to Jews and Muslims but also to Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, prisoners, unwed mothers, drug addicts and tourists who visit this unique land. We hope that when you visit Israel you will look beyond the stone monuments, churches and biblical sites to discover the people of faith who are transforming the land.”
Hagee claims to have nothing but respect for the Jewish religion. Yet, this is what he had to say about Rabbi Hillel, perhaps the most important rabbinic figure of the Talmudic era:
“Hillel was an extremist...
—Final Dawn Over Jerusalem
And this concerning those stiff-necked Jews who refused to accept the divinity of Jesus:
“When will the divinely imparted spiritual blindness upon the Jewish people end concerning the identity of Jesus Christ as Messiah?
Do feel some pity for the poor godless Reform Jews Hagee excoriates here:
“I think if I could put a dividing line, the Orthodox and Conservatives who have a Torah appreciation give us wholehearted support. The rest who are not driven by the Word of God have a liberal agenda. And the liberal agenda is they are pro-abortion. They’re pro-homosexual. They’re pro-gay marriage — they want men to marry men and women to marry women…
–San Antonio Express, July 2006
And then there is the whigged-out Hagee devising a theory of Jewish demons so convoluted that it would drive even a conspiracy theorist to drink:
“The case of Esau and Jacob is the pinnacle of divine election. Each was a pure-blooded Jew…Esau’s descendants would also produce a lineage that would attack and slaugher the Jews for centuries…It was Esau’s descendants who produced the half-breed Jews of humanity who have persecuted and murdered Jews beyond human comprehension.
Adolph Hitler was a distant descendant of Esau.”
In the following passage from Hagee’s Forward article, he addresses the End Times scenario of which so many Jews are leery:
Other [Jews suspicious of us] posit that our Zionism is tied to an effort to speed the second coming of Jesus. [This] allegation is flat wrong…
…The fact is that the vast majority of Christian Zionists and Evangelicals do not believe there is anything we can do to hasten the second coming of Jesus. Our theology is clear that we humans are utterly powerless to change God’s timetable. Yes, like many Jews we do believe that the creation of Israel was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. And like our Jewish friends we also search the Scriptures to understand what may come next in God’s plans for His creation. But since we are powerless to change these plans, our motives for standing with Israel come from elsewhere.
In other words, Hagee’s belief in an apocalyptic future in which Jews are fated to die (curiously any discussion of this theological belief of his is missing from the Forward) is nothing personal. Rather it is a divine plan over which Hagee has no control. So if Jews have any problem with it don’t take it up with Hagee, take it up with the Guy Upstairs. Further, he would have us believe that he and his followers are quiescent folks who sit back and wait for the Lord’s will to be done. That they do nothing in order to hasten God’s plan. And whatever they do do, they do for the purest of motives having nothing to do with End Times theology.
In fact, this view of Hagee and CUFI flies in the face of everything we know about them. The truth is they are an activist group and the purpose of their activism is to hasten the Second Coming.
Hagee in The Forward is only too happy to play the religious hate card by making Israel’s and America’s chief enemy, Islam:
Christian Zionists also recognize that Israel is not the cause of militant Islam’s hatred of America, but an ally in the fight against militant Islam. Until 9/11 and the ensuing events, Israel largely confronted this threat alone. And to this day the frontline of this conflict remains Israel’s backyard. But Christian Zionists understand that Israel is merely militant Islam’s first target. While American and Israeli soldiers do not fight on the same battlefield, they defend the same values.
In penning this bilge, Hagee is oblivious to the fact that Israel’s chief opponent is not “militant Islam,” but the Palestinian people, who are not motivated primarily by religious hatred, but rather by a political grievance, that is 42 years of Occupation. Even if you argue falsely that Hamas is no different from Al Qaeda and it is motivated by religious hatred of Israel, how do you explain the equally implacable resistance of Fatah and West Bank Palestinians to Occupation? Such nuance is lost on Hagee.
Finally, the idea that American and Israeli soldiers defend the same values is ludicrous, unless you want to argue somehow that U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are parallel to Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian lands. This, of course is Al Qaeda’s argument and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find the latter in agreement with John Hagee, as they are both religious extremists.
Finally, I take strong exception to The Forward’s decision to publish this execrable nonsense. The paper’s op-ed editor, the right-leaning Daniel Treiman commissioned this piece and he should have his license to practice journalism suspended. Did he do any fact-checking before publishing this? Or did he feel his author was of such impeccable reputation that such rudimentary editorial review was unnecessary?
Furthermore, the Forward deleted comments posted by Rachel Tabachnick and Bruce Wilson of Talk2Action, Jewish opponents of Hagee, in the thread for this article. Their contributions offered Hagee quotations like the ones above to rebut the claims he made. I’m assuming that Treiman as op-ed editor made the decision to excise these perfectly reasonable comments. Did he or did someone higher in the food chain? If so, why?
Until recently, Rachel Tabachnick contributed articles twice a month to Zeek, a progressive Jewish publication which shares a website with The Forward, about Hagee and Christian Zionism. Her work on this subject has been suspended by Zeek’s editor, Jo Ellen Kaiser. No one can now write for Zeek about either matter.
This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be writing about Hagee’s relationship with The Forward and Zeek, threats levelled against them by Hagee, and questions raised about the suspension of Tabachnick’s work. Stay tuned…
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.