This article is published in Mondoweiss.
Evangelical pastor John Hagee, the leader of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the US’ largest pro-Israel organization, has adamantly insisted that Christian Zionism is anti-Semitic.
WorldNetDaily (WND)—a far-right publication that publishes claims, just to cite a few examples among many, that Obama was not actually born in the US and that the 9/11 attacks were a sign that “God (has) raised up Shiite Islam as a sword against America” (the blatant Islamophobia aside, one should note that the 9/11 attackers were Sunni, not Shia)—published an article in March 2015 about the “Blood Moon Prophecy,” an end-of-times theory that lunar eclipses are a sign that the world is on the brink of destruction and that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is near.
The lengthy piece is about Hagee’s film Four Blood Moons, which endorses the eschatological theory. Toward the end of the article, WND writes:
“WND falsely claimed that Hagee does not believe that Jews need Jesus to be saved. In fact, Hagee never made such a claim and years ago directly denied assertions that he holds a dual-covenant theology,” he wrote. “In addition, while WND acknowledges that Hagee rewrote sections of ‘In Defense of Israel’ to clarify his relevant position, WND failed to note that the associated video promotion was also changed to accurately reflect his theology.”
Translated, WND claimed that Hagee believed the Jewish people could be saved by God without abandoning Judaism and converting to Christianity. Apocalyptic Christian Zionist John Hagee censured the publication for spreading a lie and defensively clarified that he does indeed believe that the Jewish people are going to burn in Hell for all of eternity unless they abandon Judaism and convert to Christianity.
In short, Hagee firmly insisted that Christian Zionism is anti-Semitic, and that the reason CUFI so obsessively and blindly defends Israel is not because they care about Jews (who, in their mind, will face eternal damnation unless they renounce their religion and become Christians) but rather because they genuinely believe the world is on the verge of total annihilation and the Bible supposedly tells them they must do so.
Christian Zionism is the belief that God gave the Jewish people the land of Israel in historic Palestine. Christian Zionists hold that this is part of a biblical prophecy, and is a necessary prerequisite before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the ensuing Day of Judgment.
This is not a view shared by all Christians, yet is very common among Evangelicals and conservative Protestants. In recent years, it has gained prominence in the US, particularly in the Bible Belt. A late 2013 Pew Research study found 82% of white evangelical Christians in the US believed God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people, while only 40% of US Jews believed the same.
This has led some to speculate that Zionism is in effect more Christian than Jewish. Israeli historian Shlomo Sand explains that the very origins of Zionism are rooted in this Christian belief. Officials in the British empire, which controlled historic Palestine before the creation of the state of Israel, were at least partially motivated by this religious idea when they made the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which promised Zionists could colonize Palestine—in complete disregard of the indigenous Arab population.
John Hagee is the leader of CUFI, the most powerful Christian Zionist organization in the US, and likely in the entire world.
Some Jewish and Zionist organizations have criticized the Christian Zionist movement. Eric Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism,publicly proclaimed that, vis-à-vis “Israeli-Palestinian politics, John Hagee and the CUFI are extremists.” Yoffie “called for Reform congregations to not participate in CUFI’s events and to continue to call for public condemnation of inflammatory and bigoted statements from Christian Zionist leadership.”
Many Jewish and Zionist organizations, however, see Hagee and CUFI as important allies. At the CUFI 2013 Summit, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations—a coalition of 51 US Jewish groups, including some of the most prominent—voiced support of biblical Christian Zionist prophecies. “The prophets were not prophets of doom but prophets of hope; you just have to read it right,” he told them. “Here’s my advice: Don’t bet against the Jews. And the ‘Jewish lobby’ is a myth, but it’s our job to make it a legend.”
Israel itself has been more than happy to support CUFI. Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the US, spoke glowingly of the organization at its 2014 summit. Prime Minister Netanyahu has also enthusiastically supported the group, and has spoken at several of their annual summits.
Hagee’s History of Extreme Views
Hagee, who thinks we are the last generation of humans, is no stranger to controversy. In late 2014, he claimed that Ebola (along with the civil rights protests in Ferguson and elsewhere) was God’s way of “punishing” America, because Obama was trying to “divide” Israel.
The pastor has even gone so far as to essentially defend Adolf Hitler. In a 2005 sermon, Hagee asserted that God sent Hitler as a “hunter,” in order to “hunt them [Jews] from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks … to get them to come back to the land of Israel.”
Once again, these are the views of the leader of, in CUFI’s own words, “the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States with over two million members and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world.”
The Washington Post indicates that CUFI “can boast that it has members from every congressional district in America.” Foreign Policy included John Hagee in its list of the 50 Republicans with the most influence on foreign policy. The evangelical Christian Zionist was a much sought-after figure by the Republican Party in the 2008 presidential election. He ended up endorsing John McCain.
WND’s founder and CEO Joseph Farah responded positively to Hagee’s firm insistence on his Christianity-rooted anti-Semitism. “I’m happy to hear that Hagee no longer subscribes to those anti-biblical positions,” he said. “But we never asserted what Hagee believes, only what he said on videotape. I’m gratified he has repudiated all of that. It’s time for him to clean up another mess.”
Like Hagee, Farah resolutely maintains that Christian Zionism is, in its very essence, an anti-Semitic ideology, as, in his view, it is an “anti-biblical position” to claim that Jews are not automatically damned to eternal suffering in a lake of fire merely by virtue of their being Jewish.