Disguised as love, Christian Zionist friendship, rather than helping, is the Jewish peoples’ worst nightmare.
You are seeing the King of the South come together with lightning speed. Egypt has an army of one million men armed with 1500 Abram Tanks which are America’s best. We sold them to Egypt along with hundreds of our latest and greatest fighter jets because Egypt was controlled by Mubarak who was America’s friend. Can you imagine what Israel faces with Iran, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Russia coming after them? The prophet Ezekiel clearly predicted this battle thousands of years ago and you are watching the players get into position with lightning speed. Jesus said: “When you see these signs, lift up your head and rejoice.” John Hagee, Founder, Christians United for Israel (CUFI)
Christian Zionism has been around since the 1600s when England’s deeply religious King James I was studying a book of bible commentary that suggested that the End of Days would take place in what was then Palestine. A pre-condition of the final battle of Armageddon, he read, was that 12,000 members of each of the twelve Hebrew tribes must return from the diaspora to Zion.
Now, four hundred years later, when John Hagee, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee talk about the “ingathering,” they are speaking a coded language that refers not just to this return of the Jews, but also to the Christian Zionist yearning for the battle they believe it prefigures. Within their eschatological vision lies the very potential for Israel’s undoing, for it is a vision fueled by a deliberate intent to incite sufficient hatred to set the Muslim, and ultimately the entire world, on fire. And thanks to the efforts of John Hagee, the founder of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas and of the million-member Christian Zionist lobby (CUFI), the final battle may well come in the form of a nuclear holocaust that Christian Zionists both desire and encourage.
Pastor Hagee is the best known of the many Christian Zionists on the scene today. He has spent decades raising millions of dollars to bring Russian and Ethiopian Jews to Israel’s disputed territories. In so doing, he has gone a step further than Christian Zionists before him: By providing the means to settle religious Jews on the precise lands that must one day be ceded to Palestine if there is ever to be peace, he creates nearly impossible conditions for a two-state solution. From Hagee’s perspective, these are lands that God gave to the Hebrews, the Chosen People, and so therefore, they rightfully belong to them. Having built his career and legacy on Genesis 12:3, Hagee has put together a multimillion-dollar empire preaching Christian support for Israel. The size of his CUFI following alone makes him an important political player.
When the issues of the division of Jerusalem or the return of land in the disputed territories come up, John Hagee and other leading Christian Zionists call on an army of ready foot soldiers to put political pressure on their representatives. Should you think End-Times fans are a fringe group, a 2004 Newsweek Poll found that 55% of Americans believe in the Rapture, in which godly, born-again believers are whisked up to be with God in the blink of an eye. With 42% of Americans believing that Israel was given to the Jews by God, there is more than enough demographic reason for politicians to support Israel, even when that support might not be in the best interests of the United States.
What is also of deep concern is the passive acceptance by Jews of Christian Zionism. Far too many Jews know little or nothing about the Christian Zionist agenda. All they know is that Jewish Federations, The Anti-Defamation League, The American Israeli Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and other institutional Jewish groups have chosen to embrace Christian Zionists, giving them legitimacy in the international Jewish community. The tragedy of this interfaith marriage is not that the love isn’t real—it’s real enough in its own way—but that one day, when the greater world fully understands the alliance between the Hagees of the world and the Jewish community, it will no doubt turn Gentiles against Jews, both in Israel as well as in the diaspora.
There is a circular nature to the relationships between Christian Zionists, AIPAC, certain members of the U. S. Congress, and the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Together their influence breaks down any general congressional will to stand up to Israel even when her actions sabotage efforts to build a much-needed peace. It is why Netanyahu was able to slap Vice President Joe Biden so soundly on the diplomatic face when, in 2010, Israel welcomed him with the announcement of the planned construction of 1600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East Jerusalem, even though the U.S. had sought a freeze on all such building. It is also why, despite the fact that 61% of Israeli Jews and 79% of American Jews support a two-state solution, the chances that Israel will cede enough contiguous land to create a Palestinian state are rapidly dwindling. Potentially most tragic of all, it is also a key stumbling block to why Secretary Kerry’s valiant peace efforts may fail. For be not deluded: extremists on both sides are at this moment, upping the violence ante to do whatever it takes to preclude a two-state solution.
In this light, Christian Zionist interference can hardly be seen as good for the Jews, especially once the role of political Christian Zionism with regard to U.S. foreign interests is more widely understood. On its own, Hagee’s interference within the disputed territories alone qualifies as contrary to Israel’s interests. Owing to demographics, the window for a two-state solution is fast closing—as the growth of the Arab population outpaces that of the Jews, Israel will either have to cede its Jewish identity or become an apartheid nation. Unfortunately, should anyone offer advice or criticize Israel’s actions, they are instantly—and often wrongly—accused of being an anti-Semite or a self-loathing Jew. And whenever the United Nations tries to intervene, Christian Zionists immediately resort to biblically inspired name-calling by declaring the UN to be the precursor to the one-world government alluded to in the bible.
It is understandable from a psychological perspective that the Jewish people, with their long history as victims of persecution, would welcome their Christian Zionist defenders. When John Hagee offers the Jewish people the support of fifty million evangelical Christians, it is more than seductive; it’s irresistible. Hagee generally stays true to his word not to evangelize the Jews, believing it to be “fruitless, inasmuch as God has blinded them to the identity of Messiah.” But with this sleight of hand he conceals the elephants in the room—the underlying Christian Zionist truths that those who do not take Jesus as their personal savior shall be doomed for eternity, and that Jewish ownership of Palestine is a prerequisite to the realization of their eschatological vision.
It would behoove those Jews who are taken in by a Hagee-style love to dig deeper and find out about the kinds of things Christian Zionists say about Jews in other contexts. For example, in his apocalyptic best-selling book, Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude to War, Hagee shows himself to be rooting for Israel and not the Jews themselves. “How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God,” he writes, “for his chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings he had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.”
Additionally, despite the vast gulf between Jews and Christian Zionists on all issues other than Israel, such as abortion, the environment, marriage equality, and so on, it takes but one nihilistic comment from Iran’s Right Wing to erase issues that would otherwise be taken as contrary to Jewish beliefs. Speak to anyone in major institutional Judaism and you won’t hear reason, you’ll hear fear. And in today’s hair-trigger world, accepting friendship from those whose ideology is based on the annihilation of everyone who hasn’t taken Jesus as endangers the Jewish people more than rejecting it ever could. In holding hands with Christian Zionists, whose goal is to provoke a nuclear Armageddon, Jews have set themselves up for the very anti-Semitism they fear.
In a complicated public relations dance, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization whose primary concern is anti-Semitism, has switched his position on Hagee and Christian Zionism so often he must suffer from whiplash. In 2005, he urged major Jewish organizations to stand up to the Christian right, which, he warned, wants to establish a theocracy in the United States. After much back and forth with his colleagues, he ceased his public criticism. Then, in 2008, in answer to Hagee’s comment that God had sent Hitler in order to hasten the ingathering of the Jews in Zion, Foxman retracted his support again, calling for Jewish organizations to put the alliance on hold. “It’s now necessary for us to look at the totality of (Hagee’s) views.” This time, after a series of letters between Foxman and Hagee, Foxman once again recanted, saying, “American Jews should not be apologetic or defensive about cultivating Evangelical support for Israel. The need for support by an Israel under siege is great. Fortunately, Evangelical support is overwhelming, consistent, and unconditional.”
Around the same time, in 2008, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, then president of the Union of Reform Judaism, offered a very different perspective on Jewish consideration of Christian Zionism. Speaking at a conference of Reform rabbis in Cincinnati, he said, "On Israeli-Palestinian politics, John Hagee and the CUFI are extremists. . . In expressing contempt for other religions and rejecting territorial compromise under any and all circumstances, their views run against the American grain." Yoffie’s speech should have given the rabbis in attendance the courage to go back home and tell each of their 900 congregations that allying with Christians Zionists would ultimately prove damaging to the Jews and to Israel, but whether or not that happened, nothing changed. It seemed that the moneyed and politic Jews had the issue sewn up in favor of the alliance. Five years later, it’s the spring of 2013 and Rabbi Yoffie, trusting that Hagee has abandoned his virulent Islamophobia, has thrown in with the Christian Zionists. Perhaps Hagee has modulated his language but his desire for the final war between Muslims and Christians has never diminished.
American Judaism has made itself complicit in Christian Zionism’s dangerous actions. To be seen as having held political hands with Christians Zionists to the detriment of U.S. foreign and military policy will one day most certainly oil the engine of Jewish persecution. The danger of a John Hagee is that he is just politically connected enough to coax the world toward a self-fulfilling nuclear apocalypse. The geopolitics of the Arab region, complex and difficult as they are, demand that cool, clear heads prevail, heads that are neither biblically nor Koran-ically driven.
As Hagee’s words indicate, it is probably safe to say that while Christian Zionists love Zion, they most certainly don’t feel the same way about the Jewish people. A prescient Harry Truman wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1947, “The actions of some of our American Zionists will eventually prejudice everyone against what they are trying to get done.” To see Israelis willingly ignore human rights abuses in Gaza speaks to what fear can do to a moral and long-persecuted people. Truman’s letter continued, “I fear very much that Jews are like all underdogs. When they get on top, they are just as intolerant and cruel as the people were to them when they were underneath.” Again, rather more than prescient. Yet, a religious man himself, he still believed in and endorsed the creation of the state of Israel.
When Truman cited the Book of Deuteronomy as the basis for Israel’s creation, then-Secretary of State George Marshall was outraged that an American president based such an important policy decision on the Bible. In the circular spin of history, Jews today find themselves aligned with a people whose idea of foreign policy is based on the Book of Revelation.
Rabbi Barry Block of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio spoke wisely in 2006 when he said, “The extreme religious right has the privilege to lobby for its beliefs. Let them do so, as they wish, as Christians, without the involvement of the organized Jewish community. Let us keep far away, with our eyes open. For our own future as Jews in America. For our souls. For Israel.”
But if Christian Zionists like John Hagee, along with Israel’s influential and unreasonable right wing, continue to have their way, voices like those of Block, Steinitz, Olmert, Dagan, and Kerry will be lost and Israel will indeed be cursed. That is, unless the heretofore-silent Jewish and Christian majorities find the will to address the big issues, moral as well as military, that is necessary to take back their voice and reclaim their once historically respected high road. To do that though, Jews in both Israel and the Diaspora will have to find the political courage to look the John Hagees in the eye and say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks. Only then can diplomacy have a chance.
By K. C. Boyd