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My Hagee Problem—And Ours

Why the enemy of our enemy isn’t always our friend

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Hagee in Jerusalem in March.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

In The Weekly Standard, Jennifer Rubin writes a praise-poem to Christian Zionists, and specifically to the Rev. John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith gave the group much more nuanced treatment a few months ago; I don’t think I can give Rubin’s article a similarly moderate hearing, as she essentially glosses over CUFI’s theological underpinnings, which include the belief that the Second Coming depends on Jews inhabiting the Holy Land.

But just as important as what Rubin fails to mention about evangelical Christians’ Zionism is what she fails to mentions about Hagee. Jonathan Chait reminds us that Hagee first entered national consciousness in early 2008 when he endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) for president, only to have the record show that Hagee had once said that Hitler was God’s agent for punishing those Jews who did not do the sensible thing and move to Palestine, as the Bible had demanded.

“Now,” argues Rubin, “with the Iranian nuclear threat growing, relations with the Obama administration tumultuous, and assaults on Israel in international bodies a daily occurrence, Israel can use some real friends.” She is implicitly arguing that those Jews, like Chait, who are offended by Hagee should realize that Hitler is dead, that Hagee is not going to call for Jew-killing anytime soon—actually, he spoke during Shabbat at the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton, New York, this past weekend—and so what is the big deal so long as, ultimately, CUFI is evangelizing for the pro-Israel side?

The big deal, I humbly sumbit, is that the anti-Semitic and retrograde crap spouted by Hagee is offensive to more than just Jews. Actually, it is offensive to all decent people. And so the more CUFI is associated with the mainstream American pro-Israel position—say, by having a prominent journalist call it Israel’s “real friends” in a prominent publication—the more Americans who are pro-Israel for reasons that do not make reference to the divine, much less to the apocalypse, are going to question just whom they are getting in bed with.

More to the point, John Hagee believes that all Jews who have not made aliyah—which is to say, all American Jews— are not living out their divine mandate, as well as his own mandate for them. So if you believe that the last thing Israel can afford right now is a small group of ultra-religious nationalists telling all the Jews what is best for all of them (hint, hint), then you should have a major problem with Hagee, the CUFI, and Rubin.

Onward, Christian Zionists [Weekly Standard]
John Hagee, Pillar of Tolerance [TNR]
Related: Friends in Deed

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I’ve been to CUFI events in Davenport, Iowa for each of the last two years and plan to go again this year. Last year, Victor Styrsky gave an amazing talk (to a Christian audience) that was far more reassuring to Jews than this commentary lets on. Hagee is scheduled to be the keynote speaker this year and I expect no less.

As for his “antisemitic” comments, I would suggest that these comments are very similar to many orthodox Jewish views on how Jewish tragedy can be explained in terms of God’s all-encompassing power. Once you believe that God could have stopped the Holocaust, you are left with a lot of seemingly antisemitic explanations.

Dear JamesEJ,

As the person who brought John Hagee’s “God sent a hunter… Hitler was a hunter.” claim to public attention, I can assure you that John Hagee has said far worse.

For example, in a March 23, 2003 sermon titled “The Final Warning, The Coming Crash and The New World Order” John Hagee claimed that European Rothschild bankers controlled the US economy through control of the Federal Reserve. [ see: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/6/1/163843/2726 ]

Adolf Hitler espoused an extremely similar conspiracy theory which claimed European Rothschilds controlled the German economy.

I would suggest you may want to do a bit of research on what Mr. Hagee says in his (internationally broadcast) sermons and books.

Bruce, I’ll look more at the Federal Reserve comments – this is a serious red flag. I recently spoke with Frank Meeink (author of ‘Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead’), and he was very clear with me that it is precisely that antisemitic narrative that initiates new skinheads and neo-Nazis into the ideology of Jew-hatred. I will do my best to ask Hagee about it when he is in town. I am sure I will be able to get someone at CUFI to comment on it even if it isn’t Hagee.

James, Thanks for your response, and I’ll have to look into Meeink’s book or perhaps talk to him.

If you follow this link you can view footage of Hagee saying various horrific things about Jews:

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2010/7/29/174316/726/

As another example, in his 2005 book Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee stated that Hitler was born from an evil, divinely cursed lineage of “half-breed Jews” descended from Esau.

The idea of an evil line of “half-breed” Jews descended from Esau is an extremely distinctive one and can be found almost nowhere else but in the racist Christian Identity movement. You can read about this in Michael Barkun’s book “Religion and the racist right: the origins of the Christian Identity movement,” on Google Books (you can access much of the text of Barkun’s book there.)

You can find Hagee’s Esau/Hitler reference in this Amazon edition of Hagee’s Jerusalem Countdown, which has a “look inside this book” feature, on page 149:

http://www.amazon.com/Jerusalem-Countdown-John-Hagee/dp/B002UXS2K0/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1280518530&sr=8-2-fkmr2#reader_B002UXS2K0

On that page, John Hagee states that Pulitzer Prize winning historian John Toland, in his 1976 book Adolf Hitler, “records that Hitler was part Jewish.” This is flatly wrong. What Toland actually writes, on page 4 of his book, is this –

“There is the slight possibility that Hitler’s grandfather was a wealthy Jew named Frankenberger or Frankenreither; that Maria Anna [Hitler's grandmother] had been a domestic in the Jewish household at Graz and the young son had gotten her pregnant.”

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My Hagee Problem—And Ours

Why the enemy of our enemy isn’t always our friend

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