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My Hagee Problem—And Ours

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

Marc Tracy
July 26, 2010
Hagee in Jerusalem in March.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)
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.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.