Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hagee: Why Christian Zionists really support Israel

Why Christian Zionists Really Support Israel

By John C. Hagee

Published in the  May 21, 2010 issue of the Forward

On May 23, pastors, ministers and priests at more than 1,500 churches in all 50 states and over 50 foreign countries will dedicate their Sunday services to teaching the importance of Christian support for Israel.

On that day — the second annual Christians United for Israel Sunday — church leaders will speak to their congregants about God’s enduring covenant with Abraham and the Jewish people, including God’s promise in Genesis 12:3 that He will bless those who bless Israel. Worshippers will learn about the tragedies of Jewish history. Christian leaders will speak the truth about our culpability and silence during the Holocaust, pogroms and Crusades. The message at churches around the world will be clear and unequivocal: Christians can never again be silent in the face of threats to the Jewish people.

Christians attending these churches will also learn about the miraculous rise of the modern State of Israel and the existential threats it faces today. Many will leave church with a better understanding of the dangers of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Palestinian terror and the international campaign against Israel’s legitimacy.

As is the case for many Jews, our support for Israel starts with God’s promises in the Hebrew Bible, but it does not end there. Christian Zionists recognize that we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Jewish people. As I have stressed to my Christian audiences for years: If you take away the Jewish contribution to Christianity, there would be no Christianity. From the patriarchs to the prophets, from Jesus and his family to the men who wrote down the Bible, Jewish people have provided us with the fundamentals of our faith.

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.

Given the history of Christian antisemitism, I am not at all surprised that many in the Jewish community are skeptical of Christian support for Israel. Some worry that our efforts are motivated by a desire to convert Jews. Others posit that our Zionism is tied to an effort to speed the second coming of Jesus. Both of these allegations are flat wrong. All we ask of our Jewish friends is that they get to know us before they judge us harshly on the basis of myths such as these.

Like all people of faith, we Christians firmly believe that our religion is true. But we also believe in religious freedom and have enormous respect for the Jewish faith. 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.

Regarding the other allegation, 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. They are the motives discussed above.

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. Like many supporters of Israel, some Christian Zionists have certainly grown skeptical of land-for-peace in the face of the failures of this formula the last few times it was tried. Yet from our founding four years ago, we decided that CUFI would never presume to tell Jerusalem how to conduct its foreign or domestic affairs. We have never, and will never, oppose Israeli efforts to advance peace. Our involvement in the peace process will continue to be restricted to defending Israel’s right to make decisions free of international interference or pressure — including U.S. pressure.

We cannot change the past. But we can try to learn from it. During the Holocaust there were Christians who risked their lives to save Jewish families. Christian Zionists believe that the tradition of the righteous gentile has an important role in the world today. We are not the heroes they were. We do not have to risk our lives as they did. But following their example, we will stand with the Jewish people as they face threats of a second Holocaust from Hitler’s ideological kin in Tehran and elsewhere.

Christian support for Israel starts with the Bible, is strengthened by an understanding of history and endures because of the Judeo-Christian commitment to democratic values. Everything that forms the Christian understanding of the world leads to the same conclusion: Christians should support Israel because it is simply the right thing to do.

Pastor John C. Hagee is founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Israel as the Ram in the Thicket

Israel as the Ram in the Thicket

By Dexter Van Zile


In the course of my work, I have become increasingly worried about the message offered by mainline Protestant churches (and some quarters of the Roman Catholic Church) about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Not only is the narrative offered by these institutions distorted, it has a negative impact on the safety of Jews throughout the world.

My concerns, which are still coalescing, can currently be summarized as follows:

1. There is a continuum of anti-Israel rhetoric. One end of the continuum is marked by hate toward
Israel and Jews rooted in deeply hostile beliefs about the nature of the Jewish people. The other end is marked by polite de-legitimization through an obsession with Israeli policies and silence about the behavior of its adversaries.

The hateful end of the continuum is occupied by anti-Israel extremists in the
Middle East and their supporters in the West who portray Israel as a cancerous entity that prevents the Muslim and the Arab peoples in the region from reclaiming their rightful place in history. Under this logic, Israel
must be destroyed. Jewish sovereignty is a bad thing because of the nature of the Jewish people.

This brand of anti-Zionism is largely fueled by Muslim teachings regarding the Jewish people and the land. Under these teachings, Jews are enemies of God and Islam who should be subject people. Muslim tradition also states that land previously governed by Muslim rulers should never be relinquished to non-Muslims.

Put these two teachings together and the very notion of a Jewish state is a humiliating violation of the Islamic nomos or sense of order rooted in Muslim scripture. Writers such as Sayyd Qutb have retrieved the notion of the Jews as enemies of God evident in the Koran and the Hadiths and applied them to the state of
with lethal effect.

Also at this end of the continuum is the hard left in the
U.S. and Europe. These activists, who oftentimes co-operate with the Islamists described above, portray Israel as a unique and enduring threat to peace and human rights in the world. To these activists, Israel is guilty of genocide and its supporters in the West are enemies within. These activists regard violence directed at Israel and its supporters as justified. The logic is that only a monstrous people could defend such a monstrous nation. Jews who support Israel
support genocide and apartheid and cannot be trusted. They are the enemy within.

In the middle of the continuum are activists who depict
Israel and its status as a Jewish state as an obstacle to the causes of peace and the advancement of human rights in the Middle East. Under this narrative, Israel
should not be destroyed but dismantled and converted into a bi-national state in which Jews would by definition, be a minority. It is the consequences of Jewish sovereignty that trouble this group.

Most of the time, adherents of this viewpoint speak in less hateful tones than the extremists I just described, but the implications of their narrative are the same: Minority status for Jews in an Arab and Muslim country. Adherents of this narrative regard violence against
as understandable and unavoidable. Ostensibly, they are motivated by the suffering of the Palestinian people. (As described below, adherents of this viewpoint oftentimes shift to the more hateful end of the spectrum.)

At the opposite end of the spectrum from those who call for Israel’s outright destruction and express contempt for Israel are those who explicitly affirm Israel’s right to exist while subjecting it actions and in some instances its Jewish identity to extremely harsh and unreasonable scrutiny. Adherents of this narrative point out
Israel’s failings but are reluctant to point out the misdeeds of its adversaries. They acknowledge that indeed Jews were the victims of genocide in Europe, but fail to acknowledge the frankly genocidal hostility toward Jews and Israel in the Middle East
. When they criticize Israel, they speak as if they are motivated by feelings of mournful sorrow about Israel’s failings and hope that someday, Israel will get its policies right and that Jews will come to a better self-understanding and be able to live in peace with its neighbors.

2. One’s presence at the more benign (and less hateful) end of the spectrum does not guarantee that one will stay there.

Activists and commentators who “hang out” so to speak at the softer, less hateful end of the anti-Zionist continuum can move toward more hateful territory. (They often do.) They do not embrace the Islamist narrative, but instead embrace secular notions of Jews as enemies to world peace and well being.

As time passes, they start to attack
Israel’s Jewish supporters in the West as monsters whose mere presence represents a threat to human rights and democracy. People who obsess about the effects of Jewish sovereignty on the Middle East, (as if Palestinian suffering is singular and without parallel and caused solely by Israel
) will eventually come to unreasonable conclusions about the nature of Jews and their state. Through this process, the people who are motivated by a legitimate concern about the Palestinians begin to mimic the anti-Zionist rhetoric offered by the people on the more extreme end of the continuum. And once they embrace anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism is just the next step down the road, so to speak.

3. Efforts to de-legitimize
Israel contribute to insecurity for Jews throughout the world. (Israel gets attacked in the Middle East and Jews are threatened in the West).

Over the past few years, there has been a measurable and observable increase in hostility toward Jews throughout the world, particularly in
Europe, South America and sadly enough, in some quarters of North America. This was particularly evident during Israel’s fight with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. The Community Security Trust, (a Jewish group in Great Britain similar to the ADL in the United States), linked this hostility toward media coverage of the conflict. According to the CST, anti-Semitic attacks were down during the first six months of 2006 from the year before.

But anti-Semitic incidents rose sharply during the summer of 2006 largely as a consequence of “the war between
Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon that took place in July and August.” And once a ceasefire was instituted in mid-August, attacks declined. The European Jewish Congress reported similar findings in a report of its own about hostility in the rest of Europe

A few other examples of this problem include:

• The atmosphere outside the United Nation’s “anti-racism” conference that took place in Durban South
Africa in 2001. At this conference, Arab and Muslim extremists from the Middle East and their allies from the radical left in Europe and the U.S. were able to convince the gathered assembly to affirm an amalgam of ritualistic charges of genocide, racism and ethnic cleansing targeted at Israel. Jews were singularly denied the right to participate in the proceedings at the conference because they could not be "objective." Security officials told representatives of Jewish groups that their safety could not be guaranteed. Protesters carried signs stating that if Hitler had finished the job there were would be no state of Israel and no Palestinian suffering. During the conference a Jewish doctor was beaten by people wearing checkered keffiyehs – the symbol of the Palestinian cause – who said Jews were the cause of all the problems in the Middle East
. Local Jewish leaders attributed the attack to the atmosphere at the UN Conference.

• The murder of a French Jew, Ilan Halimi in
Paris in 2005. Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old French Jew, who was kidnapped, tortured for three weeks, stabbed and left to die at a train station on the outskirts of Paris
by Muslims who had anti-Israel literature in their apartments. His torture took place in the basement of a public housing project. People knew of his suffering and did not call the police.

• The murder of Pamela Waechter, an employee of the Jewish Federation in
Seattle in 2006. Waechter was shot to death at the height of the Hezbollah War by a man describing himself as a Muslim-American “angry at Israel.” The killer was later discovered to be suffering from mental illness, but just as John Salvi who killed two women at an abortion clinic in Boston in 1994, was encouraged by the highly-charged atmosphere surrounding the debate over abortion in the U.S., the anti-Jewish fringe is energized by hostile rhetoric coming out of the Middle East

• The plight of Jews in
Malmo, Sweden. Jews are fleeing Sweden in droves as anti-Semitic attacks, perpetrated mostly by Muslim immigrants have increased substantially. Malmo’s mayor has failed to stop the attack, stating they are merely a consequence of Israeli policies in the Middle East

• The display of anti-Semitic imagery at anti-Israel rallies in the
U.S. during Israel
’s fight with Hamas in the Gaza Strip during the winter of 2008-09. Protesters carried signs equating the Start of David with the Nazi Swastika, a clear expression of anti-Semitism.

• The recent admission by a young Muslim woman at the
University of California San Diego that she supports genocide against Jews in Israel

• The recent stoning of a Jewish dance troup in
Hanover, Germany

4. One’s presence at the “softer” end of the continuum described above makes it unlikely that one will challenge the extremism of people on the other, more hateful end of the continuum. People who root the continued existence of the Arab-Israeli conflict solely in Israeli policies have a difficult time seeing the motivation and actions of
Israel’s adversaries for what they are.

Nowhere is this reality more evident in the activism about the Arab-Israeli conflict offered by mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. that have offered little if any criticism about the rising tide of hostility toward Jews and Israel throughout the world.

Since the Second Intifada, mainline Protestant churches (the Methodists, Lutherans, Congregationalists (also known as the UCC), Presbyterians and Episcopalians) have attacked
Israel, portraying it as solely responsible for the conflict. The narrative told by these churches is that Israel can bring a unilateral end to the conflict through a magical combination of peace offers and territorial withdrawals. Israel’s failure to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve peace is depicted as a consequence of some flaw in Israel’s national character. Examples of this narrative abound:

a. In 2004, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly passed an anti-Israel divestment resolution stating the occupation was at the root of violence against innocents on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It made no mention of the ideological hostility toward
espoused by groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

b. In 2005, the general synods of both United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ passed a resolution that called on
to take down the security barrier without asking Palestinians to stop the terror attacks that preceded its destruction.

c. Mainline Protestant denominations have published numerous books portraying
Israel in an unfairly harsh light. Some of the language in these texts borders on the hateful. For example, one Presbyterian commentator has likened Zionist settlement in Palestine
during the 20th century to a “killer-vine” that had attacked a prize rose bush in his back yard. (This is just one example.)

d. In embracing this narrative, mainline churches have demonstrated a fundamental inability to think clearly about the strategic and moral challenges
Israel face in the Middle East. Instead encouraging their parishioners to embrace a comprehensive understanding of the ideological and physical threats faced by the Jewish people, these churches have encouraged people to embrace an understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict that places Israel under intense scrutiny and which gives its adversaries a pass. They offer little, if any, criticism of Hamas and Hezbollah while intensely interrogating Israeli policy and Israel
's status as a Jewish state.

5. This is not the first time mainline Protestant institutions have engaged in this type of behavior. For example, in the 1930s, Christian Century, the house organ for mainline Protestantism in the
U.S. exhibited a troublesome hostility toward Jews and their desire for a state of their own and to expressions of Jewish identity. The publication gave prominent and laudatory coverage to anti-Zionist Jews and attacked Rabbi Stephen Wise, a prominent Zionist in the U.S., for bringing the Holocaust to the attention of the American people in 1942.

Coverage like this was emblematic of a larger reality. Prior to World War II, Jews were regarded through the lens of potential conflict. As the first targets of Nazi hostility, Jews were regarded as the cause and not the victim of the violence and hostility directed at them. Nazi anti-Semitism was condemned in the abstract, but when it came time to speak about issues in concrete terms, anti-war commentators were much more willing to condemn Jews as opposed to their enemies.

In both the 1930s and today, the contempt for the Jewish people and indifference to the threats to their safety can be linked to a refusal to take threats by totalitarianism seriously. Just as it was more convenient to abandon the Jewish people to the threat posted by fascism in
Europe the 1930s and 40s, it is easier to ignore the threat posed by fascism in the Middle East. Here a phrase used by Paul Berman to describe the anti-war socialists in 1930s France seems appropriate: “They were eager, they were desperate to find a description of reality that did not point to a new war in the future.” (Terror and Liberalism, page 124). This applies readily to the so-called peace activists in mainline churches. They desire peace. This desire is legitimate. But in the course of searching for peace, they have abandoned reality and the Jewish people as well.

6. Part of the problem is that many people in mainline churches have embraced a view of history that portrays Western civilization as the dominant, if not unique source of suffering in the world today. Given this understanding, and the self-hate it engenders, members of these churches feel as if they deserve punishment.

In this sense, the members of mainline churches are like Abraham’s son Isaac on the way to
Mount Moriah
. They see the wood and the fire and have a vague sense that an immolation is going to take place, but hope desperately that they will not be the victim of this sacrifice. They feel on one level that if it weren’t for their exquisite moral sense, that they would deserve to be immolated.

And how do they demonstrate and give voice to their exquisite moral sense?

By condemning

Israel, for these folks, is the ram in the thicket on Mount Moriah. Israel
is the entity that they can thrust into the fire of moral judgment.

In sum, what we are witnessing is an intellectual process by which people are preparing themselves to justify the re-abandonment of the Jewish people. If we continue with this process, it will have great consequences for the Jewish people in particular and Western civilization in general.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Des Moines JCRC deplores analogizing the president to Hitler and Lenin

Statement from JCRC       July 15, 2010
The Jewish Community Relations Commission of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, Iowa
JCRC deplores the rhetoric and imagery displayed on a billboard in Mason City analogizing President Obama to Hitler and Lenin.  Such analogies are distortions and are disrespectful of the president, those who were murdered by the dictators, and those whose families suffered the tragic loss of loved ones.
Steven Schoenebaum,  JCRC Chair
Mark S. Finkelstein,  JCRC Director
The Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines is online at http://jewishdesmoines.org

For news pertinent to the Jewish community, read the Des Moines JCRC InfoBlog online at http://jcommunitynews.blogspot.com  and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jewishnewsblog

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hoenlein's radio commentary: The Obama/Netanyahu meeting, Palestinian reactions, and Iran

  Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is excellent at interpreting and explaining Jewish current events. 
He is given an opportunity to do so weekly on The John Batchelor Show, on WABC radio, available over the internet.   Hoenlein's radio commentary is excellent and worth hearing.
On Thursday night, Hoenlein analyzed the meeting, this week, between President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu -- an event that Hoenlein characterizes as very positive.  He also talks about the Palestinian leadership's reaction to that meeting.  And later in the program talks about the main problem he sees: that of dealing with Iran.
Please listen to some or all of the conversation,  employing the links below.  
//Mark Finkelstein jcrc@dmjfed.org

Posted By Mark Finkelstein to J-NewsLine at 7/09/2010 08:59:00 AM
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