Zionists should extend the hand of friendship to anyone who offers it. But the Zionist movement must remain the province of Zionists and Jews, led by committed Jewish Zionists who share our fundamental values and who represent the Jewish people. We cannot and should not put ourselves in the unfortunate position of being responsible for the views of supporters who have a totally different value system, or of being vulnerable to the damage that can by caused by their sometimes eccentric, ill considered or obnoxious views. We have enough trouble defending our own different viewpoints.
The invitation to Pastor John Hagee to speak at the gala AIPAC convention was a divisive lapse in judgment. It held within it the potential for disaster, and that potential has come to fruition.
Apparently in the 1990s, Pastor Hagee
said the following:
Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said ‘I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.’ So few went that Herzl went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust.
“Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says — Jeremiah writing — ‘They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,’ meaning there’s no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don’t let your heart be offended. I didn’t write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth.
How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.
Jeremiah never wrote anything about Hitler of course, and Hagee can be blamed for getting Jeremiah involved in the doings of the Waffen SS.
Atrocities like the Holocaust present difficulties for those who believe in a merciful deity. Hagee is not the first man of religion to provide an obnoxious and offensive explanation of the Holocaust. Ultra-orthodox rabbis have stated that the Holocaust was divine punishment for assimilation, for example. Hagee's outrageous remarks about the Holocaust, from his theological point of view, are not anti-Semitic, though they provide a revolting image of the deity. I suppose Hitler had to be an instrument in God's plan according to Hagee, since nothing can happen that is not in God's plan. In the context of religious explication, Hagee might think it is perhaps not much different from saying that Nazism and the Holocaust were the inevitable result of blind historical forces. But God, as opposed to history in secular analyses, is supposed be ethical. If God was so anxious to get the Jews to come to Israel, surely He could have found a different incentive than Hitler and the Holocaust.
But Hagee's remarks also included anti-Semitism. Hagee also said that "Jews are spiritually dead." Darn right, if we had any spunk, we would've tarred and feathered him then and there. There is really a limit to the accommodation of alien views. Anti-Semitism can flourish even among well meaning people if Jews do not draw any lines and insist on elementary respect.
Having a person like Hagee inside our camp, as a spokesperson, a person whom nobody in the Zionist community elected and who does not represent any Jewish Zionists, is a calamity waiting to happen. He arrives at his support for Israel from considerations that are totally alien to the Zionist movement. Most of us are not aware of all the things he may have said or written in the past, and none of us can know what he is liable to say in the future.
Hagee is one of those people who puts their mouth in motion long before their brain has finished working, or maybe before it started working.
At any moment, he may make another outrageous statement that can be portrayed as "Zionist." He is presently engaged in repudiating his remarks about Catholics, and in studying the role of the Church. If he didn't know anything about the role of the Church, why did he give sermons on the subject?
What if Hagee, or another such person, addressing an AIPAC meeting or another Zionist gathering, makes similarly explosive remarks about Hitler, or about homosexuals or about Catholics or Muslims? No matter how we would try to repudiate them, they would still reflect on the Zionist movement. How could AIPAC have invited a speaker who had said that Jews are spiritually dead? Perhaps the leaders of AIPAC really are spiritually dead.
The various friends and supporters of the Zionist movement have a right to their opinions. We should, within reasonable limits, accept their support and work together on common goals. But they have no obligation to accept Jewish culture and theology, and we should not be burdened with responsibility for their views, nor should they represent Zionism at public events, nor should they have a say in the running of Israel or the Zionist movement, regardless of how much money they give. Abe Foxman and Mort Klein don't make decisions about Christian theology and John Hagee can't have a say in the Zionist movement.
Republican candidate John McCain has repudiated Hagee's support for him, but the damage to McCain is done. Hagee must be part of God's plan too. Maybe God sent him to ensure that the Democrats win the presidential election. Or maybe God sent him to inspire the formation of the J Street lobby. Or maybe he is just here to make life interesting. Who knows?
For now, the media are focusing on John McCain's troubles with Hagee, and have ignored his AIPAC appearance. God has granted the Zionist movement a small favor. We can all regard McCain and say, "There, but for the grace of God, goeth I." Next time, we may not be so lucky.
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Replies: 3 Comments
Quote: Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. If it weren't for Christians - Pres Truman' recognition of Israel, Pres Nixon's airlift, John Hagee and other Christian Zionists - Israel would not exist.
Balderdash. If it weren't for the Irgun, Israel would not exist. Whether or not anybody voted for Israel to exist at the UN is immaterial - they weren't prepared to do anything forceful either way. England armed and trained the Arab Legion while sabotaging the Zionist cause at every turn, France played both sides, and the Arabs invaded. America offered the Arabs a delay of several years and a peacekeeping force with a leading role for Egypt - nota bene one of the countries that subsequently invaded.
There is, additionally, evidence that Nixon supported Israel in 1967 for two reasons: 1) It suited America's purpose; and 2) The Nixon administration did not want the conflict to go nuclear - Israel already had the last resort in abeyance.
Some Christian support is not a gift horse but a spent old nag. Hagee is precisely the type of support which does more harm than good.
The Back of the Hill, Friday, May 30th
For what its worth, Hagee's comment about Jews being "spiritually dead" really isn't anti-semitic, because he thinks that everyone who isn't "born again" is in the same condition. So it's not just Jews, but anyone who doesn't adhere to his conception of Christianity; despite his recent backtrack on the Catholic Church, he would probably include most Catholics in this category too.
PB, Friday, May 23rd
Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. If it weren't for Christians - Pres Truman' recognition of Israel, Pres Nixon's airlift, John Hagee and other Christian Zionists - Israel would not exist.
Mark Nystedt, Friday, May 23rd
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