Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

Alliance Between Jewish Groups and Evangelical Supporters of Israel Stirs Growing Debate

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
May - June 2007

The growing alliance between Evangelical supporters of Israel and groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is stirring a growing debate.  
At AIPAC‘s national conference in March, Pastor John Hagee, the evangelical minister from San Antonio, Texas who in 2006 founded the first Christian pro-Israel lobbying group, Christians United for Israel, addressed the delegates and received a standing ovation.  
Hagee is a proponent of the theology known as dispensational premillennialism. It argues that as history nears its end, Jews will fulfill biblical prophecies by returning to their homeland and regaining independence. This is the prelude to apocalyptic wars and disasters, leading to either the death or conversion of all Jews and to the return of Jesus.  
Hagee is the author of several books setting forth his “end days” theology. His latest volume, “Jerusalem Countdown,” depicts a scenario in which Iran and a coalition of Islamic countries, led by Russia, will unleash a nuclear attack on Israel, leading to the ultimate battle of Armageddon. According to Hagee, this battle between what he terms the “Islamo-fascists” and the Christians and Jews is already upon us.  
For 25 years, Hagee has been fundraising for Israel through his television ministries and through his own “Night To Honor Israel,” planned annually with help from Aryeh Scheinberg, a San Antonio Orthodox rabbi. The board of Hagee‘s organization includes such prominent evangelical leaders as the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Gary Bauer, former president of the Family Research Council. Evangelical supporters of Israel vigorously oppose all peace efforts which involve territorial adjustments with the Palestinians. At the April 2002 Israel solidarity rally in Washington, D.C., evangelical radio host Janet Parshall declared, ‘We will not give back the Golan!” When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for disengagement from Gaza as a means to better defend Israel, Christian Zionists opposed the government of Israel. The Rev. Pat Robertson even suggested that Sharon’s subsequent stroke was God’s punishment for abandoning land the Bible declared to be God’s patrimony to the Jews.  
More and more Jewish voices are being heard expressing concern about the growing liaison between Jewish and evangelical groups.  
Writing in Sh’ma (May 2007), Gershom Gorenberg, author of “The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements 1967-1977” and “The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle For the Temple Mount,” states of Israel’s evangelical supporters that, “This is the kind of friend your mother should have warned you about when you were young: the one you accept when you are feeling unpopular, who is loud, dares you to do dangerous things, gives you a bad name, drives other people away.”  
The existence of Israel, Gorenberg notes, “proves” that prophecy is coming true and, he writes, “For that the Jews are loved. Yet the Jews — says the same theology — live in obstinate error as deniers of Jesus and will pay the price. Radio evangelist Chuck Missler, for instance, has asserted that Auschwitz was ‘just a little prelude’ to what will happen to Jews in the approaching Last Days ... This kind of cheering squad poses two practical risks. The first is that Israeli politicians will be tempted to believe that they can count on support for intransigence — indeed, that American political support will be most firm when they are most unbending. Christian Zionists are encouraging Israel to live dangerously.”  
The Forward (May 4, 2007) notes with regard to the embrace of Pastor Hagee that, “Critics complain that Hagee’s hawkish, biblically based views on Israel do not serve the Jewish state, and that his conservative domestic agenda — including opposition to gay marriage, abortion and immigration — is squarely at odds with the liberal views of most American Jews.”  
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Temple Beth El in Madison, Wisconsin, says: “I don’t like that they would not like to see Israel trade land for peace, because in my view that’s a very important formula. The real bottom line is the fact that this organization would like to exacerbate tensions in the Middle East so it will lead to Armageddon.”  
In Sacramento, California, the city’s largest Reform synagogue, Congregation B’nai Israel, declined to participate in its local Christians United for Israel events Elsewhere, however, Jewish groups have joined with Hagee‘s organization. The recent “Night To Honor Israel” held outside of Minneapolis raised $100,000.  
David Elcott, Executive Director of the Israel Policy Forum and former director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, says this of the Jewish-Evangelical alliance in Sh’ma (May 2007): “Christian Zionists, Evangelicals who know God’s will from their biblical insights and offer a literal reading of Scriptures, concern me ... In fact, their support may endanger Israel’s future more than our fickle mainline Protestant friends ... The last five governments of Israel have called for a Palestinian state living next to a secure, demographically viable Israel. Christian Zionists unequivocally condemn that solution. In 2005, Israel courageously moved again to promote peace. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ... called for disengagement from Gaza as a means to better defend Israel. But the Christian Embassy and its Christian Zionist followers opposed the government of Israel. They provided material resources to settlers to resist evacuation and politically advocated in the U.S. against the Israeli decision.”  
Elcott concludes: “We should embrace in friendship and in dialogue all our Christian brothers and sisters, seek common cause where we can while engaging in respectful dialogue when we disagree ... But it is time to unequivocally reframe the Middle East debate and make clear that the greatest defenders of the state of Israel ... are those of us who advocate for an end to the conflict and peace for all those who reside in the land that all call holy.”  
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, believes that inviting John Hagee to address AIPAC and the growing alliance between Jewish and evangelical groups, may be alienating Jewish young people. Writing in The Forward (May 18, 2007), he states: “We have learned from extensive research that these young people are often more socially liberal than their babyboomer parents. They are pluralistic in their thinking and they are tolerant of difference ... They respond negatively to those who disparage other religious traditions and who make exclusivist religious claims. They are inherently centrist in their political views on the Middle East. And they are suspicious of a Jewish establishment that they see as too focused on money and insufficiently focused on values. And so whom do we offer to these young people as a spokesman for Israel? John Hagee, who is contemptuous of Muslims, dismissive of gays, possesses a triumphalist theology and opposes a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. If our intention was to distance our young adults from the Jewish state, we could not have made a better choice.”  
Beyond this, writes Yoffie, “Even worse, a primary motive here seems to be that we see Hagee and his Christians United for Israel as a source of dollars for federation coffers. The pattern has been that in return for federation sponsorship of dinners hosted by the lobbying group, contributions are made by Christians United For Israel to our federation fundraising campaigns. The conclusion that our young people are most likely to draw from this arrangement is that we are simply selling our souls.”

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.