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Dovish New Lobby Pushes Organized Jewish Community to Distance Itself from Pastor John Hagee

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
July - August 2008

JStreet, the new organization which is challenging the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), among other things, for its embrace of right-wing evangelical Christians such as Pastor John Hagee, has, reports The Forward (June 6, 2008) “launched a campaign to distance the Jewish community from controversial evangelical Pastor John Hagee. Following revelations that Hagee made comments perceived to be describing the Holocaust as an act of divine retribution, much of the communal Jewish establishment has stuck by the outspokenly pro-Israel Hagee, even as Republican presidential candidate John McCain rejected the pastor’s endorsement.”  
The dovish JStreet political action committee, The Forward notes, “launched an e-mail campaign calling on Senator Joe Lieberman to cancel a planned speech next month to Hagee’s pro-Israel Christian lobby. ... The group is calling on Lieberman to sever ties with the pastor.”  
JStreet executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami states that, “John McCain helped establish that Hagee is outside the mainstream. Now it has to be done also within the Jewish community.”  
In May, Sen. McCain repudiated the endorsement of Hagee after learning about a sermon in which the San Antonio pastor declared that God had allowed the rise of Adolf Hitler because it resulted in returning Israel to the Jewish people. In this sermon, Hagee calls Hitler a “hunter,” a reference to the Book of Jeremiah, which quotes God saying he “will restore” the Jews “to the land I gave to their forefathers.” Hagee then declares: “Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun, and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter ... 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.”  
Senator McCain declared that, “I just think that statement is crazy and unacceptable.”  
Since 1982, Hagee has sponsored lavish “Nights for Israel” banquets to raise $30 million for Jewish and Israeli causes. In 2006, he brought 3,000 pro-Israel evangelicals to Washington, D.C. for a “Washington/Israel Summit.”  
According to Newsweek (May 12, 2008), “Hagee ... believes the U.S. has a Biblical obligation to support Israel, and he has advocated a pre-emptive strike on Iran to protect the Jewish state. He opposes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, suggesting that if Washington backs such a plan, God might punish Americans by dispatching terrorists. ‘If God brings this nation into judgment,’ he warns in an undated video on YouTube.com, ‘he will very likely release the terrorists you’ve let get here through the ridiculous immigration policy you refuse to stop, and this nation is going to go through a bloodbath.”  
JStreet asked: “How can Joe Lieberman continue to stand with a man who preaches that Hitler was only doing God’s bidding in the Holocaust?”  
At the July 21 Hagee-led Washington-Israel Summit, which, reports The Forward, featured “Reps. Eliot Engel and Mike Pense, as well as Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor, and a senior member of AIPAC ... Hagee was a keynote speaker at AIPAC’s last policy conference,” Senator Joseph Lieberman addressed the group and praised Hagee, saying that his support “is so much more important” than inflammatory comments he has made about Jews and the Catholic Church, which he has called “the great whore” and a “false cult system.”  
At the 2007 meeting of Christians United for Israel, Senator Lieberman compared Pastor Hagee to Moses, according to The Washington Post (July 22, 2008).  
The Washington Post (July 23, 2008) reported that, “American Jewish skepticism toward Hagee and other Christian Zionists has long been high ... The Jewish peace lobbying group JStreet delivered more than 42,000 signatures to Lieberman’s office asking him to cut ties with Hagee. JStreet and its allies note that the vast majority of American Jews support a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, something Hagee thinks God opposes. Hagee believes an end-time narrative that requires Jews to relocate to Israel and to convert to Christianity. Lieberman pointed out to the audience that he had been urged not to appear. But he added that “the bond that I feel with Pastor Hagee and each and every one of you made him ‘proud to stand with you tonight.’”  
Many Jewish groups, such as AIPAC, continue to embrace Hagee. Rabbi Gary Greenebaum of the American Jewish Committee said that he accepts the clarifications offered by Hagee. On the other side, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said: “We hope that Senator McCain’s responsible action in this matter will encourage other political and religious leaders to act likewise in condemning Pastor Hagee’s remarks.”  
According to the Religious News Service (The Washington Post, July 26, 2008), “... a new poll shows that most U.S. Jews are leery of Hagee’s support ... In an online survey ... 78 per cent said Jewish groups should not form alliances with Hagee or other Christian Zionists whose support for Israel stems from beliefs that Jews must control the Holy Land before Jesus can return ... Hagee’s critics complain that the pastor’s controversial views — including that the Holocaust was God’s way of forcing Jews to settle in Israel and that Christians must oppose Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories — have been played down or ignored by Jewish leaders seeking funding and political support from the estimated 20 million to 40 million Christian Zionists in the U.S. Jeremy Ben-Ami, JStreet’s executive director, said he hopes the poll will send a message to ... AIPAC and other Jewish organizations that their constituents are more dovish than hawkish when it comes to Israel and Middle Eastern policy.”

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