Over the past two
decades, as the Christian Right has grown in political power in the United
States, there has been parallel growth in support for Israel. A number of
organizations made up of conservative evangelical and Jewish leaders have been
founded, and millions of dollars have been raised and donated to charities in
Now, a new group
plans to take it up a notch, becoming a significant presence in any political
policy debates involving Israel.
In mid-July, while
the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict continued to escalate, Christians United for
Israel (CUFI) -- an organization founded less than six months ago by Texas
evangelist Rev. John C. Hagee, pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church
in San Antonio, Texas, and the author of "Jerusalem Countdown," a
2006 book about a nuclear-armed Iran -- rolled into Washington, D.C., for its
first major get-together.
More than 3,400
delegates from across the country attended the inaugural meeting.
CUFI kicked off the
gathering on July 19 with its "A Night to Honor Israel" banquet at
the grand ballroom in the Washington Hilton. The festivities attracted a number
of high-profile Israeli and U.S. political leaders, including Israeli
Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, retired Israeli defense chief Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon,
and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman.
According to a
report posted at Israpundit, Hagee read greetings from President George W. Bush
and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. While Bush urged "God [to] bless
and stand by the people of Israel and . . . bless the United States,"
Olmert's letter referred to CUFI's "'bold stand at this crisis time,' and
the group's acknowledgment of Israel's biblical 'birthright.'"
The following day,
at a well-attended press conference, Hagee said that "The dots are there
to be connected, and it is not some big thing called terrorism. It is Islamic
fascism . . . all of the various things and forces that we've seen around the
world are not merely hot spots but they are all part of a theme -- a war
against Western civilization."
The news conference
was followed by a trip to Capitol Hill to lobby congressional representatives.
organizations have mostly talked the talk, Hagee's CUFI has set out a bold
agenda and it appears to have the resources and political connections to walk
CUFI aims to not
only establish a visible presence in hundreds of cities throughout all 50
states, but it also intends to recruit activists to lobby on behalf of Israel.
In addition, CUFI
plans to set up an "Israel Rapid Response" network, which, through
e-mail, faxes, and phone calls, will make its voice heard by elected officials.
To move CUFI's
agenda from the planning stage to direct action, Hagee brought David Brog -- a
Washington insider -- on board as the organization's executive director. The
hiring of Brog, who is Jewish, the former chief of staff for Pennsylvania
Republican Sen. Arlen Specter and the author of the recently published book
"Standing With Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State," was
a shrewd and politically savvy move.
In a recent
interview, Brog noted that he had "admired" Hagee "from
afar," and he explained why, as a Conservative Jew, he would work for a
Christian organization: "I believe this is the most important thing I
could do not only for Israel but for Judeo-Christian civilization today, which
is under threat from radical Islam."
In the preface to
his book, Brog establishes his religious bona fides by maintaining that he is
"not a Messianic Jew or a Jew for Jesus" and that he doesn't
"believe that the Messiah has ever appeared on Earth." He writes that
he "embrace[s]" his "Jewish faith and seek[s] knowledge of my
Creator through the paths and texts provided to me by my Jewish
ancestors." He also points out that while he doesn't "observe all of
the Halacha [Jewish law], [he does] recognize the Halacha as a central
component of my religion."
While many in the
Jewish community have certainly appreciated the support evangelical Christians
have given Israel, there are many that still have deep reservations about the
Christian evangelicals' mission to convert Jews to Christianity, and their
adherence to End-Times beliefs that essentially leave Jews behind.
In a press release
issued by the Institute for Public Accuracy, the Rev. Dr. Donald Wagner, a
professor at North Park University in Chicago and a founding member of the
Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism, pointed out that Christian
Zionists see "the modern state of the country-region Israel as the
fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and thus deserving of political, financial,
and religious support."
Referring to the
current Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Wagner added, "Many of the Christian
Zionists may interpret this as a prelude to the battle of Armageddon and the
final end-times scenario."
In a late-May
interview with the American Thinker's Ed Lasky, Brog stated that
"Christians who support Israel do not expect any kind of quid pro quo from
the Jewish community. . . . Evangelical support for Israel is a genuine
expression of Christian love for the Jews and respect for God's promises to
them, and it comes with no strings attached."
He then added:
"That being said, it is important to note that Christians are human beings
with normal human emotions. When they spend a great deal of time supporting
Israel and fighting anti-Semitism, they are disappointed when these efforts are
ignored by the Jewish community, and when the only time they hear from
representatives of the Jewish community is to attack them because of their
positions on social issues.
reception doesn't sway evangelicals from their course of support for Israel.
But it does cause a certain disappointment, a certain feeling of rejection,
that I think is unfortunate. We in the Jewish community should try to express
greater appreciation for what our Christian friends are doing on our
In the preface to
his book, written before he assumed the position of CUFI executive director,
Brog gives Christian Zionists his unequivocal stamp of approval, stating that
through his extensive research he "became convinced that the evangelical
Christians who support Israel today are nothing less than the theological heirs
of the righteous Gentiles who sought to save Jews from the Holocaust."
However, in the
American Thinker interview, Brog fervently rushes to the defense of the Rev.
Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson -- two exceedingly self-righteous
Gentiles. In a bit of linguistic jujitsu, Brog admits that the two media-genic
televangelists have "over the years, made a few comments which have been
perceived as insensitive to Jews," but, Brog argues, those comments were
either "wrongly attributed to them," "taken out of context"
or they "apologized" for them. Brog also claimed that both "were
devoted friends of Israel that were misunderstood by the Jewish
devoted their lives to helping Israel and the Jewish people. Time after time
they have thrown their significant political support behind Israel." And,
"even more importantly, Falwell and Robertson each runs a major Christian
university (Liberty University and Regent University, respectively), and each
teaches the next generation of Christian leaders passing through their schools
to support Israel."
Bill Berkowitz is a
longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column
Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories
and defeats of the American Right.