Over the past two decades, as the Christian Right
has grown in political power in the United States, there has been a parallel
growth in support for Israel. Organizations made up of conservative evangelical
and Jewish leaders have been founded, and millions of dollars have been raised
and donated to charities in Israel.
Now, a new group plans to take it up a notch, becoming a significant presence
in any political policy debates involving Israel.
Last week, 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 for its first major get-together.
More than 3,400 delegates from across the United States attended the inaugural
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. Bush commented: "God bless and stand by the
people of Israel and God 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
While other 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 the walk: CUFI intends 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
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 credentials 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, many Jews 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 that "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
"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
"This cold 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
In the preface to his book – written before becoming CUFI executive director
– Brog gives Christian Zionists his stamp of approval, stating that he was
"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."
CUFI has drawn its share of criticism as well. In a recent commentary, ultraconservative
pundit Pat Buchanan wrote,
"One wonders if these Christians care about what is happening to our Christian
brethren in Lebanon and Gaza, who have had all power cut off by Israeli air
strikes, an outlawed form of collective punishment that has left them with no
sanitation, rotting food, impure water, and days without light or electricity
in the horrible heat of July."
(Inter Press Service)