The Jewish Week published an editorial, “Rev. Hagee’s Group Revisited” (July 23), “revisiting” the impact of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). While we applaud the editors’ decision to acknowledge that CUFI is not a front for covertly converting Jews, there was one major problem with the editorial: Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time.
In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the “unanswered questions” its editors claim CUFI needs to address. The first question deals with the concern expressed by some in the Jewish community that Christian Zionism is motivated by Christian eschatology. This is completely untrue. Christian Zionism is not connected to Christian eschatology. Had The Jewish Week researched the issue, it would have found CUFI executive director David Brog, Pastor John Hagee and I have all addressed this issue in the past. Eric Fingerhut then writing for JTA covered the root of this question shortly after CUFI’s 2009 Washington Summit:
“As for the allegation that Christian support for Israel is all part of an eschatology having to do with the Second Coming, I’ve talked to enough Christian Zionists over the past few years to believe that for the vast majority of them, their support for the Jewish state is genuinely motivated by Genesis’s admonition that God will bless those who bless the Jewish people, as well as their respect for Judaism as a foundation for Christianity or even their general beliefs about U.S. foreign policy.”
There is indeed a faith that generally holds that human beings can speed the coming of the Messiah, and that this time period will be centered on events in Israel. That faith is called Judaism. While Christians adopted most Jewish eschatological concepts (including that ultimately God delivers Israel from her enemies) pre-millennialist dispensationalist Christians — including Pastor John Hagee and the bulk of Christian Zionists — interpret a line in the Christian Bible, Matthew 24:36, to mean that humans are utterly powerless to hasten the ‘end of days.’
Thus while Christian Zionists, like many Jewish Zionists, do believe that the birth of the State of Israel is biblically prophesized, their beliefs about the “end of days” cannot be a motivation for supporting Israel. Since they believe they cannot hasten the “end of days” this cannot be a motivation for their Zionism. The second question the paper raises is “Will CUFI’s support remain steadfast if and when Israel’s citizens choose to elect a government that wants to pursue land-for-peace negotiations more actively?” The problem with the question is that CUFI existed during the prime ministership of Ehud Olmert, and never during that time asked the U.S. government to pressure Israel to cease efforts to make peace with the Palestinians, or tell Jerusalem that if Israel moved forward, CUFI would abandon the Jewish state. In fact, the opposite occurred, when CUFI leaders met with Olmert in 2008, the group reaffirmed their steadfast support for the government and people of Israel.
CUFI’s position is that while our membership may have a variety of opinions on Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, and Pastor Hagee has never hidden his skepticism for the land-for-peace formula in the present context, the people of Israel, through their democratically elected government, have the right to make these decisions for themselves. As Pastor Hagee wrote in his May 2010 op-ed on the website of The Forward, “We have never, and will never, oppose Israeli efforts to advance peace. Our involvement in the peace process will continue to be restricted to defending Israel’s right to make decisions free of international interference or pressure — including U.S. pressure.”
Further, at CUFI’s most recent Washington Summit, Israel’s amassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, discussed plans for a demilitarized Palestinian state. Not only did the crowd receive him warmly, they gave him a series of standing ovations. Had The Jewish Week conducted basic research, devoted more than one hour in the past two years to meeting with CUFI leaders, or sent a journalist to cover our conference since 2008, these questions would have been answered. Ari Morgenstern is the spokesman for Christians United for Israel.