On Monday, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), led by Pastor John Hagee, held its 11th annual Washington Summit in the nation’s capital. The two-day event drew top speakers from the pro-Israel global community, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via satellite, and boasted an attendance of over 5,000 people.
In an exclusive email interview with Breaking Israel News on the occasion, Pastor Hagee, the founder and national Chairman of CUFI and one of the Christian community’s strongest voices for Israel, shared his hopes and beliefs for the future of the pro-Israel Christian movement and offered his strongest arguments in favor of supporting the Jewish state.
He began by explaining that the need to stand with Israel is more urgent today than ever before, pragmatically as well as spiritually. “Israel’s enemies are our enemies. Israel’s fight is our fight,” Pastor Hagee declared, pointing to the current global spread of Islamic terrorism as evidence of this truth.
Israel has long been at the forefront of the war against radical Islamic violence, he continued, making it a key ally in the war on terror.
“Radical Islam is more violent and aggressive than ever. This makes it more important than ever to support our front-line ally in the fight against radical Islam: Israel.”
Hagee admitted that the anti-Israel voices spreading through America are loud and strong. He attributed this to an appealing, oversimplified narrative which is easy to understand – unlike the actual situation in the Middle East.
“The biggest challenges [CUFI and Christian Zionists] face are the lies told by Israel’s detractors. Israel’s enemies advance simple, attractive myths. And the truth about Israel is often more difficult to convey than the myths,” he explained to Breaking Israel News.
“For example, the Jewish state’s enemies call Israel an apartheid state. Anyone who’s spent even an hour in Israel understands how outrageous this lie is. But with this one short sentence Israel is demonized.
“Explaining the reality – Israel’s diversity, Israel’s tolerance, Israel’s equal rights – takes more than one sentence.”
In an attempt to combat the anti-Israel narrative at its root, CUFI has become active on college campuses – often hotbeds of pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activity – where Hagee says its programs have enjoyed great success.
“If you value peace, equality and liberty, you should stand with Israel,” he said, describing why liberal students can and should identify with Israel. “One of the great assets Zionists have is that Israel exemplifies many of the ideals about which our young people are most passionate.
“Concerned with freedom of religion? Israel guards that freedom for every person regardless of their faith. Focused on freedom of the press? You’d be hard-pressed to find a country with a more vibrant and open media. Impressed by diversity? Israel is a celebration of ethnic and religious diversity. I could go on.”
While getting out the pro-Israel message is indeed fraught with challenges, the “vast majority” of America’s Christians stand with Israel, said Hagee, estimating that there are “tens of millions of Christian Zionists” in the US alone.
As for those Christians who support the BDS movement or other anti-Israel activities – a growing group which includes the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA – Hagee has a simple message.
“You are misguided,” he said. “Yes, our Christian values demand that we have compassion for those that suffer. But if you blame Palestinian suffering on Israel then you’re ignorant about this conflict.”
Hagee suggested that anti-Israel sentiment is an offshoot of adherence to Replacement Theology, which holds that Christians have succeeded the Jews as God’s chosen people, essentially nullifying the Hebrew Bible.
In other words, Christians who do not support Israel are defying the Bible – and embracing anti-Semitism.
“If you believe that God has replaced the Jewish people as his chosen people then you’re ignorant about God’s word,” he said. “Those who advance Replacement Theology are advancing an anti-Semitic theology.
“And make no mistake,” he added. “Anti-Semitism is sin.”
He praised the interfaith nature of his organization’s work, which he said is very different from the “cold dialogues in which people agree to disagree” that have marked most interfaith efforts until now.
CUFI emphasizes the commonalities, not the differences, explained Hagee. “What is great about CUFI is that we bring Christians and Jews together to focus on those things we passionately share: love of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Hagee acknowledged the initial reluctance felt by many in the Jewish community towards working with Christians. “We know that for centuries Jews were persecuted by those who carried the cross, and we know that many in the Jewish community are thus understandably wary of Christians bearing gifts,” he said.
“But we’ve shown that CUFI is a non-proselytizing organization, and that we are focused exclusively on being a friend to the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”
In the end, there is no better reason to stand with Israel than the simple fact that “God is Israel’s ultimate protector,” Hagee told Breaking Israel News in closing. “As Christians we are blessed with the opportunity to stand with His Chosen People.”
The influential pastor ended on a somber note with a hint of warning.
“Israel will survive and thrive – the only question is whether or not Christians and Americans will be on the right side of history and God’s blessings.”