Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Hagee

Rand Paul Repeats Calls to End Aid to Israel

Sen. Rand Paul has doubled down on his call to cut foreign aid to Israel, despite the complete lack of political support for the proposal on the Hill:

I’m not singling out Israel. I support Israel. I want to be known as a friend of Israel, but not with money you don’t have,” he said. “We can’t just borrow from our kids’ future and give it to countries, even if they are our friends.”

And, he said, giving money to the country is especially unwise considering Israel’s relative wealth. “I think they’re an important ally, but I also think that their per capita income is greater than probably three-fourths of the rest of the world,” he said. “Should we be giving free money or welfare to a wealthy nation? I don’t think so.”

Pro-Israel conservative leaders disagree — and some are already disputing Paul’s claim that the Tea Party supports cutting aid to Israel.

“I do not believe that the Senator’s comments are representative of the Tea Party or the wider American public. [Christians United for Israel's] members and leaders have met on several occasions with Tea Party leaders and elected officials; throughout our meetings, Tea Party leaders consistently expressed their commitment to supporting Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East,” said Christians United for Israel’s Rev. John Hagee in a press statement.

CUFI said its supporters have sent more than 22,500 e-mails criticizing the proposal to Paul’s office.

Like his father, Rand Paul seems to relish being a lone dissenter. But while the elder Paul is easy to ignore, the younger Paul is shaping up to be more of a force to be reckoned with. For one, the Kentucky senator is a much more convincing speaker than his father. He also doesn’t have to deal with past charges of racism and anti-Semitism.

So while there’s almost no chance that Paul’s position on Israeli aid will win political support at the moment, his proposal should still be a concern for Israel supporters.

Sen. Rand Paul has doubled down on his call to cut foreign aid to Israel, despite the complete lack of political support for the proposal on the Hill:

I’m not singling out Israel. I support Israel. I want to be known as a friend of Israel, but not with money you don’t have,” he said. “We can’t just borrow from our kids’ future and give it to countries, even if they are our friends.”

And, he said, giving money to the country is especially unwise considering Israel’s relative wealth. “I think they’re an important ally, but I also think that their per capita income is greater than probably three-fourths of the rest of the world,” he said. “Should we be giving free money or welfare to a wealthy nation? I don’t think so.”

Pro-Israel conservative leaders disagree — and some are already disputing Paul’s claim that the Tea Party supports cutting aid to Israel.

“I do not believe that the Senator’s comments are representative of the Tea Party or the wider American public. [Christians United for Israel's] members and leaders have met on several occasions with Tea Party leaders and elected officials; throughout our meetings, Tea Party leaders consistently expressed their commitment to supporting Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East,” said Christians United for Israel’s Rev. John Hagee in a press statement.

CUFI said its supporters have sent more than 22,500 e-mails criticizing the proposal to Paul’s office.

Like his father, Rand Paul seems to relish being a lone dissenter. But while the elder Paul is easy to ignore, the younger Paul is shaping up to be more of a force to be reckoned with. For one, the Kentucky senator is a much more convincing speaker than his father. He also doesn’t have to deal with past charges of racism and anti-Semitism.

So while there’s almost no chance that Paul’s position on Israeli aid will win political support at the moment, his proposal should still be a concern for Israel supporters.

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A Study in Contrast on Iran

Obama went to the UN and delivered namby-pamby remarks on Iran, eschewing any mention of the potential for military force. The sum total of his remarks:

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

That is it. Bet they are high-fiving in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in the American reality-based community, more serious voices are being heard. Christians United for Israel have produced a remarkable video, featuring Pastor John Hagee, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Got to hand it to those community organizers). They are also circulating a petition that already has at least 118,000 signatures. The message: we should be indicting Ahmadinejad as a war criminal for “incitement to genocide.” Really, what’s the excuse not to?

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 50 Republicans yesterday to the president urged him to “take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. All options must be on the table.” They urged Obama to state “unequivocally” at the UN that we will prevent Iran from going nuclear. No such luck.

Why do private groups, members of Congress and citizens seem so much more serious than the president? Well, we’ve learned and relearned that foreign-policy commitments just aren’t Obama’s thing. Kudos to those who appeared in the CUFI video and signed the letter. Now, how about the largest Jewish organizations themselves going on record? Not only should the president be urged to take all action needed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans but it should be clear that this is not “an Israeli” problem. It is the West’s problem. It would be a sorry state of affairs if tiny Israel had to act in our defense. Nevertheless, that looks like the direction in which we are heading. The public, Congress, and private groups should prepare themselves to insist that if Israel does act alone, the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

Obama went to the UN and delivered namby-pamby remarks on Iran, eschewing any mention of the potential for military force. The sum total of his remarks:

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

That is it. Bet they are high-fiving in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in the American reality-based community, more serious voices are being heard. Christians United for Israel have produced a remarkable video, featuring Pastor John Hagee, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Got to hand it to those community organizers). They are also circulating a petition that already has at least 118,000 signatures. The message: we should be indicting Ahmadinejad as a war criminal for “incitement to genocide.” Really, what’s the excuse not to?

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 50 Republicans yesterday to the president urged him to “take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. All options must be on the table.” They urged Obama to state “unequivocally” at the UN that we will prevent Iran from going nuclear. No such luck.

Why do private groups, members of Congress and citizens seem so much more serious than the president? Well, we’ve learned and relearned that foreign-policy commitments just aren’t Obama’s thing. Kudos to those who appeared in the CUFI video and signed the letter. Now, how about the largest Jewish organizations themselves going on record? Not only should the president be urged to take all action needed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans but it should be clear that this is not “an Israeli” problem. It is the West’s problem. It would be a sorry state of affairs if tiny Israel had to act in our defense. Nevertheless, that looks like the direction in which we are heading. The public, Congress, and private groups should prepare themselves to insist that if Israel does act alone, the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

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Why Don’t the Jews Do This?

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) did something extraordinary on Sunday, according to a news release on its second annual CUFI Sunday:

Christian clergy at more than 1,500 churches in all 50 states and more than 50 foreign countries dedicated their Sunday sermons to discussing the Christian imperative of support for the State of Israel.

“We were able to reach churches on almost every continent,” said Pastor John Hagee, CUFI’s founder and Chairman.

“Israel is an outpost of freedom and democracy in one of the most undemocratic regions in the world,” Hagee added. “Now is the time for Israel’s supporters, regardless of faith or political ideology, to unite in standing with Israel as she confronts such serious threats from Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran.”

In a recent opinion piece penned for The Jewish Daily Forward Hagee wrote that attendees at CUFI Sunday services “will leave Church with a better understanding of the dangers of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Palestinian terror, and the international campaign against Israel’s legitimacy.” . . .

“Israel needs support now more than ever; I am very proud that CUFI is playing an ever increasing role in making that happen,” [executive director David] Brog said.

Now, some rabbis do devote time on the bimah to Israel, but many do not, and certainly there has not been an organized “Shabbat for Israel,” despite the extraordinary threats Israel currently faces. That’s more than a little trouble — not to mention that it’s embarrassing that Christians are doing what the Jewish community is not. But alas, I think we might sooner see a “Shabbat for Global Warming” or a “Shabbat for Nuclear Disarmament” in the vast number of  Reform shuls (which represent the majority of American Jewry). Indeed, Obama seemed able to rope the rabbinate into a High Holy Day for ObamaCare.

It is all a matter of priorities. Perhaps “leaders” in the American Jewish community should re-examine theirs.

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) did something extraordinary on Sunday, according to a news release on its second annual CUFI Sunday:

Christian clergy at more than 1,500 churches in all 50 states and more than 50 foreign countries dedicated their Sunday sermons to discussing the Christian imperative of support for the State of Israel.

“We were able to reach churches on almost every continent,” said Pastor John Hagee, CUFI’s founder and Chairman.

“Israel is an outpost of freedom and democracy in one of the most undemocratic regions in the world,” Hagee added. “Now is the time for Israel’s supporters, regardless of faith or political ideology, to unite in standing with Israel as she confronts such serious threats from Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran.”

In a recent opinion piece penned for The Jewish Daily Forward Hagee wrote that attendees at CUFI Sunday services “will leave Church with a better understanding of the dangers of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Palestinian terror, and the international campaign against Israel’s legitimacy.” . . .

“Israel needs support now more than ever; I am very proud that CUFI is playing an ever increasing role in making that happen,” [executive director David] Brog said.

Now, some rabbis do devote time on the bimah to Israel, but many do not, and certainly there has not been an organized “Shabbat for Israel,” despite the extraordinary threats Israel currently faces. That’s more than a little trouble — not to mention that it’s embarrassing that Christians are doing what the Jewish community is not. But alas, I think we might sooner see a “Shabbat for Global Warming” or a “Shabbat for Nuclear Disarmament” in the vast number of  Reform shuls (which represent the majority of American Jewry). Indeed, Obama seemed able to rope the rabbinate into a High Holy Day for ObamaCare.

It is all a matter of priorities. Perhaps “leaders” in the American Jewish community should re-examine theirs.

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A Lot of E-Mails — from Christian Zionists

On an average day, the White House gets 100,000 e-mails. Yesterday, 20 percent of those, if it was an average day, came from one group, on one issue. Christians United for Israel, in a written statement, explains: “More than 20,000 Christian Zionists emailed the White House in just over twenty-four hours in order to express their disappointment with the Obama Administration’s exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to last week’s announcement by Israel’s Interior Ministry on construction permits in Jerusalem. The emails were sent in response to an action alert distributed at noon yesterday by Christians United for Israel (CUFI).” The statement continues:

“The incredible response to our action alert is a clear indication that Christian Zionists are firmly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“While the timing of the Interior Ministry’s announcement was regrettable, the Administration has turned a minor flap into a much larger incident.  This overreaction does not advance the cause of peace, and may well imperil it.  Let’s not forget that the Israelis have taken repeated risks for peace over the years and continue to support direct negotiations towards a two state solution.  Nothing about this Israeli approach has changed,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director.

“CUFI will continue this effort through the week, and our hope is that in the following days the President will recognize that Americans of all faiths expect his administration to be a more careful steward of the long-standing US-Israel relationship,” Brog said.

There is, it seems, a broad coalition — from secular, liberal Jews to Christian conservatives — that takes strong exception to the Obama anti-Israel offensive. And while the Left and J Street crowd remain on the other side egging the administration on, they seem on this one to be badly outnumbered. As in so many things, the Obami find themselves tied to the hip with the Left — and facing a broad and energized coalition on the other side. No one can say they haven’t brought people together or encouraged political participation.

On an average day, the White House gets 100,000 e-mails. Yesterday, 20 percent of those, if it was an average day, came from one group, on one issue. Christians United for Israel, in a written statement, explains: “More than 20,000 Christian Zionists emailed the White House in just over twenty-four hours in order to express their disappointment with the Obama Administration’s exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to last week’s announcement by Israel’s Interior Ministry on construction permits in Jerusalem. The emails were sent in response to an action alert distributed at noon yesterday by Christians United for Israel (CUFI).” The statement continues:

“The incredible response to our action alert is a clear indication that Christian Zionists are firmly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“While the timing of the Interior Ministry’s announcement was regrettable, the Administration has turned a minor flap into a much larger incident.  This overreaction does not advance the cause of peace, and may well imperil it.  Let’s not forget that the Israelis have taken repeated risks for peace over the years and continue to support direct negotiations towards a two state solution.  Nothing about this Israeli approach has changed,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director.

“CUFI will continue this effort through the week, and our hope is that in the following days the President will recognize that Americans of all faiths expect his administration to be a more careful steward of the long-standing US-Israel relationship,” Brog said.

There is, it seems, a broad coalition — from secular, liberal Jews to Christian conservatives — that takes strong exception to the Obama anti-Israel offensive. And while the Left and J Street crowd remain on the other side egging the administration on, they seem on this one to be badly outnumbered. As in so many things, the Obami find themselves tied to the hip with the Left — and facing a broad and energized coalition on the other side. No one can say they haven’t brought people together or encouraged political participation.

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Israel Lobby Author Compares Pro-Israel Pastor to Hitler

Over at the Foreign Policy magazine website, Harvard professor and Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt weighs in on Germany’s decision to continue to ban the publication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf even after the Nazi leader’s 70-year copyright expired in 2015. Walt is right when he says that banning the publication of this evil book is pointless and does nothing either to suppress racism in Germany or to promote a proper understanding of the history it evokes.

But that said, there is also something ironic, if not downright creepy about the author of a book that promoted its own dangerous conspiracy theory about Jewish power and sought to demonize American Jews and others who support Israel, pontificating about Hitler’s work.

Granted, The Israel Lobby is not to be compared to Mein Kampf in its intent, vitriol, or historical impact. The former, written by Harvard’s Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is far more sophisticated in its language and purpose than Hitler’s screed. But its agenda, while not as avowedly vicious or murderous as the Nazi book, still sought to single out the advocates of a particular political cause and not only to treat them with opprobrium but also to brand them as working against the national interests of the United States. Of course, The Israel Lobby was widely excoriated not just because of its clearly anti-Zionist bent, but because Walt and Mearsheimer’s error-filled book painted a picture of a pro-Israel conspiracy that was so large it included virtually everyone in the mainstream media and just about the entire political system in this country — except, of course, for anti-Semitic elements of the far Right and far Left. The book tars Jews and a vast number of non-Jewish Americans who back the State of Israel as an alien force subverting United States foreign policy. Which is to say that there is a clear path from its pages to those who espouse more overt forms of Jew hatred and Israel-bashing.

Yet just as egregious as Walt posing as the scholarly arbiter of questions about the publication of hate literature is his notion of contemporary analogies to Mein Kampf. Walt writes: “When you actually look at the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler’s infamous tome.”

So which religious figure is Walt referring to here? His link is not to the many Muslim religious leaders whose works have inspired not only hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West but also actual attempts at mass murder. It is rather to an American pastor whose primary claim to fame is his support for the State of Israel: Pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s religious beliefs may seem a bit loopy to non-evangelicals. And he is the sort of fellow who is prone to saying foolish things for which he must apologize. But the main impact of Hagee’s life work has been to try building support for the one democratic state in the Middle East and to fight against those — like Walt — who have aided those who seek to delegitimize both Israel’s existence and its right to self-defense. The idea that this cleric is the best analogy to Hitler in our own day is more than ludicrous. This analogy is quite an insight into the mindset of an academic who, while happily condemning the work of a great anti-Semite and mass murderer of the 20th century, is so full of hate against Israel and the Jews of our own day that he views anyone who supports them as somehow comparable to Hitler.

Walt is right when he writes about Mein Kampf that while the marketplace of ideas in a democracy is not perfect, it is generally competent enough to sort out hate speech from legitimate comment. That is why The Israel Lobby has had little impact on American politics or foreign policy. It is also why his anti-Israel policy prescriptions, though given a bully pulpit by Foreign Policy, will continue to be ignored by the overwhelming bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus in this country.

Over at the Foreign Policy magazine website, Harvard professor and Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt weighs in on Germany’s decision to continue to ban the publication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf even after the Nazi leader’s 70-year copyright expired in 2015. Walt is right when he says that banning the publication of this evil book is pointless and does nothing either to suppress racism in Germany or to promote a proper understanding of the history it evokes.

But that said, there is also something ironic, if not downright creepy about the author of a book that promoted its own dangerous conspiracy theory about Jewish power and sought to demonize American Jews and others who support Israel, pontificating about Hitler’s work.

Granted, The Israel Lobby is not to be compared to Mein Kampf in its intent, vitriol, or historical impact. The former, written by Harvard’s Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is far more sophisticated in its language and purpose than Hitler’s screed. But its agenda, while not as avowedly vicious or murderous as the Nazi book, still sought to single out the advocates of a particular political cause and not only to treat them with opprobrium but also to brand them as working against the national interests of the United States. Of course, The Israel Lobby was widely excoriated not just because of its clearly anti-Zionist bent, but because Walt and Mearsheimer’s error-filled book painted a picture of a pro-Israel conspiracy that was so large it included virtually everyone in the mainstream media and just about the entire political system in this country — except, of course, for anti-Semitic elements of the far Right and far Left. The book tars Jews and a vast number of non-Jewish Americans who back the State of Israel as an alien force subverting United States foreign policy. Which is to say that there is a clear path from its pages to those who espouse more overt forms of Jew hatred and Israel-bashing.

Yet just as egregious as Walt posing as the scholarly arbiter of questions about the publication of hate literature is his notion of contemporary analogies to Mein Kampf. Walt writes: “When you actually look at the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler’s infamous tome.”

So which religious figure is Walt referring to here? His link is not to the many Muslim religious leaders whose works have inspired not only hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West but also actual attempts at mass murder. It is rather to an American pastor whose primary claim to fame is his support for the State of Israel: Pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s religious beliefs may seem a bit loopy to non-evangelicals. And he is the sort of fellow who is prone to saying foolish things for which he must apologize. But the main impact of Hagee’s life work has been to try building support for the one democratic state in the Middle East and to fight against those — like Walt — who have aided those who seek to delegitimize both Israel’s existence and its right to self-defense. The idea that this cleric is the best analogy to Hitler in our own day is more than ludicrous. This analogy is quite an insight into the mindset of an academic who, while happily condemning the work of a great anti-Semite and mass murderer of the 20th century, is so full of hate against Israel and the Jews of our own day that he views anyone who supports them as somehow comparable to Hitler.

Walt is right when he writes about Mein Kampf that while the marketplace of ideas in a democracy is not perfect, it is generally competent enough to sort out hate speech from legitimate comment. That is why The Israel Lobby has had little impact on American politics or foreign policy. It is also why his anti-Israel policy prescriptions, though given a bully pulpit by Foreign Policy, will continue to be ignored by the overwhelming bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus in this country.

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Bigot Bowl

In the aftermath of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s stunning reemergence as an obstacle to Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, left-wing pundits have settled on a new strategy for dealing with the fallout. It goes something like this: every time Wright’s name is mentioned, remind the public that the Republicans also have their bigots. In this vein, Ann Friedman of American Prospect has implored liberal bloggers to match every reference to Rev. Wright with a mention of Reverend John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who has endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the “progressive” watch-dog group Media Matters lamented the greater coverage that Wright has received over Hagee, while the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post ran opinion pieces prominently highlighting Hagee’s endorsement of McCain in an apparent bid to neutralize the damage that Wright has caused Obama’s campaign.

But if these opinion-makers believe that they’ve found their escape route in calling attention to Hagee, they are sorely mistaken. For starters, the empirics don’t work in their favor, as Hagee’s relationship with McCain isn’t remotely analogous to Wright’s relationship with Obama. Indeed, despite Hagee’s disturbing bigotry–he has said that the planning of a gay pride parade in New Orleans prompted Hurricane Katrina as a divine response–he is merely one of McCain’s many endorsers. But Rev. Wright is, after all, Obama’s spiritual guide of two decades–a man that Obama respected so much that he refused to distance himself from Wright for months after the pastor’s anti-American vitriol first hit YouTube.

In turn, the sheer imprecision of the Hagee-is-McCain’s-Wright argument will ultimately keep liberal opinion-makers on the defensive. After all, when Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson make their quadrennial pilgrimages to the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats will look downright hypocritical for having declared their outrage over the lesser-known Hagee. Voters will thus be reminded that, when it comes to relying on notorious bigots to mobilize key electoral cleavages, the Democrats are no better than Republicans. The difference, however, is that only the front-running Democratic candidate has compared one of these bigots to his grandmother.

In the aftermath of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s stunning reemergence as an obstacle to Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, left-wing pundits have settled on a new strategy for dealing with the fallout. It goes something like this: every time Wright’s name is mentioned, remind the public that the Republicans also have their bigots. In this vein, Ann Friedman of American Prospect has implored liberal bloggers to match every reference to Rev. Wright with a mention of Reverend John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who has endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the “progressive” watch-dog group Media Matters lamented the greater coverage that Wright has received over Hagee, while the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post ran opinion pieces prominently highlighting Hagee’s endorsement of McCain in an apparent bid to neutralize the damage that Wright has caused Obama’s campaign.

But if these opinion-makers believe that they’ve found their escape route in calling attention to Hagee, they are sorely mistaken. For starters, the empirics don’t work in their favor, as Hagee’s relationship with McCain isn’t remotely analogous to Wright’s relationship with Obama. Indeed, despite Hagee’s disturbing bigotry–he has said that the planning of a gay pride parade in New Orleans prompted Hurricane Katrina as a divine response–he is merely one of McCain’s many endorsers. But Rev. Wright is, after all, Obama’s spiritual guide of two decades–a man that Obama respected so much that he refused to distance himself from Wright for months after the pastor’s anti-American vitriol first hit YouTube.

In turn, the sheer imprecision of the Hagee-is-McCain’s-Wright argument will ultimately keep liberal opinion-makers on the defensive. After all, when Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson make their quadrennial pilgrimages to the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats will look downright hypocritical for having declared their outrage over the lesser-known Hagee. Voters will thus be reminded that, when it comes to relying on notorious bigots to mobilize key electoral cleavages, the Democrats are no better than Republicans. The difference, however, is that only the front-running Democratic candidate has compared one of these bigots to his grandmother.

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If You Are Asking About Me, That’s Different

John McCain has been silent on the subject of Reverend Wright. But yesterday, when the media guns were turned on him over Reverend John Hagee’s endorsement, McCain made an exception. In fending off tough questions, McCain repeated again and again that Hagee’s comments on Katrina and the Catholic church were “nonsense.” Then he finally reached for the sword:

Q: You and your Democratic opponents spend a certain amount of time commenting on surrogates and endorsers, on what they said. Do you think that is in any way interfering with how you’re trying to conduct your campaign?

A: …I didn’t attend Pastor Hagee’s church for 20 years. There’s a great deal of difference in my view between someone who endorses you and other circumstances.

Ah! When his back is to the wall and his own endorsement is at issue, then the Wright issue is fair game. This seems intellectually tangled and politically unfeasible. If McCain only discusses Wright when he’s on defense, the issue (which many contend goes to Obama’s judgment and values) become little more than a cover for McCain’s acceptance of endorsements from questionable characters.

Far better to take a page from Hillary Clinton’s book, who calmly stated in the last debate:

Obviously, one’s choice of church and pastor is rooted in what one believes is what you’re seeking in church and what kind of, you know, fellowship you find in church. But I have to say that, you know, for Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been intolerable for me. And therefore I would have not been able to stay in the church, and maybe it’s, you know, just, again, a personal reflection that regardless of whatever good is going on — and I have no reason to doubt that a lot of good things were happening in that church — you get to choose your pastor. You don’t choose your family, but you get to choose your pastor. And when asked a direct question, I said I would not have stayed in the church.

What’s wrong with that? It beats playing defense (which inevitably leads to a tit-for-tat squabble) and hushing (or insulting) your allies the entire campaign.

As to the North Carolina ad featuring Obama and Reverend Wright, McCain in a blogger call today repeatedly said he thought the ad was “not appropriate” and did not reflect the “tenor of the campaign we want to run.” But by indicating that he thought Americans were entitled to consider any issue they wished, he left the issue muddled: what’s wrong with him talking about Wright?  And why condemn those who do?

John McCain has been silent on the subject of Reverend Wright. But yesterday, when the media guns were turned on him over Reverend John Hagee’s endorsement, McCain made an exception. In fending off tough questions, McCain repeated again and again that Hagee’s comments on Katrina and the Catholic church were “nonsense.” Then he finally reached for the sword:

Q: You and your Democratic opponents spend a certain amount of time commenting on surrogates and endorsers, on what they said. Do you think that is in any way interfering with how you’re trying to conduct your campaign?

A: …I didn’t attend Pastor Hagee’s church for 20 years. There’s a great deal of difference in my view between someone who endorses you and other circumstances.

Ah! When his back is to the wall and his own endorsement is at issue, then the Wright issue is fair game. This seems intellectually tangled and politically unfeasible. If McCain only discusses Wright when he’s on defense, the issue (which many contend goes to Obama’s judgment and values) become little more than a cover for McCain’s acceptance of endorsements from questionable characters.

Far better to take a page from Hillary Clinton’s book, who calmly stated in the last debate:

Obviously, one’s choice of church and pastor is rooted in what one believes is what you’re seeking in church and what kind of, you know, fellowship you find in church. But I have to say that, you know, for Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been intolerable for me. And therefore I would have not been able to stay in the church, and maybe it’s, you know, just, again, a personal reflection that regardless of whatever good is going on — and I have no reason to doubt that a lot of good things were happening in that church — you get to choose your pastor. You don’t choose your family, but you get to choose your pastor. And when asked a direct question, I said I would not have stayed in the church.

What’s wrong with that? It beats playing defense (which inevitably leads to a tit-for-tat squabble) and hushing (or insulting) your allies the entire campaign.

As to the North Carolina ad featuring Obama and Reverend Wright, McCain in a blogger call today repeatedly said he thought the ad was “not appropriate” and did not reflect the “tenor of the campaign we want to run.” But by indicating that he thought Americans were entitled to consider any issue they wished, he left the issue muddled: what’s wrong with him talking about Wright?  And why condemn those who do?

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On Christian Zionism

According to a new poll, fully 82 percent of American Christians believe they have a “moral and biblical” obligation to support Israel. This support crosses denominational lines: 89 percent of evangelicals and 76 percent of Catholics agree with the statement. Fully half of all Christians are against any division of Jerusalem, as opposed to 17 percent who support it.

This data creates a difficult question for Rabbi Eric Yoffie, leader of the Reform movement in Judaism, who recently engaged in a nasty public exchange with the evangelical Rev. John Hagee. Hagee supports Israel, opposes the division of Jerusalem, and generally takes positions than can be labeled, in Israeli terms, as right-wing. Yoffie, a diehard fan of the peace process and a supporter of dividing Jerusalem, told his followers that an alliance with Christian Zionists like Hagee is intolerable, and that Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel, is “extremist.”

There is nothing new in American Jewish discomfort with Christian Zionism. It stems, I think, from a fear of proselytizing and latent anti-Semitism, which today makes almost no sense at all. I can understand liberal Jews opposing conservative Christians on American political issues. They really do have differing views on what America should look like. But to reject an alliance with Christian Zionists on the grounds that they don’t support the particular peace-process policies that most Reform Jews do, or that some such Christians entertain the belief that in the end times all Jews will convert, is to blind oneself to the basic strategic struggle that the Jewish state faces. In liberal terms, it is intolerant. In Zionist terms, it is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

By placing his commitment to particular political positions ahead of support for Israel itself, Yoffie risks becoming the chief critic of Israel’s most consistent and influential allies in the world. Why on earth?

According to a new poll, fully 82 percent of American Christians believe they have a “moral and biblical” obligation to support Israel. This support crosses denominational lines: 89 percent of evangelicals and 76 percent of Catholics agree with the statement. Fully half of all Christians are against any division of Jerusalem, as opposed to 17 percent who support it.

This data creates a difficult question for Rabbi Eric Yoffie, leader of the Reform movement in Judaism, who recently engaged in a nasty public exchange with the evangelical Rev. John Hagee. Hagee supports Israel, opposes the division of Jerusalem, and generally takes positions than can be labeled, in Israeli terms, as right-wing. Yoffie, a diehard fan of the peace process and a supporter of dividing Jerusalem, told his followers that an alliance with Christian Zionists like Hagee is intolerable, and that Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel, is “extremist.”

There is nothing new in American Jewish discomfort with Christian Zionism. It stems, I think, from a fear of proselytizing and latent anti-Semitism, which today makes almost no sense at all. I can understand liberal Jews opposing conservative Christians on American political issues. They really do have differing views on what America should look like. But to reject an alliance with Christian Zionists on the grounds that they don’t support the particular peace-process policies that most Reform Jews do, or that some such Christians entertain the belief that in the end times all Jews will convert, is to blind oneself to the basic strategic struggle that the Jewish state faces. In liberal terms, it is intolerant. In Zionist terms, it is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

By placing his commitment to particular political positions ahead of support for Israel itself, Yoffie risks becoming the chief critic of Israel’s most consistent and influential allies in the world. Why on earth?

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Netanyahu Embraces Evangelicals

On Sunday, Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu described Christian Zionists as Israel’s best friends:

This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization.

The comments came at an Evangelical event in Jerusalem organized by the San Antonio, Texas-based Christians United for Israel and led by evangelical Pastor John Hagee.

There’s always a lot of grumbling about the Jewish-Evangelical alliance in support of Israel. Many Jews have misgivings about the relationship for a number of reasons. Abe Foxman, for example, considers Evangelical support for Jews “openly arrogant,” in that it reflects a degree of condescension. This is a ridiculous posture that reveals a lack of confidence in identity: a people should be secure enough to acccept partnerships with others. Not doing so suggests that there’s a great deal still to prove.

Other American Jews fear that joining forces with Evangelicals means, in turn, lending support to the Evangelical “Christianizing” of the U.S. This is an overblown media phenomenon, often exploited to turn Jews against the Republican Party. American Evangelicals, in their millions, have never been able to establish a national Christian agenda to which top leaders are held accountable.

But the objection to Evangelical Zionists that gets the most attention has to do with the Evangelical conception of Armageddon. According to this, once Jews are safe and sound in Israel they will be converted to Christianity or killed upon Christ’s return. Scary stuff, indeed. But there is nothing in Evangelical eschatology that calls for the hastening of Armageddon. That is, aside from a handful of unhinged radicals, Evangelicals expect God to put an end to things in his own time. (As opposed to, for example, the sect of Shia Islam to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs.) Now, I don’t believe personally in Evangelical eschatology. But, to amend Pascal’s wager, if Christ is coming back, and Jews must convert or die, then repudiating John Hagee’s support can’t do a thing about it. If not, then things proceed as normal for Jews—with the helpful addition of Evangelical friendship. Netanyahu is wise to avoid hysteria that can alienate important strategic friends.

On Sunday, Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu described Christian Zionists as Israel’s best friends:

This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization.

The comments came at an Evangelical event in Jerusalem organized by the San Antonio, Texas-based Christians United for Israel and led by evangelical Pastor John Hagee.

There’s always a lot of grumbling about the Jewish-Evangelical alliance in support of Israel. Many Jews have misgivings about the relationship for a number of reasons. Abe Foxman, for example, considers Evangelical support for Jews “openly arrogant,” in that it reflects a degree of condescension. This is a ridiculous posture that reveals a lack of confidence in identity: a people should be secure enough to acccept partnerships with others. Not doing so suggests that there’s a great deal still to prove.

Other American Jews fear that joining forces with Evangelicals means, in turn, lending support to the Evangelical “Christianizing” of the U.S. This is an overblown media phenomenon, often exploited to turn Jews against the Republican Party. American Evangelicals, in their millions, have never been able to establish a national Christian agenda to which top leaders are held accountable.

But the objection to Evangelical Zionists that gets the most attention has to do with the Evangelical conception of Armageddon. According to this, once Jews are safe and sound in Israel they will be converted to Christianity or killed upon Christ’s return. Scary stuff, indeed. But there is nothing in Evangelical eschatology that calls for the hastening of Armageddon. That is, aside from a handful of unhinged radicals, Evangelicals expect God to put an end to things in his own time. (As opposed to, for example, the sect of Shia Islam to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs.) Now, I don’t believe personally in Evangelical eschatology. But, to amend Pascal’s wager, if Christ is coming back, and Jews must convert or die, then repudiating John Hagee’s support can’t do a thing about it. If not, then things proceed as normal for Jews—with the helpful addition of Evangelical friendship. Netanyahu is wise to avoid hysteria that can alienate important strategic friends.

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The Difference Between Wright and Hagee

In the comments on an earlier post on Barack Obama’s viciously anti-American pastor, Jeremiah Wright, various people complain that Obama is getting tagged with Wright’s words while John McCain is getting a free pass when it comes to the anti-Catholic and homophobic remarks of John Hagee, a pastor who has endorsed him. This is entirely specious. Obama credits Wright with his religious awakening. Obama had Wright officiate at his wedding. And he donated $22,500 to Wright’s church in 2006. McCain has no personal relationship with Hagee whatsoever. Wright is one of Obama’s mentors. It is true that Obama has now forthrightly condemned Wright’s words. But it is not credible that Obama knew nothing about Wright’s incendiary views, as he claims; even if he had not beenpresent for the sermons that have caused such a ruckus in the past few days, he was close enough to Wright to be entirely aware of his opinions. One doubts Wright is a shrinking violet about them in private conversation. The difference between Wright and Hagee is that while Hagee endorsed McCain, Obama has long endorsed Wright.

In the comments on an earlier post on Barack Obama’s viciously anti-American pastor, Jeremiah Wright, various people complain that Obama is getting tagged with Wright’s words while John McCain is getting a free pass when it comes to the anti-Catholic and homophobic remarks of John Hagee, a pastor who has endorsed him. This is entirely specious. Obama credits Wright with his religious awakening. Obama had Wright officiate at his wedding. And he donated $22,500 to Wright’s church in 2006. McCain has no personal relationship with Hagee whatsoever. Wright is one of Obama’s mentors. It is true that Obama has now forthrightly condemned Wright’s words. But it is not credible that Obama knew nothing about Wright’s incendiary views, as he claims; even if he had not beenpresent for the sermons that have caused such a ruckus in the past few days, he was close enough to Wright to be entirely aware of his opinions. One doubts Wright is a shrinking violet about them in private conversation. The difference between Wright and Hagee is that while Hagee endorsed McCain, Obama has long endorsed Wright.

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