McCain and Gingrich Court Christians United for Israel
Richard Bartholomew printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 01:23:06 PM EST
There was a time when a man who rails against "international bankers" and the "Illuminati" and who cites the design of the $1 bill as evidence of an occult-Masonic "New World Order" conspiracy would have been seen as something of a crank. But not any more, apparently, if the success of John Hagee is anything to go by. Max Blumenthal has already highlighted the cosy relations between the conspiracy theorist and AIPAC; now Hagee has had the satisfaction of seeing John McCain come as a suppliant for votes at the Washington conference of Christians United for Israel, of which he is the prime mover (along with some more urbane figures, such as David Brog). Reveling in his new-found power and status, Hagee reportedly once again (he's used the line before) exulted that

"the sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened"
The Jerusalem Post reports:

Earlier in the day, declared Republican candidate John McCain, an Arizona Senator, made a surprise appearance at the conference. He spoke about what he dubbed perhaps the "greatest evil" that the US and Israel have ever faced - radical Islam.

The senator spoke unequivocally about the need to "confront Iran" to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons...McCain called the current conflict a "vast ideological struggle" against "everything we stand for and believe in," and stressed the need to ensure Israel's safety as the only democracy in the Middle East, questioning that "if we fail in Israel, where will we succeed?"

Newt Gingrich, however, ratcheted up the rhetoric some more:

"If George W. Bush wanted to send a signal to Hamas tomorrow morning, he could move the embassy to Jerusalem tomorrow...We are in greater danger than you can imagine. We lie to ourselves. We have suffered in the West an enormous defeat in Gaza. We have suffered a significant defeat in South Lebanon, and we lie about it. We don't have a peace process. We have a surrender process,"

There was also predictable praise for CUFI from Gary Bauer (reported on YNet):

Gary Bauer, who ran for the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States in 2000, also spoke at the rally, saying, "You are Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and Hizbullah's worst nightmare, because you support Israel. They are telling you to give back land. We are telling you, don't give back one inch."

This implicit attack on Israeli moderates was echoed by Frank Gaffney: is "the height of folly," he said, for the U.S. to pressure Israel into making painful concessions with its Muslim neighbors. He encouraged his listeners to convey that message to their legislators as strongly as possible.

"We must not encourage, let alone insist upon, Israel's surrender of still more territory to the Islamofascists [who are] determined to destroy her and us!" he emphasized.

The Jewish Week, however, seems slighly sceptical:

Pastor John Hagee, the fiery megachurch pastor and CUFI founder, insisted the group was not lobbying against the new administration Mideast initiative.

But he also called efforts to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "appeasement," and said his group will support Israeli policy "as long as it does not violate biblical principles."

The same source adds that

The evening session also included greetings from President Bush and a benediction by Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, a San Antonio Orthodox leader who has been close to Hagee, thanking God for "giving the world community a spiritual leader of the nobility, courage and wisdom of Pastor John Hagee, who personifies God's living words."

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, appearing by video, told the group that Christian Zionists laid the foundation for Jewish ones.

Scheinberg had a moment of fame a year ago, when he was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying that Jerry Falwell had told him that he no longer believed in the need for Jews "to go through Christ or the Cross to get to heaven." Falwell denied both the story and any knowledge of Scheinberg, and Scheinberg later in turn denied the report. As I blogged at the time, it was a curious and clumsy attempt to force Falwell into denying his belief in Christian exclusivity, for the purposes of oiling the Christian Zionist-Israel alliance.

McCain and Gingrich have been linked to Hagee for some time - a year ago they both appeared on TV to discuss current events as "World War III"; right-wing MK Benny Elon stated that they had got the talking-point from one of Hagee's books. But just how influential is the pastor? Jeff Sharlet offers some clues in the latest New Statesman, in a review of Nicholas Guyatt's Have a Nice Doomsday:

Guyatt's strongest chapters deal with Hagee, who "looks like a tubby Donald Rumsfeld" and "sounds a lot like a macaw". That's funny, but Hagee isn't: US politicians court his approval and the huge amounts of money that his Christians United for Israel can channel their way. In return, they parrot his prophecies, cleansed of the references that would reveal them as such - Hagee's conviction that the US may have to attack Israel [ouch - I think "Iran" is meant here - RB] as part of a scheme foretold in the Book of Ezekiel is sanitised as ostensibly sober-minded policy advice based on the needs of the nation rather than the scripture. Hagee, in turn, is invited on to CNN and Fox as a "Middle East expert" to advocate that very policy. Which is all the more disturbing when one considers that apocalypse preachers such as Hagee have a rather ambivalent relationship to America's welfare. For their predictions to be proven correct, the US will have to suffer a great deal more - a prospect they relish.

And to add an extra dimension to the information loop, Hagee claims that he receives briefings from "top Israeli government officials", who have told him about "a nuclear showdown between Iran and Israel".

The unsanitised Hagee, meanwhile, is revealed here - the words are his, although I suspect the images and music were added by someone else:

(Hat tips: Christianity Today Weblog; Max Blumenthal for the Hagee video)

UPDATE: Sarah Posner has posted an account of her visit to the conference, at Alternet. Joe Lieberman was also present:
"America is a faith-based initiative," said the former Democrat. "We are not endowed by the great thinkers of the Enlightenment but endowed by our Creator ... Anyone who tries to separate American government from faith," he added, "is doing something profoundly unnatural."

by Richard Bartholomew on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 07:03:45 PM EST

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