Shmuel Rosner
Haaretz (Blog)
April 9, 2008 - 8:55am

Televangelist John Hagee sounded a bit irate when he read his response to the accusations leveled at him and the organization he founded, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Hagee, who is currently in Jerusalem with 1,000 Christian pilgrims, delivered his response via conference call to U.S. reporters. He said that had Yoffie and his followers asked him directly about his opinions, they could have avoided many of their alleged mistakes. Hagee said, for example, that he has not called the Catholic Church a "great whore," nor is he trying to dictate Israel's security and political policies. Hagee will support Israel whether or not it carries out withdrawals, he repeatedly said, adding that this is something its citizens will decide.

Last week, Yoffie urged Jewish organizations not to cooperate with Hagee's Christian Zionists, arguing that they hurt Israel's interests. But despite the call, Hagee met with Israel's top brass on Monday. It seems Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other high-ranking officials still see the value in making time in their busy schedules to meet Hagee.

Yoffie claimed that Hagee and his followers are opposed to a two-state solution, thereby diminishing chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. "Yoffie accurately describes the Jewish community one that is 'supremely sensitive to the power of words'," Hagee sniffed, adding that the Reform leader "failed to exhibit the very sensitivity of which he spoke." The San Antonio church leader said Yoffie demonstrated "a lack of respect for me [and] a troubling lack of respect for the truth."

What Hagee essentially says about himself, his organization and the peace process is, yes, I am a skeptic as to the wisdom behind withdrawals. But I never acted against them, nor shall I. Yoffie "ignores [our] actual record" because, had he bore it in mind, his accusations would prove themselves as groundless.

Our opinions aside, Hagee said, Israel is a free country. "CUFI's fundamental philosophy from day one has been that Israelis and Israelis alone have the right to make existential decisions about land and peace." The only lobbying he did on that issue was to try and persuade the U.S. government not to pressure Israel into adopting policies it was reluctant to carry out.

Hagee has visited Israel 24 times and is in it on his present trip to listen, to sympathize and to introduce it to his followers, he claims. Recently, he has touched less upon the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more on the Iranian nuclear threat, a subject on which he has written books. He is also pushing energetically for international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Yoffie gingerly distinguished between different evangelical groups in his call, focusing on the Christian Zionists, a group whose members Hagee defines as believing every Jew has the right of return to Israel to live in peace and security. How could Yoffie possibly oppose that?

Last year, Hagee was invited to speak at the annual conference of the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby in Washington, D.C. There, he spoke about the ongoing dispute over the extent of the lobby's influence over the U.S. government. "The theme of the debate is the same as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," Hagee said. "If [Jews] had so much power, how did they fall victims to pogroms and genocide?"


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