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Onward, Christian Zionists

The fastest growing Israel support group in America.

Aug 2, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 43 • By JENNIFER RUBIN
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Hagee is bracingly candid about the historical underpinnings of Jews’ mistrust:

I understand the fear of some Jewish people of Christians because for 2,000 years they were killed under the sign of the cross. When a Jewish person sees the cross he sees an electric chair. When a Christian sees a cross he sees hope and redemption. Two thousand years of suffering won’t be overcome overnight.

In addition, antipathy toward CUFI may be attributable partly to aversion to the rest of the Christian right’s political agenda. As for Jews’ concern about Christian proselytizing, Ortiz says suspicion fades “when they see we are not trying to convert them.”

Hagee is a charismatic preacher with a sonorous baritone voice. At the banquet, he held the crowd spellbound, explaining Israel’s plight and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. He reminded the crowd that John F. Kennedy went to Berlin at the height of the Cold War, “an outpost of democracy in a sea of tyranny.” He quoted Kennedy: “Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was ‘civis Romanus sum.’ Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ ” Hagee then pivoted:

I stand here at a time when Israel is a tiny outpost of freedom and democracy in a sea of tyranny. . . .  Permit me to say something to you straight from the heart. Please know that what I say to you now is a sentiment shared by millions of Christians across America and around the world. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ani Yisraeli—I am an Israeli.” 

As he recited the litany of threats and insults to the Jewish state, he repeated the mantra again and again until 4,000 Christians stood shouting, “I am an Israeli.”

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, who oversaw  Israel policy in the Bush administration, appreciates that support. “American Jews ought to notice that there are actually more evangelicals in this country than Jews by about 20 or 30 to 1,” he says. “With the Jewish population shrinking as a percentage of the American people, Christians are an increasingly critical base of support for Israel—and groups like CUFI are begging us to accept their help. We should accept it with gratitude and enthusiasm.”

CUFI activists understand that America’s enemies—Islamist terrorists—are Israel’s enemies, too. They appreciate a robust defense of both countries. Abrams in a panel discussion urged those present to make their voices heard when, for example, a lawmaker “plays footsie with CAIR.” The crowd erupted. Co-panelist Malcolm Hoenlein, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, demanded “transparency” from the builders of a mosque near Ground Zero and warned against groups that would “undermine the fundamental values of the United States.” He too got a rousing ovation.

CUFI executive director David Brog says recent events have caught his members’ attention. “They are upset this president is taking a different approach to Israel and there is daylight between our countries for the first time.” He bristles at the notion that CUFI is “politicizing” foreign policy. Indeed, Brog worries about the “bipartisan fraying” of support for Israel. With CUFI’s Democratic members, including many Hispanics, he hopes to “affect the debate in the Democratic party. It would be a tragedy if one of the two parties ceased to be pro-Israel.” After all, Brog says, “We are speaking for a traditional foreign policy. We must stand for principle and not just power.”

Ortiz says these are critical times for Israel. He tells the story of the Jewish queen Esther, when the Jews were threatened with annihilation in ancient Persia. “Her uncle comes to her and says, ‘You gotta move, baby, or your people will perish.’ ” CUFI is on the move. It has no intention of allowing Israel to perish.

Jennifer Rubin is Commentary’s contributing editor.

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