McCain’s pas­tor iso­lated af­ter say­ing Shoah was ‘God’s plan’

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY THE FOR­EIGN DESK BY SHMUEL ROS­NER

JOHN HAGEE, the con­tro­ver­sial Amer­i­can preacher and en­dorser of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee John McCain, has vowed “to fight an­tisemitism and to sup­port Is­rael” as he hit back at crit­i­cism over his con­tentious Holo­caust the­ol­ogy.

Mr McCain re­cently cut his ties with the preacher — who founded Chris­tians United for Is­rael — af­ter a ser­mon by Mr Hagee came to light in which he ex­plained the Shoah as a divine plan.

“A hunter is some­one with a gun, and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter,” the preacher said in the ser­mon. “How did it hap­pen? Be­cause God al­lowed it to hap­pen. Why did it hap­pen? Be­cause God said, ‘My top pri­or­ity for the Jewish peo­ple is to get them to come back to the land of Is­rael’.” Call­ing the re­marks “deeply of­fen­sive and in­de­fen­si­ble”, Mr McCain said: “I did not know of them be­fore Mr Hagee’s en­dorse­ment, and I feel I must re­ject his en­dorse­ment as well.”

How­ever, dur­ing a ser­mon at his San An­to­nio church last Fri­day, Mr Hagee in­sisted: “Our search for an ex­pla­na­tion for evil must never be con­fused with an ef­fort to ex­cuse it.What is more im­por­tant... is what we as men and women do here on earth to make sure that there will never be an­other Holo­caust. We must give mean­ing to the words ‘Never Again’ through our ac­tions. It is to this ef­fort — this ef­fort to fight an­tisemitism and to sup­port Is­rael — that I now re­turn.”

JOHN HAGEE will not be speak­ing next week at the an­nual con­fer­ence of Aipac, the pro-Is­rael Jewish lobby. He did last year — and the de­ci­sion to in­vite him was con­tro­ver­sial, but not as con­tro­ver­sial as it would have been to­day. Pas­tor Hagee of San An­to­nio, the most vis­i­ble Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian sup­porter of Is­rael, is los­ing cred­i­bil­ity by the day.

Last month he was at­tacked, per­son­ally, by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Re­form move­ment. He was also at­tacked by po­lit­i­cal ri­vals of Repub­li­can John McCain for com­ments he made that were seen as deroga­tory to­wards Catholics. Last week, Mr McCain dumped him off his po­lit­i­cal wagon for com­ments he made re­gard­ing the his­toric role of Adolf Hitler. The man who has been work­ing day and night on be­half of Is­rael was sud­denly seen by some as an­tisemitic. “My life’s work”, he said, was “mis­char­ac­terised and at­tacked”.

Mr Hagee’s un­easy re­la­tions with Amer­i­can Jews were an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen. They never felt com­fort­able with his sup­port for Is­rael, never re­ally ac­cepted him as part of the “camp”. We can­not co­op­er­ate with the Chris­tian Zion­ists, said Rabbi Yoffie, be­cause theirs is not “un­con­di­tional sup­port for the Jewish state”, but rather sup­port for a cer­tain po­lit­i­cal agenda — one that is un­ac­cept­able to Rabbi Yoffie.

Mr Hagee, no doubt, hold views that tend to be on the hawk­ish side, but de­nies al­le­ga­tions that he only sup­ports Is­rael if Is­rael fol­lows his be­liefs. “I will never aban­don Is­rael,” he said many times in the past — and this as­ser­tion will now face the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge, as Mr Hagee is prob­a­bly hurt, and an­gry, and dis­ap­pointed, maybe dis­il­lu­sioned. “Do we re­ally want to treat our friends like this?” asks David Brog, the Jewish Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Chris­tians United for Is­rael, which Hagee founded. Mr Hagee sus­pects, with good rea­son, that the un­easi­ness of many Amer­i­can Jews with his pro-Is­rael ac­tiv­i­ties has more to do with do­mes­tic con­cerns — their re­jec­tion of his views on mat­ters of church-state re­la­tions — than with his Is­rael-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties.

What­ever the rea­son, the com­ments he made on Hitler pre­sented his op­po­nents with an op­por­tu­nity they could hardly re­sist. The Holo­caust hap­pened, Mr Hagee ar­gued, “be­cause God said my top pri­or­ity for the Jewish peo­ple is to get them to come back to the land of Is­rael”. Mr Hagee, say­ing those things some years ago, knew they were “of­fen­sive to some peo­ple”. How­ever, he said, “don’t let your heart be of­fended”.

But peo­ple were of­fended, or maybe cyn­i­cal. And they were us­ing Mr Hagee’s views to dis­credit him. Dumb­founded, his fol­low­ers and sup­port­ers were watch­ing his demise but had no way of help­ing. All he was do­ing, ex­plained Mr Brog, was try­ing to ex­plain the un­ex­plain­able. He be­lieves that “an om­nipo­tent God must sanc­tion the evil in our world” –— so he was search­ing for God’s mo­tives. “Only a moral my­opic could con­fuse this stal­wart friend with an an­ti­semite”. Alas, the word “Hitler” is one that si­lences all rea­son­ing. Shmuel Ros­ner, Haaretz’s chief US correspondent, writes at www.ros­ners­do­main.com

John Hagee ( left) lis­tens as lo­cal min­is­ter Rabbi Aryeh Schein­berg de­fends his record on sup­port for Is­rael and com­bat­ing an­tisemitism

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