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