HAGEE'S DAMAGE CONTROL: HOW WILL IT PLAY WITH HIS JEWISH FRIENDS?

Late yesterday afternoon, John Hagee issued a statement asserting that in his now-notorious sermon clip, he was not blaming the Holocaust on the Jews and is not anti-Semitic. Charging that his "life's work -- the great passion of my life. ... Combatting anti-semitism and supporting the state of Israel" has been "mischaracterized and attacked," Hagee signaled that he's not going to let one sermon excerpt eclipse his career. Yesterday I reported on signs that his evangelical allies are going to rally behind him; now the question remains whether his Jewish allies will too.

Leaders in the Reform Movement have been first to condemn Hagee, but it is unclear whether others, who unlike Reform leaders, have a more intense commitment to Hagee, will follow suit. In the Washington Post's On Faith blog, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, called for Jews to denounce Hagee's words, and to refuse to embrace his efforts in their communities:

[I]t had become common to find Jewish leaders joining in Pastor Hagee’s “Salute to Israel” events around the country and paying public tribute and homage to the pastor for his efforts. Two months ago, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, challenged Reform Jewish rabbis with the contradictions of participating in such events with someone who held views that were anathema to our commitment to tolerance, pluralism and intergroup respect. While I hope that Rev. Hagee continues his support for Israel, which I assume he gives for its own sake, we should refrain from allying with him in any manner that gives our stamp of approval to him generally or to the deeply troubling views he has expressed . . . .

I do not share Rev. Hagee’s belief that God controls every action here on Earth nor that God wishes for every Jew to move to Israel right now. But even if Rev. Hagee does so believe, that his God is one who could only accomplish that by killing 6 million innocent Jewish men, women and children, and 5 million innocent others is mind boggling. Ironically there are some anti-Zionist theological extremists in our community who argued exactly the opposite: that the Holocaust was God’s punishment for the Zionist movement. Both views are equally repugnant theologically, morally and politically. They deserve to be condemned by religious, civic, and political leaders in general, but most particularly by those who have chosen to align themselves with Rev. Hagee.

I made several attempts to get comment from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which featured an enthusiastically received speech from Hagee at its conference last year, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, one of his most prominent Jewish supporters, but did not receive a response from either.

In San Antonio, Hagee's Orthodox friend, Rabbi Arieh Scheinberg, issued a simultaneous statement through Hagee's ministry defending him, and quoting a Holocaust survivor as saying that “If during the Nazi era the world had leaders like Pastor John Hagee, 6 million Jews, among them one and a million children, wouldn’t have been brutally murdered.”

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