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John Hagee Ministries drops support for Im Tirtzu

By Ron Kampeas, JTA

August 23, 2010 | 3:50 pm

John Hagee Ministries will discontinue funding for an Israeli right-wing group that has depicted the New Israel Fund and its affiliates as anti-Israel.

The decision to end funding for Im Tirtzu was revealed in an email by Lee Wunsch, the president of the Houston Jewish Federation, and obtained over the weekend by Richard Silverstein, a blogger who has campaigned against funding the group.

“In light of recent events and in my discussions with Pastor Hagee, he will not continue that funding as we both believe that Im Tirtzu has morphed into a quasi-political organization and neither Pastor Hagee nor the Houston Jewish Federation will fund such groups,” Wunsch wrote in response to a query.

Like many other pro-Israel fund-raisers, Hagee, who also heads Christians United for Israel and who is headquartered in San Antonio, uses local Jewish federations as a conduit. Wunsch is one of three members of a panel that advises Hagee on what to fund in Israel. Hagee Ministries donated $200,000 to Im Tirtzu over the last two years.

After Im Tirtzu launched a campaign earlier this year depicting the New Israel Fund as anti-Zionist, spokesman for Hagee said he would reconsider his support.

Ari Morgenstern, a Hagee Ministries spokesman, would not comment Monday on Wunsch’s email, saying that the announcement of 2010 donations would not take place until October, when Hagee hosts one of his marquee Nights to Honor Israel in San Antonio. However, he repeated past statements that Hagee now felt that Im Tirtzu had misrepresented itself as an educational rather than a political group.

“Im Tirtzu misrepresented its focus when they told us their mission was strictly Zionist education,” Morgenstern said. “We had no prior knowledge of Im Tirtzu’s prior political actions and we never seek to involve ourselves in Israel’s internal poltiical debate.”

Morgenstern added that Hagee will continue to fund Ben-Gurion University, which has been the latest target of an Im Tirtzu campaign alleging anti-Zionism in the university’s political science department.

“We do not believe that the political positions of a few professors characterize an entire university,” he said. “We believe that the people of Israel benefit from BGU’s success.” Hagee Ministries donated $100,000 to the university last year.

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