Justin Elliott of the MoJo Blog was miffed yesterday when Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious affairs, declined to condemn the sermon in which the Rev. John Hagee called Hitler a “hunter” whose task was to drive Jews to Palestine. Elliott’s query began last week when he set out to see whether leading Jewish organizations would speak against Hagee, whose organization Christians United for Israel has a lot of political pull.
The short answer is no. I submitted requests for comment about Hagee and his sermon to three organizations: the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The first two groups closely monitor anti-Semitism and regularly issue statements decrying insensitivity to Jews by prominent figures like Hagee. As for AIPAC, Hagee had a prominent speaking role at its annual policy conference last year. And David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, the organization of which Hagee is founder and national chairman, is slated to speak at AIPAC’s 2008 policy conference next month.
Hagee’s various anti-Semitic statements have actually been known for several years, as Max Blumenthal has reported. But given that the pastor’s “Hitler was a hunter” tour de force is making national headlines and drawing criticism from a presumptive presidential nominee (and even some leaders in the Reform community), this seems like a perfect time for the ADL, AJC, and AIPAC to denounce Hagee, or, at the very least, his comments. The ADL and AIPAC, to my knowledge, have not commented on Hagee’s sermon and they didn’t respond to my requests.
Some Jewish organizations, in fact, have rushed to Hagee’s side. But he’s caused alarm before, and the entire community has not been quiet this time around. I received this open letter to Hagee last week from Rabbi David Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
The Holocaust was the work of a deranged, bigoted, and anti-Semitic figure supported by a racist government. To suggest otherwise is surely an affront to the 11 million individuals, 6 million of whom were Jews, who lost their lives in the ashes of what is unquestionably the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. To blame the victims for the Holocaust and to suggest that they brought it on themselves is a desecration of their name and their memory, and an insult to the survivors and their descendents who thankfully remain in our midst today.
I am aware of the work that you have done on behalf of the State of Israel, and for that reason I find your remarks especially troubling. Please help me explain to the members of my movement the statements attributed to you. Are these sentiments representative of your current feelings and perceptions of the Jewish people and the people of Israel? Were they at one time representative? Have you in some way been grossly misquoted? Are these views which you have now repudiated?
Clearly Hagee has not since “repudiated” these views. They are confirmed by his theological understanding of evil in this world, which his right hand discussed last week with Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz. Yoffie belies a Christo-ignorance by not recognizing that Hagee is not blaming Jews but is, in an act I am uncomfortable with, actually thanking God for setting in motion the End Times.
Why, you ask, have most Jewish organizations chosen to silence voices that are often quite loud when the situation warrants it? Why did Abe Foxman, who may have an anti-anti-Semite problem, tell The Forward the ADL was fine with Hagee’s endorsement of John McCain? This article from the BBC sheds a bit of light, as does the reportage of Max Blumenthal and this two-year-old piece titled “Pastor Strangelove.”
It’s about politics, and the calculation is that Hagee is too important and influential an ally of the pro-Israel community to risk his friendship over unrelated transgressions.