By Ramzy Baroud
The recent uproar surrounding Pastor John Hagee is only remarkable in the sense that it took so long in coming. The fundamentalist pastor of the 19,000-member Cornerstone "mega-church" in San Antonio, Texas has long shown himself to be not just anti-Semitic, but also anti-Islamic and anti-Catholic.
It doesn’t take much probing to find ample examples of racism, bigotry and justification of violent tragedy in the words of the man once described by Senator Joe Lieberman as ‘Ish Elokim’ — ‘Man of God’.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain severed his ties with the pastor after the recent publicising of a sermon in which Hagee seemed to rationalise the Holocaust. Hagee’s suggested that the Holocaust fulfilled biblical prophecies because it ‘enabled’ the return of Jews to Palestine. According to this logic, Hitler was doing God’s work.
McCain decided to reject Hagee’s endorsement on May 22, stating that "Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them…I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well."
ABC News website reported on the scandal: "A source close to McCain told ABC News the Arizona senator thinks these sentiments are crazy, and that back in February when the campaign accepted Hagee’s endorsement, no one on the campaign, and certainly not McCain, had any idea that Hagee believed these types of things."
Anyone who has followed Hagee’s remarks in the past would have a hard time believing McCain’s statement. Hagee is a Christian Zionist, and the Executive Director of Christians United for Israel. While he may have been embraced by Israel and its backers in Washington for his support of Israeli aggressions and policies, Christian Zionists are hardly fond of the Jewish people. In fact, their entire project is shaped by very anti-Semitic beliefs, perceiving Jews as lesser beings whose ‘redemption’ and ‘conversion’ are prerequisites for the Second Coming of Jesus. Despite these beliefs being well known, Israel found in Hagee an irreplaceable friend and ally. The self-proclaimed Jewish state seems willing to work with even anti-Semites to achieve political goals.
Max Blumenthal is one of many writers who have tried to point out the palpable racism in Hagee’s discourse. He wrote in the Huffington Post on the day of McCain’s announcement that "during a press conference at the 2007 Christians United for Israel Washington-Israel Summit, I asked CUFI Executive Director Pastor John Hagee about passages in his book Jerusalem Countdown in which he appeared to blame Jews for their own persecution. Hagee was visibly piqued by my question, insisting that his statements were directly inspired by the Book of Deuteronomy. When I attempted to ask Hagee a follow-up question, a public relations agent, Alison Silverman, the former assistant communications director for AIPAC, cut me off."
Blumenthal was eventually removed from the conference under threats of arrest by DC police. What’s interesting about this is the AIPAC connection. The influential American-Israel lobby had invited Hagee to headline its conference in March 2007. While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was unconditionally condemned for his Holocaust statements, Hagee’s hateful references did not jeopardize his welcomed trips to Israel, and nor did it prevent US politicians in general from embracing him.
Aside from ardent Israel supporter Joe Lierberman’s glowing dedication, President Bush said he appreciated "CUFI members… for your passion and dedication to enhancing the relationship between the United States and Israel." When McCain received Hagee’s endorsement he was "very honoured" and "very proud".
Aside from Hagee’s largely forgiven anti-Semitism, the pastor was also a much valued member of the warmongering camp. Robert Weitzel writes, "Hagee formed CUFI in 2005 following the publication of his book, The Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, which sports a mushroom cloud on its cover and argues for a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West."
Passages in Hagee’s book indeed read as a horror movie script – Arabs united under Russian leadership, inferno exploding in the Middle East, and finally, the much-coveted Armageddon.
Aside from his insistence that the US government hasten the End Times by provoking war with Iran, Hagee also has his own interpretation on the causes of Hurricane Katrina. "I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that."
Hagee’s hate speech targeting Muslims (which suggested that all Muslims are programmed to kill and cannot be negotiated with), the Catholic Church (the ‘great whore’ of a ‘false cult’) were not enough to inspire politicians to repudiate the man. Hardly surprising, of course, considering that Hagee’s offensive uttering is consistent with the politics of his supporters in Congress or the White House. Why should McCain who wants to "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" busy himself worrying about a biblical vision that guarantees the same end? Also, what is the difference between Hagee’s biblical prophecies regarding Iran and the Arabs, and Hillary Clinton’s warning to ‘completely obliterate’ Iran? Hagee is indeed in a good company.
Hagee was allowed to foment hateful, dark views of Muslims, Catholics, and others, while still being welcomed into the fold of politicians and statesmen. He was only criticised when his madness touched on the Holocaust. But isn’t it true that his book and speeches help promote a regional Holocaust in the Middle East, one which would actually encompass numerous nations? Shouldn’t the vow of ‘never again’ include the many millions that Hagee wants to see incinerated in his quest for Armageddon?
Hagee is not just an anti-Semite; his views are largely anti-human. Still, he is an invaluable asset to a select few who have managed to streamline the beliefs of millions of people into active political and financial advocacy for Israel. As far as Israel is concerned, Hagee is and will always be an Ish Elokim — perhaps until another war is realised.
-Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London).