190809 John Hagee
John Hagee Image Credit: Supplied

Many American Zionist organisations play a pivotal role in supporting Israel in political, economic, scientific and cultural domains. Members of these groups are active in political movements with influence in the Democratic and Republican parties, which translates into increased electoral power and a pro-Israel slant in decision-making in the various legislative and executive branches.

Talk has often focused on the power of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) in supporting Israel, but in 2006, evangelical preacher John Hagee founded Christians United for Israel (Cufi) which declared that the organisation “plays” a key role in efforts to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and to disrupt the Hezbollah and Hamas ‘terrorist’ war against Israel, while strengthening the Jewish state’s defence capabilities and moves to close down UNRWA and defend Israel against the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS, Palestine civil societies initiative campaign), which developed into a worldwide phenomenon.

Christians United for Israel has decisively contributed to the US President Donald Trump’s decisions to move the American Embassy to occupied Jerusalem, and recognise Israel’s control over the Golan Heights. It is well-known that the US embassy’s relocation ceremony was attended by a number of evangelical figures and addressed by Hagee himself

When the British online news outlet Middle East Eye spoke recently about the real supporter of Trump and the Israeli occupation in the White House, it referred to the role of the “white evangelical Christians who constitute 76 per cent of the total population of the evangelical community in the United States, which represents a quarter of American voters”.

A survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in late 2018, indicated that “Trump enjoys support of around 71 per cent of the white evangelical community known for its conservative position on the issues of immigration, demographic and climate changes” Those are the members who form the nucleus of the Cufi and who “believe that the modern State of Israel is part of the prophecies in the Bible, and that the fate of the United States is implicitly linked to the fate of Israel,” according to Donald Wagner, a professor of religion and Middle East studies at North Park University in Chicago. “Trump officials, including Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, belong to this evangelical community,” he said.

Christians United for Israel has decisively contributed to the US President Donald Trump’s decisions to move the American Embassy to occupied Jerusalem, and recognise Israel’s control over the Golan Heights.

- Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman, chairman, Palestinian Encyclopaedia

Middle East Eye quoted segments of an interview conducted by the Christian-themed BET programming network with Pompeo, in which he expressed his support for the TV host who considered President Trump as ‘sent from God’ “to save the Jewish people from the Iranian danger.” He then compared him to Queen Esther, who saved the lives of Jews from the massacres of the ancient Persian Empire, according to Hebrew mythology. Jonathan Brenneman, a Christian American of Palestinian descent who works at the Mennonite Church in the United States of America says: “The ideology of these is essentially extremist and widespread in the United States.”

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In the context of drawing a comparison between Aipac and Cufi, Middle East Eye said: “the tremendous influence of Aipac in attracting politicians to speak at its annual summits is not comparable to the size of Cufi, which considers itself the largest pro-Israel organisation in the United States with more than five million members. It claims to be the only Christian group working to convert millions of pro-Israel Christians into an intellectual and effective force for Israel.”

After the recent Cufi conference, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that “for years, the Israeli right has been working to strengthen the political and financial alliance with evangelical Christians, supporters of the Zionist project, as part of their faith that links the return of the people of Israel to its land with the coming of the Messiah. This process reached its peak with the election of Trump as President of the United States of America”. The newspaper went on to say: “This year’s huge conference was a central election event in which thousands of supporters were addressed by Pence and Pompeo, both evangelicals, as well as National Security Advisor John Bolton, White House envoy Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, where they all expressed their strong support for Israel.” Haaretz concluded that “what Trump owes his voters will decisively change the current state of affairs in Israel at the behest of the rightist alliance. This may not take place in the United States only but also in Latin America, in Brazil mainly and even in Australia and the Philippines where the continuing rise of the pro-Israel evangelical community influences policies supporting Israel.”

Finally, it has always been our hope to see a pro-Arab strong lobby advocating our just causes with influence on American policy in face of the powerful and quite influential pro-Israel lobbies. While we affirm that this evangelical organisation though Christian, yet in essence a Jewish group, we ask with the strong pain we feel: When can we see an Arab lobby with leverage power in the United States to defend Arab causes?

— Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.