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Jews on First: Special Report from the CUFI Conference

Jews on First has an excellent report on the CUFI Conference that is a must read.

Inside CUFI’s 2010 Washington “Summit”

Christians United for Israel’s (CUFI) fifth annual Washington Summit, held this past July 20-22, 2010, highlighted once again the persistence and institutionalization of CUFI as the American Christian Zionist organization. As with its previous Summits, it was repeatedly emphasized that t

he support and love that CUFI and its members have for Israel and the Jewish people – to be sure a very particular kind of support – was based on the Biblical mandate of Christians to do just that. Of course, this is not to be dismissed as afalse reason for its support. Indeed the proliferation and popularity of the “prosperity gospel” in contemporary conservative Protestantism has ensured that the repeated refrain of Genesis 12:3 (I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you) resonates among the (Christian) leaders of CUFI and its members. This is because it funnels the belief in personal “blessings” (which are almost always considered in financial terms) and national blessings (the furtherance of a conservative social agenda and American global dominance) into the ultimate investment: Israel.

This point was emphasized within the first hour of the opening night of the conference by Diana Hagee (wife of Rev. John Hagee) who pointed out that: “we need to spend more time praying for Israel and less time praying for our personal needs. Life is going to get a whole lot better for us, and trust me, all those other things (one’s personal desires) are going to be taken care of [if we bless Israel correctly].” While not false reasons for support (irrespective of how misguided they might be), it was evident that the repeated invocation also served a didactic function for those in attendance – many of whom, as in previous years, cited the importance of Israel in the end-times as reasons for their support – to let them know how they should be responding to questions regarding their support for Israel.

Despite this, the subtle invocations of symbolic eschatological language and logic were evident, not only in the words of the speakers, but also in the jubilant responses from the audience when such symbolism was used. And really, in the context of CUFI, symbolism is all that is needed to convey the eschatological underpinnings of its goals and their mission, despite the sustained refrain to the contrary. This is because the particular end-times message has been around long enough and is more comprehensively conveyed in other mediums that allusion is sufficient to engender the desired understanding from the audience, while not alienating those who don’t understand or share the same beliefs.

The use of symbolic language, in a particularly religious context was most evident in the opening session of prayer, in which attendees were instructed on how to effectively pray for Israel, and taught the purpose of their mission. Significantly, the opening prayer session was used as a moment to consecrate the conference and the role of attendees as God’s divine agents at a particular point in history (the history of the future), and that they would be blessed accordingly for serving God in this way. In Diana Hagee’s words: “God use me, ’til I draw my last breath or better yet till the trumpet sounds!” (That is, until the rapture occurs).

Diana Hagee further elaborated CUFI’s prophetic mission when she likened her husband to a modern day prophet:

Watchmen can see into the distance, and there have been three people in history with this prophetic power. Theodore Herzl – although being an unlikely candidate for God’s will (as a secular Jew) fulfilled it (and it was made clear that this was concomitant with the help of early Christian Zionists) by pushing for the creation of modern Israel. The second person was Ze’ev Jabotinsky for calling Jews out of Europe prior to the Holocaust. The third is John Hagee. Four years ago, John Hagee called together over 400 leaders to start CUFI and at the time things were good; we had a Christian who supported Israel in the White House and there was little trouble. But he said that in its fifth year we “will know why we are here.” And now we are in our fifth year and we know why we are here.

The implication of this – which was not lost on the audience – was that now, the Obama Administration is serving the cause of evil. It is applying further pressure on the Israeli administration to negotiate peace with its Palestinian neighbors, while also attempting to reach out to the Arab and Muslim world – two things which are themselves considered to be harbingers of the end-times because of the “false peace” brought about by the antichrist, and also the establishment of a one-world government, to which international cooperation and diplomacy are frequently portrayed as precursors.

The opening night of the conference coincided with the start of Tisha B’av, the Jewish commemoration and mourning of the destruction of the first and second Temples. It is difficult to discern whether or not Tisha B’av was taken into account prior to the organization of the conference. When asking whether attendees knew what it was, Diana Hagee claimed a willful ignorance, relating that when Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg used the words “Tisha B’av”, she didn’t know what it was and thought he could have just as easily been “ordering a sandwich.” Although the comment was meant to be light-hearted it seemed to betray a distinct lack of respect for Jewish tradition from an organization that emphatically portrays itself as an embodiment of modern philo-Semitism (admiration for Jews). Nevertheless, the customary reading of the Book of Lamentations proceeded to the delight of the Christian attendees. This commemoration of Tisha B’av at the conference seemed to perform another function: It further consecrated the event, as an historical one of the coming together of Christians and Jews, but more importantly it defined the Jewish speakers at the conference as “real Jews,” conferring to them a much greater sense of legitimacy and authority because of their religious devotion. Such adulation is in keeping with our report and reflections on the 2008 Summit (which can be found here.)

The religious and motivational significance of this opening night should not be underestimated. It set the tone for the rest of the conference, which was slowly emptied of overt theological reference to focus on politics and the more practical reasons that Christians need to be supporting Israel, instilling the belief that they have been brought up by God for a mission “at such a time as this.” It conveyed to the Christian attendees that they were “walking in the mantle of Esther” – a reference to Queen Esther who saved all the Jews from annihilation, as celebrated during the Jewish holiday of Purim. Importantly for today, the parallel is rendered even more effective due to the fact that the Book of Esther is set in ancient Persia – modern Iran – the current thorn in the side of neoconservatives and also a country with a prominent role in the eschatology of Christian Zionists. Therefore the neoconservative message they received at the various tutorials during the proceeding days became imbued with a sacred meaning despite the very worldly hegemonic goals of those espousing them.

Israel 101: The Basics of the Arab Israeli Conflict
At one of the educational breakout sessions entitled: Israel 101: The Basics of the Arab Israeli Conflict, Gary Bauer opened the session, highlighting the salience of fear and emotion used to garner support and to frame issues within a wider cosmic battle by using his time to speak explicitly about 9/11. The central thrust of Bauer’s argument, was that “the attackers on 9/11, thepeople causing havoc throughout the Middle East were not created by poverty or social injustice, they grew out of radical Islam.” Palestinians were further painted with a broad brush as extremists, while strains of thought that gave the Palestinians a sense of humanity were similarly disparaged when Bauer later noted that:

It is has become an accepted fact among America’s elites that the great majority of the Palestinian people want to live in peace, side by side with the Israeli people – I’m sorry, somebody needs to prove it to me… The reality, ladies and gentlemen is this: evil men, who worship death, they brag about. Evil men who worship death, at this very moment are planning for you and for me, and for Israelis and for free men and women all over the world, sorrows unimaginable to us.

He later went on to state that he does not believe “any peace process will work in the Middle East, until this evil philosophy has been defeated. And then – and only then – Israel will be secure, America will be secure, and we, thank God, will have avoided another dark age.” This statement furthered a theme that was evident throughout the conference, which began with the divine mandate given to CUFI by its leaders on the opening night: America and Israel are engaged in a cosmic battle between good and evil, the success of which must be ensured to continue to curry God’s favor for the West. Moreover, it subtly shows the continued hostility that CUFI has towards the peace process, preferring to focus on defeating “this evil philosophy”, which appeared to be code for an unabated continuity of the “war on terrorism.”

Bauer was followed by AIPAC’s Jeff Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn opened his speech using language that spoke directly to the eschatological hopes and dreams of many Christian Zionists, describing Israel as “not just a Jewish issue, it is [also] a Christian issue, it is an American issue, it is an issue of importance to the Western world – and I think ultimately, it is an issue of great importance to all of civilization.” That is to say, Mendelsohn was engaging Christian Zionists in their belief that Israel is the key to end-times prophecy and the place where God’s millennial kingdom will be established after the tribulation; it is the epicenter where civilization will continue after the current world has been rid of evil.

The Iranian Threat
As in previous years enmity towards Iran maintained a strong foothold throughout the conference. During the second breakout session, The Iranian Threat, self-described CUFI “repeat offender” and former Reagan official, Frank Gaffney, described Iran as being “probably within months of operationalizing” its “incipient nuclear capabilities.” Gaffney then told the audience that Iran could use one of these weapons against the United States in a “catastrophic attack that could literally destroy the country” through the use of electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a favorite line that John Hagee has also towed in his numerous books on prophecy. 9/11 was again intoned to remind attendees of the threat purportedly facing the United States and to link Iran to those events, whenGaffney described jihad as “the violent form of terror that we have all come to know particularly since 9/11 but that actually, arguably, was first waged against us back in 1979 by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

While reminding the audience of this ominous threat, Gaffney quickly altered his focus to the more subtle (and potentially more fear-inducing) threat of “stealth jihad” and the notion that Iran and the rest of the “Muslim world” were unequivocally bent on establishing a global theocracy that would rule over each one of us.

The idea that Iran and other more generic threats from Islam were “stealing a march on us” through this stealth jihad was discussed in terms of the availability of “Shariah compliant finance” as an insidious threat to our way of life: “It is afflicting freedom loving people not just in the Middle East, but Europe, Canada, Latin America, and yes here in the United States as well. We must do what we can to save our country, to save Israel, from these assorted threats. We need to be informed about this one most especially.”

The “Ground Zero Mosque” was highlighted as the most ominous characterization of this threat, and elicited the most emotional response from the audience. In Gaffney’s words:

Right now, there is a fight brewing over whether we will accede to the latest assertion of Shariah’s dominance of our ultimate, inevitable submission to this program, within what I like to call ‘spitting distance’ of what is arguably for most Americans today, the most sacred ground in this country. I’m talking about Ground Zero. There, in keeping with the traditions of Shariah…. adherents to Shariah, people who have made it absolutely explicit they intend to bring it to America, are now proposing to build within 600 feet within the World Trade Center site, a 13-story building, $100 million for Shariah…. It is part of this supremacist agenda of symbolically and for all time demonstrating the triumph of this Islamic program, on our most sacred soil. I say to you ladies and gentlemen, it is not about faith; Shariah is a totalitarian, political program. It is about conquest. It is about the destruction of freedom of religion, and indeed all civil liberties … those who adhere to it are our absolutely immutable enemies! They must be defeated!

Clifford May, president of the conservative “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies”, also appealed to the attendees’ belief in their divine mission, letting them know during the opening of his talk that they were “doing God’s work.” His talk, followed a similar line to Gaffney’s, warning the audience of the goals the Iranian Mullahs’ desires to bring the Western World under the control of an Islamic Caliphate. May further entrenched Gaffney’s point that “once shariah get its nose, its camel’s nose, in the tent, the beast will follow.” May then spent most of his talk, traversing quickly between statements by Iranian officials and other leaders in the Muslim world about their purportedly unified effort to bring down the West.

Controversial and incendiary comments about a pre-emptive strike on Iran – which many ChristianZionists see as a catalyst for an attack on Israel purportedly prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39 – that have been made by John Hagee at past conferences were notably absent from this year’s Summit. However, May was able to effectively promote the idea by putting the words into the mouth of the ambassador for the United Arab Emirates, as May paraphrased him:

We cannot live with a nuclear Iran. By we [the ambassador] apparently meant the more moderate countries of the Middle East. He went on to add that if sanctions failed to stop Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons military force will be the only option left, and it must not be ruled out.

In describing the Iranian threat of nuclear capabilities, Robert Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, also created a sense of urgency. Like the speakers before him, Satloff used some vague terms that are familiar to Christian Zionists regarding the end times, suggesting that the short time needed for Iran to achieve nuclear capability meant that it was “five minutes to midnight.” Anyone familiar with John Hagee’s book From Daniel to Doomsday or other literature on prophecy will know that certain prophetic events are often demarcated based on their length of time from midnight.

To Satloff’s credit he did speak on the importance of the Green movement in Iran and the reality that the country itself is divided, rather than portraying the country as a unified force where the enitre population seeks to destroy the West and Israel through any means necessary. However, this assertion was undercut by Gaffney later during the question and answer period when Gaffney argued that: “Time is running out to support the Greens. We had best be about the business of preparing for military action,” to which the crowd responded far more enthusiastically than they did to Satloff’s suggestion of the potential to reach out and help the Green movement.

Lobbying Congress
During the “Civics 101” session CUFI’s Executive Director, David Brog took time to steer attendees down a particular path: appeal to American civil religion, but don’t reference your explicit beliefs. He instructed attendees to “tell your congressman that you are a Christian and you are here for onereason and one reason only: Israel…. It’s a Christian issue, and more importantly, it’s an American issue.” Something that again subtly speaks to the belief among Christian Zionists that their, and America’s, failure to support Israel in the way that CUFI defines support will result in divine punishment for America.

Intent on ensuring that an effective and professional group was representing CUFI to their congressmen and women, while also understanding the true issues that motivate CUFI members, Brog was even more specific:

Please stay on the issue of Israel…. If you care about the issue of life, that’s fantastic, but come another day. If you care about the issue of marriage, that’s important. Call them another day. We are here for one issue and one issue only. [tell them] ‘I’m your constituent, I’m a Christian, I’m here for Israel.’ Please don’t stray from the talking points…. When in Rome, do as the Romans do … it is important to speak to policy makers in a language that they understand, and that is the language of policy. Our faith informs and inspires our activism. We’re all here because of our faith. But with sadly limited exceptions, most of those guys on Capitol Hill, don’t speak the language of faith. With sadly limited exceptions, most of the guys on the Hill are driven by policy considerations, not considerations of faith. So, I ask you this quite seriously. When you go up to a congressman, and you start quoting the Bible, quoting the scripture, talking about a vision you had that’s been very important in your life … they just don’t speak that language, and they’re not going to be swayed by that language. So unless you know your member well, and you know he’s a man of God, we strongly and respectfully request you speak to them in a language that they will understand, the language of policy.”

While asking members not to express the specifics of their faith openly, Brog quickly emphasized that he understands and shares the views of the attendees, speaking inclusively, he stated: “We are here because of our faith, but we’re doing something important for God if we get these men of power to stand with Israel … let’s speak their language, that’s how we will best serve God tomorrow.”

Diana Hagee also made a brief appearance during the session as a way to remind attendees of their prophetic mission as a parallel to Brog’s more practical requests: “we are chosen for such a time as this to be watchmen on the wall. We’re all building our portion of the wall; we’re all doing a good work. We have a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other….”

Night To Honor Israel
While Brog emphasized the importance of speaking in the language of policy, rather than prophecy, to the elected officials,speakers at the culminating Night to Honor Israel reversed the trend and reinvoked the symbolic, eschatological language that opened the Summit.

As in previous years, Sentator Joseph Lieberman referred to John Hagee as a “man of God” just like Moses. Similarly, Gary Bauer, after again disparaging the catastrophic threats awaiting Israel and the West proclaimed, “It is for such a time as this, that John Hagee has become a watchman on the wall for Israel who never sleeps.”

During his speech John Hagee quickly divided the world into two groups: “those who support Israel, and those who don’t. There is no middle ground.” Hagee continued to claim, “The free world is at war with radical Islam. Without victory there is no survival. Not for America, not for Israel.”

Immediatly following Hagee’s speech, his wife Diana took the stage to put pressure on attendees for financial donations. “Our future does not depend on our economy,” stated Diana, “our future depends on our obedience to the living God. And if we give, and if we honor God, we can trust him to honor us. Our cause is Israel. Our cause is just. Our cause is right. Our cause is good, and our cause is holy.”

Critical Reflections on the 2010 Washington Summit
Throughout the conference a number of observations can be made. Firstly, now in its fifth year, CUFI has evolved and seems to have tightened it grip on some of the more stark language that can be easily attacked by its critics. Violent language calling for preemtive strikes on Iran were softened, and terms like “Islamofascism” – favorites of John Hagee in other mediums and previous Summits – were notably absent. Even Frank Gaffney who is openly hostile towards Islam corrected an attendee who referred to Islam as “Islamofascism” preferring to call it jihad. However, the emphasis on these issues and the preferred action to be taken against them remained the same as in previous years. There was also a strong sense that despite CUFI’s obvious purpose being the support of Israel, the interest among many of the Summit attendees was the salvation of America. Standing with Israel was always framed as an “American Issue.” Senator Joseph Lieberman, after once again comparing John Hagee to Moses, stated “Support of Israel is as American as apple pie and baseball.” It is this issue that helps confirm the eschatological worldview of participants and leaders as well. Their absolute belief in Genesis 12:3, combined with a belief in the imminence of divine judgement propels them to support Israel, ultimately it would seem for many, to ensure America survives.

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  • Rachel Tabachnick Rocks

    Rachel Tabachnick one of the best activists against Christian Zioniont and CUFI’s dangerous beliefs and how the affect US foreign policy and the Middle East conflict (they support and fund the settlements) had this recently:

    Denver, Keep Fighting and Educating About CUFI
    Following are video links and other resources used in my presentations given in Denver this past week about the dangers of partnering with CUFI.
    The Colorado Allied Jewish Federation had scheduled John Hagee to speak at a major fundraiser in Denver on November 21, but there was an outcry from the local Jewish community and the invitation was withdrawn. The backlash was immediate. Articles accused those Jews who objected to Hagee’s invitation as choosing support for progressive social values over support of Israel. The head of the Houston Jewish Federation claimed that liberal Jews “would rather save spotted owls than stand tall for Israel.” David Brog, the Jewish executive of John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI) who promotes the organization to Jewish communities around the nation, is now scheduled to speak at the event in place of Hagee.

    I’ve just returned from Denver, where I spoke both publicly and privately, to Jews and Christians, about the many reasons why this partnership is dangerous to Jews and to Israel’s prospects for peace, and a problem for healthy interfaith relations. Following are some of the resources used in my presentations

  • Nur Alia

    So it seems

    These Christian Zionist ideologies forget some things about Israel.

    The first is that there are Christian Palistinians, and the Israelis make no distinction between Muslims and Christians. Every Palistinian is treated the same, stolen from the same, thier worship is discuaraged the same, humiliated, deisinfranchied, and dehumanized exactly the same.

    And yet for the Christian Zionists, they would support occupation, over and above the Christian Palistinians who live in, and protect the site where Prophet Jesus (saw) was born and revealed his messages.

    The second thing is…

    Where exactly in the Bible does it say to support occupation, thievery, hate, collective punishment, disproprtionate, and indiscriminate murder and suffering for a political ideology?

  • Mohammed Abbasi

    what a dangerous cult

  • Jack Cope

    I believe it is the law Sir David. I am not sure of the penalty for not complying but I believe it involves some very nasty pink things and deprivation of ‘Dad rights’ like control of the TV remote.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    I know its my job as a dad to embarrass by daughter as much as possible.

  • Jack Cope

    I’ll put them in the ’embarrassed’ category then 😉

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    I teach Irish dancing too lol

  • Jack Cope

    Sir David, you indeed rock, in fact you rocked anyway so you now double rock. I’m sure your children will be proud/embarrassed 😀

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Ah father ted Where are you now ?
    Do I rock? :-)

  • Jack Cope

    Steady Khushboo, he/she/it riles me sometimes, just ignore him/her/it. Thankfully, we can have faith in the rest of mankind that is not terminally stupid. And you’re right about Obama, the guy dares try and say ‘erm, excuse me Israel, would you mind just, you know, playing nice and sticking to the rules a little bit if that’s not to much trouble?’. This put’s him at odds with the nutters and means means you get prats like him/her/it shout ‘HOW DARE HE TELL THEM TO FOLLOW THE RULES LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!!’ because to peeps like him/her/it, Israel is needed for some anti-Christ thing or something. Whatever it is, you can tell they don’t give a tinkers about Jews or Israel, just themselves.

  • Khushboo

    Porky has no real sources to back him up. He just says whatever shite comes out of his mouth or whatever crap he gets from hate sites. He obviously doesn’t do his own research and looks at sources directly. He has no evidence against Obama. In fact, Obama has been supporting Israel funding them billions of $$$ but b/c he’s half black, he’s being hated on. How could our might messenger be an anti-Christ when he loves Christ. When Christ comes back, he’ll them that he’s a Muslim, not a Jew. Muslim Arabs have every right to live in the West Bank since they were originally there. Jews can live there too but I doubt there will ever be a peaceful solution b/c of haters like Porky. He’s pathetic and I’m done talking to him.

  • Ali al Hindi

    These zionists are blinded by their rumour mongering and being heroes of their armaggaedon fantasys. They have no idea that “Israel” in “God bless those who bless Israel” is not a reference to the modern zionist state nor the israelite community. It is instead a clear reference to Jacob, who was renamed as Israel.

    Moreover, that verse then says to curse those who curse Israel. And yet curses upon Israelite community is present throughout the bible (OT & NT).

  • Jack Cope

    And yes Mr Pork, I have an answer to your junk, so does everyone, but why bother when you just ignore it? Peace Be Upon You.

  • Jack Cope

    Is everyone else reading Mr Pork’s stuff? To me it just comes out:

    Blah blah blah scream holler CAPITAL RANT blah blah blah blah ARSE FECK DRINK GIRLS* scream scream blah CAPITAL SNAKE racist slur rant rant blah blah blah small minded world view blah blah blah orientalist junk blah blah blah blah blah Obama Muslim blah blah <3 <3 <3 Geller blah blah blah she makes so much sense blah blah blah school kid wet dream time blah blah

    Or is that just me?

    *(If you know the significance of that then you rock 😛 )

  • http://gmail halalpork

    West Bank is in fact Judea and Samaria.The Muslim Arabs have no right to be there.In fact all the lands conquered by Muslim invaders should be taken back from them by force.Christ Jesus came in human flesh as a Jew among the chosen people of God.Hence every Christian on the face of this earth must support Israel.Mohammad came as ANTI-CHRIST and his followers are also anti-Christ and hence Anti-Jewish and Anti-Christian.Obama is a supporter of the Muslim world against Israel and should be ousted in 2012 at all costs.Clintons are no much better either.It was unfortunate,the Americans had to make a choice between Clintons and Obama under the circumstances.Time has almost run out for this Imposter,who wishes to destroy Israel at all cost but he will be defeated during the next presidential election as in recent elections.He is now a wounded and lame duck president .

  • Khushboo

    *head explodes*

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  • Christian Zionism Exposed


    “But Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is no fantasy. Nor is the spread of Jewish settlements in these territories. Nor the unequal treatment of Jewish colonisers and Palestinian inhabitants. Nor the institutionalised discrimination against Israeli Arab citizens in various spheres of life.”

    “rolls eyes”

    The funding for the settlements comes mainly from American neo cons and Christian Zionists. The Israeli govt has lamented the lax US tax laws that allow a loophole in the US to be exploited. Are you unaware that the Christian Zionist tax exempt funding from America is one the backbones of the settlements?

    Read this 6 page report, ironically written by Israeli’s.

    Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank
    HAR BRACHA, West Bank — Twice a year, American evangelicals show up at a winery in this Jewish settlement in the hills of ancient Samaria to play a direct role in biblical prophecy, picking grapes and pruning vines.

    Believing that Christian help for Jewish winemakers here in the occupied West Bank foretells Christ’s second coming, they are recruited by a Tennessee-based charity called HaYovel that invites volunteers “to labor side by side with the people of Israel” and “to share with them a passion for the soon coming jubilee in Yeshua, messiah.”

    But during their visit in February the volunteers found themselves in the middle of the fight for land that defines daily life here. When the evangelicals headed into the vineyards, they were pelted with rocks by Palestinians who say the settlers have planted creeping grape vines on their land to claim it as their own. Two volunteers were hurt. In the ensuing scuffle, a settler guard shot a 17-year-old Palestinian shepherd in the leg.

    “These people are filled with ideas that this is the Promised Land and their duty is to help the Jews,” said Izdat Said Qadoos of the neighboring Palestinian village. “It is not the Promised Land. It is our land.”

    HaYovel is one of many groups in the United States using tax-exempt donations to help Jews establish permanence in the Israeli-occupied territories — effectively obstructing the creation of a Palestinian state, widely seen as a necessary condition for Middle East peace.

    The result is a surprising juxtaposition: As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.

    A New York Times examination of public records in the United States and Israel identified at least 40 American groups that have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade. The money goes mostly to schools, synagogues, recreation centers and the like, legitimate expenditures under the tax law. But it has also paid for more legally questionable commodities: housing as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas.

    In some ways, American tax law is more lenient than Israel’s. The outposts receiving tax-deductible donations — distinct from established settlements financed by Israel’s government — are illegal under Israeli law. And a decade ago, Israel ended tax breaks for contributions to groups devoted exclusively to settlement-building in the West Bank.

    Now controversy over the settlements is sharpening, and the issue is sure to be high on the agenda when President Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, meet in Washington on Tuesday.

    While a succession of American administrations have opposed the settlements here, Mr. Obama has particularly focused on them as obstacles to peace. A two-state solution in the Middle East, he says, is vital to defusing Muslim anger at the West. Under American pressure, Mr. Netanyahu has temporarily frozen new construction to get peace talks going. The freeze and negotiations, in turn, have injected new urgency into the settlers’ cause — and into fund-raising for it.

    The use of charities to promote a foreign policy goal is neither new nor unique — Americans also take tax breaks in giving to pro-Palestinian groups. But the donations to the settler movement stand out because of the centrality of the settlement issue in the current talks and the fact that Washington has consistently refused to allow Israel to spend American government aid in the settlements. Tax breaks for the donations remain largely unchallenged, and unexamined by the American government. The Internal Revenue Service declined to discuss donations for West Bank settlements. State Department officials would comment only generally, and on condition of anonymity.

    “It’s a problem,” a senior State Department official said, adding, “It’s unhelpful to the efforts that we’re trying to make.”

    Daniel C. Kurtzer, the United States ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005, called the issue politically delicate. “It drove us crazy,” he said. But “it was a thing you didn’t talk about in polite company.”

    He added that while the private donations could not sustain the settler enterprise on their own, “a couple of hundred million dollars makes a huge difference,” and if carefully focused, “creates a new reality on the ground.”

    Most contributions go to large, established settlements close to the boundary with Israel that would very likely be annexed in any peace deal, in exchange for land elsewhere. So those donations produce less concern than money for struggling outposts and isolated settlements inhabited by militant settlers. Even small donations add to their permanence.

    For example, when Israeli authorities suspended plans for permanent homes in Maskiot, a tiny settlement near Jordan, in 2007, two American nonprofits — the One Israel Fund and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities —raised tens of thousands of dollars to help erect temporary structures, keeping the community going until officials lifted the building ban.

    Israeli security officials express frustration over donations to the illegal or more defiant communities.


    Support From a Preacher

    Late one afternoon in March, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. landed in Israel and headed to his Jerusalem hotel to prepare for a weeklong effort to rekindle Middle East peace talks.

    Across town, many of the leading Israeli officials on Mr. Biden’s schedule, among them Prime Minister Netanyahu, were in a convention hall listening to the Rev. John Hagee, an influential American preacher whose charities have donated millions to projects in Israel and the territories. Support for the settlements has become a cause of some leading conservative Republicans, like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

    “Israel exists because of a covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 3,500 years ago — and that covenant still stands,” Mr. Hagee thundered. “World leaders do not have the authority to tell Israel and the Jewish people what they can and cannot do in the city of Jerusalem.”

    The next day, Israeli-American relations plunged after Israel announced plans for 1,600 new apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their future capital.

    Israeli officials said Mr. Hagee’s words of encouragement had no effect on government decision making. And the preacher’s aides said he was not trying to influence the peace talks, just defending Israel’s right to make decisions without foreign pressure.


    Opaque Finances

    Religious charities are still more opaque; the tax code does not require them to disclose their finances publicly.

    Mr. Hagee is one of the few Christian Zionists who advertises his philanthropy in Israel and its territories, at least $58 million as of last year, distributed through a multimedia empire that spins out a stream of books, DVDs and CDs about Israel’s role in biblical prophecy.

    Mr. Hagee’s aides say he makes a large majority of his donations within Israel’s 1967 boundaries and seeks to avoid disputed areas. Yet a sports complex in the large settlement of Ariel — whose future is in dispute — bears his name. And a few years ago, according to officials at the yeshiva at Har Bracha, Mr. Hagee donated $250,000 to expand a dormitory.

    The yeshiva is the main growth engine of the settlement, attracting students who put down roots. (Some are soldiers, and the head rabbi there has called upon them to refuse orders to evict settlers.) After the yeshiva was started in 1992, “the place just took off,” growing to more than 200 families from 3, said the yeshiva’s spokesman, Yonaton Behar. “The goal,” he added, “is to grow to the point where there is no question of uprooting Har Bracha.”

  • Badger

    “It is has become an accepted fact among America’s elites that the great majority of the Palestinian people want to live in peace, side by side with the Israeli people – I’m sorry, somebody needs to prove it to me… The reality, ladies and gentlemen is this: evil men, who worship death, they brag about. Evil men who worship death, at this very moment are planning for you and for me, and for Israelis and for free men and women all over the world, sorrows unimaginable to us.”

    How, precisely, does one prove a negative? How are the Palestinians meant to prove that they don’t want a war? I mean, if they did want a war, wouldn’t they have actually declared it by now? It’s not like the world’s short of people willing to sell them arms, or provide financing for anyone who wants it. After all, if you can smuggle in something as large as a landrover, a tank’s gonna be a piece of cake and [generalisation]Middle Eastern peeps aren’t exactly shy and retiring types[/generalisation]- if there was an actual war, the wall the Israelis are building would be under incessant attack, there’d be raids, constant mortar fire, never ending crappy videos on Al Jazeera about how the scuzzy jews are being squashed underfoot and how just their cause is, and morons from all over signing up to join them blah blah blah.

    Instead what are we getting? “Bawwwwwwww! The nasty Israelis are being mean to us! Bawwwww! And the Americans are being mean to us! Bawwww!” and in exchange we get the likes of the crap I’ve quoted above. I know people who have endured unimaginable sorrows- the cause of them wasn’t muslims, but nationalists with dreams of a Greater Croatia/Serbia/Albania. If everyone could get off their damn religious high horses and swallow their pride this whole thing would be sorted in pretty short order. But until then:

    “Be afraid of the Palestinians! They’re smuggling washing machines in to Gaza as we speak! Before we know it they’ll have washed our whites with a red sock and turned everything pink!”
    “Be afraid of the Israelis! They are bringers of the false washing powder! You think your shirts are white, but when you look at them closely they are in fact blue! And they smell of flowers- if we have men smelling of flowers there will be earthquakes!”

  • JD

    But isn’t excessive criticism of Israel or Zionism evidence of an anti-semitic bias? In his book, The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz argues that when criticism of Israel “crosses the line from fair to foul” it goes “from acceptable to anti-semitic”.

    People who take this view say the line is crossed when critics single Israel out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Israel by harsher criteria than they use for other states; when they misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light; when they vilify the Jewish state; and so on. All of which undoubtedly is foul. But is it necessarily anti-semitic?

    No, it is not. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a bitter political struggle. The issues are complex, passions are inflamed, and the suffering is great. In such circumstances, people on both sides are liable to be partisan and to “cross the line from fair to foul”. When people who side with Israel cross that line, they are not necessarily anti-Muslim. And when others cross the line on behalf of the Palestinian cause, this does not make them anti-Jewish. It cuts both ways

  • JD

    First, the ideology of Jewish nationalism was irrelevant to many of the Jews, as well as non-Jewish sympathisers, who were drawn to the Zionist goal of creating a Jewish state in Palestine. They saw Israel in purely humanitarian or practical terms: as a safe haven where Jews could live as Jews after centuries of being marginalised and persecuted.

    This motive was strengthened by the Nazi murder of one-third of the world’s Jewish population, the wholesale destruction of Jewish communities in Europe, and the plight of masses of Jewish refugees with nowhere to go.

    Second, you do not have to be an anti-semite to reject the belief that Jews constitute a separate nation in the modern sense of the word or that Israel is the Jewish nation state. There is an irony here: it is a staple of anti-semitic discourse that Jews are a people apart, who form “a state within a state”. Partly for this reason, some European anti-semites thought that the solution to “the Jewish question” might be for Jews to have a state of their own. Herzl certainly thought he could count on the support of anti-semites.

    What is anti-semitism? Although the word only goes back to the 1870s, anti-semitism is an old European fantasy about Jews. The composer Richard Wagner exemplified it when he said: “I hold the Jewish race to be the born enemy of pure humanity and everything noble in it.” An anti-semite sees Jews this way:

    But Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is no fantasy. Nor is the spread of Jewish settlements in these territories. Nor the unequal treatment of Jewish colonisers and Palestinian inhabitants. Nor the institutionalised discrimination against Israeli Arab citizens in various spheres of life. These are realities. It is one thing to oppose Israel or Zionism on the basis of an anti-semitic fantasy; quite another to do so on the basis of reality. The latter is not anti-semitism.

  • Beautiful Muslim Doll

    Superb as usual, Rabbi Beliak is a great exposer of these dangerous opportunists. He also wrote one of the best rebuttals to “Obsession” when the DVD was doing the rounds at election time.

    One of our underappreciated allies. He deserves more exposure, i’m pleased to see this published here. “Jews on First” is a spectacular website, a treasure trove of information on the Christian Taliban dispensionalists

    But no credit given to him? :) He deserves to be added to the links on the front page of Loon Watch

    By the way, Max Blumenthal another great CUFI and Neo Con buster should have a report about this CUFI meeting, any day soon, so should Richard Silverstein,

  • NassirH

    Loon-Con 2010!

  • mindy1

    Loons+strong religious beliefs= 😯 This how you get people who believe other groups of people are evil

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