(Videos recorded by Rachel Tabachnick; more videos coming shortly.)
By Max Blumenthal
On the evening after two days of talks between US Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Netanyahu appeared onstage with the far-right Texas-based Pastor John Hagee in Jerusalem.
The occasion was Hagee’s Night To Honor Israel, an event the preacher typically organizes as a forum to tout his ministry’s millions in donations to Israeli organizations and to level bellicose rhetoric against Israel’s perceived enemies.
On this evening, Hagee called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “the Hitler of the Middle East” and denounced the Goldstone Report as “character assassination by an unbiased and uninformed committee.”
Netanyahu welcomed the crowd of 1000 American evangelicals to Jerusalem, a city he described as “the undivided, eternal capitol of the Jewish people. Then, he told them, “I salute you! The Jewish people salute you!” He used the rest of his speech to call for “tough, biting sanctions” against Iran that “bite deep into its energy sector.”
Hagee and Netanyahu appear together on stage:
In the audience were top-level members of the Israeli government, from Ambassador Michael Oren to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Also present was Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of the illegal West Bank settlement of Efrat who gained notoriety for lobbying President Bill Clinton to pardon his friend, fugitive billionaire Marc Rich. Ayalon had stirred controversy days before when he refused to meet with a US congressional delegation brought to Israel by the progressive Jewish group J Street.
Part One of Hagee’s speech:
Pastor Hagee in Jerusalem 3/8/10 (Part II)
Hagee’s ceremony featured a 15-minute film highlighting the recipients of donations from John Hagee Ministries that totaled $58 million since 2001. The recipients included Jewish settlements from the West Bank like Gush Etzion and Shomron, which was involved in promoting an “Obama Hilltop project” that promoted more settlement building and compared Obama to Pharoah. Hagee also announced funding for a pressure group run by the settlers evacuated from Gush Katif in Gaza in 2005. During Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009, a group of Gush Katif residents lobbied the Israel government to allow them to resettle the Palestinian coastal region.
Who is Hagee funding in Israel?
The most notable of Hagee’s funding recipients was an organization called Im Tirtzu. A student representative of this group appeared in the film to thank Hagee for “help[ing] us to ensure that students in Israel are on the right path, the path of Zionism, the love of Israel, the path of solidarity.” Another student called for “the second revolution in Israel.”
In February, Im Tirtzu funding a smear campaign against former Knesset member and New Israel Fund Director Naomi Chazan that included posters caricaturing her with a horn on her head. The group misleadingly accused the New Israel Fund of bankrolling 16 human rights organizations that contributed documentation to the Goldstone Report.
The smear campaign led to unsuccessful legislation in the Knesset designed to further cripple already marginalized Israeli human rights groups. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post fired Chazan as a columnist without explanation. Gideon Levy, a columnist for Ha’aretz, called Im Tirtzu “a McCarthyite movement” for its attacks on Chazan.
Although CUFI attempted to distance itself from Im Tirtzu’s campaign, the organization’s appearance during CUFI’s Jerusalem ceremony suggested that Hagee would continue to provide it with funding well into the future.
Republican Senator John McCain repudiated the endorsement of Hagee during his 2008 presidential campaign after Hagee’s statements describing the Holocaust as a fulfillment of divine prophecy came to light. Hagee has also said that he believed the anti-Christ was “partially Jewish, as was Adolph Hitler.” However, none of Hagee’s comments have deterred Israeli government officials from embracing him or accepting his millions in annual charity.
During Hagee’s speech, he made no secret of his support for the illegal settlement enterprise that has been the source of difficulties between the US and Israel. “The settlements are not the problem,” he boomed from the podium. “The problem is the refusal of Arab leaders to respect the right of Jewish people to live anywhere in the Middle East.”
Hagee received a rousing ovation from the crowd and the Israeli government officials seated beside the podium when he proclaimed, “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. They don’t have the authority to tell them what they can and cannot build, who can and and cannot live there.”
The following day, on March 9, Vice President Joseph Biden arrived in Israel to meet with Netanyahu and officials from the Palestinian Authority. He told reporters after touching down that he saw “a moment of real opportunity.”
A complete list of Israeli organizations funded by John Hagee Ministries is below:
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Christian Friends of Israeli Communities — Gush Katif (settlement related)
Ariel Israel Sports Building (settlement related)
Council of Young Israel Rabbis (settlement related)
Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon
Ben Gurion University, Negev
Boys Town Jerusalem
Ehrenberg Endowment Holocaust education
Elon Moreh Shechem, “renewal of the settlement in shomron”
Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
Friends of Gush Katif (settlement related)
Hadadi Breast Cancer Survivors
Yeshiva Har Bracha
Im Tirtzu, student rep: “We thank you, John Hagee, for your support, which has helped us to ensure that students in israel and in jerusalem are on the right path, the path of zionism, the love of israel, the path of solidarity.” Other student: “We couldn’t have done it without the help of John Hagee Ministries this evening — the second revolution in Israel.”
Na’aleh — Jewish Agency
Jewish Federation, Greater Houston
Jewish Federation, San Antonio
American Friends of Laniado Hospital
Leo Baeck Education Center
American Friends of Magen David
Menachem Begin Heritage Center
Nefesh b’Nefesh (settles diaspora Jews in Israel, including in settlements)
Netanya Academic College (Hagee build the “Jewish Heritage Center, recruited the college rabbi, is paying for construction of dormitories, received an honoris causa degree)
John and Diana Hagee Lovingkindness Convention Center, Ohr Torah Stone (Efrat settlement, West Bank) founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
One Family Fund
Save a Child’s Heart
Table to Table
Tikva Children’s Home
Western Galilee Hospital
Shurat Hadin Israel Law Center
Friends of Israeli Disabled Veterans
Ziporah Education center
OR movement’s information and relocation center (settling negev and galilee)
Gush Etzion settlement, West Bank: “We are thankful to Pastor Hagee for all of his efforts.”
Independent journalist and filmmaker Max Blumenthal is the New York Times best-selling author of Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party and a Nation Institute Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Salon.com, and Mondoweiss, among other outlets. You can read his blog at maxblumenthal.com, where this post originally appeared.