By H. Malone for JewsOnFirst.org, December 19, 2006
Televangelist John Hagee recently added his voice to the conservative chorus slamming the findings of the Iraq Study Group. Hagee, founder of the Christian Zionist lobbying group Christians United for Israel (CUFI), emailed a warning to his evangelical supporters saying they should "beware" the group's chairman, former Secretary of State Jim Baker.
Hagee slammed Baker for supposedly promoting the position "that America's problems can be settled if the Israel-Arab affair is settled." Hagee also claimed that, as Secretary of State in the George H.W. Bush administration, Baker enlisted Syria's support for the first Iraq war by giving Damascus "a free hand" in Lebanon.(Syria had been an increasing presence in Lebanon since the early 1980s.)
Baker's "pragmatism" pressured Israel to freeze Jewish settlements and to roll back to the 1949 lines and accused Israel of being an obstruction to the peace process. (To read Hagee's email posted on CUFI's website, click here)
These are serious crimes in the eyes of Hagee and his supporters who believe Israel's right to every scrap of disputed territory is Biblically sanctioned. Baker's latest transgressions, according to Hagee, are just as bad:
Baker is once again sticking the knife in Israel's back by connecting America's problems with Iraq and Iran to Israel. He's saying that America's problems can be settled if the Israel-Arab affair is settled.
As one of a long list of recommendations, The Iraq Study Group report calls for direct talks between Israel and its neighbors, Syria and Lebanon and also with the Palestinians; it says that resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict would improve conditions in Iraq. The report also calls for the U.S. to open a dialogue with Iran and Syria.
Hagee is influential
What Hagee thinks on these issues does matter. Through his powerful network of 160 TV stations, Hagee speaks his strident pro-Israel message directly to millions in the Bible Belt, the backbone of the Bush Administration's political support. This past July, Hagee flexed some of that political muscle by sending 3,500 followers to lobby on Capital Hill for aggressive action against Iran. But as columnist Yossi Paritzky -- who writes for Ynet.com, the English-language website of a major Israeli daily, Yediot Ahronot, notes, there is a price for this love of Israel:
This is also the reason why these fundamentalist Christians reject even the slight withdrawal by the State of Israel from its biblical borders, which are the borders of God's promise. It is for good reason that our own Israeli fundamentalists, who sanctify every landmark and grave, are cherished and highly sought after lecturers in the churches of the southern US. Both sides accept the Bible as the sole manual to be followed on the political-diplomatic front.
But the Christian fundamentalists also have the "New Testament," which they believe with all their hearts, and according to which Jesus will again reveal himself to his believers following a terrible war. He will then propose to us, the Jews, the ultimate choice: Accepting him as Messiah and being rewarded with eternal life, or alienating him, as we did in the past, and then be doomed to endless hell.
Writing on his return from the Bible Belt, Paritzky reported meeting fundamentalist Christians who regard Iran and its nuclear weapons as a catalyst for the end times they believe will presage Jesus' return. (To read his whole commentary click here.)
Blaming the Iraqis
Hagee is, of course, not alone in his criticism of Baker and the Iraq Study Group's recommendations on Israel and Iran. Rush Limbaugh has taken to referring to it as the "Iraq Surrender Group" and the usual suspects, including conservative commentators Will F. Smith, Christopher Hitchens and Charles Krauthammer have all come out against part or all of the report's findings.
But as support for the war plummets, these "hawks" seem far more interested in blaming Iraqis for the violence that's been unleashed in the region than they are in trying to engage in a constructive debate over what the U.S. should do now. (For more on this, see Media Matters' analysis.)
Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly's perfectly sums up this pernicious line of thinking -- ""if the Iraqis want to kill each other, we should let them."
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President Bush before the war that we would be responsible for whatever happened in post-invasion Iraq, using a Pottery Barn maxim he told him, "You break it, you buy it."
Iraq is now officially on fire. But Hagee and the rest of his conservative cohort would rather see the country go up in flames than — God forbid — an attempt be made to engage with Iran.
The first part of CUFI Chairman John Hagee's email about the Iraq Study Group (see main story) announces his departure for Nigeria. He writes: "When I went to Nigeria in 2004 more than 3 million people came for one service to hear the Gospel."
That prompted a search for news reports about the massive service. We did not find any. But we learned from Wikipedia that the largest turnout for Pope John Paul II was in Manila, where four to five million people attended a mass in 1995. Wikipedia says that may have been the planet's largest assembly ever.
Hagee wrote in his John Hagee Ministries magazine in February (read it here but caution, as it's a large PDF) of an even bigger turnout in "my first time preaching in Nigeria. What a humbling experience that was! Nearly four million souls came to hear the Word of God with many traveling for days to attend the conference."
Neither Hagee's hometown San Antonio newspaper nor the London media, which reports diligently on Africa, noted the event. Whatever coverage the Nigerian press had done has faded from cyberspace.
If Hagee had not identified his host, Pastor Adeboye, for what he described as "one of the most memorable moments of my life," we would not know anything at all about this record-breaking event.
The OnlineNigeria website included Enoch Adeboye near the top of its August 2002 spread on the nation's 50 most powerful pastors. According to author Bideh Williams:
In Nigeria today, there are more than 50 of such powerful pastors in whose areas of speciality are miracles, prophecy, healing, teaching, preaching, marriage counselling, and are attracting people with such problems. They include Pastor Enoch Adeboye, general overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God. Humble, the mathematician-turned preacher has impacted on the lives of millions of Nigerians with his monthly Holy Ghost Night programme.
On every first Friday of the month, all roads virtually lead to the "Redeem Camp" at Kilometre 46, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, venue of the crusade. The programme attracts thousands of miracle seekers every month. And they come from as far as Kaduna , Benue , Ilorin , Ibadan , Lagos and Port Harcourt .
The RCCG is one of the fastest growing churches in Nigeria with branches all over the 36 states of the federation and in London and the United States . In Lagos alone, nearly every street has a branch or fellowship centre of the church. It has been said that this is in line with Adeboye’s vision to spread the gospel.
Click for the page, which briefly profiles 50 of Nigeria's leading pastors.
We found no mention by Adeboye of Hagee, but did find a report from last year in which the "overseer" complained that, when televangelist Benny Hinn preached at his campground, Hinn insultingly ignored his host Adeboye by not asking him to speak. Hinn also, according to Adeboye, said that he wasted $4 million on his visit. (More here.)