With the date of Netanyahu’s promise to annex part of the West Bank fast approaching, excitement among its supporters is reaching a feverish pitch, while analysists and others warn that it will spell the end of Israeli democracy and the formalization of a regime indistinguishable from apartheid.
One of annexation’s strongest supporters is Pastor John Hagee, the head of CUFI (Christians United for Israel) who Sunday wrote a full-throttled defense of annexation in Haaretz (America, Keep Your Word. Don’t Delay Israel’s Sovereignty Over Judea and Samaria).
Hagee’s editorial cannot be understood outside of his long-pursued apocalyptic and deeply antisemitic worldview.
John Hagee is an exceedingly dangerous man. He has for years pushed hate-mongering rhetoric against Muslims, Jews, and others, while advocating policies such as war with Iran to hasten the end of days in which the Jews (along with others) who fail to accept Christ will be destroyed.
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He describes this third world war in graphic terms: Israel will be covered "in a sea of human blood." He is not concerned about the dangers or ‘collateral’ human costs of the here-and-now of such policies, so convinced is he that Christ’s return will be welcomed by the survivors.
Hagee’s racism and antisemitism are so extreme that John McCain, then the presumptive Republican nominee for president, actually disavowed his support in 2008 (for comments suggesting that Hitler and six million dead Jews were God’s instrument to facilitate other Jews moving to Israel) despite his campaign courting the millions of evangelical Christians for whom Hagee was an influential figure.
His anti-Muslim screeds include a paranoid delusion that America has been "invaded by an invisible army of millions." He called for us to "identify our enemies and wipe them off the face of the Earth before they destroy us from within." "Islamics...hate us," he wrote, "because it’s their religious duty to hate us."
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His antisemitic attacks include many of the most dangerous myths of the modern era. Hagee has warned of an international plot led by the Rothschilds to undermine American sovereignty through controlling the federal reserve and international markets. He has described Hitler as a "hunter" sent by God to kill Jews who refused to move to Israel, and he described the Antichrist as a "half-Jew homosexual."
Blaming Jews for their own persecution, and connecting them with the Antichrist, is an obvious centerpiece of grotesque antisemitism.
For Hagee, Israel must not and cannot be divided into two states and Jerusalem must be united under Israeli control, for this is the critical precondition to Armageddon and its rapturous aftermath. Palestinian rights or suffering have no meaning here.
So Hagee argues that "the people of Israel...must live with the consequences of Jerusalem’s decisions therefore, those decisions are theirs alone to make." Of course, the Palestinans who currently live under the thumb of Israeli military rule also must live with those consequences, but they do not figure into his theological drama.
Hagee clearly sets out the foundation of Israel’s primacy to territorial sovereignty by announcing Israel owns the entire West Bank – "the Holy Land" – by biblical right, and "cannot be an occupier on land it owns.” Religious Zionists and secular nationalist zealots surely love this logic, but alas it is neither the basis of international law nor efforts at peace, since Palestinians are also a product of that land and seek (and deserve) both national rights and individual equality.
Hagee suggests – without evidence – that the Trump Mideast plan is "the most realistic effort ever offered by an American administration to end hostilities in the region." This is news to most analysts, who point out that it was designed without Palestinian input, that it gave Israel absolutely everything it wanted – including (critically) all of Jerusalem – and that it would leave in place of a Palestinian state a series of barely connected bantustan enclaves, which no Palestinian could possibly accept.
"It is now up to the Palestinians to make a decision," he writes. "They are unquestionably the masters of their own destiny." A greater and more disgusting lie has rarely been published on these pages.
The Palestinians of the West Bank are under the total control of the Israeli military, which controls nearly every aspect of their lives: individual movement, the economy, natural resources, building construction, and more, nurturing Jewish development and blocking Palestinian development at every turn. Palestinian construction is nearly totally forbidden, endless tracts of private land is stolen alongside public land used exclusively for Jews, vigilante violence passes daily unpunished, Palestinian movement is restricted through endless checkpoints, middle-of-the-night arrests (in part for the purpose of demonstrating Israeli power) are a daily occurrence, and more.
I frankly lack the space to elaborate on the perversity of telling Palestinians that they are the "masters of their own destiny." Of course, this gaslighting is the point. Palestinians are irrelevant to his story. The imminent War of Armegeddon is the key.
Hagee writes that, "Israel has repeatedly offered to make painful compromises in pursuit of peace with its neighbors to no avail." This is simply a lie, and one he has uttered in the past at greater length. Hagee often stokes Israeli maximalism and does so not with theological justification but with outright lies.
For example, he insisted that Israel had given up land to Egypt and received absolutely no peace in return. That should be news to Israel, whose greatest enemy has maintained a peace treaty with them for nearly half a century, allowing Israel to slash its military budget and direct its resources towards economic development instead. That peace treaty, in many ways, birthed the famous "start-up nation."
A similar treaty with the Palestinians – assuming it included East Jerusalem – would allow Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state, while enjoying similar economic benefits from around the world and an end to claims of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.
To be sure, Israel is not alone at fault in this not materializing. But for Hagee, it is of the must utmost theological importance that such a deal never materialize, for it would set back the eschatological war of death, destruction and (he is certain) rapture for those who accept Christ.
In short, Hagee is a hate-mongering bigot who mocks Palestinian rights, about which he openly cares nothing, while advocating for Israeli annexation of the West Bank, based primarily on biblical claims, in order to deliberately trigger the very real and bloody war that he is convinced will bring Christ’s return.
Israelis who embrace the annexation of the West Bank without equality for Palestinians happily accept CUFI’s money and influence, all too certain that such a war will never come to be. It is a frightening reality that such antisemitic pastors wield such financial and political influence on the Jewish state, and a damning indictment of how far right-wing Jewish nationalist opportunism is prepared to go.
True supporters of Israel (and of the Jewish people) would do well to stay clear of such "friends" and recognize the dangerous and immoral basis of their arguments for annexation and apartheid.
Joshua Shanes is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston and Director of its Arnold Center for Israel Studies