Friday, May 23, 2008

The other mad priest

Ami Isseroff has the exact right measure of this outrage:

..."in the 1990s, Pastor Hagee said the following:

Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said ‘I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.’ So few went that Herzl went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust.“Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says — Jeremiah writing — ‘They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,’ meaning there’s no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don’t let your heart be offended. I didn’t write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.

.... Hagee's remarks also included anti-Semitism. Hagee also said that "Jews are spiritually dead." Darn right, if we had any spunk, we would've tarred and feathered him. There is really a limit to the accommodation of alien views. Anti-Semitism can flourish even among well meaning people if Jews do not draw any lines and insist on elementary respect.

Therefore,

Zionists should extend the hand of friendship to anyone who offers it. But the Zionist movement must remain the province of Zionists and Jews, led by committed Jewish Zionists who share our fundamental values and who represent the Jewish people. We cannot and should not put ourselves in the unfortunate position of being responsible for the views of supporters who have a totally different value system, or of being vulnerable to the damage that can by caused by their sometimes eccentric, ill considered or obnoxious views. We have enough trouble defending our own different viewpoints.

The invitation to Pastor John Hagee to speak at the gala AIPAC convention was a divisive lapse in judgment. It held within it the potential for disaster, and that potential has come to fruition.

Hagee's strange fulminations remind me of another religious fanatic on a mission from God, Jimmy Carter, whose view of Biblical prophecies and the role of Jews is no less repellent than Hagee's. The two men are equivalent in their Jesus-inspired fantasies about Jews:

Jimmy Carter tells a strange and revealing story near the beginning of his latest book, the sensationally titled Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. It is a story that suggests that the former president's hostility to Israel is, to borrow a term, faith-based.

On his first visit to the Jewish state in the early 1970s, Carter, who was then still the governor of Georgia, met with Prime Minister Golda Meir, who asked Carter to share his observations about his visit. Such a mistake she never made. "With some hesitation," Carter writes, "I said that I had long taught lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures and that a common historical pattern was that Israel was punished whenever the leaders turned away from devout worship of God. I asked if she was concerned about the secular nature of her Labor government."

Jews, in my experience, tend to become peevish when Christians, their traditional persecutors, lecture them on morality, and Carter reports that Meir was taken aback by his "temerity." He is, of course, paying himself a compliment. Temerity is mandatory when you are doing God's work, and Carter makes it clear in this polemical book that, in excoriating Israel for its sins -- and he blames Israel almost entirely for perpetuating the hundred-year war between Arab and Jew -- he is on a mission from God.

Where they part ways is in their respective roles: the one is a religious cleric, the other a politician. Politicians endorsed by clerics can discard easily the burden of meddling priests, such as Hagee and Wright. Carter, a politician himself, can no more disown the religious mullah in him than he can disown his role in facilitating the regime of the Ayatollahs. He is actually a very good example of why mixing religion and politics is a bad idea.

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