Christians United for Israel
Nearly five years ago to the day, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Pastor John Hagee and his dear friend Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg for an exclusive interview about their relationship and Hagee’s organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Scheinberg’s San Antonio synagogue, Congregation Rodfei Sholom, had recently been victimized by a spate of anti-Semitic graffiti including swastikas and references to the Ku Klux Klan spray-painted on the synagogue as well as on homes and cars in the surrounding Jewish neighborhood.
“As soon as I heard this had happened,” recalled Pastor Hagee, “my wife and I came down immediately to express our solidarity with the rabbi, with his congregation and the Jewish community of San Antonio. I want to say to all of the Christians in America, we stand with the Jewish people. An attack against this synagogue is an attack against Christians everywhere. We are united.”
This support for the Jewish people goes to the heart of what CUFI is all about.
At the time of the interview, CUFI was nearing its 10th anniversary and was already the largest pro-Israel organization in America with 2.5 million members. Just this past week, five years later, the Christian Zionist group welcomed its 10 millionth member.
“When we founded CUFI in 2006, I never dreamed we would reach such heights. But with God’s enduring favor, we have reached this milestone. I am grateful to all of those who have joined this movement and look forward to reaching millions more in the years to come,” Hagee told the Haym Salomon Center. “What is undeniably clear is that a small, committed group of individuals can have a large and lasting impact on American policy. CUFI is an integral part of the pro-Israel tapestry, and that will never change.”
At a time in our history when anti-Semitism is on the rise and anti-Israel attitudes are gaining momentum in Washington and progressive circles, Israel and American Jewry should rejoice that so many of our Christian brothers and sisters are standing with us to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and combat anti-Semitism.
In a pre-COVID world, CUFI would be hosting upwards of 50 events per month. Right now, they have taken to the internet to communicate with their supporters. These gatherings educate the faithful about policies to support and where their elected leaders stand on the issues. The group encourages their millions of members to contact their congressmen and senators through direct-emails, phone calls and posting on social media to express support for pro-Israel policies and legislation and the need to confront anti-Semitism. And Washington and state leaders would do well to remember that these folks vote.
The New Year is expected to be a busy time for the pro-Israel group, especially its lobbying arm, CUFI Action Fund.
“As we look to 2021, we are focused on a wide range of issues, from addressing the threats from rogue nations like Iran and Turkey to combating anti-Semitism here at home. As we have always done, we will support policies regardless of which side of the aisle is proposing them. We will work with those with whom we agree, seek to convince those who do not share our views, and call out the fringes on the far-right and far-left,” said CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandra Parker.
Regarding Iran, CUFI fears that a Biden administration will rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal. The Trump administration wisely pulled out of the deal in 2018 for numerous reasons including the plan’s failure to verify nuclear activities, disclose missile development, and address human rights violations and Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism.
CUFI sees a new Middle East developing, one in which Arab nations are recognizing Israel and peace is spreading by virtue of the Abraham accords. Reentering the nuclear agreement without major changes will only destabilize the region. CUFI intends to work toward a revamped version that addresses the original plan’s flaws.
Turkey is also on the Zionist group’s radar. Noting Turkey’s support of terrorism and its destabilizing effect on the region, CUFI welcomes the decision to remove the country from the F-35 program and will support ratcheting up sanctions against Turkey until there is fundamental shift in the regime’s behavior.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is based on anti-Semitism and exists to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. As CUFI correctly warns, “the old anti-Semitism of blatant hatred of Jews has been repackaged as anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel.” Contrary to mainstream media fairytales, there is nothing peaceful about the BDS campaign or its intentions.
As the movement picks up steam in academia, progressive circles and recently, among certain members of Congress, CUFI has trained thousands of campus leaders to confront the anti-Israel lies and anti-Semitism that have found a home at many of our universities and colleges. But defeating anti-Semitism requires defining it. CUFI strongly supports President Trump’s Executive Order adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. They are closely watching President-elect Biden’s cabinet and administration choices, especially in the Department of Education, to make sure the IHRA definition is enforced.
CUFI regards itself as “an army of millions of committed Christian Zionists, banded together as Christians United for Israel to strongly oppose anti-Semitism and stand with the Jewish people.” With a change in administrations, support for Israel is expected to wane. Now is a good time for the Washington power structure and bigots at large to be reminded that CUFI is 10 million strong and locked and loaded – so to speak, of course.
Paul Miller is president and executive director of Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter at @pauliespoint.