WASHINGTON (JTA) — Christians United for Israel objected to an advertisement run by a group it funds that depicted the president of the New Israel Fund wearing a horn.
"Although we are often demonized by our critics, CUFI never demonizes those with whom we disagree, and we object when anyone does," CUFI spokesman Ari Morgenstern told JTA.
The ad, run by Im Tirtzu, an Israeli right-wing grass-roots group, attempts to link the New Israel Fund to the Goldstone report, the U.N. Human Rights Council investigation last year that charged Israel with war crimes in the Gaza Strip during its military operation last winter.
"Without the New Israel Fund, there could be no Goldstone Report and Israel would not be facing international accusations of war crimes," says the ad, illustrated by a cartoon of Naomi Chazan, NIF’s president, sporting a horn and a predatory grin.
Im Tirtzu has singled out 16 groups from among the hundreds NIF funds as having contributed to Goldstone’s inquiry; NIF has denied funding one of the groups.
The army has acknowledged using data provided by some of the others in conducting its own inquiries into the Gaza war.
John Hagee Ministries, founded by the pastor who founded CUFI, donated a total of $200,000 to Im Tirtzu in 2008 and 2009, citing its pledge toward "public advocacy on behalf of the State of Israel and of Zionism on campuses," Morgenstern said.
Hagee Ministries did not have advance knowledge of the campaign, he said. A number of liberal pro-Israel groups have decried the ad and other attacks on NIF and human rights groups in Israel.
One of them, J Street, made an issue of CUFI’s funding of Im Tirtzu — the same guilt-by-association tactic that Im Tirtzu had used against NIF.
"This is a pro-settler group, with $100,000 of funding from Christians United For Israel, a conservative Christian Zionist organization run by Pastor John Hagee, who once stated that God sent Hitler to drive Jews to Israel," the statement said, citing an eschatological analysis from the late 1990s.
Hagee has since expressed "regret" for any pain he caused his Jewish friends and pledged "to express my faith in a way that is sensitive to and respectful of others, including the Jewish community."
Morgenstern said the tactic was outrageous.
"This link is part of a pattern of blatant mischaracterizations of CUFI by J Street that I think is indicative of their effort to shut divergent opinions out of the pro-Israel dialogue," Morgenstern said.
Asked whether Hagee Ministries would continue to fund Im Tirtzu, he would say only that "all activities of organizations have an impact on" the process of deciding which groups to fund.