J Street is wrong about Christian Zionists

To The Editor:

Re: J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami’s Op Ed on Christians United for Israel and J Street’s repeated attacks on Christian Zionism.

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) welcomes J Street’s acknowledgement of its error in asserting that CUFI contributed to the Israeli-based organization Im Tirtzu, but is disappointed to see that J Street has failed to back up its words with actions by correcting the erroneous assertion on its Web site.

CUFI also welcomes J Street’s desire to hold a discussion on “what policies are likely to ensure the survival of a democratic Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.” But CUFI remains of the opinion that those policies should be made in Jerusalem and decided upon by the people of Israel. The Israelis have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to take significant risks for peace. We reject the notion that they need J Street or any other American group to explain to them the realities of the Middle East.

CUFI welcomes dialogue with all who come in good will. But we believe that promoting false stereotypes about Christian Zionists is hardly evidence of good will.  J Street has repeatedly asserted that Christians support Israel to "precipitate" Armageddon, and Jeremy Ben-Ami unfortunately repeats this false allegation in his latest Op Ed.

Just as portions of the Tanakh and the Talmud discuss Jewish eschatology (‘end times’ theology), so do portions of the Christian Bible. However, Christian Zionism is no more motivated by Christian eschatology than Jewish Zionism is by Jewish eschatology.

The two faiths share a belief that the ‘end times’ and the coming of the Messiah will be centered on events in Israel. The primary differences between the two faiths are first, of course, that Christians believe it will be the Messiah’s second coming and Jews believe it will be His first. More importantly, while many Jews believe that there are certain things the Jewish people can do to hasten the coming the Messiah, pre-millennial dispensationalist Christians (such as Pastor John Hagee and the majority Christian Zionists) believe that the return of the Messiah is on a fixed, divine timetable that they are powerless to change. So while followers of this interpretation of Christian eschatology may see — as do many Jews — the rise of the modern State of Israel as Biblically prophesized, they do not believe the actions of any human can hasten the ‘end of days.’

To assert that Christian Zionism is driven by Christian eschatology is factually incorrect, theologically impossible, and deeply offensive to millions of Christians who know exactly why they stand with Israel. There are a variety of political, religious and historical motivations for Christian Zionism. As Eric Fingerhut noted in a JTA blog post discussing this subject: “As for the allegation that Christian support for Israel is all part of an eschatology having to do with the Second Coming, I’ve talked to enough Christian Zionists over the past few years to believe that for the vast majority of them, their support for the Jewish state is genuinely motivated by Genesis’s admonition that God will bless those who bless the Jewish people, as well as their respect for Judaism as a foundation for Christianity or even their general beliefs about U.S. foreign policy.”

The Biblical foundation for Christian support for Israel is rooted in the promises of Genesis not the prophecies of Revelation.

Finally, if J Street is serious about ending its attacks on CUFI and John Hagee, then it should stop mischaracterizing the donations made by John Hagee Ministries (JHM).  In particular they should acknowledge three crucial points:

1. The vast majority of the money that JHM gives to Israel stays within the pre-1967 green line.  In 2009, for example, donations to entities in the West Bank comprised less than five percent of the $9 million JHM gave to Israeli causes.

2. What little money was given over the green line was given to those communities that almost all observers recognize will remain a part of Israel in any negotiated two-state compromise.

3. The funds given to these communities went to support social services such as schools, hospitals or youth/sports oriented facilities. 

In our four years of existence, the only groups that CUFI has attacked are terrorist groups devoted to the destruction of Israel. We view it as a distraction from far more important issues to have to defend ourselves from attacks by another advocacy organization. As soon as J Street demonstrates that it is sincere about ceasing its attacks on us and sitting down in dialogue, we will join them without hesitation. 

Ari Morgenstern
spokesman for Christians United for Israel

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