Christians United for Israel opened its third annual summit.
The second day of the conference will feature a session marking Israel’s 60th anniversary and an evening banquet attended by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Dan Gillerman, Israel’s outgoing U.N. ambassador.
Saying the coverage at last year’s summit was “intrusive,” Christians United for Israel is barring media attendance at the four-day event in Washington except on Tuesday.
“CUFI received complaints last year that the press was intrusive and that their presence inhibited free discussion,” said Ronn Torossian, a spokesman for the organization. “CUFI wants to create a more intimate and open setting this year, which will be more beneficial to our members and core audience.”
Both Christians United for Israel, which was founded in 2006, and its founder, Texas pastor John Hagee, have been the target of much criticism of late.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, earlier this year called on Jewish groups not to attend Hagee’s events, saying Christians United did not have Israel’s best interests in mind.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, repudiated Hagee’s endorsement in May after learning of a recording in which Hagee said Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews back to Israel.
Earlier this month, lawyers for Hagee had the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube remove some 80 clips of the pastor, contending they violated copyright restrictions. The timing of the removal, just weeks before the summit, prompted blogger Max Blumenthal to accuse Hagee of suppressing free speech.
Blumenthal filmed a critical documentary of last year’s Christians United summit that portrayed some attendees as supporting Israel because of end-time beliefs.
Among those scheduled to attend this year’s summit are Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes, U.S. Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.), New York Times columnist William Kristol and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican.