Why is J Street attacking John Hagee?


J Street has put out a press release criticizing Christians United for Israel leader Pastor John Hagee for apparently just expressing an opinion with which J Street doesn’t agree:

J Street strongly opposes Pastor John Hagee’s recent comments encouraging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "grow and develop the settlements of Israel as you see fit."

As large majorities of American Jews and other friends of Israel believe, continued settlement construction undermines the viability of the two-state solution and endangers Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic homeland.

Hagee’s full quote was that "50 million Christians" support "Israel’s sovereign right to grow and develop the settlements of Israel as you see fit and not yield to the pressure of the United States government." While J Street may not agree with it, Hagee’s opinion is hardly radical or even controversial — it’s simply the other side in an ongoing debate, an opinion that significant numbers of American Jews and Israelis would agree with. Apparently, though, J Street is upset that it is a Christian presenting that view. From the release:

We will add this extraordinarily unhelpful comment to the litany of reasons why J Street opposes an unholy alliance between right-wing Christian Zionist evangelicals and pro-Israel organizations. Besides being out of step with fundamental Jewish American values, Hagee’s so-called support for Israel is actually a means to an apocalyptic end of destruction or conversion for the Jewish people.

In our search for allies in the fight to keep Israel secure, American Jews should neither compromise our core Jewish values of tolerance and justice, nor gloss over the reality of the damage the settlement enterprise causes to Israel and the prospects for peace.

I’m confused. J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami has said that his organization was founded to demonstrate that there is more than one way to be pro-Israel, and that there needs to be a vibrant discussion about what is best for the Jewish state. He said a few months ago that the "orthodoxy" of opinion on Israel among mainstream pro-Israel groups was "dangerous." But now that the Obama administration has essentially adopted the policies that J Street has promoted, anyone who disagrees is being "extraordinarily unhelpful"? What happened to debate over what is best for Israel?

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 admonitition 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. foriegn policy. But even if one doesn’t want to believe that, why would you want to alienate thousands of motivated supporters of Israel? No one says you have to work with them today, but if Israel is seriously threatened in the future, wouldn’t they be valuable allies to have on your side?

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