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Bruce Wilson

Bruce Wilson

Posted: June 17, 2008 11:59 AM

[Reddit this post!] Last Friday, to moderate media fanfare, an Anti-Defamation League press release declaring the ADL's acceptance of an apology letter from Pastor John Hagee seemed to signal the political rehabilitation of Hagee, John McCain's former political endorser likened by Senator Joseph Lieberman to Moses. John Hagee has been recently disgraced by the public airing of an audio clip from a sermon in which Hagee claimed Hitler was an agent sent by God to force Europe's Jews, with persecution and Holocaust, towards Palestine. The alleged, divinely-mandated real estate red-lining of Jews, claimed Hagee in his sermon, is "God's top priority".

Hagee's letter to the ADL apologized for the wrong sermon, one Hagee said he gave in 1999. John Hagee had previously suggested the sermon in question, at the heart of the recent controversy over Hagee's "God sent Hitler" remarks, was "decades" old.

In fact, Pastor John Hagee's "God sent Hitler" sermon was given in between September 24, 2005 and January 1, 2006. Further, John Hagee Ministries still sells, to this day, that sermon from its website.

Regardless of the facts, a number of media outlets picked up the story that was generated by Hagee's misleading or deceptive apology : Haaretz and the New York Times both declared Pastor Hagee had truly apologized, and over the next few days other Jewish media publications entrained and inadvertently sanctioned the inaccurate account: The Jerusalem Post, the JTA News Service both announced Hagee's "apology".

Pastor John Hagee's apology letter to the ADL appeared to claim that a 1999 sermon Hagee had given was the source of the recent controversy that forced John McCain to renounce Hagee's political endorsement. But, Hagee's "God sent Hitler" sermon, the actual source of the controversy, was in fact given in late 2005: In the sermon, Hagee mentioned damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and another statement, by Hagee, in the sermon establishes the year: 2005. Hurricane Rita made landfall September 24, 2005 and so Hagee had to have given the "God sent Hitler" sermon between then and January 1, 2006.

In short, despite Pastor John Hagee's claims to the contrary, his "God sent Hitler" sermon was anything but 'historic'. It was shockingly contemporary.

Hagee's alleged, wildly misleading or deceptive apology letter to the ADL resembled in nature a press release that Hagee issued in the wake of the original "God sent Hitler" controversy: it muddied the waters. Hagee's letter was sufficiently vague that the Pastor could not be accused, technically, of lying but Hagee's letter to the ADL, citing the wrong sermon, could be seen as an extremely misleading non-apology, especially considering that John Hagee's Ministries still sells the three sermon set, "Countdown To Crisis", which contains the late 2005 sermon in which Hagee made the controversial "God sent Hitler" claim.

In his letter to the ADL, addressed directly to ADL head, Holocaust survivor Abraham Foxman, Hagee stated:

I have devoted much of my adult life to combating anti-Semitism and supporting the state of Israel. My commitment to eradicating anti-Semitism, including its historic antecedents in the Christian community, has been central to my ministry.

... In a sermon in 1999, I grappled with the vexing question of why a loving God would allow the evil of the Holocaust to occur. I know how sensitive the issue of the Holocaust is and should be to the Jewish community and I regret if my Jewish friends felt any pain as a result...

... I cannot deny the tenets of my faith. However, I will work to express my faith in a way that is sensitive to and respectful of others, including the Jewish community.

In response, ADL head Foxman wrote:

We welcome Pastor Hagee's letter clarifying his views on Jews, the Holocaust and Israel. We appreciate his regret over the pain his statements may have caused to any in the Jewish community. We value his acknowledgment that the Holocaust was a tragedy unique in its evil and horror and the limits of our understanding in seeking to comprehend the mind of God.

Pastor Hagee has devoted his life to combating anti-Semitism and supporting the State of Israel.

Abe Foxman's willingness to let Hagee off the hook could be seen as an expression of the delicate balancing act the ADL, caught between battling constituencies, seems prone to, and the ADL's acceptance of Pastor Hagee's dubious apology for the wrong sermon comes in the wake of a counterattack mounted by Pastor Hagee's supporters, within the US and Israel, who have sought to characterize the controversy over Hagee's "God sent Hitler" statements as purely driven by a single Hagee utterance. As Schmuel Rosner wrote, on his Haaretz blog June 1, 2008:

... people were offended, or maybe cynical. And they were using Mr Hagee's views to discredit him. Dumbfounded, his followers and supporters were watching his demise but had no way of helping. All he was doing, explained Mr Brog, was trying to explain the unexplainable. He believes that "an omnipotent God must sanction the evil in our world" -- so he was searching for God's motives. "Only a moral myopic could confuse this stalwart friend with an antisemite". Alas, the word "Hitler" is one that silences all reasoning.

Writing for IPS News, in a June 16, 2008 story that covers the broader political dimensions of the controversy over Pastor John Hagee, especially in the lead up to Pastor Hagee's 2008 Christians United For Israel yearly Washington DC summit, journalist Bill Berkowitz provides another example of the widespread claims that the case against Hagee rests on "one comment":

In defending Hagee, Stephen Strang, president and chairman of Christian Life Missions and regional director for CUFI, wrote that "Hagee has done more than any other Christian in our generation to show love to the Jews and to stand strong with Israel. Yet he made one comment, taken out of context about Hitler, that some liberal blogger says makes him anti-Semitic."

One comment as Strang alleges? Bruce Wilson, the investigative journalist who first put together the video of Hagee's Hitler sermon, has uncovered more anti-Jewish material tucked away in the Hagee archives...

But as a compilation of sourced anti-Semitic quotes from Pastor John Hagee illustrates, the claim that the controversy over Pastor Hagee's intent towards Jews and Israel rests on "one comment" is patently absurd. [below: 10 minute video documentary explores startling similarity between conspiracy theories proposed by Pastor John Hagee and by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels]

For many years Pastor John Hagee, along with many other prominent Christian Zionist leaders, has given sermons heavily loaded with anti-Jewish memes, stereotypes, slurs and conspiracy theories and, in a sermon Hagee gave in March 2003 that was later mass-marketed, Pastor Hagee proposed a conspiracy theory almost identical to what was perhaps Adolf Hitler's favorite conspiracy theory, which alleged that an international Jewish banking cabal, led by the Jewish Rothschild banking family, controls the fates of entire nations, even the progression of world events and history, through the manipulation of global money markets. [partial transcript of Pastor John Hagee's 'anti-American International (satanic) International Rothschild Banking Conspiracy' sermon can be found here]

As Political Research Associates Senior Analyst Chip Berlet, of the leading experts on conspiracy theories, writes, in a Tuesday June 3, 2008 Talk To Action story entitled Hagee's Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories,

It really has been shocking to watch how apologists for pastor John Hagee assert that since Hagee supports the state of Israel and hardline Zionism, he cannot be an antisemite. This is either political pragmatism or religious ignorance or both. Hagee promotes a conspiracy theory about a sinister plot to establish global control that incorporates both generic and antisemitic versions of the tired old conspiracist allegations.

In the U.S. Political Right conspiracy theories about a global one world government and New World Order are rampant, and have been for many decades. Various conspiracist movements in the US, from the 1800s on, have derived their specific narratives from two historic roots: false allegations about a Freemason/Illuminati alliance, and false allegations about Jews.

Implicit in both narratives, as they were modified for US consumption, is the theme that America is essentially a Christian nation threatened with subversion by anti-Christian secret elites with allies in high places. The secular version of US conspiracism omits the overtly religious references and simply looks for betrayal by political and religious leaders.

A Talk To Action analysis, from author "Ruth" (who chooses for personal reasons to stay anonymous) makes the crucial point that Pastor John Hagee, in proposing his anti-Jewish conspiracy theory, has completely left the bounds of Biblical scripture:

I have read hundreds of pages of Hagee's books and listened to many hours of his [Hagee's] sermons in the course of my research on apocalyptic Christian Zionism, also known by its theological label, premillennial dispensationalism. My objections to the partnership with Hagee are not theological hairsplitting, but are based on the fact that the sermons of this publicly "pro-Israel" figure are rife with anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and a false representation of Jews and Zionism to the rest of the world. Nowhere in my extensive collections of bibles, or Christian and Jewish theological resources, do I find narratives of the Illuminati, Masonic, New World Order, or Rothschild/ Federal Reserve conspiracy theories that permeate Hagee's sermons and writings.

However, I do have another collection of books and papers in which I can find narratives strikingly similar to Hagee's rants about a world manipulated by Jewish actions. That would be my New World Order/Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy theory collection. It may sound counterintuitive that the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories now flourishing in much of the world are coming from people who loudly proclaim their love for Israel. However, if you study the historical themes of these Judeo-centric narratives, both the antichrist narrative and the secular narrative, it is clear that they have been woven together for generations.

Indeed, almost as if Pastor John Hagee's 2005 sermon had been in celebration of the event a hundred years prior, the second known printing of the modern version of the "Protocols of The Learned Elders of Zion" anti-Jewish conspiracy myth was in the form of an appendix to a 1905 book, the second edition, by the Russian Orthodox priest Sergei Nilus. Like Hagee, Nilus couched the Protocols within a wider, explicitly Christian apocalyptic narrative and, similar to Hagee, Nilus believed that the coming Antichrist the Russian Orthodox priest predicted would be Jewish. In one of Pastor John Hagee's March 2003 sermons, a thematic trio packaged and sold together subsequently by John Hagee Ministries under the name "Iraq: The Final War", Pastor Hagee declared that the Antichrist "would be partly Jewish -- as was Hitler, as was Marx." The claim that Hitler was "partly Jewish" has been largely discredited as vaguely possible but highly unlikely.

Currently, United States Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman is scheduled to speak at Pastor John Hagee's upcoming 2008 CUFI summit, and time will tell whether Lieberman will, as he did at CUFI 2007, Liken Pastor John Hagee to Moses who, according to the Biblical account, was certainly intent on leading the ancient Israelites to the promised land. Hagee, Lieberman might argue, shares that hope as well. But Moses, unlike Hagee, neither incited anti-Jewish hatreds nor called on God to send mass-murderers to hurry the journey along.

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