Christian Zionists Rally in San Antonio: Speakers Say Islam Is the Enemy and Advocate Attacking Iran

By Patterson, Margot | National Catholic Reporter, November 3, 2006 | Go to article overview

Christian Zionists Rally in San Antonio: Speakers Say Islam Is the Enemy and Advocate Attacking Iran


Patterson, Margot, National Catholic Reporter


In 1981, Texas pastor and televangelist John Hagee put on the first Night to Honor Israel at his church in San Antonio. Israel had a few months before bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak, and the Christian Zionist preacher wanted to show his support for Israel after its destruction of the nuclear reactor had been criticized around the world.

Twenty-five years later, Hagee, who now advocates a strike by the United States or Israel on Iran's nuclear installations, observed the silver anniversary of the Church of the Cornerstone's annual Night to Honor Israel, an event that was part of a three-day celebration Oct. 20-22 designed to show solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people and to advance the message that Israel and America are in danger.

For the first time, Christians United for Israel, CUFI, a lobbying group Hagee established nine months ago, presented the event. It was billed as the first "national" Night to Honor Israel, an event that CUFI directors are taking to other U.S. cities. Such evenings have already been held in Berkeley, Sacramento and Pasadena, Calif.; St. Louis; Arvada, Colo.; and Carlsbad, N.M., and are scheduled for several other cities.

For Hagee, bringing together Christian ministers from across the country, many of them representing megachurches like his own, with local and national Jewish representatives was the fulfillment of a vision he'd had since 1981 when he tried to summon 30 Christian ministers to host such an event and 29 of them left at the first break. "It was an absolute failure, a royal bust," he said, recalling the event.

But this year's national event in San Antonio was "a new day" for Hagee. Since 1981, he and others have witnessed the emergence of Christian Zionism as a religious and political movement with growing political clout.

The evolving agenda of that movement was on display throughout the weekend, particularly at the special Middle East intelligence briefing on Saturday, Oct. 21, which featured former CIA director James Woolsey; a military adviser and former chief of staff for the Israeli Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon; and Joseph Ginat, director of the Strategic Dialogue Center at the Netanya Academic College in Israel.

Around 3,000 people paid $25 each to attend the three-hour-plus briefing at the Church of the Cornerstone in which the spectre of "Islamofascism" was regularly invoked.

Woolsey said America is at war with a new enemy. Previously, it had faced secular totalitarian regimes. Now it faces several theocratic totalitarian regimes rooted, he said, in one of the world's great religions, Islam. "They hate us not for what we've done wrong but what we do right," Woolsey said. "They hate us for our freedom."

While many analysts have said that Iran is years away from producing a nuclear weapon, Israeli scholar Joseph Ginat warned that the West has only six to 10 months to take military action against Iran. A strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would be difficult but not impossible, he said. He expressed little hope that a diplomatic solution to the impasse over Iran's development of nuclear power could be negotiated.

"In the culture of the Arab world, there is a dimension known as the culture of lies," said Ginat.

A grim picture

Yaalon painted a grim picture of an ongoing war that he said had already started between the West and radical Islam, one he said will go on for generations. "The war is between the Western culture, the culture which supports compassion, human rights and dignity, freedom, against those that promote death--death for any freedom."

Yaalon argued that opposition to Israel has little to do with its occupation of the Palestinian territories. "The problem is not what they fabricate about occupation or apartheid," he said.

Two Arab speakers appeared on the platform. Brigitte Gabriel, a former TV anchor for "World News" on the Middle East Television network and the author of Why They Hate, described herself as a "Lebanese Zionist" and recounted traumatic episodes growing up as a Lebanese Christian during the civil war in Lebanon. …

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