By Peggy Shapiro, www.americanthinker.com
Where could you hear radio talk show hosts Dennis Prager and Michael Medved, military analyst Elliot Chodoff, Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren, Senator Joe Lieberman, country music star Randy Travis, and cantor and musical theater singer Dudu Fisher on the same stage with ministers and orthodox rabbis? Where could you see over four thousand Christians waving Israeli and American flags to the singing of national anthems of Israel and the U.S. and breaking out in spontaneous dance during the playing of Havah Nagilah? Where could you witness Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Pentecostals wearing Star of David necklaces, which they had just purchased at an Israel bazaar? That’s what I heard, saw, and witnessed at the Conference of Christians United for Israel in Washington D.C. on July 19-22 when Christian Zionists from a multitude of denominations and backgrounds took up the huge Convention Center and made over 400 lobby appointments on Capital Hill to speak up for Israel and mark a change in the Jewish-Christian relationship.
The attendees were African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics, teens, octogenarians, the affluent, and the unemployed from all over the U.S. I met a Nigerian mechanical engineering student who was pursuing a Master’s Degree and supporting a wife and child, a stunningly beautiful airline hostess who brought her granddaughter, an African American grandmother who was planning her 16th trip to Israel, and a food chemist for a large corporation. I spoke to a shy woman from the southern tip of Illinois. She had never made a public speech or taken political action and called herself “a hick from the sticks.” My roommate, along with 89 others, made their way to Washington from Minnesota on a 24-hour bus ride. The crowd was diverse, but they shared one common mission, which was proclaimed on the banners which hung from every rafter: “For Zion’s sake, I will not keep silent.” They were united by their commitment to speak up on behalf of the State of Israel and for its rights to exist, to self defense, and to sovereignty.
The focus of the conference was a two-pronged message to Congress and to the Obama administration, which has recently taken Israel to task for adding housing to accommodate the natural growth in its “settlements,” while soft-peddling any criticism of Iran’s nuclear ambitions: Israel is not the obstacle to peace, and the U.S. must place crippling sanctions on Iran to stop the terror-sponsoring state from acquiring nuclear arms.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told the group, “Critics say the stumbling block [to peace in the Middle East] is settlements or Jerusalem or refugees,” “We all know the real stumbling block to peace is posed by those who vehemently deny the nation of Israel’s historical right to the land of Zion.” Democrat Shelley Berkley (D-Nev) minced no words in her criticism, “…to pin the peace process” on the settlement issue “is absolutely foolhardy. To publicly dress down the State of Israel is a huge mistake.” CUFI founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee forcefully summed up the message, “America is singling out Israel…Despite all of the risks Israel has taken for peace, our government is pressuring Israel to take more risks. Hello Congress, we’re putting pressure on the wrong people here. You want to get tough, get tough with the terrorists, not the only democracy in the Middle East.” The crowd responded with a thunderous ovation.
Speaker after speaker pointed to the refusal of Palestinians and Arabs to accept a Jewish state in any part of the Middle East as the cause of the sixty-one year conflict, and to Iran for escalating the terror through its proxies of Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south. They urged the administration not to underestimate Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the existential threat they pose to Israel and to the entire region. U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who accepted CUFI’s Defender of Israel Award at the Tuesday Night to Honor Israel, evening, said, “The chief obstacle to peace in the Middle East is not Israelis living on the West Bank but the regime in Tehran.”
After an extravagant Night to Honor Israel, on Wednesday, CUFI delegates took the message to Capitol Hill to tell their members of Congress not pressure the Jewish state but to respect the democratic nation and work with it as a friend. Representatives were also asked to co-sponsor legislation that could strengthen the President’s hand in the event that negotiations do not prove fruitful. One bill is the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which would impose sanctions on companies that help Iran import or produce refined petroleum. The other bill, The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which authorizes state and local governments to divest from companies investing in Iran’s energy sector, never made it to the floor when it was introduced last year.
The CUFI conference sent a message not only to Congress and to the President, but also to Jews. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addressed the conference via satellite, acknowledged that the conference marked the changing relationship of Christians and Jews. “For centuries, the relationship between Christians and Jews was marked by conflict rather than partnership and friendship, but this is changing. A new chapter in the relationship between us is now being written.” Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in a passionate speech proclaimed that the threats Jews face today from a regime that is determined to wipe Israel off the map are fundamentally different from the threats Jews faced in 1939 because now there are “tens of millions of Christians who will not be silent and stand with the State of Israel.”
In the breakout sessions to fellow Christians, pastors addressed the skepticism of some in the Jewish community about allying with Christian Zionists because of a history of Church anti-Semitism and replacement theology (which teaches that Christians replaced Jews as the “Chosen People”). In a number of meetings, clergy warned that some Evangelicals, such as former President Jimmy Carter, are spewing anti-Semitism when they profess Replacement Theology. The pastors gave the biblical foundation for the support of Israel. It is not the conversion of Jews nor hastening the end of days, but the strongly held belief that God blesses those who bless the Jews and curses those who curse the Jews. (Genesis 12:13)
C.U.F.I., established only four years ago, now has 150,000 members who are living their belief and who have aspirations for growing to millions of voices which “are silent no more” when Jews or the Jewish State are in danger.