Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reading John Hagee's In Defense of Israel

While reading For God's Sake by Lee Marsden I learned that among Evangelical Christians the main pro-Israel organization is Christians United For Israel, which was founded by John Hagee in 2006. Learning about this I was curious to learn more so I went and read his book advertised on CUFI's website, In Defense of Israel.

For this post I am reading the original 2007 version of this book.

Let us take a look at what John Hagee has to say on this important topic.

Now before starting I would like to say that here I assume that Hagee is being sincere in what he writes in this book.

After the Osirak Raid of 1981

It talks of how John Hagee reached out to Americans Jews following the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak by Israel in 1981. Hagee says he was aggrieved at how this move was widely criticized when he thought that it was good to prevent the Saddam Hussein regime from being able to acquire nuclear weapons. It was from this frustration at widespread criticism of this bombing of Osirak that he organized a Night to Honor Israel. This became the first of many such occasions.

Was the State of Israel Born in a Day?

Numerous times in this book Hagee talks of how the State of Israel was born in a day. Now it is true that its declaration of independence was made on May 14, 1948, but the processes that led to that moment took many decades to get there. The movement to create a Jewish homeland in the Holy Land had been active for decades before 1948.

Furthermore the Israeli War of Independence did not begin after that declaration. Fighting had actually started shortly after the United Nations presented its proposal to partition British Mandatory Palestine in November 1947. Armed clashes broke out the month afterwards in December 1947. That is when the war started. Not after the declaration. The spiral of violence and destruction quickly escalated months before the declaration of independence. So it is very misleading to say the State of Israel was born in a day. So is every other nation. One could say the United States was born in a day with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. But the process that led up to that moment took years.

Occupation? What Occupation?

Hagee describes talk of Israel occupying the West Bank and Gaza as biased media reports.
In Israel the majority of them [the Palestinians] live in the Gaza Strip and in the area referred to by the media as the West Bank. ... Referring to Israel as "occupied territory" is propaganda. (p. 58.)
These lands were gained by Israel in 1967 in a defensive war. It is misleading to refer to these disputed areas as "occupied Palestinian territories," which implies that the area belongs to Palestinian Arabs and is being held captive by Israelis. (p. 182.)
This is very confusing. The situation is not so simple.

In 1948 the State of Israel was established. The borders were not firmly established until the end of the Israeli War of Independence in 1949. Afterwards other nations granted diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel.

In 1967 the State of Israel acquired East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the Six Day War. But in international law there is a law which says that states may not acquire territory by armed force. As far as the other sovereign governments of the world were concerned the territories acquired in 1967 were acquired by armed force and therefore no government on Earth (aside from Israel) recognizes the State of Israel's sovereignty over East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Legally speaking they are territories occupied by the State of Israel.

(This also applies to the Sinai Peninsula when the State of Israel occupied it. But after negotiations following the Yom Kippur War of 1973 the State of Israel returned it to Egypt.)

This is the same reason why Morocco's control over the Western Sahara since 1975 is not recognized by other governments. This is the same reason why Cyprus is recognized as ruling over all of Cyprus even though the North was seized by Turkey in 1974 is now ruled by an internationally unrecognized government that is only recognized by Turkey. This is the same reason why Azerbaijan is still recognized as sovereign over Nagorno-Karabakh regardless of the fact that it has been controlled by Armenians and is affiliated with Armenia.   

Currently 160 UN member states recognize the State of Israel. But they only recognize the 1949-67 borders of the State of Israel. Since all foreign governments regard the State of Israel as only having sovereignty over the 1949-67 borders then the other territories acquired in 1967 (East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights) are regarded by these governments as not rightfully belonging to, and therefore occupied by, the State of Israel regardless of how the State of Israel may view it.

This is why the United States Embassy is in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. There is no point in blaming President Obama for this. This has been the situation under Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush.

Shortly after the Six Day War the State of Israel annexed East Jerusalem. But no other government on Earth recognizes this annexation. Later in 1981 the State of Israel annexed the Golan Heights. But no other government on Earth recognizes this annexation.

East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are called "occupied Palestinian territories" not because of any private property of the Palestinians there, but because those territories was acquired by the State of Israel after a war. Who started that war is, legally speaking, irrelevant.

It is a legal opinion that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem is occupied by the State of Israel. This is why the United States Embassy is in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. When the other nations of the Earth recognize the State of Israel they recognize its 1949-1967 borders. What the State of Israel acquired after the Six Day War of 1967 is regarded by every nation on Earth as not rightfully belonging to the State of Israel. These facts are never explained in this book.


Hagee briefly mentions Hezbollah. What is not mentioned is that Hezbollah was to a certain degree created as a response to the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982. Back then the State of Israel invaded Lebanon and maintained control over southern Lebanon until 2000. The Lebanese people in Southern Lebanon did not ask to be ruled by the State of Israel. This was a situation that was unilaterally imposed upon them by the State of Israel. It is most unfortunate that the situation deteriorated the way it did.

This complex situation is not explained by Hagee.

The Hamas Charter

Hagee mentions that Hamas has a Charter and Hamas is criticized for having this Charter and not abolishing it.
The charter of Hamas (written in 1988 and still in effect) calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of a Palestininan Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. (p. 88.)
But in actual fact Hamas has moved away from this Charter in practice. However due to Hamas' religious nature they do not dare abolish it. Hamas' leaders fear that any such move would be viewed as capitulation towards the State of Israel. This is an unfortunate situation. But nevertheless if one is going to cite the Charter against Hamas it should be made clear that Hamas has in fact moved away from it. The Hamas Charter does not necessarily reflect what Hamas is like today.

Was Begin a Terrorist?

Hagee insists that Menachem Begin was not a terrorist. Hagee recites the King David Hotel bombing. Other shameful incidents associated with the Israeli War of Independence, such as the Deir Yassin massacre, and other shameful acts such as the massacre in Gaza in 1956, are not mentioned at all.

(But I will say that at least Hagee talks about the King David Hotel bombing. As far as I know PCG has never even bothered to mention that terrorist incident.)

Friendly to Jews But Hostile to Muslims

In this book Hagee extends the hand of friendship to Jews. Hagee makes it clear there are friendly disagreements between himself and Jewish religious leaders. But inconsistently he makes no such allowance for friendly disagreements between himself and Muslims. Muhammad is cited as making Islam an intolerant religion. But how is that supposed to reveal how Muslims today happen to view such an issue?

And which Muslims is he talking about? There is much diversity among Muslims. Some are religious. Some are extremely religious but do not take up armed violence. Some have joined extremist ideologies that cause much pain and suffering, mainly against other Muslims. Some are quite secular. There is so much diversity and differences among Muslims.
The overwhelming majority of Arabs are Muslims, with most of them being Sunni Muslims. The remaining members of the population in these countries are Christians and Jews, commonly viewed by other Arabs as infidels. In many places these minorities have only two choices: convert or be killed. (p. 57.)
Now it is true that from time to time there are incidents in various places among Muslim majority countries in which Christians are targeted. But there is so much complexity about many things. Many Muslim majority countries as a matter fact have Christian minorities among them. This has been the case as long as Islam has been in existence.

I came away from this book with the impression that he seems to be trying to unite Christians and Jews by forging common hostility against Muslims. That would not be good. That is no way to have peace. He does not say that but this is the impression this book gave me.

The Sabbath in the State of Israel 

At one point it is mentioned that the Sabbath is observed in the State of Israel.
On the Sabbath in Israel, everything shuts down! There is no transportation. Even the elevators in the hotels and high-rise apartments shut down unless run by electronic control. (p. 157.)
Actually many Israeli Jews are secular and not religious. The social situation is very complicated in the State of Israel.

What Right of Return?

Hagee makes no talk about the right of return. It is mentioned once but is dismissed as non-existent. The problem is never explained to the reader. How does this support the State of Israel in refusing to even talk about this issue that does so much to fuel and sustain the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Israel's Technological Achievements

Hagee cites some of the achievements of Israel. How does this help those who are suffering? How do these achievements, as good as they are, help to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Also there are many impoverished Holocaust survivors in Israel. That is one detail not mentioned in this book.

Elsewhere Hagee says land for peace is wrong, will never work and is contrary to God's will. (Never mind about Egypt.) 


After reading this book I came away from it feeling it was sadly shallow. If you want a detailed chronicle explaining the various troubles in the Middle East this book will not do that. The purpose of this book is to call upon Evangelical Christians to speak up for the State of Israel in the various troubles and trials that it goes through. And specifically this book is a call for Evangelical Christians to join Hagee's organization, Christians United For Israel. But it is better to view events that may be painful to remember in order to soberly view the facts and respond accordingly rather than choosing to ignore problems.

May peace soon come to the Holy Land.

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