In two stunning moves, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has doubled down on the Trump administration’s radically pro-Israel policies.
The first move, via BBC News:
The US has declared as anti-Semitic a prominent international movement which calls for a complete boycott of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was “a cancer”, adding the US would stop funding groups linked to it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the move “wonderful”.
BDS however rejected the charge, saying it opposed “all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism”.
And the second, also from BBC News:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has toured a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, marking the first such visit by a top US official.
The trip to Psagot came a year after Mr Pompeo said the settlements did not contradict international law, reversing a long-held US position.
The declaration outraged Palestinians, who oppose settlements on land they claim for a future independent state.
Mr Pompeo will later pay a similar visit to the occupied Golan Heights.
President Donald Trump last year officially recognised Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981.
Trump has persistently radicalized American Mideast policy, and these latest highly provocative actions can can only heightened already aroused passions.
The question, then is why?
For Trump the answer is easy. To win votes, he has consistently acted to grab to votes and support of a subset of highly motivated radical Christian evangelicals driven by an apocalyptic Biblical agenda.
The radicals inside the administration
Consider this from Mother Jones in January:
In March, during an interview in Jerusalem with the Christian Broadcasting Network [founded by another apocalyptic preacher, Pat Robertson], Pompeo showed his familiarity with another Iran-centric Bible story popular with End Times evangelicals. In the story, a Persian king is urged to slaughter the Jews in his kingdom at the urging of the evil adviser Haman. But his Jewish Queen Esther convinces him not to and saves her people. Asked whether he thought Trump could be a modern-day Esther, saving the Jews from Iran, Pompeo replied, “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.” The secretary of state’s End Times beliefs made headlines again after the [3 January U.S. targeted assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem], as meme-makers circulated a quote from a speech he made in a Kansas church in 2015. A few days after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Pompeo said: “We will continue to fight these battles. It is a never-ending struggle. … until the Rapture.”
Now add into the equation the [for the moment] Number Two in Trumpland, a second Mike, via Sky News:
Trump’s advisers on Iran include key players like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.
Both believe there is a battle between good and evil that will end with the “Rapture” – following an apocalyptic war in the Middle East, Jesus Christ will return to Israel, bestowing eternal redemption to Christians, who will be “raptured” or ascended, into heaven. Jews, however, will be punished.
Pompeo and Pence embrace the idea of a biblical prophecy to mark the end times, which must be brought about by an escalation of violence in the Middle East. Pompeo has been particularly open about his beliefs.
Last year, Pompeo sat for an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network and was asked if he thought Trump had been “raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” and Pompeo responded: “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.”
That same year, a reporter noticed an open Bible in Pompeo’s office, with a Swiss Army knife marking his place at the end of the book of Queen Esther.
And the two Mikes have a lot in common, as the National Catholic Reporter reported on 9 July:
Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both addressed a Christian pro-Israel group July 8, lifting up the U.S. ally as a bastion of inclusivity and railing against Iran.
Pence and Pompeo delivered their remarks at the annual summit of Christians United for Israel, a conservative Christian organization led by the Rev. John Hagee, which claims more than 6 million members.
Both politicians used the opportunity to defend the administration and champion what they argued were President Trump’s successes.
Hagee was a very happy man when Trump picked Pompeo as Secretary of State, and Citizens United for Israel [CUFI] greeting Pompeo’s 26 April 2018 Senate confirmation with an official hallelujah:
On Thursday, leaders of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization, applauded the Senate’s confirmation of Mike Pompeo to serve as Secretary of State.
The bipartisan vote in favor of the nomination comes on the heels of a rigorous grassroots and lobbying campaign waged by the Christian Zionist group. In addition to asking members in key states to call their senators’ offices to express support for the nomination, CUFI’s action alerts generated more than 60,000 emails into Senate offices.
“Our membership is the backbone of our organization and they rose to the occasion to ensure the President’s nominee was confirmed. When a large, committed group of Americans stands together and speaks with one unequivocal voice, our leaders listen,” said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee.
And Hagee, like Pompeo, is a big fan of the Book of Esther, holding her up as an exemplar of how to handle Iran.
The Vice President also has deep ties with CUFI, as he recalled to group’s annual summit in Washington on 8 July 2019:
You know, Karen and I have always treasured our relationship with Christians United for Israel. In fact, we worked hand-in-hand with this organization back when I was governor of the state of Indiana. And with your strong support, I was proud to sign the toughest anti-BDS legislation of any state in America. And I thank you for your support.
But you deserve to know: Remarkably, today, all but one Democrat running for President voted against the Combating BDS Act in the United States Senate.
John Hagee, militant and ready for End Times
Hagee is a Christian Zionist.
He is, more specifically, a Christian Zionist who happens to run head a megachurch in San Antonio.
But what is a Christian Zionist?
From the 29 May 2008 edition of the Independent:
Christian Zionists are a large subset – an estimated 30 million strong in the US – of evangelical Christians whose rigidly literal-minded reading of Bible prophecy has locked them into a passionate embrace with the most hawkish sections of Israeli society, namely, the far right of Likud and the settler movement.
For Christian Zionists there can be no Palestinian state, first, because the Bible doesn’t mention any such thing, and second, because God promised all that land and, as Pastor Hagee has claimed, “10 times more” to Israel. For Christian Zionists the world is hurtling towards its end at Armageddon, a little to the north of Jerusalem. Two-thirds of the world’s Jews, all those who have not accepted Jesus as their saviour, will perish in a war that will pit an “Anti-Christ” and the Muslim world (especially Iran), and probably Russia too, against all true, born-again Christians and a returning Jesus Christ.
As this last imperative and Hagee’s offensive take on the Holocaust amply prove, Christian Zionism should not be confused with philo-Semitism. Many Jews, especially Israelis, know this. The Israeli writer Gershom Gorenberg has put the case very well in his book, The End of Days: Christian Zionists “don’t love real Jewish people. They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that’s not who we are, and we never auditioned for that part, and the play is not one that ends up good for us.”
And he’s got some pretty strong — and peculiar — beliefs, as the American Conservative reported on 28 January 2013:
Christians United for Israel is led by the storied Reverend John Hagee, who is known most notably for claiming that New Orleans was being punished by God in the form of Hurricane Katrina because the city had been preparing to hold a gay rights parade on the morning the storm came. Oh, and also his claim that Hitler was fulfilling God’s Will in driving the Jews of Europe to Palestine.
According to a no-longer-online 2008 article in the Washington Spectator, Hagee has another Big Idea: “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West.”
From the 18 July 2008 Vancouver Sun, some telling detail:
Republican presidential nominee John McCain once sought the endorsement of Texas mega-church pastor John Hagee. But once McCain got it he was forced to reject it. Why? Because Hagee has denounced Catholicism as “The Great Whore,” called for the destruction of Islam, demonizes homosexuals, thinks global warming is a hoax and constantly insists the U.S. should attack Iran because it will help usher in the Second Coming.
Hagee’s also a fervent supporter of the State of Israel against its Muslim neighbours. But he doesn’t bother to tell Jews that Christians of his ilk expect all Jews to convert to Christianity. If they don’t, such end-times Christians believe Jews will suffer eternal damnation when Jesus returns in the Last Judgment.
The deeper agenda is the end. . .of everything, and Israel is the center of it all’
More from a May 2008 Politico report:
Hagee’s commitment to Israel, however, is itself controversial: It’s rooted in the belief that the Jewish state will — soon — be the site of Armageddon.
Hagee, who leads the evangelical group Christians United for Israel, is a proponent of U.S. aid and support for Israel, and he is a major ally of Israeli conservatives who reject any “land for peace” formula in dealing with the Palestinians. But Hagee is viewed with distrust by some Jews and Israelis because his brand of Christian Zionism closely links support for Israel to the end of the world and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.
Hagee’s predictions are very clear. Armageddon, the final battle, could begin, he wrote in his 2007 book “Jerusalem Countdown,” “before this book gets published.”
The Antichrist “will be the head of the European Union,” he writes.
Using geographical calculations based on the Book of Revelation, he writes that Israel will be covered in “a sea of human blood” in the final battle.
The Jews, however, will survive the battle, Hagee says, long enough to have “the opportunity to receive Messiah, who is a rabbi known to the world as Jesus of Nazareth.”
“They will be blessed beyond their wildest imagination,” he writes.
A 28 October 2019 report in the San Antonio Current adds a further dimension to an already chilling tale:
Hagee was instrumental in lobbying for the Trump administration to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move that ignited deadly protests inside the country. The pastor also has a long history of inflammatory statements, including the claim that all Muslims want to destroy Christianity and that the Catholic Church is the “great whore” described in the Bible.
A pending federal lawsuit filed by Palestinian families accuses Hagee and affiliated organizations of funneling millions of dollars into illegal Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
More from an 9 August 2018 Texas Observer story, describing a Hagee speech to believers in Jerusalem:
Hagee offered a simple homily: Jerusalem is the preordained capital of Christ’s 1,000-year empire, during which Christians and Jews (or at least some of them) shall live in peace after the unsaved have endured seven years of unspeakable horrors — a glorious end-times scenario for which Donald Trump paved the way by moving the embassy. Got it?
“President Trump proclaimed Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, and then — sucking the oxygen out of the air — he moved the U.S. embassy … something five other presidents did not have the courage to do,” Hagee said that morning, before lauding Trump’s pullout from the Iran nuclear deal and railing against Islamic terrorism.
Hagee’s peculiar take on Hitler
Think Progress noted a peculiar spin on Hitler in a 28 February 2008 report:
Speaking to the 2007 AIPAC conference, Hagee compared supporters of a two-state solution in the Middle East to Nazis. Hagee also echoed right-wing Israeli politician Binyamin Netanyahu, telling the audience that “Iran is Germany and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler.”
But it gets weirder, as the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported on 30 August 2008:
In his 2006 book “Jerusalem Countdown,” Pastor John Hagee claims that Hitler was the product of these “half-breed Jews.” Hagee also states that the anti-Christ, who he claims is alive today, is “partially Jewish, as was Adolf Hitler.”
But it was a 15 May 2008 report from Bruce Wilson in Talk to Action that ties it all together by quoting directly from a Hagee sermon:
God says in Jeremiah 16 – “Behold I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave unto their fathers” – that would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – “Behold I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them” – that will be the Jews – “from every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.” If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust… you can’t see that. So think about this – I will send fishers and I will send hunters. A fisher is someone who entices you with a bait. How many of you know who Theodore Herzl was? How many of you don’t have a clue who he was? WOO… Sweet God! Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew that at the turn of the 19th century said – “this land is our land, God wants us to live there”. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said, “I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel”. So few went, Herzl went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust. Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says – Jeremiah righty? – “they shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks”, meaning: there’s no place to hide. And that will be offensive to some people. Well, dear heart, be offended: I didn’t write it. Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said, “my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come BACK to the land of Israel”. Today Israel is back in the land and they are at Ezekiel 37 and 8. They are physically alive but they’re not spiritually alive. Now how is God going to cause the Jewish people to come SPIRITUALLY alive and say, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He is God”?”
Why it all matters
Nancy LeTourneau, writing for Washington Monthly on 7 January caught the essence of the predicament:
One of the things Hagee is known for is the elaborate charts he has created to predict the rapture and events leading up to the end times. He also has a history of making bigoted statements about Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. John McCain was forced to distance himself from the pastor after he received an endorsement for his presidential campaign in 2008. Clearly, neither Pompeo nor Pence share those concerns about Hagee and his organization.
What we are witnessing is a secretary of state who is conducting U.S. foreign policy in alignment with Christian Zionism, with the support of the vice president. While neoconservatives like John Bolton have their own twisted logic for wanting regime change in Iran, it is the belief that events in the Middle East align with Biblical prophecy about the end times that motivates Christian Zionists like Pompeo, Pence, and Hagee.
As I noted when the same crowd celebrated Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, rising tensions in the Middle East are a feature, not a bug, for these folks. That’s because all of this was prophesied thousands of years ago as a prelude to the rapture. In other words, they welcome the escalation.
Let’s not forget that Christians have been predicting the imminent end of the world for almost 2000 years, and they’ve been wrong every single time.
But for the past four years we’ve had one apocalyptic at one remove from the most powerful man on earth, aided for the past two year by another true believer setting the nation’s foreign policy.
From their perspective what difference does global warming make, since most of us are headed for a much hotter place, or so they believe.