Nobody seems sure exactly how many people are here at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) conference. Nobody seems too bothered to get the numbers right, either.
What difference if Pastor John Hagee claims 8,000 registrants and the janitor told me he set 4,000 chairs for the plenary sessions in the ballroom? So what if Bibi Netanyahu welcomes 4,000 of us, and for White House spokesman Ari Fleischer an hour later welcomes 6,000 of us?
I am not at the banquet tonight, the big Night to Honor Israel starring Michelle Bachmann, the Republican member of Congress. There are many things I will do to explore CUFI, but being trapped in a ballroom listening to Bachmann is not one of them.
Overheard while Waiting for Bibi on the Satellite
Two students brought to the conference by CUFI scholarship are being trained about how to start a CUFI group on campus. “There are these anti-Semites on our campus,” one of them says. “The professors teaching about Palestine oppressed by Israel.” The girl with the Honolulu silky straight hair answers, “I know, I know. They even tried to set up a checkpoint at the door of our classroom so we could feel like Palestinians. Who wants to feel like a Palestinian? They are just made up anyway.” The boy from Minnesota agrees. “The Israelis have this teeny land, the only Jewish land in the world, and the Arabs want even that.” A girl joins them. “Have you guys been to Jerusalem yet? Wait til you go. I fell in love with the land. It is so gorgeous. I took 753 pictures in one week, that’s how much I love Israel.”
The room is beginning to fill with people still chewing half-eaten sandwiches, slurping iced red-colored drinks. Bibi, Senator Joe Lieberman, and Ari Fleisher. What headliners. Pastor Hagee appears at the back of the stage with his arm around Senator Liebermann. Several people rush forward with their camera phones. Pastor Hagee acts as though he does not notice them. A security guy moves forward as though to protect the talent. The house lights dim, and a shout goes up. Gary Bauer is the master of ceremonies. For many years he has been a general in the cultural wars. He has been committed to the preservation of America’s future since the Eighties, when he worked tirelessly in Ronald Reagan’s administration. He reminds us that CUFI is Hamas, Iran, and Hizbullah’s worst enemy. The group was formed at this special time in history when we must defend Israel and the United States. As God has commanded us.
Netanyahu appears on three giant screens. People jump and shout, as though “Bibi” — his nickname — was more than a screenshot.
Bibi, Bibi, Bibi
How beautiful to see 5,000 people standing up for Israel. I am in Jerusalem tonight, the united, one and forever capital of the state of Israel. We appreciate the unbreakable body of frienddship that CUFI brings us in these challenging times. The forces of moderation are in retreat in the Middle East.”
People fall silent.
Christians fear for their lives in the countries that surround us. Israel stands out as an island of freedom. All are equal under the law. One million Muslims enjoy rights they do not have in Muslim countries.”
Now everybody screams “Bibi, Bibi, Bibi!” The crowd is on their feet.
You stand with us. You understand Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran, Hizbollah, Hamas. And I promise the Jewish people will never deny our own story. Judea and Samaria (known as the West Bank) is the homeland of the Jewish people.
Bibi wipes his eyes. Perhaps it is as hot in Jersusalem tonight as it is in DC.
You are Bible believers. You know that ever since God gave the land of Israel to the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets rallied to the protection of Israel. And even when a young Galilean Jew [applause breaks out], that young prophet preached peace, and reminded us that we have one common destiny.
It is the first time I have heard a reference to Jesus, even an oblique one, in two days. Hagee has not referred to the New Testament, Jesus or the Apostles. CUFI seems to have turned away from the rhetoric of the Apocalypse and the Rapture. Possibly because of the Jewish concern with the Christians’ tendency to proselytize, their eagerness to convert the Jews, at least 144,000 of them before the Tribulation. For those who do not convert will be slaughtered, face down in a river of blood. That is the Evangelical view of what will happen at the End of Days before the return of Jesus Christ to judge the quick and the dead. Hagee has deleted this kind of preaching from his CUFI performances. I would like to know what he preaches about the End of Days in San Antonio at his enormous home church.
Bibi is about to wrap up. He holds his hands out as though he could touch us. “Israel must defend the truth. One and only one Jewish state exists in the would and we will remain strong and free, a beacon of light in the Middle East.” Bibi. Bibi, Bibi! With CUFI’s big bucks to buy Bibi and his kind more time, israel will defend their special truth.
“They’ll never be another Senator Lieberman”
Bauer is introducing us to an American hero, a major hero in the CUFI hierarchy. “A leading voice on terrorism and security for the US and for Israel. Joe Lieberman has risked friendships to put the US first. When the media was full of distortions against CUFI and Pastor Hagee, Joe never bailed. He has always stood with Pastor Hagee. With sadness I announce that this is Joe Lieberman’s last term as senator. He will be retiring. No matter who is elected, they will never replace this special man, our Joe Lieberman!”
As Genesis tells us, “I am your brother, Joseph!” (Audience cheers). “We are children of the same father.” (Audience cheers). Pastor Hagee has enabled us to reunite. Jews and Christians, with our shared love for the Jewish state of Israel. We all know that the Bible is the word of God. And I must repeat that my dear friend Pastor John Hagee has received a call from God to begin the reunification of the Christians and Jews. He received that word in Jerusalem. Need I tell you that that special call, received in Jerusalem, was a local call. And he brought the idea back to Texas and then to the entire United States. And he has fulfilled God’s word. Never one to stop, Hagee is now working to build CUFI in Kenya, Kenya, a place that in Hebrew means God’s nest. (Applause).
What can I tell you? The state of Israel is flourishing. With the inspired vitality of both religious power and economic victories. Thriving and full of hope for the future of the Jewish state. But there are dark clouds. There will always be Amaeleikites, enemies of the Jews. Iran, the fanatic Muslims, are the exact opposite of Israel. Iran brutalizes its own people. And they have murdered countless Israelis and American through the suicide bombers. Iran supplies those bombs to the Palestinians, to al-Qaeda, to Hizbullah. Time is running out.
Time is running out, I repeat We cannot live with a nuclear Iran. We have tried sanctions. We have tried containment. But Iran has refused to take steps back from the nuclear brink.
Lieberman pauses. People settle into their seats. The big demand is coming. The man behind me whispers, “He’s going to destroy Obama. I can feel it.”
Dear CUFI members, you are here in DC to help. You will visit your Congressmen, your senators, on the Hill tomorrow. And you must insist that they ratchet up the sanctions. The Bill that I am trying to get onto the floor of the Senate must go through. Tell Senator Reid, tell Senator McConnelly, that Obama must sign this Bill by the end of July. You must pressure every member that you speak to. If these toughest sanctions do not work, we will have to decide if we will act militarily to stop this scourge. Secretary Clinton has given me hope. She said last week, ‘We will use all elements of American power to contain Iran.” We are more willful than Iran. If they do not bend, then we must have a military solution.
[Syrian President Bashar] Assad is the only ally Iran has left. Assad must fall. Within weeks. This will be the single biggest defeat for Iran in 25 years. Assad must fall.
A man with a shofar (ram’s horn) jumps up and blows his instrument (People cheer). The idea of military intervention thrills the man behind me. “We will finally see an end to Iran. Joe gets it. He totally gets it.” Lieberman continues:
I am not retiring from anything except the Senate. I will continue to walk with you, to keep a strong Israel, to celebrate our unbreakable alliance. The Jewish state has been reborn, but our work is not done. As the Psalmist says, ‘For Zion’s sake, Israel shall not be quiet.’ We are the watchmen. On top of the wall. Guarding Israel. I try to force myself to remain quietly in my seat. But as Ari Fleisher says, to the total approval of the CUFI faithful, “Beware. Realize. Obama is on the side of the Muslim.” That’s it. I stood up. And walked slowly down the aisle and exited the ballroom. Stage Right. As Virgil said at the beginning of the Aeneid,“Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.” Someday perhaps we shall take pleasure in remembering these things.