Pastor John Hagee speaking at the March for Israel in Washington, Nov. 14, 2023. (Screenshot/StandWithUs-YouTube)
Pastor John Hagee speaking at the March for Israel in Washington, Nov. 14, 2023. (Screenshot/StandWithUs-YouTube)

Who is John Hagee, the Christian Zionist pastor who spoke at the March for Israel?

This story was originally published in the Forward. Click here to get the Forward’s free email newsletters delivered to your inbox.

Pastor John Hagee, like many evangelical Christians, supports Israel, though he is louder than most: He’s the head of Christians United for Israel, one of the largest pro-Israel lobbies in the U.S. And he was invited to speak at a march “for Israel, to free the hostages and against antisemitism” organized by the Jewish Federations of North America on the National Mall in D.C. Tuesday.

But while Hagee is indisputably in favor of Israel’s existence, it’s not particularly clear that he’s against antisemitism.

Hagee has made numerous antisemitic statements over the years, including in an old sermon in which he asserted that Hitler was sent by God to push Jews to return to Israel, where, Hagee said, God wants Jews to live. At other times, he has blamed “half-breed Jews” for the Holocaust, and also said that Hitler himself was a “half breed Jew.” 

Additionally, Hagee has endorsed antisemitic conspiracies, such as that the Rothschild family is running the worldwide banking system, and specifically controlling the Federal Reserve. He has also alleged that Jewish financiers are working to bring around the Antichrist.

Hagee has said that his statements have been misinterpreted, but they still caused John McCain to reject the pastor’s presidential endorsement in 2008.

Hagee’s invitation to speak at the March, as part of a slate of interfaith speakers, is not surprising; support for Israel has long overridden or excused antisemitism within many Jewish circles.

Hagee has endorsed antisemitic conspiracies, such as that the Rothschild family is running the worldwide banking system

Hagee has spoken at AIPAC and partnered with Elie Wiesel, who spoke at a CUFI convention. Most recently, Hagee delivered the benediction at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, along with Pastor Robert Jeffries, another Christian Zionist leader, who has said that Jews are doomed to go to hell.

“Let every Islamic terrorist hear this message,” Hagee said at the ceremony. “Israel lives.”

Israeli leaders have long endorsed a partnership with Christian Zionists, seeing a necessary political efficacy in working with evangelicals. Though most Christian Zionists only support a Jewish state in Israel because of an antisemitic belief it will bring about an apocalypse during which Jews will be cursed and Christians will rise to Heaven, Israeli politicians have understood that this powerful American political bloc serves their short-term interests.

In speeches, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has played to a Christian audience, referencing biblical passages related to the End Times prophecies and drawing parallels to current events, invoking Christian support for Israel.

But in recent years, when politicians such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Doug Mastriano have excused antisemitic statements by emphasizing their support for Israel — “In fact, we probably love Israel more than a lot of Jews do,” said Mastriano’s wife, Rebecca, in her husband’s defense — Jewish groups castigated the politicians for failing to apologize for their antisemitic statements.

Similarly, some progressive Jewish groups attending the march harshly criticized the rally for inviting Hagee. (The speaker list was kept secret until the morning of the rally.) 

“These speakers have a record of anti-democratic, anti-science, white supremacist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, and homophobic rhetoric,” wrote T’ruah in a statement sent to its email list. 

But some Jewish groups, clearly, support Hagee despite his antisemitic statements; Hagee’s invitation to speak at the march is especially notable given the fact that no rabbis were invited to speak. For the rally’s organizers, evidently, Hagee’s ability to marshal support for Israel is more vital. The pastor put out statements encouraging his Christian followers to attend the march, and one organizer estimated that thousands of Christians were present at the march.

Unsurprisingly, Hagee’s speech invoked God’s support of Israel but made no mention of antisemitism against Jews outside of Israel, instead framing opposition to Israel as opposition to God.

Israel is not merely a state, Hagee said. Israel is the apple of God’s eye, Israel is the shining city on the hill. God says of Israel: Israel is my first-born son. Jerusalem is the city of God. Jerusalem is the shoreline of eternity. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel today and forever.

But Hagee was not alone in this framing; almost no speaker referenced any antisemitism that was not connected to Israel or the current war.

The rally was for Israel and against antisemitism — but only in that order.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward, where this article was originally published.

Mira Fox
Mira Fox

Mira Fox is a reporter at the Forward. Get in touch at [email protected] or on Twitter @miraefox.