John Hagee, a mainstay in right-wing politics for decades, is reportedly invited to speak on Tuesday at the March for Israel event alongside Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), former CNN personality Van Jones, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). It’s expected to garner an attendance in the tens of thousands and will reintroduce America’s most prominent Christian Zionist and his controversial and violent views to a new generation of listeners.
The staunchly pro-Israel, Evangelical pastor is the leader of America’s most prominent Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel, and has used that influence to lobby the US government on a variety of issues—including Trump’s controversial choice to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (something foreign policy experts recommended against). But beyond his controversial Evangelical lobbying, Hagee has wielded his beliefs to rally against gay marriage and adoption, women, and even Jewish people.
“God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land,” the pastor claimed in a 1999 sermon. (He apologized almost a decade later, saying that “I grappled with the vexing question of why a loving God would allow the evil of the Holocaust to occur…I regret if my Jewish friends felt any pain as a result.”)
After Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people, Hagee blamed it on gay people. “There was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.” (He later semi-apologized, saying, “Neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina. I should not have suggested otherwise.”)
He later called “America the new Sodom and Gomorrah” after gay marriage was legalized in 2015. These statements highlight the irony of the pro-Israel movement aligning with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and figures, while still uplifting the narrative that Israel is the “Only LGBTQ Safe Haven in the Middle East.” As we’ve explained before, “Things in Israel are more complicated, and critics of the country have long accused it of ‘pinkwashing,’ a term created by Palestinian activists. For example, Israel doesn’t allow same sex marriage or adoption.”
Hagee’s statements have earned him condemnation or distancing from characters like John McCain and Sarah Palin, but not from the organizers of the March for Israel, the Jewish Federation, who historically expressed support for LGBTQ rights.
Not surprisingly, he has upset his fair share of Israelis and members of the Jewish diaspora for his comments on Hitler and Holocaust. His writing that the antichrist is a half-Jewish homosexual and his promotion of anti-Semitic theories about Jewish bankers controlling the Federal Reserve haven’t gone over well either. Joshua Shanes, a columnist for Haaretz, wrote, “John Hagee Is a Muslim-hating, Antisemitic, Annexationist Extremist. He’s No Friend of Israel.”
In response to his invitation to the march, Amy Spitalnick, the CEO of Jewish Council for Public Affairs, tweeted: “We can build broad coalitions against antisemitism and in support of the Israeli people without platforming bigots like Pastor Hagee — who promotes an apocalyptic, antisemitic worldview rooted in hate against LGBTQ, Muslim, and other communities.”
J Street, a progressive, pro-Israel group, concurred, “We completely agree. A dangerous bigot like Hagee should not be welcomed anywhere in our community. Period.”
With Hagee shouting “Israel is the apple of God’s eye. Israel’s God chose of Israel. Israel is my firstborn son” to widespread cheers at the March for Israel, Hagee’s widespread acceptance in the pro-Israel movement, despite outward bigotry, remains striking.
This post has been updated.