What do you when you’ve accomplished all of your major goals? It’s not something most organizations ever need to ponder, as they often spend decades working toward a single legislative victory in Washington. In the case of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), however, it’s no longer an idle question.
CUFI, which now boasts 4.3 million members, has had a banner year. Since CUFI’s last national summit, they have scored several major political wins, which CUFI founder Pastor John Hagee called miracles: President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and he withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. Additionally, Congress passed the CUFI-supported Taylor Force Act, which reduces American aid to the Palestinian Authority until they stop financially rewarding convicted terrorists and their families for attacks on American and Israeli citizens.
Pastor Hagee told the crowd, “For the first time in a long time, the wind is at our backs. We have an opportunity. We’re grateful to G-d for this string of victories, which is an answer to our prayers. … In lieu of a victory lap, our response must be, ‘Full steam ahead!’”
And full steam ahead it was. More than 5,000 attendees listened as this year’s conference offered both a look backward to the Holocaust, as well as a look forward, while celebrating Israel’s miraculous 70th birthday.
Stuart Force, whose son, Army veteran Taylor Force, was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while visiting Israel in 2016, delivered the conference’s most moving speech. As a parent, you couldn’t help but tear up as Force described meeting with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Taylor’s parents said they felt like Taylor was away on a mission, and they were waiting for him to come home. Graham assured them that Taylor was now home, and it was now they who had a mission. Inspired by Taylor, who reportedly listed his personal priorities as God first, everyone else second, and himself last, they are now dedicating their lives to doing good in the world, as Taylor did.
Meanwhile, Holocaust survivor Irving Roth won the Living Witness Award for nine years of teaching CUFI on Campus students about the Holocaust. Roth reflected on the dehumanization of Jews that paved the way for the Holocaust, as well as western nations’ decision to ignore the suffering of European Jewry.
As for the resurgence of anti-Semitism — which Pastor Hagee denounced as a sin — Roth observed that “hatred has returned after eight decades. People on the left, right, and middle have drawn together in an unholy alliance to destroy the Jewish people again. Today, hatred of the Jewish people is not only permissible in the whole world, it’s almost fashionable. But standing here in front of you today, it’s different. The Jewish people are not alone.”
As a Jew, I understood exactly what Roth meant. It’s not often that you hear someone exhort thousands of fellow gentile believers, “It’s easy to be Israel’s friend when things are easy. What will you do when the entire world is howling that Israel is not David but Goliath? That Israel is the problem and not the solution in the Middle East?” as “The Watchman” host Erick Stakelbeck did. Lest anyone be tempted to run, Stakelbeck noted, “If you’re here today, you’ve been called for such a time as this. … You have a mantle. You can’t outrun it. It didn’t work out well for Jonah, and it won’t work out well for us.”
If anyone’s standing and fighting with the Maccabeean spirit, it’s CUFI’s speakers. Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan, spoke about the centrality of lies to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He described speaking at a recent emergency session on the Gaza conflict in Geneva, where “every national delegation [other than Israel, Australia, and the U.S.] lied about what they were debating.”
Kemp recounted, “I said, I commanded troops with NATO and the UN. Based on what I observed [on Israel’s border], everything we’ve heard here is a complete distortion of the truth. The truth is that Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel, sent their people as human shields. … You’ve all been telling us Israel should’ve reacted differently, but how would you respond?”
The other speaker who regularly speaks truth to UN power was Ambassador Nikki Haley, the brightest star of the gathering. While Trump was repeatedly praised for showing the backbone necessary to move the U.S. embassy, Haley deserves her own special recognition.
Haley’s insistence on objective morality is refreshing: “The United States has no moral duty to be neutral between right and wrong. On the contrary, we have a moral duty to take sides, even when that means standing alone.”
Further, after many others might have grown weary, Haley persistently and vigorously defends our ally Israel, amidst the UN’s incessant demonization:
It cannot be the case that in an organization with 193 countries, the United Nations spends half of its time attacking only one country. We will not turn a blind eye to it. Our demand for fairness for Israel is actually a demand for peace. The UN’s bias against Israel has long undermined peace, by encouraging an illusion that Israel will go away. Israel is not going to go away.
Amen to that. The good news is that we have elected officials who share Haley’s interest in supporting Israel and laying the groundwork for a true and lasting regional peace. But, you might ask, now that Pastor Hagee’s three miracles have come to pass, where will CUFI and their Congressional allies turn their attention?
Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who sponsored the Taylor Force Act, told me he is now focused on reforming the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). He shared, “I’ve been distressed to see how UNRWA has exceeded their original mission and gone into the political arena, far beyond what it was created to do.”
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton described this conference’s three miracles as “long overdue.” He wants the U.S. to support the Iranian people, and told me has introduced legislation to bar Iranian officials with American hostages from entering the U.S.
“If you’re involved in unlawfully holding American citizens, your wife shouldn’t be coming here to shop, and your kid shouldn’t be here in school,” he said. “The House passed it by over 400 votes.” Cotton has also introduced a bill to shine a light on Iranian leaders’ finances and supports more scrutiny of our spending at the UN.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who has introduced a bill to end the practice of using human shields, emailed:
I am particularly committed to reinforcing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is a critical line of defense from the Iranian and Iran-backed forces in Syria, and which no one can seriously claim should be given to Assad. Diplomatically, we in Congress and the American people must get a clear sense of how many Palestinian refugees there actually are, which will require the Trump administration to release the report on UNRWA being held by the State Department.
Given CUFI’s track record, these are issues to watch. If anyone has the dedication and determination to push for change in a polarized Washington, it’s the members of CUFI.