Since 2006, the annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) summit in Washington, D.C. has been bringing people from around the globe together to hear government insiders, learn from experts, lobby Congress, and rejoice in supporting and celebrating Israel. But in the age of coronavirus, gatherings have been canceled. So CUFI adapted, “virtualizing” its 2020 summit.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented disdain for Israel amongst a vocal minority in Congress and a dramatic uptick in antisemitism across the country,” explained CUFI co-executive director Shari Dollinger. “Supporting Israel and combating antisemitism can’t afford to wait for the coronavirus to subside. We needed to make sure CUFI members heard from their leaders, and America’s leaders heard from CUFI members.”
On a recent Sunday night, CUFI took to social media and its website to virtually broadcast “A Night to Honor Israel.” The speeches proclaimed support for Israel, particularly the urgent need to combat antisemitism.
“We likewise seek an America where our Jewish brethren feel safe in their synagogues and temples, feel no fear as they walk down the street wearing a yarmulke or a Star of David. We seek to make our country better, and this demands that bigotry and anti-Semitism receive no quarter whatsoever,” CUFI founder and pastor John Hagee told tens of thousands of Internet viewers.
Hagee’s remarks were followed by video messages from numerous dignitaries, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked CUFI for its “work day-in and day-out to support Israel and to strengthen the great alliance between Israel and the United States,” as well as Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Monday’s speaking docket was equally impressive. Dignitaries included U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who stated, “Your work is as important as it ever was. Israel needs friends. That hasn’t changed.”
During the day, online attendees were briefed on the spike in global antisemitism, the Middle East, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In a perfect world, conference attendees would have spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill, personally meeting House and Senate leaders to encourage support for the Jewish state and pro-Israel legislation. This year required a modified approach.
Just as in previous years, CUFI exercised its influence through its lobbying efforts. With thousands watching guest speakers such as Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the organization educated members on the realities of Washington – a view from The Hill, as well as a call to action.
“If our talking points had a theme this year, it would be dollars and defense at a time when some voices in Washington are threatening to condition or limit aid to the state of Israel,” explained Sandra Parker, chairwoman of the Christians United for Israel Action Fund, addressing the online audience. Parker called upon members to directly email their elected officials and phone their offices to support pro-Israel legislation, and publicly address leaders through Twitter. “It is up to us to ensure passage of policies that maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge and keep Israel – and, by extension, America – safe and strong.”
CUFI is a force to be reckoned with. With more than 8 million members, including hundreds of thousands of pro-Israel voters in swing states, CUFI educates its members with dozens of events each month. While the organization is non-partisan, CUFI members are made aware of the voting records of elected officials. And these folks are well-trained advocates.
CUFI has also trained more than 4,000 college students who are present on 400 campuses, combating the scourge of anti-Israel rhetoric and blatant antisemitism most often perpetrated by leftist supporters of BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. CUFI Action Fund, its political arm, is one of the most influential pro-Israel lobbying groups in Washington.
“We support Israel because the Bible, history and our conscience mandate we do so. It is incumbent upon Believers to stand with Israel and the Jewish people. Likewise, all Americans should view Israel as the free and democratic ally that she is. Standing with Israel is both a moral and strategic imperative,” said Hagee to the Haym Salomon Center.
At a time in history when headlines bespeak escalating antisemitism and outright contempt for Israel and the Jewish people, every Jew and indeed every American ought to be grateful for the friendship and support CUFI gives Israel and the Jewish community. I’m glad CUFI has our back.