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Elegant and charming, David Brog’s easy demeanor belies a tough resolve that must be a family trait – his cousin is Ehud Barak.
This week’s “Washington Summit,” the annual centerpiece of the work done by Christians United for Israel, saw more powerhouse addresses from the likes of John Hagee, Benjamin Netanyahu (via satellite) and Malcolm Hoenlein, and an adoring crowd of 5,000.
But it was Brog’s show. The Washington attorney, who became executive director of CUFI when the grass-roots pro-Israel group was formed six years ago, knows how to run such a large event. Brog, who is Jewish, has joined forces with Hagee, the Christian pastor from San Antonio (and arguably Israel’s staunchest defender among American Christian leadership), to grow the largest pro-Israel organization in the world.
I met with Brog Tuesday afternoon, in a room off the main ballroom. He was preparing to host a press briefing, and it was clear he relishes the opportunity to represent CUFI, which passed the 1-million-member mark earlier this year. He met with the press along with several CUFI representatives. Brog was upbeat about where the grass-roots organization is and where it’s going.
Said Brog: “This has been a significant year for us. Significant social media presence. We are reaching, speaking to 1.5 million people. There are days when we’re reaching more people with our message than CNN is reaching people with its message.”
It was a point of real interest to realize that CUFI is well-aware of a push by left-leaning Christians to promote the Palestinian narrative not only to their traditional venues – the mainline – but increasingly in evangelical circles. This past spring, for example, evangelical pastors John Ortberg, Bob Roberts and Joel Hunter (a spiritual adviser to Barack Obama) participated in the anti-Christian Zionist gathering in Bethlehem, “Christ at the Checkpoint.” Other prominent leaders were Lynne Hybels and Shane Clairborne.
“Enemies of Israel seem to finally get that the Christian community in America is a group to reach. They recognize even the evangelical church has a liberal side. They are aggressively targeting churches in America.”
Brog says the CUFI field staff sometimes reports that a particular church is not interested “in what we’re selling,” because they’ve “had a speaker from Sabeel or some other Palestinian source.” Brog says the evangelical church is being targeted.
Sabeel, which bills itself as an “Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center,” seeks to infiltrate the evangelical world with a message that sounds eerily similar to that of the PLO/PNA/Hamas. Focusing on the so-called “occupation,” Israel’s security fence and classic PLO themes of “liberation,” Sabeel and its rapprochement with the above-mentioned evangelicals is on Brog’s radar. He emphasized that CUFI will no longer tolerate lies and slander from the left, but that their ideological opponents should now expect “pushback.”
Brog has also noted the anti-Israel stance of political leaders, such as Ron Paul.
“‘Why do we have this automatic commitment that we’re going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel?’ Even more provocatively, he’s claimed ‘all recent presidents have reiterated our obligation to bleed for Israel.’
“Paul’s assertion is a borderline blood libel. We’ve never sent our kids to ‘bleed’ for Israel. American soldiers have not participated in any of Israel’s wars. Nor have the Israelis ever requested our children’s blood. Instead, as Prime Minister Netanyahu recently put it, Israel wants only the ability to ‘defend itself by itself.’”
At the same time Israel’s enemies – even in the church – are increasing their efforts, warming relations between Jews and Christians is at a historic peak.
Tim Burt, associate pastor at Living Word Christian Center in Minnesota, is grateful for the inroads made in the past few years between the Jewish community and its evangelical counterparts.
“It went from zero relationship to working relationship in just six years.”
Alex Grobman, director of the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL) attended the CUFI Summit for the first time, along with one of AIFL’s directors, Rev. William Harter. Grobman and the AIFL are among those prominent organizations linking arms with the evangelical community. The AIFL, among other initiatives, hosts educational tours to Israel, focusing on shared values between America and Israel.
“We applaud Reverend John Hagee and his wonderful staff for making this conference such a moving experience,” said Grobman. “What makes CUFI conferences so inspiring are not only the excellent speakers, but the incredibly dedicated people you meet at these events. They have an infectious enthusiasm, a profound love for Israel, and an understanding of the importance of the Jewish state as being in the forefront in the war against terror. They recognize that Jews and Christians are in this fight together for the future of our way of life.
“May God give supporters of CUFI the strength, the wisdom and ability to continue their holy work to preserve our freedoms.”
Among those supporters that Brog and Co. are cultivating is Joshua Ahrens.
Ahrens, a student at Portland State University, is active in CUFI’s “CUFI on Campus” initiative. He remembers his first exposure to anti-Semitism on campus … from a professor.
“That was the original event that moved me to find an organization like CUFI,” he said at the press briefing.
Hagee is the inspirational face of CUFI, and he shares a passion for the Jewish state with those million enthusiastic members. But the engine that drives this burgeoning organization?