Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is an American pro-Israel Christian organization that defines itself as "a national grassroots movement focused on the support of Israel." It is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States.
CUFI says it draws support from the Christian Bible.[Note 1] Operating under the leadership of John Hagee, it provides a national association through which churches, parachurch organizations, ministries, and individuals in America promote support for Israel financially and politically.
"Christians United for Israel" was originally formed in 1992 by David Lewis. However, the organization later became inactive.
The evangelical minister John Hagee sought and received permission from Lewis to use the title for his own organization.[Note 2] Hagee called upon Christian leaders in America to join him in launching his new initiative. Over 400 leaders, each representing a denomination, mega-church, media ministry, publishing company, or Protestant university voiced support and Christians United for Israel was created.
Hagee would legally incorporate the revived organization on February 7, 2006. Since its reorganization it has operated out of San Antonio, Texas, where Hagee has long operated his own ministry.
The first college chapter of Christians United for Israel was established at California State University, Bakersfield, with more "CUFI on Campus" chapters planned. At the 2011 CUFI Washington Summit, it was reported that "CUFI on Campus" chapters had been formed or were in the process of formation on over 75 college campuses and CUFI was reported to have a presence on 225 campuses.
In March 2012, the organization celebrated its membership passing the one-million members, a milestone that cements CUFI's place as the largest US-based pro-Israel organization. By January 2015 the membership passed two million.
CUFI host "Nights to Honor Israel" events in cities across the United States. The events have the stated aim of expressing "Christian solidarity with the State of Israel and the Jewish people". Such "Night to Honor Israel" events have often sought to include members of local Jewish communities. In fact, any funds raised are often given to the local Jewish federations to assist with efforts in Israel. One such "Night to Honor Israel" event was covered by Minnesota magazine TC Jewfolk in 2010.
CUFI holds an annual summit to enable delegates to personally speak with their representatives on behalf of Israel. In response to particular current events, CUFI also mobilizes its members through Rapid Response Alerts to raise popular support for Israel and lobby the U.S. Congress in support of Israel.
On July 22 CUFI held their 2008 National Night to Honor Israel. Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Pastor John Hagee and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) spoke with live music interludes. Senator Lieberman opened his speech by saying "I am your brother Joseph." In his speech Lieberman re-affirmed his support for CUFI, Israel and Pastor Hagee. In addition Hagee cleared up some myths regarding his beliefs on Israel. The attendance, which many thought would be down from previous years, exceeded all expectations. With the Washington DC Convention Center packed from front to back without an open seat in sight attendees waved American and Israeli flags in support for CUFI, America and the State of Israel. For the first time CUFI hosted several prominent Catholic leaders in a show of unity between Pastor Hagee and the Catholic Church. Father Roger Hunter-Hall spoke and praised CUFI and Pastor Hagee. Pastor Hagee said when the fabricated statements regarding his beliefs on the Catholic Church surfaced he did something that the media wasn't expecting, they acted like Christians. Hagee and the head of the Catholic League met and quickly realized they were being pitted against each other by their enemies for political gain. CUFI held an annual Washington Summit July 20–23, 2009. The most recent CUFI annual Washington Summit took place on July 20–22, 2010. Israeli PM Netanyahu addressed the gathering by videoconference.
CUFI states that during the Holocaust, too many Christians were silent and that today's Christians have an obligation to help protect Israel's 6 million Jews from a second Holocaust, concluding that: "We must get it right this time. Our faith demands it. The times require it. Silence is not an option."
At CUFI's 4th annual convention, CUFI Florida state director Scott Thomas, who is senior pastor at Without Walls Central in Lakeland, Florida, states that CUFI's support of Israel is not related to Christian eschatology (one of the features of dispensationalism, which holds that the modern state of Israel has a central role in bringing about the second coming of Jesus Christ) since Christians believe that there is nothing they can do to speed up that process. Thomas also cited Chapter 12 of Book of Genesis, which states that God will bless those who bless the Jews and curses those who curse the Jews, and said that his Christian faith couldn't exist without the foundation of Judaism.
CUFI partners with Jewish interfaith organizations such as the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC). Founder of CUFI, John Hagee, struck CJCUC founder, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, as an impressive man with a clear and resounding voice about his love for the Jewish nation. When Riskin once confronted Hagee with the question about his love for the Jewish nation, "Do you love us because you want to convert us?" Hagee replied, "I love you because of Genesis 12:3 when the Lord says to Abraham, 'I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you'. I want to be blessed and not cursed, Rabbi".
In November 2012, the group filed a petition calling for Twitter and the US government to "ban Hamas from Twitter." CUFI makes the point that the Palestinian group currently in charge of the Gaza Strip is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States' government, and federal law prohibits providing "material support to such groups. The group says that "when it comes to Israel's military campaign, there is little that we here in America can do to help. But when it comes to this second conflict—the so-called 'twitter war'—there is something important we can do."
On its website, CUFI states that:
At a CUFI gathering in Washington, Hagee said, "President Obama is not pro-Israel."
"Turning part or all of Jerusalem over to the Palestinians would be tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban," Hagee said.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who has publicly disagreed with Hagee, wanted Jews to stop cooperating with CUFI, because Yoffie felt CUFI had an unacceptable political agenda. Hagee replied that his support for Israel was not conditioned on Israel's policies, and he would support the Israeli government unconditionally.
Prior to his death in 2007, Rev. Jerry Falwell sat on the Executive Board. In early 2008, he was replaced in his seat by his son, Jonathan Falwell.