John Hagee’s Cornerstone mega-church grew tense Sunday as over a dozen protesters infiltrated the pews and spoke up during the pastor’s “honor to Israel” sermon, slamming the evangelical pastor for funneling millions of dollars to pro-Israel causes.
Shouting slogans like, “Genocide does not bring honor to Israel,” and, “How many olive trees have been uprooted with your tithes?” fifteen local protesters were dragged out of Hagee’s congregation Sunday. Dropping leaflets from the mega-church balcony with the names and faces of Palestinians killed in the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict, the protesters accused Hagee of sponsoring Israeli occupation and violence in the volatile West Bank.
Hagee started his powerful and influential charity Christians United for Israel in 2006, and has since publicly claimed to have raised millions of dollars for Zionist causes. Hagee has also claimed to have directed millions toward Jewish settlers hoping to plant roots in the West Bank and occupied territories, fueling one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and one of the clearest obstacles to peace.
At odds with many even on the political right, Hagee and his organization have publicly rejected any two-state solution to solve the tense Israeli-Palestinian standoff, saying all of Israel and the Palestinian territories are God-given to the Jewish state.
Hagee’s sermon, and the protest that briefly stopped it, was meant to mark an anniversary that supporters of Israel celebrate, though it's a date that Palestinian activists have come to mourn.
Every year around mid-May, many Israelis and die-hard supporters like Hagee commemorate the State of Israel’s founding in 1948. Conversely, Palestinians observe “the nakba,” meaning catastrophe in Arabic, to remember Israel’s declaration of independence and the war that followed, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were either expelled from their homes or fled amid the violence.
Genevieve Rodriguez, one of the protesters detained after disrupting Hagee’s sermon Sunday, said the point was to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, whom she said were “victims of racism, hate and occupation.”
“We, as organizers, wanted to come together and peacefully call attention to the lies [Hagee] was speaking in that sermon,” she said. Ironically, as church security rushed to drag the shouting protesters away from the congregation, Hagee remarked, "This is what the liberal left does. They believe in freedom of speech, but not for anybody but themselves."
As Rodriguez and others interrupted Hagee’s sermon, in the Middle East on Sunday a massive wave of Palestinian activists marched to Israel’s borders from Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria, sparking violent clashes with Israeli security forces. According to news reports, Israeli troops fired on activists descending from the Lebanese border, killing more than a dozen and injuring several others.
Protesters in San Antonio merely faced brief detention from police and criminal trespass warnings, Rodriguez said.