CNN reports that John Hagee defended his remarks with the following:
Hagee is pastor of a 19,000-member evangelical church in San Antonio, Texas, and founder of a global Christian broadcast network.
In a statement released before McCain rejected his endorsement, Hagee said his words had been taken out of context.
"The intentional mischaracterization of my statements by an Internet journalist seeking to use me as a political football in the upcoming presidential race is a gross example of bias at its worst. I will not stand idly by while my character is assassinated and my views on the Holocaust are grossly distorted.
"To assert that I in any way condone the Holocaust or that monster Adolf Hitler is the biggest and ugliest of lies. I have always condemned the horrors of the Holocaust in the strongest of terms." He also pointed to millions of dollars worth of donations his ministry had made to humanitarian efforts in Israel.
The Washington Times (5/24/08) published defenses of Rev. Hagee's words - click link for full article
Jews defend Hagee's words
By Julia Duin
Jewish allies of the Rev. John Hagee rushed to his defense yesterday to say the Texas evangelist is not anti-Semitic despite Sen. John McCain campaign's repudiation Thursday of the evangelist's endorsement.
"John Hagee is one of the Jewish people's best friends," Los Angeles talk show host Dennis Prager said on the air yesterday morning. "Identifying John Hagee with anti-Semitism would be like identifying Raoul Wallenberg, the great Swede who saved thousands of Jews in the Holocaust, with anti-Semitism."
Orthodox Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, of Congregation Rodfei Sholom in San Antonio, appeared at an afternoon press conference yesterday to say Mr. Hagee's "words were twisted and used to attack him for being anti-Semitic." In actuality, Mr. Hagee "interpreted a biblical verse in a way not very different from several legitimate Jewish authorities," the rabbi said."Viewing Hitler as acting completely outside of God's plan is to suggest that God was powerless to stop the Holocaust, a position quite unacceptable to any religious Jew or Christian," the rabbi said.
"I have devoted most of my adult life to ensuring that there will never be a second Holocaust," Mr. Hagee told reporters. "I have worked tirelessly to eliminate the sin of anti-Semitism from the Christian world and to ensure the survival of the state of Israel." At issue was Mr. Hagee's reference — in a late 1990s sermon and in his 2006 book "Jerusalem Countdown" to Adolf Hitler being a "hunter" used by God to force Jews to emigrate to Israel. In a reference to the Book of Jeremiah, whose author predicts a scattering of the Jewish people but saying God would bring them back to the promised land, Mr. Hagee says in the sermon: "How did [the Holocaust] happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."
David Brog, a Conservative Jew who is executive director of Mr. Hagee's nonprofit Christians United for Israel (CUFI), said critics misunderstood the biblical context. "Leading rabbis have said the same thing," he said. "This is a legitimate effort to grapple with the age-old question of why God allows evil in the world. Pastor Hagee was not, as some are claiming, saying the Holocaust was good. He has said repeatedly, throughout his life, that the Holocaust was the greatest of tragedies."But there is a long-standing Jewish tradition of searching for divine explanations for tragedy. For people who are biblical literalists, God is omnipotent; therefore, they maintain, God must have allowed the Holocaust to happen. What you hear here is an effort to search for an explanation."
Mr. Prager agreed. "As a religious Jew, I don't happen to believe that God brought on the Holocaust," he said. "But my Orthodox Jewish father who fought in World War II and many other believing Jews do. There is nothing anti-Jewish about that belief."[...]
The Catholic League, which had criticized the televangelist over statements taken as denunciations of the Roman Catholic Church, defended Mr. Hagee over the latest charges."I ... found him to be the strongest Christian defender of Israel I have ever met, and that is why attempts to portray him as anything but a genuine friend to Jews — one for whom the Holocaust is the horror of horrors — is despicable," League president Bill Donohue said Thursday.[...]
Barry Block, senior rabbi at San Antonio's Temple Beth El, a Reform synagogue, says the local Jewish community has been divided on Mr. Hagee for years. [...] He added, "Anti-Semitic is a term I use sparingly and would not apply to Pastor Hagee."
Rav Chaim Dov Keller wrote in the Jewish Observer:
[...] The Yishuv Hayashan (old settlement of chareidim) in eretz Yisroel had served as an unbroken link with the distant past. But in the 1930s the Yishuv was under siege. The new wave of Socialistic and secular Zionism was attempting to redefine Judaism as a nationalistic concept threatening to reduce Torah to a cultural curiosity. The current expansion of the Torah world then had already began with the arrival of Rabbi Eliezer Shulevitz in Eretz Yisroel in 1922 when he lad the groundwork for the founding of the Lomza Yeshiva in Petach Tikva (1924). And Rabbi Iser Zalman melter arrived from Slutzk, Russian to head Yeshiva Eitz Chaim in 1923. In addition the Alter of Slobodka...established his yeshiva in Chevron in 1924 [...] The Jewish poopulation grew dramatically in the mid-40s as a result of the horrific events in Europe, but the chareidim were in danger of being overwhelmed by the new forces. Miracles were needed - and Hashem provided them. From the charnel house of Europe came visionary leaders and builders like the Chebiner Rav, the Imrei Emes, the Beis Yisroel and Reb Arele Belzer. Members of the Mirrer Yeshiva came to Erretz Yisroel from Shanghai after the war, to be led by Rabbi Lazer yudel Finkel and Rabbi chaim Shmulevitz. And who can descrie the tremendous effect of Torah giants llike the Brisker Rav who escaped with nissim from the Nazis, stood at the helm of the battles for clear Daas Torah and restablished with a small group of talmidim that which is today the crowning glory of the Brisker yeshivs? How can one assess the awesome impact on the Torah world made by Harav Elazar Shach and the Steipler who later became the recognized leaders of the Olam HaTorah after the Chazon Ish and the Brisker Rav? [...]