by Joseph Puder
Not satisfied with the recent defeat of motions to divest from companies doing business with Israel and to ostracize Israel at their national forums, mainline Protestant church leaders sent a letter on October 8, 2012 to members of the U.S. Congress accusing Israel of human rights abuses, asking the U.S. lawmakers to “reevaluate unconditional” military assistance to the Jewish state, and calling for an investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. Such violations would render Israel ineligible for U.S. military aid. The letter also emphasized “a troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace,” citing Israel’s failure to halt settlement activity despite repeated U.S. government requests.
The letter was signed by Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (USA); Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, President, Council of Bishops United Methodist Church; Peg Birk, Transitional General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA; Shan Cretin, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee; J Ron Byler, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.; Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.; Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Rev. Dr. James A. Moos, Executive Minister, United Church of Christ, Wider Church Ministries Co-Executive, Global Ministries (UCC and Disciples); and others. The statement “urge[s] Congress to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace.” It continued: “We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.”
This visceral contempt for the Jewish state, rooted in a secular leftist ideology mixed with a measure of replacement theology, prompted the writing of this hypocritical letter and various other attempts to boycott, divest, and place sanctions against Israel for alleged wrongdoings against Palestinians. These church leaders, self-appointed “protectors” of human rights, have overlooked the endemic efforts by the Arabs/Palestinians to destroy the Jewish State through war and terrorism and the attempt at demographic warfare based on the claim of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Additionally, they have ignored the pervasive teaching of hatred of Jews in Palestinian schools, mosques, and every outlet of Palestinian media.
Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its report on abuses committed by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority against their own people in Gaza and the West Bank respectively. The report highlighted the corruption of the judicial system in the Palestinian territories and the degree to which Hamas terrorizes the people living under its control. Abiding the rule to never let facts get in the way, this report and others written throughout the years, did not alter the message or the fervency of the obsessive hatred for Israel of the above-mentioned church leaders. Neither, it seems, are they bothered by the burning of churches and the intimidation of the few remaining Christian communities in the Palestinian territories by these allegedly “abused” Palestinians who are on a quest to establish another fanatical Islamist state.
That Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East whose laws ensure and protect the human rights and religious freedoms of its Arab (both Christian and Muslim) minority, is of no consequence to these church leaders. Nor does it matter to them that the Palestinian Arab Muslim majority denies these same freedoms to their Christian residents.
Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, reacting to the letter by the church leaders, wrote, “The blatant lack of sensitivity by the Protestant dialogue partners we had been planning to meet with has seriously damaged the foundation for mutual respect, which is essential for meaningful interfaith dialogue.” He added, “It is outrageous that mere days after the Iranian president repeated his call for Israel’s elimination, these American Protestant leaders would launch a biased attack against the Jewish state by calling on Congress to investigate Israel’s use of foreign aid. In its clear bias against Israel, it is striking that their letter fails to also call for an investigation of Palestinian use of U.S. foreign aid, thus once again placing the blame entirely on Israel.”
The Protestant leaders who issued this transparently anti-Israel letter knew full well that President Obama had overridden congressional restrictions to fund the Palestinians because of their refusal to negotiate with Israel. The Palestinians received $147 million in American taxpayer money last April, in spite of their direct defiance of the U.S. request not to go to the UN General Assembly seeking unilateral recognition of statehood as a way to avoid negotiating with Israel. It is apparent that the Palestinian leadership is not interested in a peaceful solution, and it is amply clear that the radical Islamists of Hamas will never make peace with Israel for religious and ideological reasons.
A “just and lasting peace” is an imperative for all Israeli governments. The Jewish state proved its commitment to such by returning the entire Sinai Peninsula (3 times Israel’s size) in return for peace with Egypt. It made land concessions to Jordan for peace, and unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. This latest move resulted in a steady barrage of thousands of missiles from Gaza directly aimed at homes – with the clear intention to kill civilians, especially women and children. Israel is a successful modern democracy facing failed Arab states and a Palestinian Authority that reject modernity, seeking to embrace and impose a fanatical and intolerant version of Islam.
History shows that Jewish “settlements” have never been an impediment to peace. Israel proved it in 1982, when Prime Minister Menahem Begin, himself a resident of Yamit, a Jewish ”settlement” town in the Sinai, was dismantled as part of the peace treaty with Egypt. Likewise, Israel dismantled numerous settlements in the Gaza Strip. Interesting to note also, that international law never forbade Jewish settlement in western Palestine (West Bank). “The Mandate for Palestine” issued by the League of Nations laid down the Jewish legal right — under international law — to settle anywhere in western Palestine, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law. Fifty-one member countries — the entire League of Nations — unanimously declared on July 24, 1922: “Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”
The United States, not a member of the League of Nations, unanimously endorsed the mandate for Palestine on June 30, 1922 in a joint resolution of both U.S. Houses of Congress: ”Favoring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” and “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America that the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected.”
The claim by these aforementioned church leaders that Jewish settlements pose an obstacle to peace is a red herring designed to blame Israel for lack of progress in the so-called “peace process,” thus enabling the Palestinians to reject compromise and reconciliation with Israel as a Jewish State.
It is the meddling of these Protestant church leaders and their one-sided anti-Israel posture that fuels the fires of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
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