More Fallout from the Protestant Leaders’ Letter on Aid to Israel

Two spot on responses to the recent NY Times article, “Church Appeal on Israel Angers Jewish Groups:”

The first comes from the Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan:

It seems to me that aid of all kinds should have basic human rights strings attached to it. I would have suspended all aid to Israel when it refused to stop its settlement policy on the West Bank, but that’s a little like being in favor of an immediate space station on Mars, given the Greater Israel lobby’s grip on Congress.

So let me just reiterate something that has no chance of ever happening, but I might as well put on the record: we should treat Israel as any other recipient of US aid. If a country is occupying and settling land conquered through war, if it’s treating a minority population with inhumanity, the US should stand up for Western values. It should not single Israel out; but we have to stop treating Israel as the exception to every other US foreign policy rule.

Rev. Jim C. Wall (Contributing Editor of the “Christian Century”) in an unflinchingly honest blog post:

To begin with, the 15 church leaders are heavyweights, top officials for their denominations. They include the leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker agency) and the Mennonite Central Committee. Two Catholic leaders also signed, not including the Catholic Council of Bishops.

These are not just leaders of a few religious groups, which a Protestant version of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs could corral into an interfaith dialogue meeting. These are the major-domos of American Protestantism, which raises the question of what exactly gives the JCPA and its scattered letter signers, these “outraged Jewish groups” as the Times calls them,  the right to claim religious standing in this conversation. Many of these Jewish groups are secular and function as part of the Israel Lobby, a collection of lobbying organizations that have Israel, not Judaism as their primary client…

The JCPA and its letter signers have no dogs in this hunt. They can be as outraged as they want.  This is still a free country. But the 15 church leaders have made the right religious, not political, move. They are speaking the language of “moral responsibility” in a letter directed to the U.S. Congress on the matter of U.S. funds used by Israel to violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Interfaith dialogue has always been nothing more than a device used by American Jewish groups to intimidate the American churches into keeping the ecumenical deal. By this intimidation, these groups have followed the example set by the government of Israel which has long used the so-called “peace process” to sustain its occupation and expand its borders, always to the detriment of the Palestinian people.

It is the right time for the leaders of the American churches to make their moral demand to the Congress. With their letter, they have done so, courageously, considering the political climate of our time. Interfaith dialogue can wait.

As things stand now, the Jewish groups have called for a “summit” for the top leaders of Christian churches to “discuss” the situation with them – and they are reportedly considering it. I hope the Christian leaders will stand firm.  It is not the role of these Jewish organizations to dictate how Christian religious leaders can live out their conscience or their values. These Jewish leaders have chosen to walk away from the table – they are in no position to demand the terms by which “dialogue” may resume.

We can only hope this sad turn of events will lead to a more honest interfaith conversation about Israel-Palestine – one based on honesty, respect and justice rather than emotional blackmail.


8 Comments on “More Fallout from the Protestant Leaders’ Letter on Aid to Israel”

  1. Paul Vogel says:

    I support our ELCA leadership and hope they will not back down on this issue.

  2. Sarah Q. Malone says:

    “We can only hope this sad turn of events will lead to a more honest interfaith conversation about Israel-Palestine – one based on honesty, respect and justice rather than emotional blackmail.”

    Amen to that!

    Peace and blessings,

    Sarah

    Sarah Q. Malone, Ph. D., M.Div.

    Convener, Interfaith Initiative Centre County

    (814) 883-5884

    The Mission of Interfaith Initiative Centre County is to foster compassion, charity and goodwill, and to build a healthy interfaith community by promoting respect, understanding, cooperation, and friendship among Centre County’s faith communities and their individual members. Various in our experience of spirituality and the divine, we are united in our common humanity. Through interaction, sharing beliefs and life stories, we can more deeply understand each other and ourselves.

    Our gatherings and programs aim to: *Create opportunities for dialogue between and among faiths and model healthy interfaith relations *Encourage and provide moral support for local faith communities – particularly those experiencing hostility or discrimination *Share social concerns and foster cooperation, while recognizing and respecting our religious differences *Discuss theologies and ideological issues in a frank, positive and respectful environment *Create an environment of asking and answering questions, and of learning, but not of proselytizing, converting others or making disciples.

    For more about our activities, visit our website: http://www.facebook.com/InterfaithInitiativeCC

    To be removed from this mailing list for any reason, reply with REMOVE in email subject line.

    • Wendy Carson says:

      I just went on your website and really liked what I have seen and read.I would very much like to be part of an interfaith group promoting peace human rights and justice for all people.

      • Sarah Q. Malone says:

        Terrific, Wendy! Where do you live? Interfaith Initiative is mostly focused on happenings in central Pennsylvania. But there are some great active interfaith groups in many areas. Perhaps I could connect you with one in your area. Peace and blessings, Sarah

  3. This comment from Uri Avnery echoes a growing conviction of mine that the people doing the complaining are leading Israel down a very slippery slope towards catastrophe. Here is Mr. Avnery’s remark: “[T]he ‘pro-Israel’ lobby – which is in effect an anti-Israel lobby, driving us on towards national disaster.” — Uri Avnery, “Presidential Debates: The Man with the Uzi”, The Palestine Chronicle, 10/21/2012.

  4. Cotton Fite says:

    The call from the Jewish groups for a “summit” sounds a little like a call to the principal’s office to students who have misbehaved. I hope the religious leaders find a way to endorse honest dialogue but not in the principal’s office.

  5. [...] More Fallout from the Protestant Leaders’ Letter on Aid to Israel by Rabbi Brant [...]

  6. sheree waks says:

    if you think it’s bad in the US, in Australia we still have problems saying “Palestine” and “occupied”!!


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