Dialogika

Israel, Palestinians & Mid-East

Jewish Groups Respond to Christian Letter to Congress

 

  1. American Jewish Committee (AJC): "AJC Outraged by Christian Call for Congressional Investigation of Israel"

  2. Anti-Defamation League (ADL): "ADL Pulls Out of Jewish-Christian Dialogue to Protest Anti-Israel Letter Signed by Mainline Protestant Leaders"

  3. B'nai B'rith International (BBI): "B'nai B'rith Deeply Concerned by Christian Leaders Call for Investigation; Takes Strong Exception to Unfair Charges"

  4. Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA): "Letter from Church Leaders Represents New Escalation in Anti-Israel Activity"

  5. Rabbinical Assembly (RA): "RA Dismayed by Protestants' Call for Congressional Investigation of Aid to Israel"

 


 

AJC Outraged by Christian Call for Congressional Investigation of Israel

American Jewish Committee

[From the AJC website]

October 7, 2012 -- New York -- An American Christian initiative calling on Congress to examine Israel’s use of U.S. military assistance is another attempt to penalize Israel for defending its citizens even as it continues to seek peace and security with its neighbors, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) said today.

In the October 5 letter to members of Congress, the fifteen representatives of American Christian denominations attacked Israel’s defensive measures – the same measures that have reduced terrorism against Israel’s diverse religious population, questioned the continuation of U.S. aid to Israel, and urged Congress to hold hearings on Israel’s uses of military equipment. The letter’s signatories included, among others, senior leaders of Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Methodist Church, whose rank and file rejected in recent months attempts to adopt punitive divestment from corporations which conduct business with Israel.

“Rather than listening to the voices of the people in the pews who repeatedly have rejected one-sided efforts condemning Israel, these leaders, claiming to want peace, seek yet again to hurt Israel’s ability to defend herself,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. 

"When the world currently is focused on the Iranian nuclear threat to the entire Middle East and the world, Christian leaders have chosen to mount another political attack on Israel,” said Marans. “When religious liberty and safety of Christians across the Middle East are threatened by the repercussions of the Arab Spring, these Christian leaders have chosen to initiate a polemic against Israel, a country that protects religious freedom and expression for Christians, Muslims and others.”

AJC challenged the fifteen Christian leaders who sent the letter to reflect carefully on what they are doing, to more fully understand Israel and to advance peace.

“If these Christian leaders are truly committed to Israeli-Palestinian peace and have access to Palestinian Authority President Abbas, they should urge him to stop ignoring Israel and return to the table to negotiate a permanent peace accord,” said Marans. “A two-state solution, the Jewish state of Israel and a future Palestinian state, existing in peace and security, can only be realized though direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.”

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ADL Pulls Out of Jewish-Christian Dialogue to Protest Anti-Israel Letter Signed by Mainline Protestant Leaders

Anti-Defamation League

From the Anti-Defamation League website

New York, NY, October 10, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has withdrawn from participating in a national Jewish-Christian interfaith dialogue scheduled for October 22 in response to a serious breach of trust by mainline Protestant Church leaders who are participants in the annual interfaith meeting.

Some of the Protestant leaders who were scheduled to be dialogue participants sent an outrageous and biased letter to members of Congress on October 5, accusing Israel of human rights violations against Palestinians and calling for a re-evaluation of U.S. foreign aid to Israel.  By failing to alert Jewish dialogue participants beforehand, ADL said the mainline Protestant leaders who signed on to the letter had shown a "blatant lack of sensitivity" and "seriously damaged the foundation for mutual respect."

The letter was signed by the current head of the National Council of Churches, as well as leaders of the Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ churches and was issued without notifying any of the churches' longtime Jewish dialogue partners, including ADL.

"In light of the failure of any of the church leaders to reach out to us, we have decided not to attend this interfaith meeting," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  "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."

The letter to Congress from Protestant leaders called for an investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which would make Israel ineligible for U.S. military aid.

"As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel," the letter said.  "Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel -- offered without conditions or accountability -- will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel's military occupation of the Palestinian territories.

"We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government's compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies."

Mr. Foxman responded: "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.

"We hope that other Jewish organizations will understand the level of disrespect the American Jewish community is being shown here and join us in withdrawing from the interfaith gathering," added Mr. Foxman.

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B'nai B'rith Deeply Concerned by Christian Leaders Call for Investigation; Takes Strong Exception to Unfair Charges

[From the B'nai B'rith International website]

October 10, 2012: B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned by a letter sent to Congress by 15 leaders of various Christian denominations calling for an investigation of Israel’s use of U.S. aid. In the letter they claim “widespread Israeli human rights violations” which would result in breaches of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.

These acts both prohibit aid to countries that display a consistent pattern of human rights violations. B’nai B’rith takes exception to the accusations of human rights violations as they are unfounded, inflammatory and one-sided.

“B’nai B’rith is highly critical of this attempt to undermine the relationship between the United States and Israel,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “U.S. aid is extremely important in protecting the people of Israel... Suggesting that aid is used to violate human rights only serves the purpose of demonizing the Jewish state.”

The letter puts some blame on the Palestinians, but never holds the Palestinian Authority accountable for refusing to re-enter direct negotiations with Israel, the only true path to peace.

“This letter is a thinly veiled attempt to try to harm Israel, and U.S.-Israel relations,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It unfairly singles Israel out despite the fact it is the only country in the region that embraces our shared values of democracy and freedom of religion. It also ignores the mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries that is widely supported in the United States.”

B’nai B’rith firmly believes that by calling for an investigation of Israel’s use of U.S. aid, these leaders have embraced an approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that does not promote peace and reconciliation, but rather the heightening of tensions between all parties.

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Letter from Church Leaders Represents New Escalation in Anti-Israel Activity

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

[From the JCPA website]

October 7, 2012: A letter to Congress sent by leaders of several church denominations and organizations reveals their core antipathy to Israel and a cynical manipulation of facts to question American support for Israel including foreign aid.  The letter calls for a Congressional inquiry into U.S. foreign aid to Israel. Among the signatories were leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, and the National Council of Churches.  
 
“We reject the call to reevaluate foreign aid to Israel – and we continue to support targeted aid to Palestinians.  Foreign aid remains a vital instrument,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “U.S. aid to Israel is not ‘unconditional,’ as the letter claims. Foreign aid  reflects the shared values of America and Israel, furthers our  goals for peace and is vital to advance the security of both peoples”
 
“The singling out of Israel by the signatories is disappointing but not surprising,” said JCPA Chair Larry Gold. “Although the letter acknowledges that Palestinians share some responsibility for the conflict, there is no call for investigation of Palestinian intransigence. It is telling that the call for action regarding human rights in other parts of the world is reduced to a mere footnote.
 
“The letter could also have highlighted the relentless attacks on Christians throughout the Middle East, including the brutal oppression of Coptic Christians or just as easily have called for a suspension of aid to Palestinians until the Palestinian Authority take steps such as returning to the negotiating table.  That would have been equally unhelpful but might have mitigated the obvious conclusion that the signatories bear a deep and singular antipathy for Israel.”
 
“Most Americans, including most Christians support a strong U.S. Israel relationship and recognize that foreign aid is a wise American investment. This is also the view of the leaders of both parties in both houses of Congress and both candidates for president,” said Gutow. “Those signatories to this letter are out of sync with these mainstream values.”  
 
This summer, more than 1,500 American rabbis and tens of thousands of other Jews signed a letter to the Presbyterian and Methodist churches urging a rejection of divisive measures and reaching out our hand as partners for peace.  

“We eagerly await the day when these church leaders step away from their troubling fixation on hurting Israel and adopt an approach to peacemaking that fosters reconciliation rather than conflict,” said Gutow.

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RA Dismayed by Protestants' Call for Congressional Investigation of Aid to Israel

[From the Rabbinical Assembly website]

October 10, 2012. NEW YORK – In response to a letter released Friday by a group of representatives of mainline Protestant groups, calling for Congressional investigations into all foreign aid to Israel on the basis that Israel has allegedly used it in violation of U.S. conditions, the Rabbinical Assembly issued the following statement:

The Rabbinical Assembly unequivocally rejects the call of Protestant Christian leaders for reevaluation of foreign aid to Israel, and recommends that Members of Congress do so as well.

The letter calling for hearings and reassessment was issued without outreach to longtime partners in public advocacy within the Jewish community.  It was released on the eve of Shabbat, just before a long weekend of Jewish and American holidays.  And it was distributed at a time when Congress is out of session, in the midst of the general election campaign. 

We find these tactics to be disrespectful of channels of communication that have been constructed over decades, and an essential declaration of separation from the endeavor of interfaith consultation on matters of deep concern to the Jewish community.  Indeed, we find this breach of trust to be so egregious that we wonder if it may not warrant an examination on the part of the Jewish community at large of these partnerships and relationships that we understood ourselves to be working diligently to preserve and protect.

The substance of the letter demands a point-by-point response.  Our community is currently preparing such a document but will be delayed by the holy season that concludes this week.  Rabbi Jack Moline, Director of Public Policy of the Rabbinical Assembly stated: “At the moment, it is sufficient to say that Israel remains the only outpost of democracy and guaranteed human rights in the entire region, and America’s only dependable ally in promoting the rights of free expression, freedom of religious conscience and practice, equal rights for people of either gender and all sexual orientations, and a political system that enables an unfettered exchange of ideas and peaceful transition of government based on the will of the people.

We fail to understand how, under the cloak of concern for human rights, the churches involved have elected to communicate such an unbalanced portrayal of the complex situation which Israel encounters daily, including a constant need to defend itself from attacks on its own people.  It would seem to belie an antagonism that stands in sharp contrast with the theological professions of their outreach to the Jewish community.”

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, the Rabbinical Assembly’s Director of Israel Advocacy, added, “Israel’s readiness to pursue peace is not matched by the Palestinians, yet the document seeks to assign blame only to the Jewish state for the inability to progress in the quest for peace.  Moreover, to selectively invoke the representations of a Jewish organization for their own purposes is reprehensible.”

The Rabbinical Assembly expresses its deep disappointment and dismay with the churches involved, who have seen fit to unilaterally release this document in disregard for our longstanding tradition of collaborative discussion on sensitive and complex matters.  We urge our members to express their concern to friends and colleagues who are associated with these denominations in their local communities.

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