By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org
WASHINGTON—Lutheran church leaders are again asking the U.S. government to pay some of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) unpaid bills, but the American Jewish Committee (AJC), in a reversal, is declining to assist the Lutheran effort.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which is the country’s largest Lutheran denomination, is mobilizing its members to urge members of Congress to pay the PA’s debts to the Lutheran-sponsored Augusta Victoria hospital, in eastern Jerusalem.
The hospital announced this week it “can no longer receive patients” because the PA has racked up a debt of $41 million, which is growing by $4 million per month, for care of patients the PA has referred to the hospital.
JNS.org reported in March that the AJC, a major mainstream Jewish organization, in recent years quietly pressed U.S. government officials and members of Congress to help pay the PA’s bills to Augusta Victoria. The U.S. provided $13 million annually for the past several years. Another $11 million in American aid was sent to the hospital in January 2017.
The AJC has now changed its position. Asked if the organization will be taking action in response to the latest crisis, AJC spokesman Kenneth Bandler told JNS.org, “The AJC will not ask the U.S. government to pay any portion of outstanding PA bills to Augusta Victoria hospital.”
ELCA spokesmen have failed to respond to multiple requests for comment on the latest developments.
“Peace Not Walls,” a division of the ELCA, this week distributed an action alert asking Lutherans nationwide to “encourage your members of Congress to support funding in 2017 that will sustain Augusta Victoria Hospital…in light of the Palestinian Authority’s lack of payments.”
Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, told JNS.org the PA “has perfected a policy of deliberately using aid for improper purposes and then getting more aid, in this case from the U.S. government, for its unpaid basic necessities, such as its hospital bills.”
In view of the fact that the PA provides some $10 million monthly to imprisoned terrorists, and $15 million monthly to terrorists’ families, “it has become morally revolting for organizations to continue to be duped by the PA as the American Jewish Committee previously was,” Weiss aid. He praised the AJC for “properly correcting its policy so that it will no longer fall victim to this duplicitous strategy of the Palestinian Authority.”
“Every government must choose its priorities,” David Brog, the founding executive director and a current board member of Christians United for Israel, told JNS.org. “The PA has chosen to pay murderers who take lives, instead of hospitals which save lives. There could not be a clearer example of how the PA’s priorities harm individuals on both sides of this conflict.”
“This is not something Christians should be doing,” said Dexter Van Zile, who monitors and analyzes the Christian media for the Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. “By paying the unpaid bills of the Palestinian Authority, we protect the PA from the consequences of its decision to incite against Jews and support terrorism. We become complicit in future acts of terrorism. We put Jews at risk. This is intolerable.”