(October 10, 2012 / JNS) It is appalling that Protestant leaders sent a letter to Congress asking it to investigate whether Israel’s use of American military aid has violated U.S. or international law. This letter marks a disturbing escalation in the efforts of Protestant anti-Israel activists.
For several years, factions within some denominations have tried, unsuccessfully, to get their churches to divest from companies that do business with Israel. Now they are going outside their churches but using their church affiliations to ask for Congressional support of their anti-Israel agenda.
These 15 Protestant leaders who signed the letter use the same irresponsible accusations and distortions of reality heard from extremists on campuses and from groups like Sabeel, the Palestinian Christian organization known for its anti-Semitic views. Despite its lip service to Israel’s very real security needs, the letter condemns all of Israel’s self-defense policies, even its use of tear gas to control violent crowds.
The letter blames Israel alone for the lack of peace and paints Palestinians as blameless. It never even refers to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas that governs Gaza, whose founding documents call for the murder of Jews and the “obliteration” of Israel, and who has fired over 10,000 rockets and mortars at Israel’s civilian communities since 2005.
The letter never condemns Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for refusing to return to negotiations despite Israel’s repeated entreaties, and it never mentions Israel’s repeated efforts to make peace. It certainly never questions whether the U.S. should continue to give Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year despite their refusal to promote peace. This is blatantly hypocritical.
The letter attempts to undermine Congressional support for Israel by spreading false information. Yet, U.S. aid to Israel has been one of America’s best investments. Israel is a steadfast friend and ally, and a democracy that shares America’s values. The two countries have benefited from joint research and development in science and technology, and U.S.-Israeli cooperation has created up to 200,000 jobs in the US while Israeli companies invested more than $57 billion in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. The letter’s recommendation would harm both the U.S. and Israel.
These Protestant leaders are effectively trying to undermine peace efforts, not foster them. If they really wanted to promote peace, they would call for President Abbas to return to the negotiating table. They would work with pro-Israel Jewish groups in America instead of ignoring them and making a travesty of interfaith relations. If they really wanted to promote peace in the region, they would focus on Syria where over 30,000 people have been slaughtered and on the escalating prejudice and persecution of Christians in the wake of the Arab spring.
Unfortunately, their obsessive prejudice against Israel has revealed that they are not honest brokers for peace, and raises worrisome concerns about their moral compass. They seem to be flirting with the “new anti-Semitism” in which Israel replaces “Jew” in traditional anti-Semitic accusations. We hope that the people in the pews will hold these misguided leaders accountable and restore the Protestant churches’ ability to assert moral leadership.