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Posts

Christians ask Congress to withhold funds from Israel if it breaks US law

This posting has 4 items:
1) Mondoweiss: Jewish establishment threatens Congressional investigation of ‘delegitimizers’ over Christian letter;
2) 15 signatories: Christian leaders’ letter to Congress;
3) JCPA: Jewish Groups Pull Plug on Longstanding Dialogue with Churches;
4) M.J. Rosenberg: J Street sells its soul, completes evolution to AIPAC lite ;

Palestinian Methodist Missionary and Pastor Alex Awad outside the Tampa convention center, where the Methodist divestment vote took place last Spring. (Photo: Anna Baltzer)

Jewish establishment pulls out of interfaith dialogue, threatens Congressional investigation of ‘delegitimizers’ over Christian letter

By Alex Kane, Mondoweiss
October 17, 2012

Mainstream Jewish establishment groups have upped the ante in a battle with Christian churches that was sparked by a mild letter calling on Congress to investigate whether military aid to Israel violates U.S. law.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) announced October 17 that their group and six other organizations were pulling out of a planned interfaith dialogue group scheduled for later this month. Instead, the Jewish groups are calling for a “summit” to take place in order to “communicate face-to-face at the highest levels and determine a more positive path forward for our communities.” In other words, the Jewish establishment wants to meet on its own terms, and not discuss the human rights violations of Israel.

“These churches have squandered our trust. They either refuse to pay attention to our plea for a fair appraisal of the situation or they simply do not care,” said JCPA president Steve Gutow, a former official with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The statement from the JCPA also conflates “anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, and anti-Palestinian activities” with “anti-Zionist activities that have found comfortable homes in [Christian] denominations,” as JCPA official Larry Gold put it.

The interfaith roundtable that was scheduled to meet later this month was created in 2004 after proposals to divest from companies doing business with the Israeli military began to gather strength in Christian denominations.

The letter (pdf here) that sparked the fracas is relatively mild. Signed by 15 leaders of Christian groups, the letter acknowledges that “Israel faces real security threats and that it has both a right and a duty to protect both the state and its citizens.” But the language that sparked the controversy was the call for “an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.”

These laws “respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of U.S. weapons to ‘internal security’ or ‘legitimate self-defense.’…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,” the Christian letter reads. Included in the letter are examples of Israeli human rights violations being carried out with U.S. weapons, such as the killing of Palestinian civilians and home demolitions and forced displacement. The letter was sent to every member of Congress.

After the letter was publicized, Jewish establishment groups went ballistic. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was the first group to pull out the interfaith roundtable. “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,” ADL head Abraham Foxman said in a statement.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency adds to the story by reporting on an alarming threat from the JCPA. Ethan Felson, the vice president of the JCPA, told the news agency that “JCPA is considering as a response asking Congress to investigate delegitimizers of Israel and to issue a resolution against their efforts.” Felson also suggested that “American Jewish groups could retaliate by advocating against U.S. aid to the Palestinians.”

Still, Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council has come out in favor of the Christian letter. Other Christian groups that pushed for boycott and divestment at recent church meetings have also come out strongly in favor of the letter.

“Israel’s grave and systematic abuses of Palestinian human rights and violations of international law have been thoroughly documented for many years,” said Rev. Jeff DeYoe, the advocacy chair for the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, in a statement. “We’re pleased and encouraged that church leaders from a growing number of denominations are recognizing this and taking a stand in favor of justice and freedom for all the peoples of the Holy Land. We hope members of Congress will do the same.”



Christian leaders’ letter to Congress

October 05, 2012

Member of Congress,

We write to you as Christian leaders representing U.S. churches and religious organizations committed to seeking a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Our organizations have been deeply involved in this pursuit for decades, inspired by the call and promise of Jesus Christ who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they

will be called children of God.”

In response to our Christian call to be peacemakers, we have worked for decades to support both Israelis and Palestinians in their desire to live in peace and well-being. We have worked alongside our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers to help build a peaceful and resilient Palestinian civil society by supporting hospitals, schools, clinics, and social service agencies. These ministries include cooperative efforts with Israelis and Palestinians as well as with Jews, Muslims, and other neighbors here in the United States. Through our presence in the region, and regular visits to our partners there, we see first-hand the impacts of the conflict on both Palestinians and Israelis and hear from them directly about the reality of their lives.

Through this direct experience we have witnessed the pain and suffering of Israelis as a result of Palestinian actions and of Palestinians as a result of Israeli actions. In addition to the horror and loss of life from rocket attacks from Gaza and past suicide bombings, we have witnessed the broad impact that a sense of insecurity and fear has had on Israeli society. We have also witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement, among others. We recognize that each party—Israeli and Palestinian—bears responsibilities for its actions and we therefore continue to stand against all violence regardless of its source. Our stand against violence is complemented by our commitment to the rights of all Israelis, as well as all Palestinians, to live in peace and security.

It is this experience and these commitments that lead us to write to you today to express our grave concern about the deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories which threaten to lead the region further away from the realization of a just peace.

Unfortunately, unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel has contributed to this deterioration, sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians. This is made clear in the most recent 2011 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices covering Israel and the Occupied Territories [1], which details widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons.

Accordingly, we urge an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of U.S. weapons [2] to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.” [3]

More broadly, we urge Congress to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace. 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. Examples of specific, systematic human rights violations related to U.S. military support are included as an annex to this letter.

In addition to specific rights violations, we see a troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace. Specifically, repeated demands by the U.S. government that Israel halt all settlement activity have been ignored. Since 1967, every U.S. administration has decried Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as obstacles to peace.

Despite this stance, Israel continues to expand its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, claiming territory that under international law and U.S. policy should belong to a future Palestinian state. The Oslo peace process, which began in 1993, was publicly promoted as leading Israelis and Palestinians to a just peace based on a two-state solution. Instead, since 1993, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has more than doubled. Rights violations resulting from Israeli settlement activity include separate and unequal legal systems for Palestinians and settlers, confiscation of Palestinian land and natural resources for the benefit of settlers, and violence by settlers against Palestinians.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there has been a dramatic rise in settler attacks against Palestinians this year [4]

They report that these attacks are often intended to drive Palestinians from areas the settlers wish to take over, and that Israeli authorities have failed to take significant action to stop the violence or hold the perpetrators accountable. We believe that these actions directly undermine peace efforts and threaten, rather than support, Israel’s long-term security interests.

We want to be clear that we recognize that Israel faces real security threats and that it has both a right and a duty to protect both the state and its citizens. However, the measures that it uses to protect itself and its citizens, as in the case with any other nation, must conform to international humanitarian and human rights law.

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. 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. As Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II, it is especially critical for Israel to comply with the specific U.S. laws that regulate the use of U.S.-supplied weapons. We also encourage Congress to support inclusive, comprehensive, and robust regional diplomacy to secure a just and lasting peace that will benefit Israelis, Palestinians, and all the peoples of the region, and the world.

With respect and gratitude, we offer you our prayers.

Sincerely,

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.

Alexander Patico, North American Secretary, Orthodox Peace Fellowship

Diane Randall , Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation

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. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Julia Brown Karimu, President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Division of Overseas Ministries; Co-Executive, Global Ministries (UCC and Disciples)

Rev. Dr. James A. Moos, Executive Minister, United Church of Christ, Wider Church Ministries; Co-Executive, Global Ministries (UCC and Disciples)

Kathy McKneely, Acting Director Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Eli S. McCarthy, PhD, Justice and Peace Director, Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)

Examples of specific, systematic human rights violations related to U.S. military support

• Killings of civilians – At least 2,969 Palestinian civilians uninvolved in hostilities were killed by the Israeli military between December 29, 2000 and December 31, 2009. This includes at least 1,128 children under the age of 18. [5]. Many of these deaths are connected to weaponry the U.S. underwrites.

• Suppression of legitimate political expression and protest – U.S.-supplied tear gas has been used by Israel to systematically suppress political protests and dissent in the occupied Palestinian territories. This has led to the deaths of at least 5 Palestinians and the grave injury of many others, including two U.S. citizens.

• Home demolitions and forced displacement – According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, approximately 24,813 Palestinian homes in the occupied Palestinian territories have been destroyed since 1967. House demolitions in the West Bank in 2011 forcibly displaced nearly 1,100 Palestinians (over half of them children) from their homes, over 80% more than in 2010, according to the United Nations (UN) Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [6].

• Use of prohibited weaponry in densely populated civilian areas – Israel has used both white phosphorus and flechette shells in Gaza and Lebanon in violation of international humanitarian law. During operation cast lead white phosphorus shells were fired against civilian targets including a UN compound, two hospitals, and private residences causing civilian deaths and injuries. Flechette shells have also been used repeatedly in Gaza since 2001, causing significant civilian deaths and casualties. [7]

• Restricting Palestinian movement – Israeli-only roads and more than 500 roadblocks and checkpoints carve up the West Bank, making travel for Palestinians arduously slow or impossible [8] . The Wall constructed by Israel in the West Bank deviates considerably from the 1967 lines, confiscating occupied Palestinian territory and water in the process, and severely restricting Palestinian movement. Since 2007 Israel has also maintained a comprehensive blockade on Gaza, restricting not only the movement of Palestinians into and out of Gaza, but also restricting the import and export of goods. The UN and International Committee of the Red Cross have both concluded that this blockade amounts to collective punishment [9] ,in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Footnotes

1.http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/190656.pdf
2. Weapons in this instance include “crowd control” items such as tear gas. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74) which is included in the US Foreign Military Financing regulations stipulates that “not later than 90 days after enactment of this act and 6 months thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations detailing any crowd control items, including tear gas, made available with appropriated funds or through export licenses to foreign security forces that the Secretary of State has credible information have repeatedly used excessive force to repress peaceful, lawful, and organized dissent.”
3. While this letter focuses on US-Israel relations and the Israel-Palestine conflict, these are laws that we believe should be enforced in all instances regardless of location. All allegations regarding the misuse of US supplied arms should be investigated.
4. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/07/11/v-print/155813/report-violence-against-palestinians.html For more information see also:

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/lambs-to-the-settlers-slaughter-screaming-and-unheard.premium-1.455937

5. Details available at http://www.weaponstoisrael.org/article.php?id=2940 and through original date from B’Tselem at www.btselem.org/statistics.
6. http://www.unocha.org/annualreport/2011/pse
7. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/israeli-army-used-flechettes-against-gaza-civilians-20090127
8. http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_MovementandAccess_FactSheet_September_2011.pdf
9. http://www.ochaopt.org/gazablockade/



Jewish Groups Pull Plug on Longstanding Dialogue with Churches

“Enough is Enough” – JCPA and Jewish Groups Pull Plug on Longstanding Dialogue After Church Israel Letter

Media Release from JCPA
October 17, 2012

Cancelling an interfaith dialogue meeting, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and other Jewish groups have called for a summit with the heads of Jewish organizations that have been engaged in the roundtable and the heads of the Christian denominations that penned a letter to Congress calling for an investigation into Israel’s use of the U.S. military aid.

“The letter signed by 15 church leaders is a step too far,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The participation of these leaders in yet another one-sided anti-Israel campaign cannot be viewed apart from the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations. We remain committed to the enterprise of interfaith relations because it is central to the development of a just and righteous society. But these churches have squandered our trust. They either refuse to pay attention to our plea for a fair appraisal of the situation or they simply do not care. Their stony silence to the use of anti-Judaism and relentless attacks on the Jewish state, often from within their own ranks, speaks loudly to their failure to stand up and speak the whole truth about what is occurring in the Middle East.”

“It is the right of these Christian leaders to say what they want to Congress or anyone else,” added JCPA Chair Larry Gold. “And it is our right to say ‘enough is enough.’ We will continue to be vigilant against anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, and anti-Palestinian activities wherever and whenever we see them because it is the right thing to do. If only the leaders of these churches cared a fraction as much about the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activities that have found comfortable homes in their denominations. How tragic that some of our counterparts in the churches are not only silent to this invective, they are responsible for it. ”

In a letter to the participants in the now cancelled meeting, the Jewish groups acknowledged disappointment in the roundtable’s ability to address deteriorating relations. The letter expresses continuing commitment to dialogue and interfaith relations, but also acknowledges that the church letter “precludes a business-as-usual approach.” The text of the letter is below.

JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 14 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.



J Street sells its soul, completes evolution to AIPAC lite (updated)

M.J Rosenberg, blog
October 13, 2012

It was inevitable. Constantly under pressure from the Jewish center-right (Reform rabbis, for instance), J Street has thrown in the towel. Read its document of surrender. [blog on Open Zion by JStreet’s Rachel Lerner]

In response to the letter from Christian denominations urging that aid to Israel be compliant with U.S. policy and law, J Street has joined Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation league and the half-million dollar a year hacks that run the other Jewish organizations to blast the Christians. (See Foxman letter). J Street’s endorsement of the right-wing position is interestingly framed. It asserts that the Jewish community brouhaha about the letter is much ado about little. It says that Jews should be more concerned about achieving peace than attacking every call for it. It puts forth its own tired support for Mahmoud Abbas and the PA (without mentioning that it urged the US to veto the Palestinian statehood resolution which represented Abbas’s one big effort to avoid irrelevancy).

And then it covers its bases by asserting that it agrees with ADL and the others that aid to Israel is an entitlement. It must never be questioned unless you also add “criticism of Israel’s behavior with appropriate criticism of, for instance, rocket fire from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas.” You must also ”put the present situation into a historical or political context that might provide a fuller appreciation for the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over many decades. “

Blah, blah, AIPAC, blah. The church letter is about the $2.5 billion aid package to Israel. As far as I know, the U.S. does not provide the rockets fired from Gaza. As for putting the current situation in a context that “might provide a fuller appreciation for the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over many decades,” I say tell that to the people of Gaza, including the 1400 Palestinians killed during the 2009 Israeli onslaught (including 700 civilians and 250 kids under 16). What’s that context again?

I have no doubt that the people who run J Street fought the rabbis and donors to avoid having to put out this statement. They always fight. (The fought against having to oppose Palestinian statehood at the UN). They always give in.

I hear that Rabbi David Saperstein of the Reform movement threatens to pull “my rabbis” out if J Street strays too far from AIPAC. He’s the lobby’s enforcer, a great progressive on all matters NOT related to Israel and the Palestinians because he too is intimidated by his donors.

So I feel sorry for J Street. But I do not see any reason to support it. It is, at the end of the day — in fact, long before the end of the day — just another Jewish organization that lacks the courage of its supposed convictions.

If Israel attacks Iran, I am sure Saperstein will demand that J Street go along with that too. And J Street will. It is terrified not to be part of the organizational consensus, terrified that the Israeli ambassador will be angry with them, terrified at being outsiders like, you know, the Biblical Jewish prophets. It wants to be part of an amoral and immoral consensus and, guess what, it is.

J Street: Epic Fail.

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