Christian Churches Calls Congress To Reconsider Giving Aid To Israel

Posted By Urban News Hour | October 23, 2012

Washington-A letter signed by 15 leaders of Christian churches that calls for Congress to reconsider giving aid to Israel because of accusations of human rights violations has outraged Jewish leaders and threatened to derail longstanding efforts to build interfaith relations.

Jewish groups have pulled out of an upcoming meeting with Protestant colleagues over a letter from Christian leaders to congressmen calling for a possible suspension of U.S. aid to Israel.

Fifteen religious leaders representing major Protestant denominations wrote a letter urging Congress to investigate whether unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel is contributing to violations of Palestinian human rights.

The Jewish leaders responded to the action as a betrayal and announced their withdrawal from a regularly scheduled Jewish-Christian dialogue meeting planned for Monday.

The controversy began on Oct. 5, when the Christian groups sent the letter urging Congress to hold hearings into whether Israel was violating the terms for foreign aid recipients.

The Christian leaders say their intention was to put the Palestinian plight and the stalled peace negotiations back in the spotlight at a time when all of the attention to Middle East policy seems to be focused on Syria, the Arab Spring and the Iranian nuclear threat.

They expressed compassion for the Israelis and Palestinians, and their right to legitimate self-defense but went on to note that they had “witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement.”

“We asked Congress to treat Israel like it would any other country… To make sure our military aid is going to a country espousing the values we would as Americans — that it’s not being used to continually violate the human rights of other people, ” said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the top official of the Presbyterian Church.

After detailing these abuses, the leaders called on Congress to hold hearings to determine the degree to which U.S. assistance is contributing to these Israeli behaviors.

They concluded noting that if Israel were found to be in non-compliance with the U.S. human rights provisions, then the law should be enforced and aid should be cut.

Some major Jewish groups denounced the letter, and the churches represented by the signatories, calling it “a step too far” and an indication of “the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations. “

In reaction, they also made an announcement that they would boycott a regularly scheduled “Jewish-Christian dialogue” session that they were to have next week, but did request Christian churches to send their top officials to an inter-faith “summit” meeting to discuss the situation.

It is an invitation the Christian leaders say they are still considering.

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