Leading pro-Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has angrily pulled out of a national “interfaith” dialogue scheduled for later this month, because some of the Protestant faith leaders who planned to attend had the temerity to write a letter to Congress asking that US aid to Israel be reviewed for compliance with the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act in light of Israel’s extensively documented human rights violations.
In a statement announcing its withdrawal, the ADL claimed:
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.”
It would appear that these faith leaders are not entitled to express their opinions without clearing them first with the ADL.
Does aid to Israel violate US law?
The letter itself (PDF) begins:
We write to you as Christian leaders representing US 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.”
The letter attempts to be scrupulously “balanced” laying blame on Israel and Palestinians as if occupier and occupied were in equal positions:
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.
Yet it continues:
Unfortunately, unconditional US 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, which details widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of US-supplied weapons.
Accordingly, we urge an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US 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 to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.” 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.
In its conclusion, the letter demands:
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.
Another case of interfaith bullying
Perhaps because the reasoning of the letter is solid and its factual claims well-documented, the ADL did not attempt to refute the contents of the letter itself, but instead chose to sulk over the alleged claim that faith leaders have to clear their views with Abe Foxman – one of the most uncompromising and shameless apologists for Israeli human rights abuses and crimes.
Unable to answer the claims in the letter, Foxman resorts, in the ADL statement, to the Iran card:
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.
The cynicism of Foxman’s definition of “interfaith dialogue” can perhaps best be understood by reviewing his role in promoting and legitimizing the anti-Semitic and Islamophobic Christian Zionist Pastor John Hagee in recent years.