Christian groups urge US to bar Israeli rights abusers from receiving aid

Palestinians attend the funeral of 26 members of the Abu Jame family who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack on Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, 21 July 2014.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Representatives of 11 churches and faith-based organizations submitted evidence to the US State Department on Wednesday of specific gross violations of human rights by Israeli forces.

They are demanding that the Obama administration apply US laws that would halt military assistance to the Israeli units responsible.

Israel, the largest beneficiary of US military aid, currently receives about $3 billion a year. This could rise to nearly $5 billion per year under a package currently being considered by the Obama administration.

The groups that met with US officials include the American Friends Service Committee; the Mennonite Central Committee US; Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ; Pax Christi USA and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Reverend Susan P. Wilder, coordinator of the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, the groups’ umbrella, told The Electronic Intifada they had submitted specific evidence related to four cases of Israeli violations.

One, in the West Bank, dates from 2013, while three others relate to Israel’s devastating summer 2014 assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.

The groups are “seeking accountability for the observance of human rights in the use of US military assistance as outlined in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961” and other laws, the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy said.

The Foreign Assistance Act states that “No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

In a letter accompanying the case files, the church groups urge the State Department to “designate the military units involved as ineligible for foreign assistance” under US law.

Wilder said that the groups were not releasing more information about the cases for now, but that the evidence had been compiled based on careful research from multiple sources, including human rights organizations.

She said these cases were only the start and that more evidence would be submitted as part of an ongoing project to seek accountability for documented Israeli violations of human rights.

A similar call from Protestant faith leaders in 2012 for Israel to be held accountable sparked an angry reaction from Israel lobby groups.

The Anti-Defamation League boycotted a planned interfaith dialogue with the Christian groups in retaliation.

The Obama administration has strenuously opposed all efforts to hold Israel accountable for war crimes and human rights violations.

But in the face of official obstruction of justice, Palestinians and their supporters have been exerting direct pressure for legal accountability.

Last month, for instance, four Palestinian human rights organizations submitted case files directly to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and urged the chief prosecutor to launch an investigation that could result in indictments of Israeli suspects.

The effort by the church groups potentially opens another door to justice.

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The US would have more respect in the Arab world if we were fair handed and if our support for Israel was not so blind to its war crimes. This is a reasonable and righteous request and it should be treated as such. Perhaps if the United States attempted to regain some semblance of moral authority and held Israel to adherence to human rights and common decency we would suffer less hostility and disrespect which leads to terrorism, war, and global unrest.

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Unfortunately ,the Obama administration will do nothing except issuing a banal statement such as "It is not helpful for peace" .There is a sickness in our society ,if you will , that is promoted by our main stream media ,through the mechanism of not reporting reality in the Middle East .Our governments have been highjacked by an evil , that hides behind the curtain while orchestrating the destruction of civilization . Short of divine intervention , I am at a loss to define the exposure the guilty .

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Ali: I am a member of my local Presbyterean Church, as is Republican Senator from West Virginian Shelly Moore Capito. I talked to a fellow with the Presbyterean boycott commitee. He came across as a genuine Southern Progressive from Huntsville, Alabama. Here is the problem. First Presbyterean of Charleston, WVa. allowed a chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ to meet at the church, and the minister's wife worked for Reagan and spewed anti-gay Rhetoric to my son's Sunday School class.

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It's difficult to imagine an Israeli military organisation or institution not responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace. There's literally no aspect of the Zionist project which is not complicit in these acts. If eligibility for US assistance is contingent on the clean hands of the recipient (not even addressing the blood on the donor's) then Israel can look elsewhere- and why not to the Saudis- for their largesse. The sooner the better.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.