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.