Lobby takes gloves off in assault on Christian leaders who questioned US aid to Israel

Israel lobby groups are taking the gloves off, with an all out attack on Christian denominational leaders who earlier this month sent a mild letter to Congress asking for an investigation into whether Israel is using US military aid to abuse Palestinian human rights, in violation of US law.

Today, a coalition of pro-Israel Jewish groups pulled the plug on a planned long-standing “interfaith dialogue” meeting in retaliation for the Christian leaders’ temerity to question US policy of unconditional support for Israel.

This came as pro-Israel organizations threatened to use their muscle to get Congress to investigate “delegitimizers of Israel.”

Pullout accompanied by thinly-veiled charge of anti-Semitism

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) announced in a statement the cancelation of the 22-23 October “interfaith dialogue meeting” and laid thinly-veiled charges of anti-Semitism:

“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.”

Accompanying the JCPA statement is a letter to the Christian leaders signed by the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Rabbinical Assembly, Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

JCPA describes itself as “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.”

The move today follows last week’s withdrawal from the interfaith dialogue by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) led by Abraham Foxman.

Congress to investigate “delegitimizers”?

On Monday, Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs umbrella, told the JTA that:

JCPA is considering as a response asking Congress to investigate delegitimizers of Israel and to issue a resolution against their efforts. He said he has not yet decided if he will attend the roundtable.

With the Israel lobby’s strong support in Congress, there’s no doubt that JCPA could find a few members to hold hearings in an effort to intimidate the growing movement for divestment in various churches.

However, the fact that the Israel lobby has been forced into an open confrontation with a growing number of faith groups over support for Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses suggests that anti-Palestinian groups are losing control of the narrative.

Growth of Christian solidarity with Palestine

Over the past several years, members and leaders of US Christian denominations have been galvanized into action by Kairos Palestine, a Palestinian Christian call for solidarity and action to end Israel’s abuses.

As Rifat Odeh Kassis, one of the authors of Kairos Palestine, recently told The Electronic Intifada, “Our occupation is not balanced… We are not equal sides: Israel is the strongest party, they occupy us, and they oppress us. Any talk about maintaining ‘balance’ in such a profoundly unbalanced situation is a call to maintain the state of oppression as it is and justifies keeping silent.”

The group Kairos USA has issued an action alert urging people to contact members of Congress to support the demands of the Christian leaders’ letter.

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Comments

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The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) "thinly-veiled charges" of anti-Semitism is being used as a club to stifle legitimate critique of Israel. This is short sighted, imprudent, and risky. Anti-Semitism is alive. But the church leaders who signed that letter are not engaged in anti-Semitism. They are on an errand. Their's is a conversation about, and a call for justice. Given the history of maltreatment, disenfranchisement, displacement, and death, given the shared experience of genocide itself, where is the grief, the hurt, the repulsion at what is being done to Palestinians by the State of Israel? Who will recognize the violence being done by Israel?

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Anyone who is interested in the truth should welcome such an investigation If the Israeli government has nothing to hide, it should have nothing to fear

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.