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Also part of CMEP’s White House delegation was CMEP executive director and former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon Warren Clark. A few weeks before the White House visit, in June, CMEP convened its annual advocacy conference in Washington, D.C. called “Pursing Peace Together: Working for Reconciliation in the Holy Land.” In his remarks, Clark focused on what CMEP thinks is the main obstacle to Middle East peace: Israel, especially the Jewish settlements on the West Bank: “If the new building freeze is not extended, I believe hopes for an agreement will end, as no Palestinian authority can agree to continue the pattern of the past 17 years of engaging in negotiations while the Israeli population expands into the Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem.” Only an ongoing building freeze could allow “public perceptions” to improve, especially in Israel and the U.S., he insisted.
Clark implored: “We will all need to work as individuals and in groups, in our church communities, in our parishes, in our meetings, synods, dioceses and in all the other words we use to describe our various church organizations, to tell our elected representatives we want them to support the effort to bring about an end to this conflict and an agreement for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Holy Land.” In other words, rally your churches for increased U.S. pressure against Israel.
More direct than Clark at the CMEP advocacy event was former United Church of Christ President John Thomas, who sits on CMEP’s Leadership Council. As reported by my colleague Jeff Walton, Thomas likened Israel and the U.S. to the Bible’s wicked King Ahab, who stole his neighbor Naboth’s adjacent land for his own palace garden, declaring: “Give me your vineyard, because it is next to mine, and I want it.”
“There are always enough scoundrels around who will trump up charges and then ultimately dispossess the Naboths of this world first of their reputation, then of their life, then of their land,” Thomas insisted. Inevitably, he listed supposed American examples of “possessing and dispossessing,” which apparently makes America as notorious as Israel. “How else can we read the narratives that lead to and from the trail of tears and all of the tributaries that have gone so painfully from it?” he ponderously asked. “What of manifest destiny that rendered much of Mexico and Puerto Rico and islands in the Pacific ours, adjacent? Or closer to home, what else can one make of so much of the urban gentrification that we see, or even the foreclosures – which are not only cruel, but also demonically and deliberately clever?”
Thomas zinged America Christian Zionists’ for “self-serving apocalyptic visions” to bolster their pro-Israel stances. He claimed Israel was created as “a kind of atonement for centuries of anti-Semitism” and has since become America’s “compliant vassal state to be possessed as a client serving our strategic interests in which Naboth counts for little.” He warned against seeking “balance” in the Middle East and urged instead to focus on despoiled “Naboth” as the “the church’s primary concern,” by which he clearly meant suffering Palestinians, victimized by Israel and its American patrons.
Probably the CMEP was on its best behavior and did not mention “Naboth” while visiting the White House in July. But simplistically portraying Palestinians as victims and Israel and America as villains is the underlying constant theme for CMEP and the elites of its member churches.
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