Relations Break Down Between Jewish & Protestant Groups

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


Major Jewish groups have indignantly cancelled a scheduled interfaith dialogue after Mainline Protestant officials urged Congress to reconsider U.S. military aid to Israel.  The October 5 Protestant letter complained of “widespread Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement.” The National Council of Churches, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist and United Church of Christ officials (Episcopalians were notably absent) asked Congress to investigate Israeli abuses before granting further aid.  They faulted U.S. military help for “sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.”  The Protestant letter did not mention U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority or to Arab regimes.

“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,” pointedly explained Jewish Council of Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow. Having “squandered our trust,” he said these churches’ officials have shown a “stony silence to the use of anti-Judaism and relentless attacks on the Jewish state, often from within their own ranks,” which “speaks loudly to their failure to stand up and speak the whole truth about what is occurring in the Middle East.”

Previously Jewish groups have largely confined their public concerns about Mainline Protestant bias against Israel to anti-Israel divestment initiatives by the churches.  This Summer the United Methodists and Presbyterian Church (USA) both rejected divestment, the Presbyterians only very narrowly.  But fierce denunciation of Israel, and mostly silence about human rights abuses nearly everywhere else, have characterized official Mainline Protestantism for about 30 years.  Once pro-Israel, Mainline Protestant elites in the 1970s succumbed to a Liberation Theology perspective that portrayed Palestinians as Third World victims and Israel as colonialist oppressor.

“While we remain committed to continuing our dialogue and our collaboration on the many issues of common concern, the letter represents an escalation in activity that the Jewish participants feel precludes a business-as-usual approach,” the Jewish groups publicly complained as they withdrew from a Christian-Jewish Roundtable set for late October.  The dialogue began in 2004 to ease interfaith tensions as Mainline Protestants first pondered anti-Israel divestment.

The protesting Jewish groups were the American Jewish Committee (AJC), B’nai B’rith International (BBI), Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), Rabbinical Assembly (RA), Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), and

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).

“The [Protestant] letter could also have highlighted the relentless attacks on Christians throughout the Middle East, including the brutal oppression of Coptic Christians or just as easily have called for a suspension of aid to Palestinians until the Palestinian Authority take steps such as returning to the negotiating table,” observed one JCPA official.  “That would have been equally unhelpful but might have mitigated the obvious conclusion that the signatories bear a deep and singular antipathy for Israel.”

Typically official Mainline Protestant pronouncements have exclusively faulted Israel for the absence of Mideast peace.  “Our churches are equally concerned about the well-being of Israelis and Palestinians, and are concerned about the massive amounts of U.S. military aid for Israel, and how those funds are used to perpetuate occupation,” a United Church of Christ official told Haaretz, an Israeli publication.  A JCPA official pointed out to The New York Times that Mainline Protestant pronouncements often brand Israel an “Apartheid state.”

“We asked Congress to treat Israel like it would any other country,” the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) told Haaretz, “to make sure our military aid is going to a country espousing the values we would as Americans — that it’s not being used to continually violate the human rights of other people.” But neither his denomination nor the other Mainline Protestants typically if ever offer critique of any governments other than Israel, much less the Palestinians.  “Where’s the letter to Congress about Syria, which is massacring its own people?” asked an official with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, as quoted in The Times.  “When Israel is the only one that is called to account, that’s when it becomes problematic.”

But the Presbyterian official fairly pointed out that he was representing the official statements of his denomination as approved by its biannual General Assembly.  The German-based United Methodist bishop who signed the letter made the same point, quoting the copious resolutions her denomination has approved aimed at Israel.  “We stand clearly on the side of Israel and we are committed to human rights for all God’s people,” insisted Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops.  “We are ready to continue the dialogue with Jewish faith groups,” she added.  “And we will also continue to express publicly our desire for peaceful solutions for the conflict in the Middle East.”

The protesting Jewish groups have requested a “summit” with Mainline Protestant officials to help heal the rift.  Likely it will occur.  And just as likely it will not significantly alter the anti-Israel reflexes of Mainline Protestant elites.  Jewish groups rightly challenge biased Mainline Protestant officials.  But they should remember that the Mainline has become culturally sideline though often giving political cover to dubious political causes.  And liberal church elites don’t speak for most church members.  A Pew poll last year showed Mainline Protestants sympathizing with Israel over Palestinians by 46% to 12%.

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  • Juju

    These Protestant orgnaizations were commandeered by the Soviets decades ago, along with most unions and student associations. That said, Martin Luther was one despicable individual.

  • Mike

    Notice that all of those church denominations are liberal and their membership numbers are shrinking. Any surprise? They have a church but have no bible. The land belongs to the jews and no one else, that's a promise given by God himself!

  • Omar

    Why don't those organizations protest against Communist China's occupation of Tibet (a genocidal occupation which has led to the deaths of over 1.2 million Tibetans since that occupation began in 1950), the Assad Family dictatorship in Syria(which has ruled Syria since a Soviet/KGB coup placed the Assad regime in power in 1966), the Islamist dictatorship in Sudan (a racist, sexist, Islamist dictatorship that behaves worse than South Africa's former apartheid regime) or Communist Cuba's (which has been oppressing the Cuban people, as well as destroyed Cuba, since the Castro family dictatorship took over in 1959) legitimacy? Of course it wouldn't matter to those "Protestant" groups that Arabs living in Israel have more rights and liberties as Israeli citizens than people living in other countries in the Middle East. It wouldn't matter to those "Protestant" groups either that Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other Islamist totalitarian organizations are genocidal militant hate groups that want to destroy Israel. What those "churches" really want is a world where Marxism and Sharia are the laws of the land. That is, a world here women would be treated like chattel, where homosexuals are lynched for being homosexual, and where Jews and people of other faiths and beliefs (and non-religious people) are not allowed in. The reason why Israel gets criticized while China, Syria, Sudan and Cuba can get away with human rights violations is because those "Protestant" organizations hate democracy and support totalitarianism. Those "Protestant" organizations view China, Cuba, Syria and Sudan as "progressive" and defenders of so-called "social justice". Those organizations have a huge double standard indeed.

    • Mary Sue

      Some of them do the whole "Free Tibet" thing, but by and large they do not advocate freeing Tibet in a way that you know, would actually free Tibet.

      Free Tibet? Somebody'd have to practically nuke China. It's the ONLY way it's going to happen. Either that or somehow the people of China grow a collective conscience and overthrow their own leaders. But I don't see that happening anytime soon.

      However these Protestant liberal groups almost unanimously support Cuba, and the Canadian ones will regularly ship such conspicuously suspicious items as aspirin, tylenol, and toothbrushes to Cuba and blame the US "blockade" (it's actually an embargo, not a blockade, but I don't expect these idiots to know the difference–particularly since a blockade would mean people from Canada couldn't send ANYTHING to Cuba, let alone these little bottles of aspirin) on the shortages, all while claiming that Cubans have full access to the most excellent health care. It's a hypocritical stance that boggles the mind of rational people.

      The taking of sides against Israel as opposed to say, the Palestinians, I think, has roots in the infiltration of the Left by Muslim radical leftists who gained allies by lying through their teeth about what Israel is actually doing, all while blaming Israel for the acts of terrorism the Palestinians themselves have been committing. The protestant liberal groups have been lied to so thoroughly that they cannot even bear to hear the truth, and when informed of it, shoot the messenger and denounce the source as crazy/lying/fascist/whatever.

      They do some hand-wringing about Sudan/Darfur. At least some of them do. I've seen it. The Canadian ones, mostly.

      • Omar

        Actually, there is no embargo on Cuba. The U.S. only has limited sanctions on the Castro regime. The "embargo" myth comes from the propaganda of the Castro family dictatorship. In fact, the U.S. does trade with Cuba (Washington is Havana's largest food supplier). Any way, the reason why the limited sanctions were implemented in the first place is because the Castro regime stole like over $3 billion from American businesses at Soviet gunpoint. Fidel Castro said that he would never repay a penny for what he stole (which was the only promised he ever kept in his life). Also, those religious organizations that keep supporting the Castro regime either don't know or don't care that the Castro regime persecuted Christians in Cuba during the Cold War years (in the early 1960s, Fidel Castro was excommunicated by the Catholic Church for his crimes against Catholics). To learn more about the truth about Cuba and the Castro regime, read Humberto Fontova's books, Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant and Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots who Idolize Him. You can also read Manuel Marquez-Sterling's book, Cuba 1952-1959: The True Story of Castro's Rise to Power, to learn what really happened in Cuba during the years before the Castro regime took over. As for health care in Cuba, while it is affordable, the quality is awful. Fox News has video footage of what real Cuban hospitals look like. Those videos were smuggled out of Cuba by people who know the truth about the regime in their country, made their way through Mexico, and eventually arriving in the United States for Fox to broadcast to TV. In a truly moral world, those religious organizations would be supporting Israel and its democratic system, while denouncing the Castro dictatorship's human rights violations in Cuba. But because we live in the real world, those organizations are denouncing democracy, while hailing totalitarianism. Now that's a double standard.

        • Mary Sue

          Oh yeah, I know it's not a complete set of sanctions, it's just they don't get to "trade" with USA. they trade with EVERYBODY ELSE!

          I've had to deal with morons in my own hometown, two of which died of old age recently, who were wholehearted and stubborn supporters of Castro's Cuba. Seriously, you could not tell them anything. They also dog whistled the whole Evil Bankers thing, careful to leave out any reference to "jews" but they were listening to idiots like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Norm Finkelstein, and denied they're antisemitic because Zinn, Chomsky and Finkelstein are Jews.

          They pretty much had nothing to say when I brought up in letters to the editor that Cuba's children are all sent to work in the fields at roughly age 10 until they're 14, violating any sense of Child Labor Laws that normally people like them would be fighting against most vociferously.

          And these people…….were teachers. Yeah. These idiots were responsible for educating middle school children. Scary. Of course around here, most teachers are NDP (because of their union), so it doesn't surprise me.

          Lots of great info there, I'll probably grab hold of some of that if i can find it. I nearly fell over when I found a National Geographic that was actually pretty honest about the whole Child Slave Labor In Cuba thing.

      • Ron Edge

        "The taking of sides against Israel as opposed to say, the Palestinians, I think, has roots in the infiltration of the Left by Muslim radical leftists…"

        Actually, not M.S. They were infiltrated largely by anti-Jim Crow/Segregation in the USA and anti-South African Apartheid BUT largely pro-Communistic Regimes in the 50's-60's which, natch, bled into anti-American/Viet Nam War.

        Now, they're politically, generally anti-American 'Anything'. All under the guise of "Human Rights", of course, unless those humans are US Government workers (I'm sure they figure the dead in Benghazi, somehow, 'asked for it'), GOP or Jews/Israeli's.

        So, being "pro-", "hand-wringing" and sympathetic (strong on the "pathetic" part) the very people who'll rape/steal their daughters/women, demand extra taxation, destroy their churches/synagogues and, when it gets too hot, murder them is not a such big stretch.

  • David R

    The reason God Almighty has withheld his fiercest wrath on the US is because the States have always upheld and sided with its only true democratic friend in the Middle East, Israel. A terrifying future lies ahead for this nation whose religious bigots have but one common faith…hating Israel. But you know, reading this article and many others brings a joy to my heart, because it reveals the truth of God's Word, the Bible. The ancient Prophets wrote about the end times, when Israel will be abandoned by all and when God Almighty will put in the hearts of all nations to turn aginst Israel and to march upon it to finally destroy the Jewish State and its blessed people.
    (read Zechariah chapter 12)
    Not surprising that God has already hardened the hearts of fools like Iran's leaders and all the Jew-hating people and terrorist groups to soon mobilize against His people…inluding Jew-hating presidents and wannabe Christians groups like the counterfeit clowns mentionned in this article.

  • Mike

    David R. Man you are right on target! Thanks for your input.

    • David R

      My input was longer but FPM wouldn't post it…too long I guess. Thanks Mike…and glory to our blessed Savior!

  • Marty

    This may actually be a positive development. The recognition (finally) of some Jewish organizations that these protestant groups are hysterically anti-semitic took too long. Better late than never. Most Jews were well in front of their leaders and understood years ago that outfits such as the presbyterian church are determined to end the existence of Israel even if it means helping genocidal islamists to do the job. In many ways, these protestants are very similar to muslims: they are unable to countenance a successfully democratic and prosperous Jewish society and the fact that Israel is the only country in the middle east where the christian community is growing instead of its members fleeing for their lives.

  • David Olds

    They are Liberal Christians and, in my mind, counterfeit Christians. Real Christians still support Israel. The political views on the left don’t come out of an individual’s clear thinking but are dictated by an ever evolving kind of Liberal “fad”. Whatever the fad evolves to support, they unquestionably support. That’s why they all pretty much have the same ideas and they shift in their thinking as a group. The left supported the founding of Israel after the war but now the “new improved” Left has evolved to support bigots who kill Jews and real Christians. It has to do with how Liberals view themselves. They see themselves as better than other people and being Liberal is tied up in that self-image. Cognitive Dissonance prevents them from allowing themselves to even think about certain things regardless of obvious facts, ethics and common sense. They are intellectually dishonest cowards. They can’t allow themselves to think open-mindedly; they might lose themselves and then who would they be? And among other things, this year’s version of Liberalism tells us Birth Control is a medical necessity, even a constitutional Right, and should be free for all. What will they think of next?

    • Mary Sue

      They're the type of Christian that advocated "social Justice" and for some reason associated Palestinians with that cause rather than the Jews of Israel.

      You will often find that some of them may be open about the whole "evil j00ish bankers" theory, but most of them couch such talk in "dog whistles," particularly in canada where badmouthing Jews can get you into some serious trouble. While ideologically I have a problem with punishing free speech, at this point in time I'm almost relieved we have such a rule, although I think the government will be loathe to apply such to outspoken "canadian" radical antisemitic Imams.

  • Steve

    It's interesting to note that these Liberal churches view Israel as a colonial power oppressing the native "Palestinian" people. That is precisely how Obama views Israel. This is absurd. The present location of Israel wasn't picked at random. The place WAS Israel from about 1300 to 1500 BC (depending on the date of the Exodus) to the 9th century BC and then Judah (after the Assyrians took away the 10 Lost Tribes) until 70 AD when the Romans drove the Jews out of Judea (The Roman name for Judah) and renamed the place Palestine. So, it really is the Jews land and does not belong to the Arabs that have migrated there over the years. Evidently, the Liberal churches don't believe their own Bible. It makes me wonder why they even exist when they deny the very text that gives them any meaning.

    • Mary Sue

      They'll split hairs with you if you engage them and peel down their objections to the roots: While they may give lip service to the native Sephardic Jews of Israel, what they really hate are the Ashkenazi Jews, the immigrants from Europe, who they believe are invaders and counterfeit Jews.

      What's really ironic is they hold truck with the same kind of people that rip into Christianity for anti-Jewish Pogroms of Europe in the past, all while denouncing the Jews of the present for trying to control the world.

  • Picwa

    This is why I ATTEND but do not contribute money to my Methodist church. (I could have left years ago, in a huff, but that would cede the ground to the liberals, which I was not going to do. Besides the spiritual benefits otherwise obtain, there is the possibility of ministering to these errant souls. Which I do regularly.)

  • infidel4life

    These so-called "Mainline Protestant officials" DO NOT speak for the vast majority of Protestant Christians who support and love the state of Israel and our Jewish brethren. They are not Christian at all if they do not support God's chosen people. God will judge them for their betrayal and they can rot in hell.

  • Western Spirit

    Our church dropped out of the United Church of Christ because it isn't the Church of Christ anymore but the Church of the Left. So are the other church's mentioned.

  • Jim

    Why aren't these people questioning the Sons of Arafat about all the money that has been sent by the West in the last decade? None of the Palestinians should be living in the squalor of refugee camps. Enough money has been sent to them in aid that everyone of them should be living in a fine house instead of tents. What have the Sons of Arafat done with that money? That is the real question that they and everyone else should be asking. Money spent on arms and hate that was meant to better the lives of the people there. They have no guts to go up against the real criminals that are in charge over there.

  • http://SWesleyMcgranor.wordpress.com Whitey Lawful

    The sentiments of the secular-humanist churches on the Left, against Israel is not anti-Judaic. As you know; Protestantism has been secularized to socialist concerns; and the so-called right has no place in a 'supersessionist' Church. The noahide, or dispensationalist convictions of the neoconservatives; is not any more-or less Protestant, in contrast to the criticism of the article.