As much of the Middle East tilts towards or implodes into Islamist rule, the ever feckless Religious Left in America has organized an ecumenical appeal asking the U.S. Congress to reduce U.S. aid for Israel. After all, it is pro-America, democratic Israel that is the primary threat to peace and stability in the Middle East.
Of course, the church potentates opened their recent letter to Congress with the usual claim to evenhanded neutrality. “We recognize that each party—Israeli and Palestinian—bears responsibilities for its actions and we therefore continue to stand against all violence regardless of its source,” they supinely insisted. How nice. But of course their only policy recommendation is to punish Israel.
The signers are the usual suspects representing the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the American Baptist Church, the Quakers, Mennonites, and the Maryknoll Order of the Catholic Left. The Episcopal Church is notably and commendably absent.
Citing “grave concern about the deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories,” the ecclesiastics blamed “unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel” as the key source for the Middle East’s “deterioration.” Apparently U.S. military aid to Israelis is responsible for “sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.” They name tear gas from America as a special threat to regional peace. Who knew that Israel’s use of tear gas against rioters was so key to Middle East upheaval?
Specifically, the church officials want an “immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of U.S. weapons to ‘internal security’ or ‘legitimate self-defense.’”
No doubt Israel, like all even lawful governments, especially when surrounded by enemies who desire their destruction, at times exceeds all the requisite niceties that ideally should be observed in its police and military reactions to provocations. All democracies should be self-critical and on guard against violating their own lofty principles. Unlike most of Israel’s neighbors, the Israeli government contends routinely with its own political opposition and critical media, who themselves often spotlight police and military misdeeds.
Yet the Religious Left prelates do not acknowledge Israel’s unique position as a functioning democracy trying to remain lawful while also struggling for survival against a sea of mortal enemies. The prelates cavalierly add, almost as an afterthought, that U.S. laws against human rights violations with U.S. weapons should be “enforced in all instances regardless of location.” This brief phrase is as close as they come to any admission that governments other than Israel’s might violate human rights. Much of the corrupt Palestinian Authority’s police force is subsidized by the U.S. And of course the Egyptian military, now governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, depends on billions of dollars of U.S. largesse. But neither evidently concerns the Religious Left, which aims its probing microscope exclusively at Israel.
Comically, the Religious Leftists complain about Israeli settlements that infringe on a potential future Palestinian state as outlined in the 1993 Oslo peace process. Of course they do not mention how Israel ceded over 95 percent of the West Bank as a Palestinian state but instead were greeted by Yasir Arafat’s Intifada, not to mention chronic Palestinian rhetoric that disputes Israel’s right to exist. According to the Religious Left, Israel should reward demands for its destruction by banning additional Jewish residents from East Jerusalem, the historic Jewish capital. The prelates complain, with perhaps some basis of fact, of “separate and unequal legal systems for Palestinians and settlers, confiscation of Palestinian land and natural resources for the benefit of settlers, and violence by settlers against Palestinians.” But they do not offer Israel any plausible alternative other than complete surrender to all Palestinian and Arab demands in exchange for likely only redoubled exertions against Israel.
The concerned Religious Left prelates insist they “recognize that Israel faces real security threats and that it has both a right and a duty to protect both the state and its citizens.” But they and their likeminded ecclesial cohorts have not for decades shown any meaningful interest in Israel’s ongoing struggle for survival against neighbors and much of the world who dispute its existence. They want Israel to “conform to international humanitarian and human rights law” but do not substantively levy this standard against any other government in the world.
“As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel,” they concluded in their missive to Congress. “Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.”
Again, note the prelates exclusively fault Israel as the obstacle to peace without even noting Palestinian and Arab rejection of Israel’s existence. They demand Congress make all future U.S. military aid to Israel “contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies.” But the prelates do not mention that many if not most of them oppose all U.S. military aid to Israel.
These Religious Left church officials are at least somewhat consistent. The same utopian and self-destructive national security policies they urge upon Israel they have urged upon the United States for even more years. Of course, America is a large and powerful nation that mercifully has sufficient strategic space to pursue momentarily suicidal policies and yet still persevere. Tiny Israel has no such room for maneuver, and its every decision impinges directly on its future survival.
Religious Leftists who are preoccupied with Israel might gain a little traction if they occasionally raised even slight concerns, however insincerely, about other far more repressive regimes. But the Religious Left, consistently across over 40 years, is temperamentally and intellectually incapable of deep criticism aimed at anti-Western regimes. They can at least be commended for predictability. And we can be thankful that they are almost universally ignored by both policymakers and their own church constituencies.
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