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Comment: Religious Leaders Call on Congress: Reconsider US Aid to Israel

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Religious Leaders Call on Congress: Reconsider US Aid to Israel

The leaders of several major Christian denominations including– Protestants, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists– wrote a letter to Congress on October 5, 2012 asking for a reconsideration of US aid to Israel in light of “widespread Israeli human rights abuses.” The unbiased letter cited direct experience in working with both Israelis and Palestinians and acknowledged fault on both sides of the conflict. After years of investing time and humanitarian aid to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, these ministries concluded that:

"Unfortunately, unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel has contributed to this deterioration, sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians. This is made clear in the most recent 2011 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices covering Israel and the Occupied Territories1, which details widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons.

The Christian leaders also pointed to Israel’s violation of the US Foreign Assistance Act which prohibits assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limits the use of US weapons to “legitimate self-defense” as grounds for reconsideration of US aid to Israel. As evidence, the letter cited numerous cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Israeli army with the support of US aid, and also pointed to Israel’s flagrant disregard for US policy:

In addition to specific rights violations, we see a troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace. Specifically, repeated demands by the U.S. government that Israel halt all settlement activity have been ig nored. Since 1967, every U.S. administration has decried Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as obstacles to peace. Despite this stance, Israel continues to expand its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, claiming territory that under international law and U.S. policy should belong to a future Palestinian state. The Oslo peace process, which began in 1993, was publicly promoted as leading Israelis and Palestinians to a just peace based on a two-state solution. Instead, since 1993, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has more than doubled. Rights violations resulting from Israeli settlement activity include 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."

The letter, which was signed by high-ranking officials from 15 denominations, concluded:

"We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies. As Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II, it is especially critical for Israel to comply with the specific U.S. laws that regulate the use of U.S.-supplied weapons."

Here is the full 4 pages of letter:

also see: How Evangelicals Are Learning to Be Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice and Always Pro-Jesus

and this new film: With God On Our Side

'With God On Our Side' takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God’s chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel’s security as a whole.

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.

If Wars Can Be Started by Lies, They Can Be Stopped By Truth.