Recently a letter signed by 15 mainline American church leaders asked Congress “to make U.S. military aid to Israel contingent upon its government’s ‘compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies.’ The troubling part of the letter was the insinuation that Israel was the main perpetrator of all unrest in the area. While those who signed the letter admitted they had witnessed the pain of the Israelis caused by “the horror and loss of life from rocket attacks from Gaza and past suicide bombings” and the “sense of insecurity and fear” such attacks had caused Israeli society, they nonetheless failed to make a true distinction between Israel’s national defense needs and human rights violations.
More importantly, although involved in such political matters, both Presbyterian leadership and members are not being provided with enough information. All of those advising and informing are totally aligned with one side rather than both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.
On the morning of October the 23rd, I read on the news site, Algemeiner that a barrage of rockets hit Southern Israel the night before and the Israeli Air force had responded by bombing militants in Gaza. The article Barrage of Gaza Rockets Slams Southern Israel, IAF Responds also stated that an IDF office had been injured by a roadside bomb. Perhaps more importantly, in another report, a man carrying eight pipe bombs was stopped at a checkpoint in Northern Jerusalem. The article Terror Suspect Nabbed with 8 Bombs in North Jerusalem stated that the bombs “were fully assembled.”
The intent of both those who fired the rockets and the person, who attempted to enter Israel, with bombs, was to maim, frighten and kill innocent people. The checkpoint and the guards at the checkpoint undoubtedly saved hundreds of lives. While checkpoints can be misused, they are meant to save the lives of both Israeli and Arab citizens. They are a part of Israel’s national defense. The next morning, the 24th, up to eighty rockets had been fired into Israel. Part of Israel’s defense against the rockets is funded by military aid from the United States.
This is a complex problem that mainline denominational leaders, as Christians, cannot solve except by peaceful exhortation and love toward both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Since there are human rights violations on both sides, Christian leaders are not fostering peace when they ask the United States Government to take action against the Israelis but not the Palestinians.
Too many times leadership in the PC (U.S.A) sees Israel’s defensive actions as acts of aggression. And they close their eyes and hearts to such actions taken by Hamas and other terrorists from Gaza. If the checkpoint mentioned in the one news article had not existed hundreds of people in Israel would be dead. Of course Israel has committed acts that are also reprehensible but they are not the only actors in the Middle East and they certainly are not the worst. Strangely enough, in PNS’ article, about the letter to Congress, they link to the 2011 State Department country report on human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which begins:
Terrorist groups routinely fired rockets and mortars into Israel during the year. There were 924 terrorist attacks against citizens, both from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which included the firing of 388 rockets and 247 mortar shells from the Gaza Strip into Israel (compared with a total of 235 in 2010). In total 25 persons were killed and 119 were injured in these attacks. For example, on April 7, an antitank missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit a school bus in southern Israel, killing one student. On August 18, a Sinai-based group of gunmen crossed the Egyptian border into the country and killed eight citizens near the city of Eilat.
Most mainline denominational leaders pass over that without real comprehension of its seriousness. Connected to the human rights report is a report about religious rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories. While there is a great deal to read and problems on all sides under the “Occupied Territories” is this summary of the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Hamas:
Religious freedom in various parts of the Occupied Territories falls under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel, or Hamas (in the Gaza Strip). The laws and policies of the PA and Israel protect religious freedom, and in practice the two governments generally respected these rights. Neither the PA nor Israel demonstrated a trend toward improvement or deterioration in respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom. The “de facto” Hamas authorities in Gaza restricted religious freedom, and the regime’s level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practice remained problematic during the year.
There are also outside problems, antisemitism that feeds into the mix. Recently a leader and founder of the Free Gaza movement, Greta Berlin, tweeted such an anti-Semitic diatribe, (Her statement: Jews controlled the concentration camps of Nazi Germany), that even one contributor to Mondoweiss, Bekah Wolf, chastised her pointing out that the Facebook site she administrated was truly anti-Semitic. These are real issues that never turn up in Presbyterian news, and therefore Presbyterian leaders like Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons who signed the letter never consider that there might be a great deal of one sidedness occurring in their decisions.
Ignorance has lead many down the wrong path. Both the PNS and the news links provided by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network leave PCUSA members and leaders without any clues at all about Israel’s real needs or concerns. The reader will find nothing about the pipe bombs at a checkpoint, or the antisemitism of the founder of the Free Gaza Movement on either news site or ministry site despite the fact that Presbyterian leaders and mission workers are heavily involved in issues that affect both Palestinians and Israelis.