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Israel Lobby Threatens Church Groups With Congressional Investigation Over Call for Restricting U.S. Military Aid

A coalition of U.S. church groups recently made public a letter which called upon the U.S. government to condition future military aid to Israel on its fulfillment of obligations under U.S. law.  The statement was intended to express criticism of Israel’s use of U.S. weapons like cluster bombs in violation of our law and noted that U.S. military assistance provided Israel a buffer against undertaking any actions to advance a just and lasting peace.  For example, its settlement policy, refusal to return to 1967 borders, and refusal to share Jerusalem, all directly contradict international law and stated U.S. policy.

Though these church groups have been critical of Israeli policy in the past, threatening to lobby for withholding military aid would really cut the Israel lobby to the quick,  as it’s a position held by a number of anti-Zionist groups that are much farther to the left.  The fact that mainline Christian denominations, who generally support liberal Zionist positions, would be moving in a more critical direction has to be deeply concerning to the lobby.

Though they refuse to consider or acknowledge it, such a development indicates a growing alienation of American churches from Israel and the draconian positions advanced by its government.  The churches are willing to lose their interfaith dialogue with the Jewish community over such an issue, which indicates how seriously they take their opposition to the Netanyahu regime.

First to lash out in anger was (typically) Abe Foxman followed by one of Israel’s leading hasbara outfits, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.  It appears to be taking the lead in “handling” the BDS efforts of a number of the Christian denominations.  As such, it’s a key player in Israel’s campaign against so-called “delegitimization.”  Those guys at JCPA play hardball.  Not content merely to criticize the churches, they lashed out at the “anti-Judaism” elements within their ranks.  They used terms like “vicious anti-Zionism,” “relentless attacks on the Jewish state,” and “delegitimizers of Israel” to up the ante and level of vitriol.  They also threatened to call out the Congressional dogs through mounting investigations of the groups themselves:

“JCPA is considering as a response asking Congress to investigate delegitimizers of Israel and to issue a resolution against their efforts.”

I’m not sure what this is supposed to gain the lobby.  Do they think that parishioners will be mortified to find their particular denomination is called out by name in a Congressional resolution?  Should these groups then call on their particular Congressional allies to respond tit for tat?  Should we have a mini-religious war in the halls of Congress?

For anyone who still naively believes that J Street is a real force for progressive values regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, read M.J. Rosenberg’s devastating critique of their decision to join the Israel lobby coalition denouncing the churches.  People like M.J. make the mistake (in my opinion) of calling J Street “Aipac lite.”  I don’t think J Street’s allegiance is to Israel particularly.  I think J Street is Obama’s Jewish wing.  They are nothing more than a cover for him pursuing the Jewish vote.  They never deviate from administration positions on any matter related to Israel.  They attacked the Goldstone report, opposed Palestinian statehood at the UN, and now join with Israel lobby hysterics in railing against Christians for insisting that Israel obey U.S. law in its use of American weapons systems.  In each of these positions they’ve betrayed progressive values, which is why they deserve support from no Jews who support a just resolution of the conflict.

Also, read Alex Kane’s excellent reporting here.

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  • pabelmont October 18, 2012, 3:16 AM

    “I don’t think J Street’s allegiance is to Israel particularly. I think J Street is Obama’s Jewish wing.”

    In politics, where most operators believe that one must go along to get along, it’s hard to know who are the masters, who the servants. More likely the several forces (Adelson, Kochs, Trumps, AIPAC, J-Street, Obama, etc.) are independent actors who co-operate with and also arm-twist each other.

    If, say on November 7, win or lose, Obama dares to cut his dependency on The Lobby and dares to risk loss of all influence over federal legislation and Congress, he could strike out on his own by — as I hope but by no means expect — directing his UN Ambassador to introduce a UNSC draft resolution requiring Israel to remove settlers, wall, and settlements (buildings) within a time certain or else face serious sanctions. Something a little like this happened before: read UNSC 465 (1980) and weep (that it had no “teeth”).

    By all experience of politics, this is a pipe dream. My dream. But it is possible. And it is as contrary to the normal paths of politics as one can imagine. If Obama did it, can anyone imagine that J-Street (as suggested above) would shower congratulations on him? Or would J-Street throw in with the AIPAC heavies?

  • mary October 18, 2012, 4:47 AM

    Here we go again; the shills for Israel are making it sound as though opposing Israel’s policies is to be anti-Semitic. The churches (along with the rest of us) have the right to demand that the US not support Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and to demand that no US money or military equipment be used in any way that violates US or international laws. How disgusting that these thugs think they can intimidate or punish the churches for this by demanding that even more time and taxpayer money be spent on Congressional investigations. This is a form of harassment that is particularly ugly and shameful.

    As always, the zionists love to play dirty. And as always, those well-paid Congresstoadies will be happy to do as they’re told.

  • Rehmat October 18, 2012, 5:50 AM

    There is not much difference between the J-Street and AIPAC when it comes to criticism of Israeli policies. While AIPAC preaches solving Palestinian occupation by the Likud way – J-Street recommends the Abbas-style treason.

    The Church leaders also blamed the Zionist regime for consistent pattern of its disregard for various United Nations resolutions (47 of them) and international forums including Washington’s appeals that support a just and lasting peace between Israeli Jews and the native Muslim and Christian Palestinians.

    Naturally, the pro-Israel Jewish lobby groups were angered by such Christian hatred toward Israel. The leaders from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Rabbinical Assembly and American Jewish Committee have blasted the Church leaders for showing Church centuries-old anti-Semitism. The JCPA president Rabbi Steve Gutow claimed the US aid is based on US-Israel ‘common values’ (democracy, terrorism, etc.). The RA called it a breach of trust between Christian-Jews interfaith dialogue. The AJC director Rabbi Noam Marans had the best rant. “When the world currently is focused on the Iranian nuclear threat to the entire Middle East and the world, Christian leaders have chosen to mount another political attack on Israel,” said Marans. The rabbi also tried to enlightened the Church leaders that while their fellow Christians are being persecuted in the Muslim countries, Israel protects religious freedom and expression for Christians!

    It looks as if Rabbi Noam Marans sincerely believes that reducing Christian population under Jewish rule since 1948; from 10% to 1.8% – or spitting on pastors and burning of ten thousands copies of Christian Bible – or calling Jesus “monkey” – is Jewish definition of “religious freedom”.

    http://rehmat1.com/2012/10/10/church-leaders-blast-us-for-israel-aid/

  • The Mighty Cynic October 18, 2012, 9:38 AM

    What lobby can operate in the United States both as an agent of a foreign government and overt spy tank while cancelling careers, starting wars to a foreign countries’ benefit, while ignoring the facts completely? Voltaire famously stated, “If you wish to know who rules over you, simply identify who you cannot criticize.”

    Israel and the lobbies that currently support it internationally, IMHO, are catalyzed by one agenda with varied approaches to marketing. This agenda is one of ethnic cleansing and land grabbing. We can vary as to the approach: some think there are zealots in power crazy enough to go for the land between the Tigris and the Nile, others think Israel will just maintain its current “stasis” — we can call that Apartheid-Lite. Or, we can call it “Disney World” (zip a dee doo da), yet it’s still violent and non-peaceful and these groups are just buying time to perpetuate and further the malevolent schemes and crimes against humanity.

  • Davey October 18, 2012, 8:36 PM

    Of course they are buying time, time to set up the Greater Israel empire and make it impregnable. It is interesting and noteworthy just how base and thuggish responses are becoming. Rather than appealing to the tried and true lying, the Zionist outfit is threatening and extorting outright. Just recently, UN member states were told something to the effect that, if they choose to support Palestine’s bid for status that the consequences will be very dire and very dismal for Palestinians and that this will be on their heads, it will be their doing! I find it hard to imagine that they could choose such a ploy, but they did and they do. It is the “Do what I want or I will shoot this dog!” extortion. Unbelievable. Let’s be clear — the dire consequences for Palestinians, whatever they may be we can only imagine, will be Israel’s doing, plain and simple. It is criminal extortion to suggest otherwise.

    Likewise, here, the Zionists don’t mind appearing brutal and thuggish, threatening to call out a special investigation of these churches. It would be entirely proper for the churches to respond to such threats by ending the relationship with Israel, liberal as it is. So, it’s threats and extortion out in the open for all to see. What does this mean? Is there desperation here? Maybe.

    • Dave Terry October 18, 2012, 8:59 PM

      As reprehensible as this action is, I find it difficult to find any sympathy for the Church Groups. They themselves throw their weight around indiscriminately against causes they thing are not in accordance with their dogmas.

      • mary October 19, 2012, 12:07 AM

        Dave Terry, these groups do not. You are perhaps thinking of the Christian zionist groups who push their right wing ultraconservative political agenda. Or the Roman Catholic Church and its stances on gay marriage and contraception/abortion. And in this case your “sympathy” shouldn’t go to the churches but to the Palestinians who are the subject of their campaign.

  • Hope Dignity Peace October 18, 2012, 10:26 PM

    Richard hits it right on the head. If you are going to go at groups challenging aids to Israel, then it’s time to go after pretty much every Evangelical church out there. Total hypocrisy.

  • Andy October 19, 2012, 11:32 AM

    “Interfaith” dialogue? Someone needs to inform the Christian side that its Jewish interlocutors view Judaism as a nationalism/polity and not as a religion.

    • mary October 20, 2012, 12:50 AM

      That is how the discourse is steered into the muddy waters of Judaism and zionism – where it is said one cannot be a good Jew without being pro-zionist, supporting the occupation of Palestine and all the evil that comes with it.

  • Michael Rivero October 20, 2012, 9:19 AM

    … thereby reminding all Americans once again that the US Congress works for Israel, and not the American people.

  • Arminius October 20, 2012, 11:31 AM

    Under the Symington Amendment of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, Israel is not entitled to one penny of US taxpayer support, because – as has been validated by both former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former US President Carter, that Israel has nuclear weapons, but will not be a signatory to the NNPT, nor will it allow IAEA inspection of their facilities.

    • Davey October 20, 2012, 11:45 AM

      Has anyone or group brought suit to enjoin such aid under these provisions? Certainly, Congress would just change the law, but a suit brought on these grounds could be high-profile and damning especially to the Iran/Nuke discourse.

    • mary October 20, 2012, 11:54 AM

      This is also the law which says US taxpayers who make donations to illegal settlements cannot make them as tax deductible contributions. But they do, and the US govt allows them to claim these deductions.