Christian and Jewish leaders question US unquestioning military support of Israel

Christian and Jewish leaders gathered at the United Methodist Building in Washington, DC to applaud the courageous action of fifteen heads of major US Christian denominations who called for a congressional investigation into possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Export Control Act by Israel. Rabbi Liz Bolton of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, Tom Getman of Kairos USA, Rev. Philip Anderson of the Peace Not Walls network of the ELCA, and others came together to express their support for “the 15” who boldly questioned one of the presumably unshakeable tenets of US foreign policy in the Middle East region.

Josh Ruebner, national advocacy director for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, said outrage by detractors was an attempt to smear signers. Pro-Israeli lobbying on Capitol Hill, he said, is likewise based on intimidation and misinformation.

A network of groups promoting peace among Israelis and Palestinians gathered over 15,000 signatures in support of “the 15” and their call to investigate Israeli policies that break US law and violate human rights laws and principles in occupied Palestine. The recent bombardment of Gaza, for example, was likely a breach of the Geneva Conventions which prohibit military action against an occupied people.
 
“The 15” have come under attack by members of their own denominations as well as the American Jewish Committee and the Union of Reformed Judaism, who cancelled a scheduled meeting of the Christian-Jewish Roundtable, an interfaith dialogue about the Middle East, in response.

Rabbi Liz Bolton, representing the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, urged these groups to stay at the table. All people are created in God’s image, she said.

“Jews and Christians and activists and humanists must all be able to speak truth to power, to call out as witnesses, and hold our leaders to account for their stewardship of our resources. True interfaith dialogue and cooperation starts with a commonality of principles and ideals, and a willingness to engage with open eyes and open hearts, especially when looking at the painful and tragic intersections of faith and history.”

Speakers testified to the use of U.S.-made munitions in the oppression of Palestinians. Tom Getman of Kairos USA held up a damaged, antique wine glass given to him by a Palestinian family whose house was hit by a bomb labeled “Made in New Jersey.” Palestinian American Christian Philip Farah spoke of U.S. made-machine guns wielded at checkpoints to create fear in the occupied people.
 
Offering the coalition’s vision for a just peace, Getman invoked the prophet Isaiah: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4).

Moderator Steven Martin spoke of his experiences in Berlin, a city devastated by its own abuse of power:

“What I learned in Berlin studying the Nazi Holocaust was that power destroys not only the powerless, but the powerful as well. I am concerned as much for the Israelis, who abuse power today, as I am for the Palestinians: this stands to destroy them both if not put in balance.”

Groups represented at the press conference included Jewish Voice for Peace, Kairos USA, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, United Methodist Kairos Response, Friends of Sabeel North America, Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, The Palestine Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, and others. The 15,000 signatures gathered are a small sample of the widespread support for measures that would provide a degree of justice for Palestinians living under occupation.

Resources:

The Letter of the 15 to Members of Congress: http://www.kairosusa.org/?q=node/55
Bishop Wenner defends her signing of the letter: http://www.unitedmethodistreporter.com/2012/10/bishop-wenner-defends-her…

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