Dear Member of Congress,
We write to you as Christian leaders representing U.S. churches and religious organizations committed to seeking a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Our organizations have been deeply involved in this pursuit for decades, inspired by the call and promise of Jesus Christ who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
In response to our Christian call to be peacemakers, we have worked for decades to support both Israelis and Palestinians in their desire to live in peace and well-being. We have worked alongside our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers to help build a peaceful and resilient Palestinian civil society by supporting hospitals, schools, clinics, and social service agencies. These ministries include cooperative efforts with Israelis and Palestinians as well as with Jews, Muslims, and other neighbors here in the United States. Through our presence in the region, and regular visits to our partners there, we see first-hand the impacts of the conflict on both Palestinians and Israelis and hear from them directly about the reality of their lives.
Through this direct experience we have witnessed the pain and suffering of Israelis as a result of Palestinian actions and of Palestinians as a result of Israeli actions. In addition to the horror and loss of life from rocket attacks from Gaza and past suicide bombings, we have witnessed the broad impact that a sense of insecurity and fear has had on Israeli society. We have also witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement, among others. 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. Our stand against violence is complemented by our commitment to the rights of all Israelis, as well as all Palestinians, to live in peace and security.
It is this experience and these commitments that lead us to write to you today to express our grave concern about the deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories which threaten to lead the region further away from the realization of a just peace.
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.
2 Weapons in this instance include "crowd control" items such as tear gas. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74) which is included in the US Foreign Military Financing regulations stipulates that "not later than 90 days after enactment of this act and 6 months thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations detailing any crowd control items, including tear gas, made available with appropriated funds or through export licenses to foreign security forces that the Secretary of State has credible information have repeatedly used excessive force to repress peaceful, lawful, and organized dissent."
3 While this letter focuses on US-Israel relations and the Israel-Palestine conflict, these are laws that we believe should be enforced in all instances regardless of location. All allegations regarding the misuse of US supplied arms should be investigated.
Accordingly, we urge 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. weapons2 to "internal security" or "legitimate self-defense."3 More broadly, we urge Congress to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace. We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.
Examples of specific, systematic human rights violations related to U.S. military support are included as an annex to this letter.
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 ignored. 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.
According to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there has been a dramatic rise in settler attacks against Palestinians this year4. They report that these attacks are often intended to drive Palestinians from areas the settlers wish to take over, and that Israeli authorities have failed to take significant action to stop the violence or hold the perpetrators accountable. We believe that these actions directly undermine peace efforts and threaten, rather than support, Israel’s long-term security interests.
We want to be clear that we 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. However, the measures that it uses to protect itself and its citizens, as in the case with any other nation, must conform to international humanitarian and human rights law.
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. 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.
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. We also encourage Congress to support inclusive, comprehensive, and robust regional diplomacy to secure a just and lasting peace that will benefit Israelis, Palestinians, and all the peoples of the region, and the world.
With respect and gratitude, we offer you our prayers.
Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner
President, Council of Bishops
United Methodist Church
Transitional General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA
American Friends Service Committee
J Ron Byler
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
North American Secretary
Orthodox Peace Fellowship
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Dr. A. Roy Medley
American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Division of Overseas Ministries
Co-Executive, Global Ministries (UCC and Disciples)
Rev. Dr. James A. Moos
Executive Minister, United Church of Christ, Wider Church Ministries
Co-Executive, Global Ministries (UCC and Disciples)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Eli S. McCarthy, PhD
Justice and Peace Director
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)
An apology from the signers of the letter to Congress is "expected".
AFP PODCAST & ARTICLE: Churches Call for Congressional Investigation on Military Aid to Israel
November 07, 2012 AFP
Dr. Peter E. Makari
, Ph.D., Executive, Middle East and Europe, for the Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), discusses the October 5 letter sent to every member of Congress from 15 religious leaders representing many major faith groups in the country requesting United States military aid to Israel be contingent on U.S. laws and policies, in this revealing interview (18:01).
United Church of Christ Fires Shot Over Israel’s Bow
• Letter sent to every member of Congress urging investigation into Israeli violations of U.S law
By Dave Gahary
An October 5 letter sent to every member of Congress from 15 religious leaders representing many major faith groups in the country requesting United States military aid to Israel be contingent on U.S. laws and policies has elicited a storm of protests from Jewish groups around the world. The letter points out that “Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II,” and that “repeated demands by the U.S. government that Israel halt all settlement activity have been ignored,” and that since the 1993 Oslo Accords, “the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has more than doubled.”
The United Church of Christ (UCC), a 1.2M member Protestant denomination, participated in the 1,200-word letter, which was signed by leaders of the UCC, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist Council of Bishops, National Council of Churches, American Friends Service Committee, American Baptist Churches, and several others, has drawn scorn from no less than the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the Rabbinical Assembly, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, who all raised the usual condemnations when any level of criticism is leveled against Israel.
“The letter signed by 15 church leaders is a step too far,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The participation of these leaders in yet another one-sided anti-Israel campaign cannot be viewed apart from the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations.”
In order to gain a fuller understanding of this matter, AMERICAN FREE PRESS conducted an exclusive interview with Dr. Peter E. Makari, Ph.D., Executive, Middle East and Europe, for the Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Dr. Makari “participated in the drafting of the letter, but it was a collaborative effort,” he said.
AFP asked Dr. Makari about UCC’s history and its involvement in the Middle East.
“The UCC has a history that predates that of the United States,” he said. “And the Christian Church Disciples of Christ also has a 200-year history that goes back into the early 1800s.”
AFP asked how long UCC has worked in Israel/Palestine.
“Some of the churches who are part of the group of signatories have direct ties to churches in the region. The UCC and the Disciples of Christ have a long history going back into the early 1800s in the Middle East, a mission history that includes a mission in Israel and Palestine.”
AFP asked what precipitated the letter.
“It comes as a result of our engagement with the people there,” he said. “Through our visits and through our listening to the conditions there, we’re very attuned to the ongoing impact of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and control of Gaza, the impact of continuing settler construction, the continuing impact of the separation barrier, the killings of civilians, the denial of access between one part of the West Bank and the other, and the denial of access to Jerusalem. So that plus the documentation in the State Department’s report as well as other kinds of documentation, led us to issue this letter and to raise this issue as a concern.”
The letter includes this passage:
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 Territories, which details widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons.
“The U.S. contribution through military assistance to Israel is having an impact and is helping to perpetuate some of those violations of human rights,” Dr. Makari continued.
AFP asked why the church thinks the Israelis completely ignore U.S. demands.
“U.S. aid to Israel has essentially been free-flowing, without the conditions and without the holding to account of possible violations of U.S. law and contradiction to the points of view of the U.S. government,” he said.
“For there to be a true just and lasting peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, that the U.S. needs to step up its level of enforcement of U.S. law and holding Israel to account for these violations,” he said.
AFP asked how long UCC will give Congress to reply.
“We are hopeful that Congress will consider the request in the letter and the substance of the letter, sooner rather than later, but we’ll continue to speak out on this issue.”