Jewish groups are biting back at a unit of Christian leaders that has called on Congress to reevaluate its aid to Israel.
"Rather than listening to the voices of the people in the pews who repeatedly have rejected one-sided efforts condemning Israel, these leaders, claiming to want peace, seek yet again to hurt Israel's ability to defend herself," said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations.
The remark pertains to an October 5 letter, written by a 15-strong group of Christian clergy to Congress. In the message, the leaders make note of financial assistance the US makes to the Israeli military in an aim to help the Jewish state protect herself from outside enemies like Hamas, Hezbollah and, potentially, Iran.
"As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional US financial assistance to the government of Israel,” the letter stated. “Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued US 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."
The letter was signed by leaders from Lutheran, Methodist and UCC churches, as well as the National Council of Churches. It added: "We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of US military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable US laws and policies."
Jewish representatives fought back this week, calling the letter “polemic” and “disrespectful.’”
"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. "When religious liberty and safety of Christians across the Middle East are threatened by the repercussions of the Arab Spring, these Christian leaders have chosen to initiate a polemic against Israel, a country that protects religious freedom and expression for Christians, Muslims and others."
“US aid to Israel is not ‘unconditional,’ as the letter claims. It reflects the shared values of America and Israel and furthers our shared goals for peace and security and is vital to advance the security of both peoples,” said Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow.
"The letter calling for hearings and reassessment was issued without outreach to longtime partners in public advocacy within the Jewish community. It was released on the eve of Shabbat, just before a long weekend of Jewish and American holidays. And it was distributed at a time when Congress is out of session, in the midst of the general election campaign," the Rabbinical Assembly said in a statement. "We find these tactics to be disrespectful of channels of communication that have been constructed over decades, and an essential declaration of separation from the endeavor of interfaith consultation on matters of deep concern to the Jewish community. Indeed, we find this breach of trust to be so egregious that we wonder if it may not warrant an examination on the part of the Jewish community at large of these partnerships and relationships that we understood ourselves to be working diligently to preserve and protect."