Mainline Leaders: How Dare Israel Defend Itself?
Yesterday I noted the United Church of Christ press release that highlighted the sending of the latest letter by mainline leaders attacking Israel. Today, I’d like to take a look at that letter.
It begins with an attempt at even-handedness:
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.
The language is not well balanced–for example, only Israel is accused of killing civilians (despite there being specific and detailed Israeli policy to minimize civilian casualties even as Hamas and Hezbollah use civilians as human shields), while Palestinians are accused of “rocket attacks” and “suicide bombings” against unnamed targets (despite the fact that such attacks are specifically and purposefully aimed mostly at civilians). Nevertheless, they are at least trying. That soon goes out the window:
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 Territories, which details widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons.
From this point forward, there is no further mention of Palestinian violence or use of terrorism, no further suggestion that current conditions are anything but the exclusive fault of Israel.
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. weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.”
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. [Emphasis in original.]
This demand, which comes straight out of the far left playbook of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, may sound reasonable, until one realizes that the signers of this letter have never made a similar demand with respect to any other country. Israel is not the only nation that receives U.S. military aid, after all. Among the others are Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Russia–human rights violators all. Just within the last two weeks, the White House announced that it was granting waivers from the provisions of the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act for Libya, Yemen, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, about which the signers of this letter have said bupkis. For the leaders of the PCUSA, ELCA, UCC, and other mainline denominations, there is only one human rights violator against whom the U.S. needs to take action. All others get a pass. Oh, wait, there’s a footnote in that last paragraph:
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.
Well, that’s sporting of them to say. When they fund organizations with names like “U.S. Campaign to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in Yemen” or “U.S. Campaign to Stop Persecution of Christian in Pakistan” I’ll be impressed.
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.
I agree with them about settlements, but note that this has nothing to do with the issue of U.S. military aid. Neither do their complaints in the next paragraph about violence by settlers (which also fails to note Palestinian violence against settlers, nor does it take issue with the Palestinian demand for a Judenrein West Bank).
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.
This sounds good, until you realize that there is essentially nothing that Israel has ever done to defend itself that these people have approved. They object to
•the security fence;
•travel checkpoints, even into Israel from the Palestinian territories;
•targeted attacks on terrorists;
•demolitions of homes known to be used by terrorists;
•any military presence by IDF forces in the West Bank;
•sea blockade of ships seeking to smuggle weapons into Gaza;
•air strikes in any form;
•ground incursions into the West Bank or Gaza.
They even object in this letter to the use of tear gas to control crowds that threaten to become violent! Presumably the would object as well to the use of harsh language, since it might lower a terrorist’s self-esteem.
This is all par for the course, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be called out for the self-serving, self-righteous, one-sided, double-standard swill that it is.
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