AFP AUDIO INTERVIEW
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 1.2 million 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.”
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.