In recent days, a pretty nasty squabble has erupted between two coalitions of Christian and Jewish groups. The short version of it goes like this: Hours before all the parties were set to convene for their regular interfaith dialogue, 15 leaders of major Christian churches announced (without any warning) that they had signed a letter asking Congress to reconsider its foreign aid package to Israel.
The reason? The churches charge that Israel engages in human rights violations against the Palestinians including “killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement, among others.”
“We asked Congress to treat Israel like it would any other country to make sure our military aid is going to a country espousing the values we would as Americans — that it’s not being used to continually violate the human rights of other people.” Rev. Gradye Parsons, the top official of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) told the Times.
In response, this confederation of Jewish organizations–consisting of various religious and advocacy groups—withdrew from the scheduled event. One of the groups, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, published a letter accusing the Christian groups of “vicious anti-Zionism.” And this was when Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast, fresh off of fulminating about the barbarism of ritual circumcision, went completely apeshit.
In a blog post entitled A New Wave Of “Vicious Anti-Zionism” (although, to show you where his head is at, it should be noted that the URL …
…reflexively says anti-Semitism), Sullivan quickly turned the words of one Jewish organization into seemingly an entire immutable pattern of conspiracy. He writes:
The ranks of alleged “bigots” now extend to most of the mainline Protestant churches. … What did they say, what word did they use, what “code” or “trope” did they slip into that proves their Jew-hatred?
Then Sullivan cites the controversial letter from the church leaders, which, despite its ultimate message—let’s indict Israel of human rights violations and call on Congress to reconsider aid—features some tempering language about Israeli suffering:
Through … 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.
The first sad part is that these Jewish groups frequently address the hardships of Palestinians in their advocacy. The rest of the JCPA letter, had Sullivan bothered to read it, said this:
“It is the right of these Christian leaders to say what they want to Congress or anyone else,” added JCPA Chair Larry Gold. “And it is our right to say ‘enough is enough.’ We will continue to be vigilant against anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, and anti-Palestinian activities wherever and whenever we see them because it is the right thing to do.”
Nevertheless, Sullivan seems to think that these Jewish groups should thank this Christian alliance for being so thoughtful in their hypocrisy. The consideration expressed in the letter is apparently enough for Sullivan to excuse the actual contents of the letter, which constitute an anti-Zionistic double standard given that the churches don’t seem to be calling on Congress to reconsider aid to any other country. This is largely why the Jewish groups were upset.
Sullivan backs himself up with the New York Times article on the kerfuffle, which explains that previous U.S. aid had been suspended to other countries (albeit not at the urging of the churches):
Humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority was suspended last year because of violations, and Congress is re-evaluating aid to Egypt, noted Peter Makari, the executive for the Middle East and Europe in global ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), who helped write the letter.
Sullivan seems to think the only way to correct what he sees as a double standard is to allow another double standard to fly unchecked and then to speak more hysterically than the churches themselves. Not done yet, Sullivan next delves into the trope (yes, it’s a trope) about the Israel lobby’s noxious control of Congress:
I would have suspended all aid to Israel when it refused to stop its settlement policy on the West Bank, but that’s a little like being in favor of an immediate space station on Mars, given the Greater Israel lobby’s grip on Congress.
I wonder if, given the news today that the terrorist group Hamas launched over 70 rockets (and counting) onto a civilian population in southern Israel, the double standard that Sullivan sees with regard to Israel and Congress might be more complicated than he thinks.