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The Religious Left's "Cycle of Violence" Schtick By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 28, 2006

The anti-Israel divestment campaign among U.S. churches has been largely defeated. But in the midst of the terrorists' war on Israel, the Religious Left's hostility to Israel continues.

Religious Left church officials have responded to the conflict between Israel and Hezballah with their usual lamentations over "the violence." But it is "the violence" by Israel that exclusively concerns them. Typical among them has been the reaction of United Church of Christ president John Thomas.

"We watch with horror and outrage as Israel punishes an entire population for the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in Gaza, and as belligerence escalates with Hizb Allah’s attack on military personnel near Lebanon," Thomas wrote in a letter to "Palestinian Friends and Partners." He continued, "While we pray for the Israeli soldiers’ release and safe return to family, we also know that these incidents have become an occasion for the further oppression of the Palestinian community, for the massive destruction of economic infrastructure and for the tragic loss of much innocent life."

Thomas complained about Israel’s "separation barrier," whose impact has been "strangulation" of vital Palestinian institutions. "The complicity of our own government in these sanctions is cause for particular grief," he bewailed. He is very distressed about American behavior, especially the pro-Israel behavior of American Christians.

"Making this situation even more burdensome is the recognition that there are many in the United States, including many Christians, who see only Israel’s need for security, who focus only on a few terrorist acts which you yourselves condemn," Thomas told his "Palestinian Friends and Partners." He accused pro-Israel Christians of "largely ignoring the systemic oppression of an entire people in what increasingly amounts to a virtual prison in which almost every aspect of Palestinian life is controlled by Israel."

Ominously, Thomas observed that "Many in our own churches are subject to intense lobbying by Jewish groups demonizing the Palestinian community." Undoubtedly referring, at least in part, to the recent Presbyterian decision to rescind its divestment policy aimed at Israel, Thomas lamented: "Even some of our denominational gatherings of ecumenical partners here in the United States sound what may seem to you to be an uncertain voice."

Thomas promised the continued "solidarity" of the 1.1 million member United Church of Christ and pledged its "readiness to use our church’s economic resources, including the possibility of divestment, to press for an end to the Occupation. Likewise, he promised not to be "silent" about America’s faulty Middle Eastern policies. No doubt!

Trying to sound a little more impartial, United Methodist chief lobbyist Jim Winkler called for "an end to Palestinian and Hezbollah attacks against Israel and for the release of Israeli soldiers" along with an "end to Israeli military incursions and bombings against Gaza and Lebanon and for the release of political prisoners held by Israel." By Israeli "political prisoners," Winkler presumably refers to imprisoned terrorists.

Winkler, who is general secretary of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, demanded that "all outside states and forces must halt sending arms" to the parties in conflict. Acting as a spokesman for the 8 million member denomination, he denounced the Israeli military response to Hamas and Hezbollah as "grossly disproportionate" and causing a "humanitarian crisis." Predictably, he bemoaned the "cycle of violence" and declared the impossibility of knowing which side had started it. He insisted that a "safe" Israel is only possible with a "safe, secure, viable and contiguous Palestinian state."

Attempting to wax poetic while echoing Winkler’s points, the National Council of Churches posed these supposedly discerning questions: "When will all Israeli leaders see that aggression only breeds more aggression, and that security cannot be achieved through the oppression and humiliation of others? When will all Palestinian leaders understand that calls for justice demand the doing of justice, and that suffering injustice does not confer moral license to respond with violence? When will the United States see that being an honest, effective broker for peace requires fairness in our dealings with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and now the Lebanese, and that doing nothing to end the violence costs us dearly in spirit, blood, treasure, and moral integrity?

The NCC’s underlying assumption, of course, is that Israel is the oppressor and aggressor, while the Palestinians are constantly the aggrieved and oppressed party, whose violence is lamentable but not entirely incomprehensible. The United States, in this view, exacerbates the conflict with its Zionist partiality.

Alone among U.S. denominations, the 3 million member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had, until last month, been committed to divesting in firms doing business with Israel . But internal and external pressure embarrassed the church into shifting course. Probably still smarting from that retreat, and trying to sound temperate, the church’s Stated Clerk Clift Kirkpatrick denounced the "provocative actions of Hezbollah" and the "disproportionate force being used by the Israeli military against Lebanon [that] has caused the indiscriminate deaths of scores of Lebanese civilians, as well as major damage to Lebanon's infrastructure."

It is wonderful, only now that Israel is attacking Hezbollah targets, that these U.S. church prelates are suddenly so very concerned about Lebanon. But they never expressed any interest in Syria’s nearly 30 years of brutal occupation of and manipulation of Lebanon. Nor have they commented on Hezbollah’s vicious, Iranian-backed disruption of Lebanon’s struggling democracy.

The Religious Left will reluctantly acknowledge the crimes of Hezbollah and Hamas, but only to rhetorically facilitate its more heartfelt condemnation of Israel. These prelates may decry "the violence," but it is chiefly only the violence of one side that concerns them.

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Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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