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Crocodile Tears for Palestinian Christians By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 15, 2009

Mainline Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic prelates have endorsed a letter to President Obama hailing his Cairo speech to the "Muslim world," lamenting the "dwindling" Palestinian Christian population," and promising to "rally Christians nationwide around robust U.S. peacemaking efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace."

How wonderful.  But this ecumenical coalition has not expressed very much interest in any "dwindling" Christian population anywhere else in the Middle East, where in fact nearly every Christian population is "dwindling."  The "dwindling" Palestinian Christian population merits special concern because they are, sadly, useful props for bashing Israel.  "Dwindling" Christian populations in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, however tragic their plight, serve no utility for bishops, church bureaucrats, and professional Religious Left activists anxious for one more excuse to decouple the U.S. from Israel.

Signers include the Catholic bishops of Orlando and Albany; Theodore Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., officials of the National Council of Churches, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action; evangelist Tony Campolo; megachurch pastor Bill Hybels; Joel Hunter of the National Association of Evangelicals; and David Neff of Christianity Today magazine. 

The organizer for this rather disingenuous plea was Churches for Middle East Peace, which thanks mostly to Roman Catholic participation, is not as hard-line anti-Israel as many of its Mainline Protestant and Evangelical Left supporters would prefer.  But its counsel and lobbying almost always, if in usually muted language, repeat the usual refrain that the U.S. must, through "hands on," "bold action," strong-arm Israel into concessions, while the victimized Palestinians and their Arab patrons simply wait patiently to achieve their demands. Arab intransigence never seems to merit "bold action" by the U.S., just endless accommodation. "Churches for Middle East Peace" indeed. 

Oh yes, this ecumenical crowd equitably does suggest "working to end rocket attacks" against Israeli civilians and responding to the "insistent rejection by some of Israel's right to exist," which reinforce the "destructive status quo."  But the ecclessial peaceniks do not elaborate as to how suicidal Palestinians, often radical Islamists, and zealous for Israel's destruction, might therapeutically be dissuaded from their hatred.  After all, the United States does not have a lot of leverage with Hamas and its regional allies.

So Churches for Middle East Peace does not lose sleep over countering the apocalyptic dreams of many Islamists for Israel's vaporization, or the more peaceful aspirations of moderate Muslims for Israel's gradual demographic eradication.  The coalition's chief purpose is for the U.S. to demand zero "tolerance for Israeli settlement activity," lifting of sanctions against Hamas-controlled Gaza, removing the Israeli "separation barrier," lifting "movement restrictions" against Palestinians on the West Bank, and halting "demolitions" of Palestinian homes suspected as terrorist arms depots.  Otherwise, "the threat of violence grows and hardliners are strengthened," the church prelates fret. Who are these "hardliners?" Their letter does not explain, but possibly hawkish Israeli leaders are included as well as Hamas terrorists. And seemingly these ecclesiastics do not distinguish between the "violence" of Israeli police and armed forces defending civilians, and the "violence" of terrorist rockets and suicide bombers, who are as contemptuous of Palestinian lives as they are of Jewish ones.

"The dwindling Palestinian Christian community may soon cease to exist without an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that provides security and dignity for all," a Churches for Middle East Peace official insisted.  But even if the U.S. pressured Israel into surrendering to all Palestinian and Arab demands, there's hardly any promise that Palestinian Christians would rebound.  Where are Christians thriving anywhere in the Arab world?  Only Egypt's Copts seem to hold their own demographically, and even with their sizable numbers, they are chronically vulnerable to Islamist terror and government restrictions.

Churches for Middle East Peace wants the U.S. to cooperate with a Palestinian "unity government committed to peace with the state of Israel."  Since there are only two major Palestinian political parties, such a "unity" government presumably must include Hamas, whose core principle is Israel's destruction. So how will this "unity" regime commit to peace with Israel?  The prelates, speaking as from on high, prefer not to get specific.  They just want aggressive "diplomacy."  They also commend the Arab Peace Initiative, which originated with the Arab League, under Saudi Arabian leadership.

The Obama administration, according to these outspoken religionists, must go beyond the "mere principle of two states and lay out a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples."  But what if one side is simply not interested in peaceful co-existence?  Churches for Middle East Peace will not admit to that possibility. 

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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