Peace Not Walls

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ELCA, other US churches call for examination of aid to Israel

Posted on October 5, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

Concerned about the deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and the commitment for a just peace, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and other U.S. Christian leaders are urging Congress to conduct an investigation into possible human rights and weapon violations by the government of Israel.  The US gives Israel about $3 billion in aid annually. From 2009 to 2018, the United States is scheduled to give Israel-the largest recipient of U.S. assistance- $30 billion in military aid.

In an Oct. 5 letter to Congress, the religious leaders said that through their experience with companions in the region, “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.”

The letter cited possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which respectively excludes assistance to any country that engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limits the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.”

The leaders urged 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.”

The leaders further said it is unfortunate that “unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel has contributed to (the) 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.”

Examples of human rights violence related to U.S. military support were included as an annex to the letter and, in addition to specific rights violations, the Christian leaders expressed their concern that 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.”

“From Palestinian Lutherans, I hear discouragement about the lack of progress and questions about where the voice is of American Christians. Our letter seeks to be a partial answer to such questions, that we are clear in our resolve to continue to work for a just and lasting solution for Israelis and Palestinians,” Hanson said.

“When as Lutherans we say that all the baptized will strive for justice and peace in all the earth, it means that we will be immersed in complex issues. While we do not all agree on the best way to establish justice and bring peace, we will be involved in lively, respectful, passionate conversations,” said Hanson.

 

Read ELCA press release | Read letter

24 Responses to 'ELCA, other US churches call for examination of aid to Israel'

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  1. on October 6th, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    As human beings we are committed to peace AND justice for all. As Christians we are especially saddened by the fact that our tax dollars are making possible the slaughter of innocent women, children and the aged. Contrary to the actions of governmental leaders there is ample evidence that peace is patriotic and prudent.

  2. martha knight said,

    on October 6th, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    So glad to see the ECLA take a stand in these violations.

  3. dexter van zile said,

    on October 7th, 2012 at 11:06 am

    You folks simply can’t get your mind off Israel can you? Copts have been driven from there homes and what is your response?


  4. on October 7th, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    I am encouraged by this and invite others to speak out against injustice and violation of International Law.
    Susanne

  5. FB said,

    on October 8th, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Excellent stuff.

  6. Amy Ridenour said,

    on October 9th, 2012 at 9:13 am

    More reflexive leftism by the ELCA, I see. I remember when you were a church.

  7. Beverly G. Henkel said,

    on October 9th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you ELCA and other Churches. I do not like paying taxes when the money goes for the injustices of Israel towards the Palestinians. Don’t we see then that we are also committing the injustices. And to support violations of International Law. I do not understand it.

  8. Bridget Jensen said,

    on October 9th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Thank God that the ELCA is shepherded by our fearless bishop who is not afraid to speak out on the violation of the Human Rights of the Palestianian people and of the uselessness of weapons of destruction as a means to secure peace.

  9. John-Otto Liljenstolpe said,

    on October 9th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    It is encouraging to hear our presiding bishop speak up on behalf of our fellow Christians and their Muslim neighbors in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. In response to Dexter and Amy (above), the ELCA has spoken loud and clear on behalf of our Coptic sisters and brothers. And, Amy, a church which fails to speak prophetically about injustice in our world is not a church that reflects of love of God incarnate in Jesus the Christ. Nor do we serve the best interests of our Israeli friends when remain silent in the face of their many abuses of human rights both within Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza.

  10. Erna Lund said,

    on October 9th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Congress has become the destructive and corruptive force in these pro-Israel $MILLION/BILLION military/economic benefits to Israel on the backs of American Taxpayers–THanks notably to Ros-Lehtinen(Florida) and Eric Cantor(Virginia) with their most recent resolution of commitment(411-2) requiring annual report for compliance from White House–This must be Stopped!

  11. Dan Hall said,

    on October 9th, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Thank goodness American Christian Churches are finally speaking out. It is such a relief, knowing of the terrible human rights violations by Israel and the resulting abuse and suffering of the Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation.

  12. Jeanette Cool said,

    on October 9th, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    The violations of human rights and weapons is REAL. I am very pleased to see the ELCA is finally stepping up to advocacy. Why would we not — when Lutherans across the nation are supporting Palestinians in their education, building, finances — and Israel works AGAINST any progress in which this ministry and service provides — isn’t there a conflict there? Yes, there is. The Christians and all people in Palestine need our support. Israel is carrying on a brutal occupation — making life miserable — hoping all others will leave –….not a very sustainable strategy.

  13. Deborah said,

    on October 9th, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Thank you for speaking out.

  14. Kathryn Roth said,

    on October 10th, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Human Rights is universal, it is not based on religion, political preferences, economic status, nationality, race, gender, or age. As a Christian, you have to ask yourself, what would Jesus do? Bravo ELCA!

  15. Laurena Schuemann said,

    on October 11th, 2012 at 8:56 am

    The churches were blamed many years for not speaking up on the behalf of the Jews when they were being exterminated by Nazi Germany. Now we (and other churches) are speaking up and we’re being criticized for doing it. But we must err on the side of justice and peace.

  16. Amy Ridenour said,

    on October 11th, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Laurena, it is interesting that the church always errs on the side of hurting the Jews.

    Why do you suppose the signers of the letter did not have the decency and common courtesy to tell their Jewish brethren they have been meeting with about the letter in advance?

    http://www.adl.org/PresRele/ChJew_31/Protestant-jewish-interfaith-conference-101012.htm


  17. on October 11th, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    The human rights cowardice of ELCA and other signatories is well understood by anyone who has been paying attention. Islamists have been driving Christians from Iraq with very little comment from the signatories. Coptic Christians are under siege, with very little comment from the signatories, despite the denial offered above. Copts have been run over by armored personnel carriers operated by the Egyptian army, which gets a substantial amount of aid from the U.S. Where is the letter about aid to Egypt? And more than 1 million Christians have been driven from their homes in Iraq since 2003, with little if any comment from the signatories.

  18. Molly Hogan said,

    on October 11th, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Blessings to ELCA for speaking out for suffering Palestinians.

  19. Salaam Khoury said,

    on October 23rd, 2012 at 2:17 am

    ‎”Seeing people, and especially the Christians, have the courage to speak up against such abomination lifts my heart in the belief that the good among us will survive and eventually become better united.
    We are sick to death of occupation and terrorism!

    Salaam Khoury and on behalf of my entire Palestinian Christian family

  20. Jan Miller said,

    on October 23rd, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Thanks to Bishop Hanson for signing on to the letter! It is time for Lutherans to support efforts to find the truth about how our tax dollars are being used by the Israeli government. I have witnessed how our military dollars are being used to disrupt the lives of Palestinians so that they will leave the land to Israel. I would like to see my tax dollars support justice for BOTH Israelis and Palestinians.

  21. Hemel said,

    on October 25th, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Yes we christians should protest against the injustice going on

  22. Ann Hafften said,

    on October 25th, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Wow, I’m impressed by this response function. I guess I never scrolled down far enough to see it. Yesterday I reported to the ELCA Region IV Global Mission Consultation that our church and others had written to Congress asking for accountability when it comes to human rights and military aid to Israel. It’s a reasoned approach to a very tangled problem of injustice and pain. Thank you ELCA leaders for taking this good step. Now we have something constructive to talk about with our candidates for office. I’ve shared this news extensively on Facebook and via my own blog. How about you folks on Twitter? – can you get busy?

  23. Sophia said,

    on October 25th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    God bless all of the religious leaders of the church of Christ for standing against injustice and oppression and with the poor and oppressed.

  24. James Yacoub said,

    on October 27th, 2012 at 2:43 am

    THANKS A MILLION FOR YOUR LETTER!

    Don’t let them silence you or put you down.

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