Israeli- American relations have hit a rough spot lately, so that must mean its time for another one-sided anti-Israel screed from Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict only gets worse. An aggressively anti-Palestinian government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, holds power in Israel.
Netanyahu has agreed to the two-state solution, has eliminated some checkpoints and generally eased travel restrictions on the West Bank, indicated his desire to resume face-to-face negotiations that the Palestinians broke off early last year, and is even willing to discuss Jerusalem. He resolutely refuses to discuss giving permission for Hamas to fire rockets at civilians or turn over Tel Aviv to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. That makes him “aggressively anti-Palestinian,” I suppose (unlike Hamas or Fatah, neither of which can fairly be called “aggressively anti-Israeli”).
Netanyahu regularly talks about peace, but his government continues to charge ahead with construction of ever-more illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.
Israel if observing a halt in settlement construction outside of Jerusalem, a city that happens to be its capital and that was explicitly exempted from the freeze last year. That means that Israel is abiding by the agreement it made with the United States, which is more than can be said for the Palestinian treatment of the Oslo Accords.
Vice President Joe Biden, a strong and nearly unquestioning supporter of Israel, was humiliated recently during a visit to Tel Aviv. In the midst of his visit, Israel announced plans to build 1,600 units of illegal housing on Palestinian land. Subsequently, Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama criticized such Israeli actions that have made a peace agreement nearly impossible to achieve.
I’m not sure that it’s possible to “humiliate” such a buffoonish character as Biden, but leave that aside. The reason this has become such a big to-do is because of three factors: 1) the lack of understanding about the way Israeli government works, which resulted in the actions of a municipal bureaucracy being attributed to “the Israeli government”; 2) the apparent desire of the Obama administration to make a much bigger deal out of it than necessary, even to the point of continuing to lecture Netanyahu in public after the prime minister abjectly apologized for something that wasn’t his fault to begin with; and 3) the creeping Alzheimer’s that seems to be afflicting the makers of American foreign policy, who apparently forgot that Netanyahu never agreed to stop settlement expansion in Jerusalem, and that the U.S. agreed to his everywhere-but-Jerusalem halt last year. As for “Israeli actions that have made a peace agreement nearly impossible to achieve,” does Winkler really think that the Palestinians would have made a big deal out of the expansion of housing at a location that everyone in the region agrees will be Israeli territory come peace treaty time if Washington had bothered to look at a map and kept its collective mouth shut?
U.S. military leaders have pointed out that Arab governments and Muslim leaders do not believe the United States has the strength or will to act as an honest broker for peace between Israel and Palestine. They contend that this puts our soldiers at risk.
I’d love to see a quote saying something like this. It wouldn’t actually say this, of course, because put this way it makes no sense.
Predictably, a harsh backlash against the Obama administration’s rebuke of Israel resulted. The Washington Post March 16 editorial strongly defended Israel and issued an implicit warning to President Obama. The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the strongest pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill, saw no fault with Israel’s actions and denounced President Obama.
Yeah, it never fails. Every time the administration sticks its foot in its mouth, along comes the Jooooish lobby and its bought-and-sold lackies in the press to point out inconvenient things like the facts.
Similarly, any criticism of Israel’s policies by The United Methodist Church are met with an unreasonable response. The General Conference, our denomination’s highest policy-making body, seeks “an end to military occupation, freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law.”
A resolution adopted in 2008 cites numerous abuses by Israel against Palestinians: confiscation of land for construction of illegal settlements; building a separation wall on Palestinian land; continued closures, curfews, dehumanizing checkpoints; home demolitions; uprooted olive trees; bulldozed fields; massive deterioration of the living standards of Palestinians. All of this has led to an increasing sense of hopelessness and frustration among Palestinians.
Well, yeah, Jim, that’s what happens when you jump with both feet into a mine field. Sometimes things go boom. And when American churches deliver pronouncements on one of the world’s most complicated geopolitical conflicts and turn it into a white hats/black hats Saturday morning cartoon, some folks are going to object.
General Conference condemns terrorism by either side. General Conference condemns targeted assassinations, suicide bombings and attacks against civilians by both Israel and Palestine. Wearing a uniform does not preclude committing acts equating to terrorism.
This is meant to show how even-handed the Winkler and his fellow United Methodist leaders are, but it does the opposite. Even the deliberate, indiscriminate blowing up and rocketing of civilians by Palestinian terrorists cannot be condemned without turning it into a condemnation of Israel (unlike any of the items in the paragraph above).
Jewish colleagues have told me they monitor our denomination’s websites, study materials, Sunday school curriculum and minutes of our meetings.
Accountability is a drag, ain’t it, Jim? That’s what you get for being a church that pretends to have public influence rather than a secret society.
Other organizations led by non-United Methodists actively organize among our clergy and laity to denounce our denomination’s stances. Most United Methodists are unaware of such scrutiny.
The organization in question would be the Institute on Religion and Democracy which is–surprise!–led by a United Methodist named Mark Tooley. Winkler has apparently not updated his roll-a-dex lately.
As for UMs not being aware of the scrutiny, that’s OK, because most UMs also don’t agree with the denomination’s demonization of Israel. Lots of them, in fact, welcome the scrutiny from outside, including the Good News and Confessing Church movements.
Oh, and I guess I should mention, in case there was any doubt, that I’m one of those evil people who “scrutinize” the doings of my former denomination. I’ll continue to do so, as long as one-sided anti-Israeli screeds like this keep wafting forth from leaders such as Jim Winkler.