An Advent Study for HIV/AIDS

The Season for Change

15,000 signatures support Christian leaders

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Christian and Jewish leaders gathered at the United Methodist Building here last week to applaud the 15 heads of U.S. Christian denominations who called for a congressional investigation into possible violations of U.S. law by Israel in using weapons acquired from the United States.

Groups promoting peace among Israelis and Palestinians gathered more than 15,000 signatures in support of the 15 Christian leaders.

A network of groups promoting peace among Israelis and Palestinians gathered more than 15,000 signatures in support of the 15 Christian leaders and their call to investigate Israeli policies that break U.S. law and violate human rights laws and principles in occupied Palestine.

Specifically, the 15 had questioned whether Israel violated the U.S. Foreign Assistance and the U.S. Export Control Acts.

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, signed the letter.

Attempt to smear signers

Mark Harrison, director of the Peace with Justice work area at the General Board of Church & Society joined Rabbi Liz Bolton of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, Tom Getman of Kairos USA, the Rev. Philip Anderson of the Peace Not Walls network of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and others to express their support for the 15 faith leaders. United Methodist Steven Martin of Kairos USA moderated the event.

Pro-Israeli lobbying on Capitol Hill is likewise based on intimidation and misinformation.

Josh Ruebner, national advocacy director for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, said outrage by detractors was an attempt to smear signers. He said pro-Israeli lobbying on Capitol Hill is likewise based on intimidation and misinformation.

Harrison, who has been to Israel and Palestine said it is important to be with people on the ground to see what is happening. “It is appalling,” he declared. “You see a prosperous Israel colonizing Palestine and oppressing people.”

United Methodist activism on the Israel-Palestine issue is based on “understanding of our biblical mandates and the social justice concerns statements of our denomination,” Harrison emphasized. “The United Methodist Church has called for an end to violence.”

Rise of new Jewish voices

There is a rise of new Jewish voices that need to be listened to, according to Harrison. “An American Jew said you need to investigate the use of U.S. weapons,” he said. “Everything in the letter from the 15 religious leaders is well-documented. We are gathered here to affirm their letter.”

Participants in the press conference pointed out that the recent bombardment of Gaza, for example, was likely a breach of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit military action against an occupied people.

The 15 religious leaders came under attack by members of their own denominations as well as the American Jewish Committee and the Union of Reformed Judaism, who cancelled a scheduled meeting of the Christian-Jewish Roundtable, an interfaith dialogue about the Middle East.

Rabbi Liz Bolton, representing the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, urged these groups to stay at the table.

”Jews and Christians and activists and humanists must all be able to speak truth to power, to call out as witnesses, and hold our leaders to account for their stewardship of our resources,” Bolton said. “True interfaith dialogue and cooperation starts with a commonality of principles and ideals, and a willingness to engage with open eyes and open hearts, especially when looking at the painful and tragic intersections of faith and history.”

‘Made in New Jersey’

Speakers testified to the use of U.S.-made munitions in the oppression of Palestinians. Tom Getman of Kairos USA held up a damaged, antique wine glass given to him by a Palestinian family whose house was hit by a bomb labeled "Made in New Jersey."

Palestinian American Christian Philip Farah spoke of U.S. made-machine guns wielded at checkpoints to create fear in the occupied people.

Moderator Steven Martin spoke of his experiences in Berlin, a city devastated by its own abuse of power. “What I learned in Berlin studying the Nazi Holocaust was that power destroys not only the powerless, but the powerful as well,” he said. “I am concerned as much for the Israelis, who abuse power today, as I am for the Palestinians. This stands to destroy them both if not put in balance.”

Groups represented at the press conference included Jewish Voice for Peace, Kairos USA, U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, United Methodist Kairos Response, Friends of Sabeel North America, Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, The Palestine Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, The Peace Not Walls network of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society. 

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Letter to the Editor