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The Mainline’s Love Affair With Hamas

The Mainlines Love Affair With Hamas AP Photo Fareed Khan

AP Photo/Fareed Khan

Mark Tooley - published on 07/26/14

Theories of peacemaking are apparently more important than reality.

Surprise! There’s a silly letter to President Obama about the current Gaza conflict from oldline Protestant and liberal Catholic groups essentially siding with Hamas and against Israel.

As U.S. churches and Christian organizations, we join others worldwide who are calling for an immediate end to the violence — as well as its underlying causes — in Palestine and Israel. As the situation continues to deteriorate, and horrendous death and destruction mount in Gaza, we are called by conscience to say, “Enough.”

What do these church groups identify as the "underlying causes?" Might it be that Hamas officially rejects Israel’s existence and fights for its eradication? No! The underlying cause is Israeli injustice towards Palestinians.

Sadly, the scenes that we are witnessing are all too familiar. Over the last decade, Israel has repeatedly carried out similar military operations in Gaza. In each instance, over a period of days or weeks, Israel bombed and invaded Gaza, and Palestinian militant groups stepped up their practice of firing rockets into Israel. Each of these operations ended with a cease-fire that temporarily decreased military action but did not end the conflict nor lift the oppressive Israeli blockade institutionalized in Gaza since 2007.

Note there is no direct criticism here from the church groups of Hamas "firing rockets into Israel." Just critique of the "oppressive Israeli blockade."

It is our view that these cease fires failed to last because they did not address deeper injustices. After each new cease fire Palestinians in Gaza remained subject to the legal, structural, and physical violence inherent in Israel’s occupation and siege on Gaza, which constitutes collective punishment. This includes crushing restrictions and limitations placed on Palestinian movement, access to water and electricity, economic development, and other freedoms in both the West Bank and Gaza.

Again, no criticism here from the church groups of Hamas, which is dedicated to perpetual violent struggle and seeks to erect an Islamist state over all Palestinian Territories and over Israel. The church groups are just interested in "deeper injustices" by Israel.

The Obama administration and Congress have rightly condemned the indiscriminate rockets from Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups into Israel. It is time for the U.S. to condemn the Israeli bombardment of civilian centers and the blockade just as strongly. This latest escalation cannot be divorced from the broader context of the Gaza siege and occupation.

Oh, how nice, here finally the church groups do seemingly disapprove of Hamas’ "indiscriminate" rocket attacks. But Israel’s defense against the rockets is just as bad, they assert, if not worse.

To achieve a lasting peace, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, including the siege of Gaza, must end. The U.S. must, therefore, make ending the occupation and lifting the Gaza siege priorities for our foreign policy in the region.

The church groups want Israel’s "occupation" to end, without defining what is occupied. Hamas views all of Israel as an "occupation." Do the church groups disagree?

Violence and military force will never bring peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Military aid to Israel amounting to more than $3 billion per year creates a heavy moral obligation for the U.S. to ensure that this aid is not used in violation of U.S. law and fundamental human rights. A key step in this direction would be for the United States to investigate the use of U.S.-supplied weapons and military equipment during this conflict and to ensure full accountability under existing U.S. law if human rights abuses have been committed using this equipment.

These church groups want to investigate, and actually would like to end, all U.S. military aid for Israel. They are not interested in how United Nations funding for Gaza, supported by the U.S., facilitates Hamas’ reign of terror.

The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis will only be resolved when Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is ended, and the inherent equality, worth, and dignity of all Palestinians and Israelis is realized.

Again, the church groups don’t define what is occupied nor do they acknowledge Hamas’ understanding of "occupation. "

We urge you to take action to both stop the current violence and use U.S. influence and diplomatic weight to push for a just peace that will benefit all of the people of the region. We are grateful for the attention you have given to the search for lasting peace in the Middle East, and we offer you our prayers.

The church groups again conflate Israeli self defense with Hamas terror. They do not explain how endorsing the Hamas narrative of perpetual grievance fuels peace instead of stoking more war.

Protestant and Catholic endorsors of this fatuous appeal for "peace" are the American Friends Service Committee, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church, Pax Christi International, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Extended Justice Team, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, and  United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

Last month there was a poll of Palestinian opinion showing that fewer than 30 percent of Palestinians favor living peacefully alongside Israel in two states. Instead, 60 percent favor as a national goal for the next five years "reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river to the sea." Sixty eight percent in Gaza favor eradicating Israel, while 54 percent in West Bank favor it. How lovely.

So how does one side negotiate peace when the other side not only rejects peace but favors eradication of their adversary? These types of clueless church groups who appealed to Obama over Gaza never explain. They bring to their Middle East analysis the same utopian detachment from reality that they typically apply everywhere else. They think others i.e. Israel should essentially disarm and surrender, even if it means self destruction.

For them, abstract theories of peacemaking are more important than reality in a fallen world.

Christian political witness rooted in Christian teaching acknowledges states’ obligation to defend their people. It also recognizes that aggression and hatred are endemic to this world, and in statecraft appeasement and detached impartiality are not virtues but vices that engender greater injustice and further conflict. 

Fortunately, almost nobody takes seriously the fantasy advocacy of the Maryknollers or the United Methodist political lobby. But their example offers an instructive model for how thoughtful Christians should not speak.

Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church and Methodism And Politics in the Twentieth Century.

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