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Exploiting Lent to Attack Israel

J Street's ally, Churches for Middle East Peace, tries to undermine U.S. support for Israel.

10:20 AM, Apr 2, 2010 • By MARK TOOLEY
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Another Lenten devotional from a CMEP staffer who is a United Methodist deacon cited St. Paul’s affirmation of “our citizenship in heaven,” contrasting it with the importance of “national citizenship” in lobbying Congress for “improving US policy to affect peace in the Holy Land.” An official with Catholic Relief Services pensively asked “how do we stop skipping the times of spiritual renewal that enable us to invite all people who care about the peoples of the Holy Land to God’s great, free banquet?”

More explicitly in his devotional, a UCC missions executive complained about “Israeli settlements, the separation barrier, conditions of refugees, and myriad aspects of occupation—as well as destabilizing and debilitating violence.”  He implored that “we, as North American Christians, who have deep ties with Palestinian Christians, respond” by demanding an end to “violence and occupation.” An official from the Maryknoller order was even more detailed in his devotional:  “As People of Faith and Justice, and citizens of a Nation supportive of Israel, are we not being called upon to speak out about the continuing siege and blockade of Gaza; about the thousands of homes there which cannot be rebuilt?”  The Maryknoller also lamented “dispossessed Palestinian families in East Jerusalem,” the “continued growth of the older Israeli settlements,” and “building restrictions” on West Bank Palestinians. “Are we not being called upon," he concluded, "to speak out about collective punishment, and the continued construction of the Wall of Separation?” 

In the final CMEP devotional for Easter, a Mennonite contrasts St. Peter’s call for “impartiality” with how “Western Christians have too often promoted the view that there is a chosen people in the Middle East and have used that belief to support unjust policies.”  Counteracting Zionist and other pro-Israel Christians perhaps encapsulates CMEP’s central mission.  Exploiting a Christian holy season like Lent to shift attention away from Christ’s passion and instead towards Palestinian liberation, with varying degrees of subtlety, may not be so effective. But CMEP may still be a useful ally to groups like J Street that will attempt to portray American Christian views towards Israel as, at best, ambivalent.

Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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