An Israeli flag

Photo: Ron Almog / Flickr

The response to the October 5th letter to Congress from fifteen mainline, somewhat liberal, and very large Christian denominations or groups, by various Zionist Jewish organizations, is rapidly escalating into something serious.  In an article at the Jewish Telegraph Agency, posted an hour ago, Ethan Felson,vice president and general counsel of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, appears to be threatening to have Congress investigate the Churches, or the signatories of the letter:

Felson said JCPA is considering as a response asking Congress to investigate delegitimizers of Israel and to issue a resolution against their efforts. He said he has not yet decided if he will attend the roundtable.

“We feel strongly that if you want the parties to reconcile, we should model reconciliation,” Felson said. “But that’s difficult to do when we’re up against this brand of antipathy.”

Suggesting that American Jewish groups could retaliate by advocating against U.S. aid to the Palestinians, Felson said the signers of the letter are “opening up a Pandora’s box.” [emphases added]

In an op-ed, posted an hour ago in the Jerusalem Post, commentator Isi Leibler invokes some pretty serious imagery:

The signatories include leaders of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and National Council of Churches. Although many of the rank-and-file members of these churches are supporters of Israel and unaware of these activities, their radical anti-Israel leaders were obviously not inhibited from taking such action despite being aware of the role of their churches in demonizing, persecuting and murdering Jews over the past 2,000 years.

One is tempted to suggest that some of the current Lutheran leaders have inherited the anti-Semitic poison of their 16th-century founder, Martin Luther, who after failing to convert the Jews called on his followers to murder these “poisonous envenomed worms” and set fire to their synagogues and schools. [emphasis added]

They have simply redirected his anti-Semitic obsessions toward the Jewish state in lieu of individual Jews.

Leibler is referring to this 1543 pamphlet by Luther:  Von den Juden und ihren Lügen

In the JTA article, there is no reference to this morning’s action by the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace (disclaimer – my wife is a member of JVP), in support of the stance of the Christian leaders who wrote to Congress:

The undersigned members of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council stand with our American Christian colleagues in their recent call to “make U.S. military aid to Israel contingent upon its government’s “compliance with applicable US laws and policies.”

We are as troubled as our Christian colleagues by the human rights violations Israel commits against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of US – supplied weapons. It is altogether appropriate – and in fact essential – for Congress to ensure that Israel is not in violation of any US laws or policies that regulate the use of US supplied weapons.

 JTA is usually very good at keeping up with all developments on a topic when they publish, so I’m not quite sure why the article fails to mention the action by the JVP Rabbinical Council.

Leibler, in her JPost op-ed  adds:

The recent initiative by a group of Protestant leaders calling on the US Congress to reevaluate military aid to Israel is a nauseating example of applying double standards against Jews and Israel under the cloak of piety and hypocritical sanctimoniousness.

And later, in her op-ed, she writes:

They act as though Israel represents the obstacle to peace talks. Yet Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas refused to deal with the Israelis even after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had implemented an unprecedented 10-month freeze on settlements in a futile effort to bring them to the negotiating table.

The church leaders complained bitterly about the settlements, which beyond the major blocs, amount to a minute proportion of the West Bank. They conveniently overlook the fact that two Israeli prime ministers offered the PA virtually the entire West Bank but were rebuffed without even a counter proposal.

Most of which is untrue, or to borrow Leibler’s own terms, “a nauseating example of applying double standards under the cloak of piety and hypocritical sanctimoniousness.”  Israel has never offered “virtually the entire West Bank” to any Palestinian entity.  Rather, these Christian leaders seem to understand that the thrust of settlement dynamics is pushing more toward large expansion of Jewish control over Palestinian lands.

I predict an effort will be made between now and the “Oct. 22 annual Christian-Jewish roundtable involving representatives from 12 Jewish and 12 Christian groups in New York,” to reconcile some differences, but Abe Foxman Executive Director of the Anti-Defamation League seems ready to go for even harder hardball:

“We’re not going to sit around the table and say kumbaya,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which pulled out of the program and urged other Jewish groups to follow suit. “This is the clearest message I know to say, ‘You don’t get it. Maybe think about what you don’t get and at a later date we’ll sit down and talk.’ ”

The interfaith group was set up in 2004:

The Christian-Jewish roundtable, as it is known informally, was developed in 2004 when the divestment issue rose in prominence in Protestant circles.

The roundtable was set up to stave off Christian support of Global BDS.  In the years since, BDS has gained enormous traction, Israel was seriously bloodied by Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, Israel egregiously invaded Gaza, killing thousands, Israel absurdly boarded the Mavi Marmara, killing several innocents, when they could have easily disabled the vessel and endangered nobody, and has expanded Jewish settlements on or near lands in the West Bank held sacred to Christians.  Acts of violence by militant Zionists against Christians in Jerusalem and the West Bank seem to be multiplying.

How many members of the US Congress Ethan Felson is contemplating asking to investigate these Christian leaders might be members of the faiths the clerics represent?

This is only going to get worse.  Perhaps rapidly.

Pandora’s box, indeed: