I was struck by the contrast between the letters from Voice of Israel’s Mike Ross and the Church of Reconciliation’s Sharon Shohfi: Mr. Ross calls for more compromise so that both sides may live in peace, while Ms. Shohfi reiterates the church’s long standing policy of discrimination against one side – Israel.
Why is it discrimination? The paradoxically named “Church of Reconciliation” calls for an end to U.S. aid to Israel, only Israel. Not to Egypt which despite its decades of repression we continue to give over $3 billion a year; not to Pakistan which openly and vocally despises us and to which we give almost $2 billion a year; not to Iraq, to which we give over $2 billion a year while its sidles up to Iran, the world’s greatest exporter of terrorism and not to Afghanistan to which we give a staggering $12 billion a year.
And in fact, not to the Palestinian Authority which has been a regular recipient of U.S. largess to the tune of billions of dollars. But Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, the only ally we have in the region, its most culturally and religiously diverse nation, and the only nation whose very existence has been threatened every day since its formal recognition in 1948, is singled out for this Church’s attacks.
U.S. aid to Israel has and continues to be vital to that nation’s very existence and its ability to defend itself from countless terrorist attacks and unprovoked wars. But this church has instead determined that our “pressing unmet human needs” require a cessation of aid to the state of Israel.
By that logic should we not withdraw aid to all other countries, most of which use such aid for defense, especially those that are friendlier to our enemies than to us? Will the Palestinian Authority and the openly Anti-Semitic and terrorist organization Hamas be among those? How does the church “reconcile” its position of opposing aid to Israel while saying nothing of our aid to any other countries? It appears our “pressing unmet human needs” are not so “pressing” or “unmet” unless it is aid to Israel that is at stake.
Israel has again agreed to engage in talks with the Palestinian Authority for the establishment of a two-state solution to the conflict. While I am, and all should be optimistic about such talks, I am reminded of the many peace agreements proposed by Israel which were rejected by the Palestinians, time after time.
The 1967 war against Israel was launched from what is called the West Bank. Israel ultimately prevailed, winning the territory from which war was launched against it. Since when has this land, won by Israel in an unprovoked war become land to which Israel has no rights?
How can Israel “steal” land that in actual fact belongs to them? As writer David Phillips stated in 2009: “…the analysis underlying the conclusion that the (Israeli) settlements violate international law depends entirely on an acceptance of the Palestinian narrative that the West Bank is “Arab” land. Followed to its logical conclusion – as some have done – this narrative precludes the legitimacy of Israel itself.” Is this the Church’s true objective?
The West Bank and Gaza are now home to governments, separate ones in fact, which not only continue to refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist but regularly advocate for its destruction.
It is clear, as Mr. Ross suggests, that compromise is the foundation of any potential agreement between the sides. This will not be accomplished by attacking one side while ignoring or excusing the egregious behavior of the other as Ms. Shohfi and the Church of Reconciliation do.
The principal weakness of a policy of discrimination is that it is hard to mask, hard to hide behind expressions of good faith, of the patronizing pretense of concern for both sides’ interests while in fact supporting the objectives of just one. “Reconciling” that issue would be a good start for the church if it truly wishes to become a partner for peace.
Ken Weiss lives in Chapel Hill.