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Inter-faith Dialogue, Anybody?

Inter-faith dialogue, anybody? Yeah, keep the gullible Christians talking…

But some US churchmen now want action

I wonder if Abe Foxman and his mates ever read the Scottish poet Rabbie Burns… especially this verse from ‘To a Louse’ (1785)…

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An’ foolish notion
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us
An’ ev’n Devotion

Translation…

Oh, that God would give us the ability
To see ourselves as others see us
It would save us from many a mistake
and foolish thought
We’d change the way we look and act
and what we devote our time to.

Over here in the UK we are faintly amused at the way Foxman and his Anti-Defamation League (ADL) throw their weight around and bully anyone who dares criticise the Israeli regime or question the rate at which it consumes American aid dollars to fund its illegal occupation of the Holy Land.

The ADL was founded in 1913 with the worthy aim “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all”.  Today, nearly 100 years later, Foxman is its National Director and probably the loudest voice in the ‘hasbara’ (i.e. pro-Israel propaganda) firmament.

And today, after a century of talk of “fair treatment for all”, the Palestinians find themselves in desperate need of a Defence League of their own to stop the defamation of Palestinians by Foxman’s friends, to secure even a small crumb of justice and fair treatment, and to get their lands and homes and natural resources, stolen by Jewish terrorists and Israeli uniformed thugs, restored to them.

But that won’t happen if people like Foxman continue to have their way. We’ve just been treated to the spectacle of him berating fifteen church leaders, who represent many major faith groups in the US, for writing a letter to Congress asking for closer scrutiny of the massive flow of US military aid to Israel and measures to ensure compliance with US laws and policies.

“We urge an immediate investigation,” they said, “into possible violations by Israel of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of US weapons to ‘internal security’ or ‘legitimate self-defense’.

“More broadly, we urge Congress to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace. We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.”

Making sure one’s tax dollars aren’t misused is a perfectly proper thing to do, surely. But it caused Foxman and Co to take umbrage and go into a major sulk.

The ADL immediately issued a press release http://www.adl.org/PresRele/ChJew_31/Protestant-jewish-interfaith-conference-101012.html  announcing they were pulling out of national Jewish-Christian interfaith dialogue scheduled for October 22 in response to “a serious breach of trust” by mainline Protestant Church leaders.

Some of the Protestant leaders who were scheduled to be dialogue participants sent an outrageous and biased letter to members of Congress on October 5, accusing Israel of human rights violations against Palestinians and calling for a re-evaluation of US foreign aid to Israel.

Foxman said:

In light of the failure of any of the church leaders to reach out to us, we have decided not to attend this interfaith meeting, The blatant lack of sensitivity by the Protestant dialogue partners we had been planning to meet with has seriously damaged the foundation for mutual respect, which is essential for meaningful interfaith dialogue.

Those living in the Holy Land under the Israeli jackboot will be surprised to hear that “sensitivity” and “respect” are actually in the Zionist lexicon.

Foxman then called on other Jewish organizations to respond to the “disrespect the American Jewish community is being shown” by also withdrawing from the interfaith gathering.

Many would say good riddance. Does the ADL sound like the sort of organization Christians and Muslims could confidently sit down with and make useful progress?

Only a few months before, Foxman was vilifying the Kairos Palestine Document and the US Christians who had written their own document supporting it. He said it was,

part of an anti-Israel initiative

and called it “

a deeply cynical and biased response to the already seriously flawed original Kairos document,

a flagrantly one-sided, anti-Israel diatribe

and

a poison pill for Christian-Jewish relations.

The ADL claimed that the original 2009 Kairos Document was “a toxic mix of bad history, politically motivated distortions and dangerous religious and theological attacks against Judaism and Israel.  It included the heinous charge that some of Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians are ‘a sin against God’”.

Only a sin against God? Israel’s crime-sheet is regarded in many quarters as much worse than that.

In his condemnation of this new US document, ‘A Call to Action’, Foxman declared it antithetical to peacemaking.

We call on all people of good will, religious and non-religious, to reject the blatantly biased Kairos USA and join with those in the Jewish-Christian interfaith community working towards a balanced and accurate understanding of the issues, and promoting positive alternatives for a secure and fair peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

The US proponents of Kairos, he said,

are doing a monumental disservice to those truly interested in bringing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

As all sensible people realise, there can be no peace while the occupation continues. Nothing useful will be achieved until international law is enforced and UN resolutions implemented. So who, I wonder, are these upright inter-faith people who are “truly interested” in bringing peace as opposed to perpetuating the occupation, and how will they do it?

Kairos USA is a movement of US Christians who believe the time is right for decisive action to end the crisis in Israel and Palestine. It seems they’ve had enough of  time-wasting inter-faith claptrap. The Kairos US document actually says…

A just and sustainable peace in Israel and Palestine depends on a political solution based on justice and fairness. We hold our own government largely responsible for the continuation of conflict and suffering on the part of both Palestinians and Israelis because the conditions that stand in the way of such a peace are financed and diplomatically protected by our government. We therefore urge Christians in the United States to advocate with our government for a foreign policy that demonstrates a commitment to justice for Palestinians and to a sustainable peace for all the peoples of the land.

We believe strongly in the value of interfaith dialogue and reconciliation. But we acknowledge with sadness and distress that because of the powerful impulse on the part of Christians to atone for their sins against the Jewish people, vigilance against anti-Semitism today has come to trump working for justice in Palestine and Israel. The Christian need to rectify centuries of anti-Jewish doctrine and actions and to avoid even the perception of anti-Jewish feeling has served to silence criticism of Israel’s policies and any questioning of the consequences of U.S. government support for Israel. Differences between anti-Semitism and legitimate opposition to Israeli actions are avoided or explained away. Responsible discourse about Zionism is often denounced as hostility toward Israel and its citizens or branded as anti-Semitism.

Of course, they speak from an American perspective. Why Christians should feel any impulse to atone for sins against the Jewish people, I don’t know. What sins anyway?

Let them stew

All the airy-fairy chit-chat is simply an extension of the Zionists’ lopsided ‘peace process’ and just as fruitless. The purpose is to create the illusion of progress while they carry on abusing and dispossessing their weak and helpless peace ‘partner’. There is not, and never has been, the slightest intention on the part of Israel to make peace – at least, not until they’ve stolen everything they want and established irreversible facts on the ground to render a viable and independent Palestinian state impossible.

So yeah, keep the gullible Christians talking…

But, suddenly, along come Kairos USA, and the fifteen US church leaders, to prick the Zionists’ pretty balloon. And the ADL goes ballistic.

Here in the UK we have something similar to the ADL. It’s called The Board of Deputies of British Jews.

It claims to serve and promote the interests of the Jewish community in the UK, but goes far beyond this.

The Board remains unwavering in its approach, as stated in our Constitution, to take ‘such appropriate action as lies within its power to advance Israel’s security, welfare and standing’…  The Board lobbies and campaigns on security issues such as the threat from a nuclear Iran… An existential threat to Israel is the continued attempts to deny its legitimacy, something which the Board combats through BUYcotts, correspondence with the media and lobbying at the political level… We concentrate on the undoubted effect of events in the region on the British Jewish community, and the importance of Israel being treated fairly and impartially within British society, in the face of campaigns to demonise, boycott and sanction the Jewish State.

When the British Methodists submitted a report ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ to their Conference, the Board of Deputies got quite obnoxious. The report’s perfectly reasonable recommendations included the following…

In listening to Church Leaders and our fellow-Christians in Israel Palestine as well as leaders of Palestinian civil society we hear an increasing consensus calling for the imposition of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a major strategy of non-violent resistance to the Occupation. The Conference notes the call of the WCC [World Council of Churches] in 2009 for an ‘international boycott of settlement produce and services’ and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements (some Methodists would advocate a total boycott of Israeli goods until the Occupation ends).

It also said that the Methodist Church had consistently expressed its concern over the illegal Occupation of Palestinian lands by the State of Israel, and that its continuation not only compounded Israel’s illegal and immoral action but also made any accommodation with the Palestinian people and future peace in the region less likely.

The Chief Rabbi declared the report,

unbalanced, factually and historically flawed”

without saying in what way it was inaccurate. And he warned that the implications would

reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities in the UK.

The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council said the authors of the report had “abused the goodwill of the Jewish community”. Here is their full text:

“This is a very sad day, both for Jewish-Methodist relations and for everyone who wants to see positive engagement with the complex issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Methodist Conference has swallowed hook, line and sinker a report full of basic historical inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of Jewish theology and Israeli policy. The deeply flawed report is symptomatic of a biased process: The working group which wrote the report had already formed its conclusions at the outset. External readers were brought in to give the process a veneer of impartiality, but their criticisms were rejected. The report’s authors have abused the trust of ordinary members of the Methodist Church, who assumed that they were reading and voting on an impartial and comprehensive paper, and they have abused the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage with this issue, only to find that our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction.

“This outcome is extremely serious and damaging, as we and others have explained repeatedly over recent weeks. Israel is at the root of the identity of Jews and of Judaism, and as an expression of Jewish spiritual, national and emotional aspirations, Zionism cannot simply be ruled as illegitimate in the way that the Methodist Conference has purported to do. This smacks of breathtaking insensitivity, as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the Conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.”

What a silly outburst. This is the language of division not harmony. It is designed to widen the gulf not close it. Ratcheting up the tension perpetuates the uneven struggle for freedom, and that suits them just fine. For decades the “goodwill” of the Jewish community has counted for nothing in securing justice for the Palestinians and bringing to an end their misery at the hands of the State if Israel. Who are they to talk of “breathtaking insensitivity”?

Again, are these the sort of people Muslims and Christians could ever have any meaningful dialogue with? Perhaps it’s time the Chief Rabbi’s “implications” did indeed “reverberate” across the faith communities, not only in the UK but around the world including (and especially) the United States.

Disengage. Let them stew…. at least until they see themselves as others see them.

Stuart Littlewood

14 October 2012

Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk

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4 Responses to Inter-faith Dialogue, Anybody?

  1. Ariadna Theokopoulos October 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    As always, Stuart Littlewood has it all wrong.
    While it is easy to understand Abe Foxman’s frustration with the obtuseness of the Christian Church leaders, Mr Foxman, I am sure, does not intend to cause a permanent and definitive cessation of interfaith dialog, as SL petulantly and dangerously proposes.
    To stop interfaith dialog would be nothing less than throwing baby Jesus out with the bris scalpel.
    Interfaith dialog — a great achievement that flourished in the 20th century under the wise leadership of the elder brothers of the Judaic faith — has brought about (and is still working to accomplish more) important reforms in the major religions and in thinking.

    Should interfaith dialog cease both Christianity and Islam would deprive themselves of priceless guidance:

    http://mysteryworshipers.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/should-an-islamic-fundamentalist-change-your-catholic-prayer/

    http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/miarticle.htm?id=7110#.UHwFlI6hDFI

  2. Blake October 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    It’s very hard reasoning with psychopaths and when it is a squatter camp full of them it’s impossible.

  3. David Holden October 15, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    since interfaith dialogue is proving difficult how about giving interfaith monologue a whirl? this would also be helpful as a way of bringing atheists in from the cold.

    atheists deserve sympathy for several reasons, one of which is this: if atheism is true, then the statement ‘God exists’ is not meaningful. but as demonstrated in the Godel-Boole-Wittgenstein Theorem,the negation of a statement that is meaningless is necessarily also meaningless. hence atheists, who assert that God does not exist, if thinking logically, must admit that their ‘faith’ is based on a meaningless proposition. it is scant comfort that their despised theistic antagonists are in the same boat. like any self-respecting group atheists feel they should have a boat of their own. they are, as it were, a Chosen People with nobody to do the Choosing. which is about as useful as a skinless sausage after a close encounter with Ariadna’s bris..

    if, on the other hand, God does exist, then the assertion that God does not exist, although false, is nevertheless meaningful and – voila – atheists can have their own boat. and in thirty years or so, with Mr Foxman’s goodwill, influence and negotiating skills, it need not be some shitty little fishing skiff fit only to be harassed and pissed on by IDF gunboats for recreational purposes. they could have a well-scrubbed-up reconditioned German-manufactured Israeli nuclear submarine. hey presto! everyone’s a winner! well, except maybe the Palestinians. but let’s be honest, just for a moment, who gives a flying f_ck about them! the rest of will be far too busy worshipping our G_ds, or cruising under the Polar icecaps listening to vintage Madonna and Michael Jackson on our octrophonic stereo systems whilst reading the collected short stories of Elie Wiesel.

  4. Rich Forer October 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    Good article. Let’s be really clear. Foxman is not defending Israel. He is too narcissistic to truly care about Israelis. What he cares about, what he is terrified of, is his own reflection. Whenever Israel is criticized it is as if a mirror is suddenly placed in front of him, asking him to look: to look at what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people in the name of the Jewish people, to look at what he (Foxman) is supporting, to look at the cold denial of the Palestinian people’s humanity and to acknowledge that in denying the humanity of the so-called other he denies his own humanity. Is it not interesting that the long-time leader of the largest Jewish civil rights organization in the world knows virtually nothing of substance about the history of Israel-Palestine? How could he be so ignorant? It is because he is afraid to look and where a man cannot look he cannot feel. Without both he will never understand. The only thing that Foxman allows himself to look at is an idealistic image of Israel that is unconsciously superimposed upon or projected onto the real Israel; the Israel as it has been and as it is today. Foxman is a model for all the deniers out there who refuse to look at, or study with impartiality, the actual history. They cannot come face to face with their own image and admit what they have been supporting and defending. If they had the integrity of blatant racists like the KKK, who make no bones about their hatred and bigotry, they could still, if they chose, support Israeli policy. At least then they would do so from a place of honesty about their true stance on the issue and their true stance as human beings.

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