Letter to Congress Raises Tensions Between Jewish and Christian Groups

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A group of Christian leaders collaborated on a letter sent to Congress urging them to hold hearings to investigate whether Israel has violated the terms of U.S. foreign aid recipients, reports the Haaretz, citing concern "about the massive amounts of U.S. military aid for Israel, and how those funds are used to perpetuate occupation."
In response, Jewish leaders withdrew attendance from a scheduled Christian-Jewish Roundtable that was slated for October 22-23 in a public letter published on the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The letter states that anti-Zionism has gone "virtually unchecked" and that the Christian group's public letter to Congress was "a step too far."
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs aided in starting these meetings between Christian and Jewish leaders in 2004, reports the NYT. The meetings have focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to Makari. "The roundtable is a setting where we have discussed the very difficult issues of the Middle East together, where there are passionate perspectives expressed," Makari told Hareetz. "Different perspectives should not be a reason to suspend meeting; this is a setting where we should be present to discuss such issues, perhaps especially when we may not agree."
Jewish groups have invited representatives of the Christian churches who sent the letter to meet with top officials in a "summit" specifically addressing the situation. Christian leaders say they are considering, reported the New York Times.
The majority of organizations that penned the Christian letter are from Protestant churches, although other signers included the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker organization) and the Mennonite Central Committee and two Catholic representatives, reports the NYT.
The letter urged investigation of human rights violations committed only by Israel, a matter which has upset Jewish leaders further reports the NYT.
"Where's the letter to Congress about Syria, which is massacring its own people?" Rabbi Steven Wernick, the chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism told the NYT. "When Israel is the only one that is called to account, that's when it becomes problematic."
Foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority halted last year in connection to violations of the same agreement Christians are calling for investigation of in Israel. reports the NYT. Congress is currently re-evaluating aid to Egypt, said Makari.
Jewish leaders reported upset at "the lack of communication to Jewish partners in advance of the letter's release" in their public letter.
Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs told the NYT, "What we're seeing is people in the mainstream Jewish community, doves and hawks, who are really feeling at a point of exhaustion."

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