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JCRC Journal: Military Aid to Israel Causing Rift with Mainstream Protestants; Food Stamp Challenge

[by Matt Goldberg, Director]
Jewish Community Relations Council

On October 5, leaders of several mainstream protestant communities sent a letter to Congress asking them to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel in light of Israeli “violations” of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, related to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

As reported by the New York Times, the leadership of several national Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the national bodies of the Reform and Conservative movement, has strongly condemned this letter as one-sided and hypocritical.

As the letter was sent just a week before a national Jewish-Christian interfaith conference, many of the Jewish groups viewed it as a “betrayal of trust.” As a result, all the major Jewish organizations that had planned to participate in the conference pulled out, and the conference has now been canceled.

The objectionable actions of Israel enumerated in this letter to Congress are either taken out of context, severe exaggerations, or outright false.

The letter accuses Israel of intentionally killing civilians. Unfortunately, some Palestinians have been killed, but they have always been in an operation either to target a known terrorist or target a terrorist cell about to fire missiles at Israeli civilians. Israel has never willingly targeted civilians, as opposed to the terrorist organizations such as Hamas that exclusively target civilians. In addition, their fighters hide among their own civilian population, jeopardizing the safety of innocents.

The letter mentions actions such as forced displacement of Palestinians and restrictions on movement in the territories. History has shown that these actions are unfortunately necessary to ensure that terrorists are not in a position to attack Israeli civilians.

America’s military aid to Israel ensures that the only democracy in the region is able to maintain the qualitative military edge that ensures the survival of the tiny state of only seven million in the rough neighborhood of the Middle East, where it is vastly outnumbered.

The United States and Israel share the same values and goals, and both are willing to defend them with the same vigor, with military force only used as a last resort. Additionally, to focus singularly on Israel when other nations receiving American foreign aid (such as Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Afghanistan, and Iraq) have far worse human rights records is insulting.

These national Jewish groups have called for a summit with the leadership who signed onto this letter to discuss possible ways to remedy this breach of trust and ways we can move forward with interfaith dialogue. There is a constructive role for these churches to play in Middle East peace – demonizing America’s best ally in the region does not fit into that role.

On the domestic front, several members of our community will be participating in the Food Stamp Challenge, a project of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and other national organizations. To raise awareness of hunger issues, those participating in the challenge will attempt to live on what the average food stamp recipient lives on for a week, which is $31.50 per person per week, averaging $4.50 per day or $1.50 per meal.

As our national economic recovery continues to be slow, there is increasing need for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. This program is just a fraction of our federal budget, and yet its future is precarious as both parties have submitted national budgets that threaten it. One in six people both locally and nationally, including one in four children, is struggling with hunger issues.
For more information about this challenge or to sign up to participate, please contact me, Matt Goldberg, at mgoldberg @jewishlouisville.org or 238-2707.

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