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March 16, 2011

Eery Silence from Mainline Churches on Itamar Attack

It has been approximately five days since five Israelis, including a three-month old baby, were murdered in their homes in Itamar. No one has any real doubts that the attack was perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists despite a denial from Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki who, according to Haaretz

said no Palestinian had ever murdered an infant or civilians in such a manner, either for nationalist causes or in revenge, "which raises doubts regarding Israel's haste to accuse the Palestinians."

Even Haaretz isn’t buying this.

Malki seems to have forgotten the dozens of attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorists - intent on killing children, women and old people. In November 2002, Sirhan Sirhan entered a house in Kibbutz Metzer and murdered a mother and her two children, aged 4 and 5, after killing another man and woman. This is just one example of several.

Given the horrific details of the murder, it would seem reasonable that the churches in the U.S. that were so quick to condemn Israel in the past few years as it responded to attacks on its citizens from Gaza and Lebanon and during the Second Intifada would offer a word of condemnation of this most recent attack itself. The killer (or killers) slit a little baby’s throat.

Yes, the tragedy in Japan has attracted a lot of attention and justifiably so. But in light of the manner in which mainline churches in the U.S. have directed so much of their attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict in recent years – with most of their criticism directed at Israel – a word of comfort on behalf of the Israeli victims and a word of admonition to Palestinian leaders would seem obligatory.

Snapshots readers know where this is headed.

As of this writing (the morning of March 16, 2011), it appears that the five mainline churches that could usually be counted on to condemn Israel have said nothing about the attack. The websites of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church have no reference to the attack at all. This morning, plugging “Itamar” into the search engine of the UMC’s website yielded a link to a Jerusalem Post article about how Palestinian officials have attempted to blame foreign workers for the murders, but otherwise, nothing.

And as of this writing, there’s no reference to it on the World Council of Churches website, nor is there any mention of it on the website of the National Council of Churches.

To be sure, all of this could change with a few updates this afternoon, but the fact is, approximately five days out from the attack, nothing.

The one exception is Churches for Middle East Peace. CMEP responded to the attack with a statement, which in addition to condemning the attack itself cited Palestinian Prime Minister Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ belated condemnation of the attack. It also condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for announcing the construction of additional homes in the West Bank. Left unmentioned, however, is the problem of anti-Semitic incitement that has been an ongoing problem in Palestinian society for years.

The phrase “soft racism of low expectations” comes to mind. Why is it so difficult for would-be peacemakers to hold political, religious and intellectual elites in the Middle East accountable for the vicious slurs directed at Israel and Jews in the region? To be sure, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad starts talking crazy, some leaders respond, but when it comes to condemn the day-in-and-day-out expressions of contempt for Jews particularly in Palestinian society, these churches are AWOL and have been for years.

Given the persistent failure of mainline Protestant churches and their allies in the Roman Catholic community to address this issue, it’s time to ask some very difficult questions.

Is there something about Muslim expressions of hostility toward Jews in the Middle East that echoes in the minds of Israel’s Christian critics in the U.S.?

Is there something about Muslim anti-Semitism that dovetails with Christian anti-Semitism?

Is that why they find anti-Semitic incitement so unremarkable? Is that why they have remained bystanders to the problem of anti-Semitism in the Middle East and Europe?

If Christians cannot talk bring themselves to speak forcefully about Muslim anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish incitement, can they truly claim to have overcome the problem of anti-Semitism in their own communities? In their own hearts?

If the CMEP and the churches it represents cannot bring themselves to forcefully condemn the anti-Semtic incitement as it exists in the Middle East, maybe these institutions are better off by remaining silent about the conflict altogether.

This is not an issue that would-be peacemakers can ignore.

And yet they do.

Posted by dvz at March 16, 2011 11:19 AM

Comments

Hi, Dexter

I'm not sure what the problem is, sort of not sure, that is. Something about the emperor has no clothes, Mommy. I remember something similar, unfortunately, too similar regarding Romania during the reign of the monster, Nicolas Ceausescu, a genuine pussy cat, whose Securitate raided Romanian orphanages to recruit children to swell their ranks in the secret police.

That being said and known, Romania enjoyed favored nation status from the United States. So, of course, naturally, a reluctance to name the beast as a beast beat in the heart of every Western breast, while the usual blockade on mentioning any sort of human rights violations behind the iron curtain mummed and dumbed the tongues of World Council of Churches types whenever the word "Romania" was heard in the halls. "Romania, who?"

So it seems in this case, also. Imagine having to admit that Palestinians enable barbarism and horror within their ranks? They might suffer demerits from their favored nation victim status. A slip in the polls? Oh dear.

I'm really not sure that this reluctance is hidden anti-semitism and hope that I'm right. Rather, it's a repeat of that same perversion of human nature that sat by while Tutsi and Hutu slaughtered each other like flies; the same perversion that waited until the end of World War II to admit that humans could morph into horrific insects; that allowed Pol Pot to delight in brutality, that today allows the word Palestinian to represent unfettered good even as they slaughter the innocents. The Middle East it seems is in the throes of its own indigestion. But have you noticed that few poll the Palestinians on their views? Certainly they have a stake in the various possible outcomes awaiting realization. But, no, they are isolated (sleeping beauty?) from all responsibility, accountability and even admitted participation in current events. Until something happens that reaches critical mass (and it needn't happen to Israelis) the Palestinians will still be the Ken and Barbie dolls of idealism, innocence, infinite patience, totally at the mercy of nasty Israel, even if she's three months old.

Take care

Posted by: Jill Schaeffer at March 16, 2011 05:24 PM

If it was so obvious a Palestinian infiltrated the fortress-like settlement to kill this family and then vanished without ever being seen, then why would the Israeli police round up the Thai migrant workers in association with this heinous crime?

Posted by: Juan Trejo at March 31, 2011 08:52 PM

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