Shielding Israel: Inter-Faith Dialogue, Anybody?

By Stuart Littlewood

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

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 criticize 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 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.”

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 demonize, 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 upset. 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”?

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.

– Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting He contributed this article to

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