Last month I wrote about the letter signed by the leaders of a number of the most prominent Protestant denominations in the country asking Congress to cut off military aid to the state of Israel. The letter, which repeated various canards about Israel committing war crimes against the Palestinians, represented a new low point in the campaign of liberal Christian clerics to isolate and to strip Israel of its ability to defend its citizens against attacks by Palestinian terror groups. This initiative is the culmination of years of agitation by left-wing critics of Israel to use these churches as a platform from which they can undermine the U.S.-Israel alliance and demonize the Jewish state. It made a mockery of decades of work by Jewish groups to form interfaith alliances with liberal groups. Indeed, it should be the effective death knell of cooperation on any issue or project between mainstream Jewish groups and the churches that signed on to this demand.
The letter earned the churches a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League as well as the Jewish Council on Public Affairs. But the controversy doesn’t end there. Reverend Peter Makari, an official of the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ and the leader of the church group that organized the letter, was not satisfied with merely appealing to Congress. He has now taken his campaign to the public. But in doing so, he has betrayed the sinister motive that is underneath the seemingly high-minded rhetoric that the churches employ. As the blog of the media watchdog CAMERA reports, Makari gave an interview to the American Free Press, a virulently anti-Semitic publication that has engaged in Holocaust denial. Though Israel’s critics insist that it is wrong to associate anti-Zionists with anti-Semitism, Makari illustrated that in this case, it is a distinction without a difference.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center describes AFP in this manner:
American Free Press (AFP) is regarded as the successor to the now defunct Liberty Lobby’s Spotlight. Willis Carto, one of America’s most notorious racists, is a founder of both. Carto is also the founder of the Holocaust-denying Institute For Historical Review. Some of the books that have been offered for sale by the AFP include The Judas Goats: The Enemy Within (details governmental infiltration of the American nationalist movement at the behest of “the alien force of international political Zionism”), The Conspiracy of the Six-Pointed Star, El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin, and March of the Titans: A History of the White Race. The AFP site includes this quote in one of their essays: “Israel…is contributing to the unification and activation of the colored world for war against the colonial and other outsiders.”
The interview, which can be listened to here, can only be described as friendly and one in which the AFP and the church official are reading from the same hymnal. In it Makari, following the lead of his interviewer, seeks not only to demonize Israel but to delegitimize the efforts of AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups as well as Jewish organizations that called them to account for their slanders of Israel.
The point here goes beyond the misleading arguments put forward by the letter. The intent there was to demonize Israeli self-defense and to set up a mechanism by which the Jewish state can be deprived of the means by which it defends itself. These are dangerous arguments, especially in the current context of the Hamas missile offensive in which millions of Israelis are being terrorized and threatened.
But by seeking to make common cause with a stronghold of Jew-hatred, Makari is outing himself, the church that employs him, and all the groups that signed on to his effort.
This is a point at which the leadership of these churches ought to rethink their willingness to be co-opted by anti-Israel activists. They now find themselves in bed with anti-Semitic conspiracy mongers.
As I wrote last month, the decision of these churches–the National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Methodist Church, American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., the American Friends Service Committee, and other groups, including the Catholic Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns–to attack Israel does not reflect the views of most of the rank and file members of these denominations or of most of the pastors of these congregations.
However, by allowing their good names to be associated with efforts to isolate and boycott Israel and now to join forces with vicious anti-Semites, these churches and their members have been compromised to the point where no Jewish group or, indeed, any decent person, should have anything to do with them.
Repairing this terrible problem will require a thorough change on the part of all of these churches and a determination not to allow their institutions to be part of an anti-Israel campaign. But the first step toward such a change must come with the firing of Makari by the United Church of Christ. Until that happens, the church must understand that it will be thought of as a partner of anti-Zionists and anti-Semites.