FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2008
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East questions a statement issued by Revs. John Thomas and Cally Rogers-Witte (General Minister and Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries, of the United Church of Christ, respectively) on Israel's 60th anniversary. The statement echoes a trend of over-connecting the Holocaust to the reality of the modern Jewish state. Jews, like any other people, have the right to nationhood and began that process decades before the Nazis came to power. Moreover, sympathetic references to the Holocaust ring hollow when they are followed by an attempt to blame Israel for the current bleak plight of the Palestinians.
"The events of 1948 indeed turned into a tragedy for the Palestinians," according to Rev. Steve Monhollen, Donald & Lillian Nunnelly Professor of Pastoral Leadership & Director of Field Education at the Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. "I would hope that a statement of support for a peace process would acknowledge the multiple forces that caused this tragedy. The refusal of Arab nations to accept the U.N. partition plan and the war they waged upon the nascent Jewish state are key and often overlooked sources for the Palestinian refugee crisis. In addition, Jordan's and Egypt's failure to create a Palestinian state on territory they held between 1948 and 1967 compounded the tragedy. Other Middle East countries, such as Iran through Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, are strongly influencing the current stalemate between Israel and Palestinians. Presenting a fair balance of this history is key to helping mainline Christians understand this relationship."
Revs. Thomas' and Rogers-Witte's statement recites a litany of UCC General Synod statements on the Israel/Palestine conflict. But the most recent resolution, which the 2007 General Synod sent to the Executive Council for implementation, acknowledged that the UCC had "yet to fully address other forces contributing to the ongoing violence, oppression and suffering in the region," admits they "may have overlooked many aspects of an extraordinarily complicated situation . . ." and directed the Executive Council to "establish a Task Force to engage in ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict. . ."
"The 2007 UCC General Synod spoke to the need for balance with regard to the denomination's witness on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Revs. Thomas' and Witte's statement does not seem to honor the spirit of the resolution," says Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Fair Witness National Director.Contact: Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East