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Churches of Hope, Churches of Treachery

The darkness of the current Hamas nightmare is pierced by the support of our friends. As for the Gang of Thirty, their eyes remain shut to the evil that must be confronted.
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December 6, 2023
Catherine McQueen/Getty Images

Immediately after the Black Sabbath of Oct. 7, when as Orthodox Jews we could first connect with the world, we learned two things. We got an inkling – it turned out to be just an inkling – of the worst slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. And we learned who our friends were. Nine out of ten messages in our inboxes came from concerned Christians. But to our dismay, in the days that followed, many prominent figures from the world community who initially expressed their outrage at the Hamas pogrom, shifted to “yes, but” expressing “understanding” about what made Hamas do it; shifting their horror to Israel’s response.

But not the Christians who had initially reached out to us. They remained steadfast and continue to support Israel’s right to rid itself of an enemy pledged to destroy it. These leaders also insisted that Israel has been more mindful of preventing civilian casualties than any Western government ever was, and that the inevitable civilian deaths were entirely the moral responsibility of Hamas.

These Christians understood that Hamas had not looked for any political, or military gains, but set out to mass murder, maim, rape, and mutilate Jews. Furthermore, they believed what a Hamas official who had declared that Christians would be next target. Indeed, the fate of Copts in Egypt, and the slow-motion genocide of Christians in Nigeria carried out by Hamas’ ideological cousins were proof enough.

As pressure on Israel oh-so quickly morphed into widespread toxic anti-Semitism around the world, our Christian friends loudly condemned it. They explicitly owned up to two thousand years of church-inspired anti-Semitism and hoped to remove that stain on church history by fighting Jew-hatred in the present. “Not again. Not on our watch.”

Christian media, like the Christian Post and the entire Christian Broadcasting Network, have relentlessly showed understanding for Israel’s plight and unprecedented challenges. Powerhouse leaders like Revs. Gordon Robertson, Franklin Graham, John Hagee, Glenn Plummer (Bishop of Israel for the largest conservative denomination of US Black churches) and Pastor Johnnie Moore have stood with our community in time of need.

As good as these Christians are, others were appallingly awful.

One group of thirty Christian organizations issued a press release, sharing their letter to President Biden. After a half-line condemnation of the Oct. 7 pogrom, the letter wastes no time on transitions. “The horrific violence of Hamas does not justify further violence against Palestinian civilians.” Is that so? No right for Israel to defend itself against those who raped women, beheaded babies, and burned people alive? No right to extract its hostages? No right to extirpate a barbaric enemy that has pledged to repeat its horrors again and again, and to extend them to Jews around the world?

But they said it, for all to see. No such right.

The attacks against Israel’s actions mangled the truth with terms like: “collective punishment,” “indiscriminate and tragically disproportionate impact on civilians,” “seeking an end to the decades-long occupation and blockade.” Then they had the chutzpah to call for “immediate protections in Gaza for Sanctuaries of Refuge such as hospitals, schools, and houses of worship” – the very places Hamas has used as terror command centers and weapons depots. And they finally urged President Biden to end further military aid to Israel, while imposing consequences upon the Jewish state for its “gross violations of human rights, as required in US laws.”

The who’s who of this cabal isn’t surprising. The largest among them are the once-important mainline Protestant denominations – Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, The Episcopal Church – whose relationship to Biblical truth and membership have shriveled since their decades-long denunciations of Israel and their calls for divestment. In another group are so-called “peace churches” (the most famous being the Quakers, who have long ceased being Friends of Jews). There are a few Catholic orders (not the Catholic Church), and of course, the National Conference of Churches, the US version of the World Council of Churches, an international network of liberal churches that has been anti-Israel since the founding of the Jewish State. And the inevitable NGO – in this case, Christians for Middle East Peace– who have always said they are “pro-Palestine, pro-Israel, pro-peace,” while downplaying Israel’s security.

These religious groups have aided and abetted the Palestinian side, bestowing on them an immoral blank check for virtually any attack on Israel.

Are these churches worse than other groups who have marched to Hamas’ tune? Yes. The others belong, chiefly, to two groups. One is anti-Semites. These people don’t pretend to have any moral standing. They just hate Jews and often other minorities.

Two are the unthinking social media masses whose knowledge of history has never advanced beyond images on the mainstream media, Tik-Tok and the febrile imaginations of the woke professors they kowtowed to in college. They are not people of any moral discernment. They just want to be in the virtual “in crowd.”

These church groups, however, and far more blameworthy.

Religious institutions are charged by society to think through issues – to research, agonize over the truth, and apply sharp moral reasoning to difficult issues. By insisting on a ceasefire and end of hostilities, these churches have supposedly weighed the arguments, and concluded that if Jews must continue to die at the hands of the barbarians next door, then so be it. If Gazans continue to perish, they will hold Israel responsible, rather than Hamas for using them as human shields. They also ignore Walter Russell Meade’s reminder that “War is not a war crime,” while forgetting that embedding combatants in schools, mosques and hospitals most assuredly is.

These churches have thought through the moral calculus and arrived at a position of contempt for the Jewish people. Effectively, they are telling The House of Israel: “You people need to die.”

Not on our watch. Never Again.  We haven’t forgotten the lessons from the Holocaust era.

We remember those in the US State Department who worked to block the rescue of European Jews from Hitler, even after it was clear that the Nazi death machinery was murdering thousands every day.

We remember with equal clarity those Christians who hid Jews in the Holocaust at the risk of their own lives. We remember the heroism of Karol Józef Wojtyła, who as a young priest saved a 13-year-old Jewish girl from certain death at the hands of the Nazis, who later became Pope Saint John Paul II. We are deeply impressed by the friendship of other churches – for whom the Bible remains their daily source of inspiration and guidance.

The darkness of the current Hamas nightmare is pierced by the support of our friends. As for the Gang of Thirty, their eyes remain shut to the evil that must be confronted, but our eyes are wide open to the fight against this evil– grateful that the Lord has provided allies we can rely on.

 


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean and director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC). Cooper also serves as the Chair of the United States Commission on International Freedom.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is the SWC Director of Interfaith Affairs.

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