NEW YORK (Jan. 29)
A priest active in inter-religious relations was on record today as critical of the American Christian community for “a generalized indifference to the welfare of Israel that shades off into hostility toward Israel.” The charge was made by Rev. Edward H. Flannery, executive secretary of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Christian-Jewish Relations, during a conference on the Middle East crisis and its effect on inter-religious relations held Monday under the auspices of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. A summary of the discussion was made public today. Participants in the conference subsequently signed a telegram to President Dixon calling for condemnation of Iraq for the hanging of 14 alleged spies, denouncing the action as “a matter for men of conscience of all creeds and beliefs to decry.”
Father Flannery told the participating clergymen that the central issue in the Arab-Israeli confrontation was “whether the State of Israel has a right to exist and grow.” Commenting on the “fragility of Jewish-Christian relations,” the priest noted an “over-expectation” in the Jewish community of what to expect from dialogue held thus far and complained that some Jewish spokesmen “tend to over-charge the Christian community in these crises.”
Rabbi Balfour Bruckner, director of the commission on interfaith activities of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, told the conference that the Jewish community was driven “toward a posture of withdrawal and disagreement” because of “growing animosity between blacks and Jews and the apparently continuing Christian inability to understand the Israeli plea.” He warned that “if the voices of Christianity treat the anti-Semitic invectives of the blacks with the same dispassionate aloofness with which the Jewish community feels the Christian community has responded to Jewish cries of support for Israel, it may discover – hopefully not too late – that it has unwittingly and inadvertently aided the growth of a more generalized anti-Semitism, crippled the cause of black progress and indirectly contributed to the souring of the American mood.”
Speaking critically of the Christian attitude on the Middle East situation, Rabbi Bruckner said that Christians had failed to distinguish between tactics, the question involved in the Israeli raid on Beirut, and the fundamental morality of Israel’s right to exist.
“Had the voices of Christendom made even this elemental distinction between tactic and morality,” the rabbi asserted, “Jewish-Christian relations would not be as badly bruised as they are now. Had the voices of Christendom made even this elemental distinction between tactic and morality.” the rabbi asserted, “Jewish-Christian relations would not be as badly bruised as they are now. Had the voices of Christian conscience been raised even in recognition of Israel’s feeling of international isolation or in sympathy with the nation’s need to respond to the growing frustrated anger of her beleaguered populace, American Jewry would have better understood all the advice Christians have to share regarding the plight of the Arab refugees or the city of Jerusalem.”