Menu JTA Search

Study Shows Efforts to Equate Zionism with Racism Have Backfired Among Christian Groups in the U.S.

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Arab efforts to equate Zionism with racism have backfired sharply among Christian groups in the United States, according to a survey made public tonight by the American Jewish Committee.

Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, national interreligious affairs director of the AJCommittee, speaking at a dinner of the organization’s Interreligious Affairs Commission, prior to the formal opening tomorrow of AJCommittee’s 70th annual meeting, said that the UN General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism “aroused Christian opinion as seldom before.” This storm of criticism in America and in many parts of the world “has thus far proven to be counterproductive to the goals of Arab propaganda,” he noted.

Analyzing the 74-page survey, conducted by Judith Banik, assistant director of the interreligious affairs department, Tanenbaum said: “Both the substance of the resolution and its adoption by the UN were widely denounced by Christian groups and leaders in the United States and abroad. Much of this response was immediate and spontaneous, and it came from every level of the organized Christian church community–from the leadership of the national Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Orthodox institutions, from regional and local church groups, and from individual clergy, academicians and religious journalists.”

Miles Jaffe of Detroit, national chairman of the AJCommittee’s Interreligious Affairs Commission, announced that the study would be used as the basis of Jewish-Christian dialogues in numerous regions throughout the United States.

PERCEIVED AS ANTI-SEMITIC

Examination of the Christian reactions, according to the study, indicates that reaction to the UN resolution was independent of customary political attitudes on Middle East issues. Leaders of church groups often critical of Israel, as well as those friendly to Israel, denounced the UN action, perceiving it not only as anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, but as anti-Semitic.

One of the primary messages of the study, he continued, “is that the leadership and masses of the Christian world–Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Greek Orthodox, Black churches–have understood the terrifying seriousness of the massive, systematic campaign of Arab leadership to try to dehumanize Israel and the Jewish people. The Christian condemnation of this Arab attack against the entire Jewish people has been one of the heartening demonstrations of understanding and human solidarity in the 20th century.”

Tanenbaum noted that among those condemning the anti-Zionist resolution were Archbishop Joseph Bernadin, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops; Dr. Robert Moss, president of the United Church of Christ; Dr. Philip A. Potter, general secretary of the World Council of Churches; Jan Cardinal Willebrands. president of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity: as well as the National Catholic Conference for interracial justice.

ASSURANCE OF CHRISTIAN SUPPORT

This does not mean, Tanenbaum declared, “that Christian leaders, nor Jewish leaders for that matter, approve of every policy or political action of the Israel government.”

The widespread response, he said, was an indication of the growth of communication between Christians and Jews in many parts of the United States. That communication, he stated, “provides no guarantees that the organized Jewish and Christian communities will see eye to eye on Israel or a host of other issues. But Christian responses to the UN resolution must surely reassure Jews of deep and widespread Christian support in the struggle against anti-Semitism.”

The AJCommittee’s annual meeting, which will continue through Sunday at the Washington Hilton Hotel, will be addressed tomorrow night by President Ford. The closing session will be a reception at the State Department where Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger is expected to make a statement. The reception will be hosted by Joseph J. Sisco, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, and Alfred L. Atherton Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.

NEXT STORY