Christian Theologians Speak out on Israel and Massacre in Beirut

A group of 14 Christian theologians, most of them long-time supporters of Israel, issued a joint statement declaring that “the voices of conscience” calling for the “establishment of accountability” regarding the role of Israeli authorities in the massacre of Palestinians in west Beirut refugee camps “are mixed with a chorus of cynicism, hypocrisy and bigotry.”

The theologians, members of the Israel Study Group, stated: “The history of anti-Semitism demonstrates that the world has too often remained silent in the face of atrocities except when Israel stands accused. We have observed that people who in the case of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, as in the case of MyLai and Cambodia and the atrocities committed by the PLO have remained silent, are now stridently raising their voices in condemnation of Israel. We have observed also that little or no criticism has been levelled against the real perpetrators of the massacres, the Phalangists, a Christian militia.”

Noting that “many of the Jewish sisters and brothers in the U.S. and Israel have called for an accounting for the massacres in Lebanon regardless of where the blame may fall,” the theologians stated that they stand with “our Israeli friends” as they “endure this painful soul-searching” and at the same time “we as Christians confess our own sins of silence, hostility and indifference which have so often contributed to these tragic situations.”

Among those who signed the statement at the Israel Study Group’s semi-annual meeting in Weston Priory, Weston, Vermont, several days ago, were Sisters Rose Thering and Ann Patrick Ware, Prof. John Pawlikowski, Rev. Edward Flannery and Rev. Isaac Rottenberg.

LUTHERAN-JEWISH CONFERENCE SET

In a related development, it was announced today in New York that Jewish and Lutheran religious and academic leaders from all over the country will meet next week to discuss anti-Semitism in the wake of the recent war in Lebanon, Lutheran-Jewish relations, and the differing ways in which the two faiths view major religious and social issues.

The conference, the fifth of its kind, is sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and the Lutheran Council in the U.S. It will be held October 13 and 14 at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, president of the college, will be the keynote speaker.

Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, the AJCommittee’s national director of interreligious affairs and a cochairman of the conference, said the conference is “particularly important in light of recent events.” He expressed the hope that it would “help mobilize moral forces in the world to stand against those who seek to exploit the Lebanese tragedy for bigoted, anti-Jewish purposes.”

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