Church Urges Cutback in U.S. Aid to Israel over Settlement Policy

The American Jewish Committee has sharply criticized a resolution adopted last week by the Episcopal Church urging the United States to withhold aid from Israel equal to the amount Jerusalem spends on Jewish settlements in the administered territories and East Jerusalem.

The resolution, adopted during the church’s 70th General Convention in Phoenix, urges the U.S. government to hold aid to Israel in escrow in the same amount that the Israeli government spends “to expand, develop or further establish Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.”

It says the money should be released from escrow only “if proof is given that settlements are not being established.”

“We find the Episcopal resolution unfair, unbalanced and not helpful in the current peace process,” said Rabbi Robert Kravitz, AJCommittee’s Arizona regional director, who was an official observer at the convention.

Rabbi A. James Rudin, national interreligious affairs director for the Jewish human relations agency, called the resolution “regrettable,” “stale” and “one-sided.” He pointed out that it makes demands solely on Israel and not on the Arab nations that have been formally at war with the Jewish state for 43 years.

The Episcopal convention failed to condemn the many “egregious human rights violations that are taking place within the Arab states, including the deportation of 1 million Yemenis from Saudi Arabia, the expulsion of 150,000 Palestinians by Kuwait, and the 4,000 Syrian Jews, who are virtually hostages in their own country,” Rabbi Kravitz pointed out in a statement.

While the 2.4 million-member Episcopal Church is smaller than many other American religious groups, its influence is said to far outweigh its size.

President Bush, Secretary of State James Baker, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. armed forces during the Persian Gulf War, are all Episcopalians, and the church has jokingly been called “the Republican Party at prayer.”

The church leadership’s anti-Israel bent is “very typical” of mainline Protestant denominations, said Rudin.

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