Major Church Group Urges Clinton to Push Israel to Reverse Expulsions

A major church group has sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to press Israel to reverse last month’s deportation of more than 400 Moslem fundamentalists.

The Jan. 15 letter from the Churches for Middle East Peace, a consortium of 16 Protestant and Catholic agencies, urged Clinton to “pursue actively a policy that will induce the Israeli government and people to accept the return of the Palestinians.

“We recognize that the cycle of violence in Israel and in the occupied territories has provoked new fears among Israelis and Palestinians alike. That violence, however, does not relieve Israel of its responsibilities as the occupying power.”

Avi Granot, counselor for church affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said that he is “not surprised to see Churches for Middle East Peace again taking a very biased view and disregarding completely the necessity to fight Islamic fundamentalism, which threatens not only the peoples in the Middle East, but the peace process itself.”

The umbrella group represents American Baptists; American Friends Service Committee, also known as Quakers; Episcopalians; Evangelical Lutherans; Presbyterians; Unitarians; United Church of Christ; United Methodists; and the National Council of Churches’ Washington and Middle East affairs offices.

It also includes two Catholic groups, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

A statement which Granot considered more evenhanded, however, was issued by Archbishop John Roach, chairman of the Committee on International Policy of the U.S. Catholic Conference.

Roach urged all parties to resolve the crisis over the Israeli deportations “in a manner that does not jeopardize the peace process.”

While Catholics are “opposed to all forms of terrorism” and “likewise reiterate our strongly held view that pre-emptory, collective punishment is unjust,” Roach said that “disengagement from the peace talks in protest of actions by any side serves only the interests of extremist elements opposed to all peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict.”

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