NEW YORK (Jan. 22)
The Anti-Deformation League of B’nai B’rith today criticized the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) for distributing a press kit with the “unmistakable thrust” of trying “to undermine and reverse Christian support of Israel.”
The kit, entitled “American Churches and the Arab Israeli Conflict,” and sent last month to editors and reporters by Warren Day, executive director of the NCC’s Office of News and Information, purports to be a summary of trends, comments and positions.
In a letter to the Rev. M. William Howard, NCC president, the ADL said it was “dismayed and disheartened” by the 20 items assembled in the packet. “Instead of presenting a summary of this very complex issue that is balanced, fair and comprehensive,” the letter said, the NCC’s so-called “overall view” is “imbalanced, unfair and highly selective.”
The letter was signed by five rabbis; Ronald Sobel, vice chairman of the ADL’s national program committee; Martin Cohen and David Panitz, cochairmen of ADL’s interfaith affairs committee; Solomon Bernards and Leon Klenicki, co-directors of ADL’s interfaith affairs department.
“We are deeply concerned,” they stated, “that the one sidedness … may also signal the direction of the NCC Middle East Policy Review Committee and the newly-constituted Special Panel on the Middle East toward a continuing anti-Israel position.” The rabbis cited the following as examples of how the packet is heavily weighted against Israel:
–An enclosure which stressed that virtually all church bodies are “on record supporting some form of Palestinian right to self-determination” but makes no mention of current and unprecedented discussions between Israel and Egypt to achieve Palestinian autonomy.
“It is as if,” the rabbis stated, “that brand of self-determination has been ruled out in advance as a viable possibility.” One wonders, they asked, parenthetically, “if this is not considered because of apposition by the rejectionist states”;
–An NCC roundup “comment” on the enclosures which is weighted toward the Arab view-point, thereby buttressing the implied assumption that most church leaders are anti-Israel.
— “A shameful omission” of the names of Christian supporters of Israel in the list of contact personal a “glaring absence” of writings and statements from American Christians who have revealed “sensitivity to the historic Jewish anguish and appreciation of Israel’s special place in Jewish consciousness”; lack of any sampling of churchgoers — “the hundreds of thousands of persons who want to see the Camp David initiative spread beyond Israel and Egypt.”
In addition to their ADL affiliation, Sobel is senior rabbi of Congregation Emanuel in New York City, Cohen is professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Panitz is spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel, Paterson, N.J.