By Larry Brook, editor
Don’t think that things are as bad as they could possibly get. The United Church of Christ is currently demonstrating why.
On Oct. 8, a coalition of 15 mainstream church denominations blindsided the Jewish community by sending a one-sided letter to Congress — at the start of a two-day Jewish holiday that made a coordinated Jewish response impossible — urging an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Israel that would make Israel ineligible for U.S. military aid. There was no call to investigate Palestinian or Egyptian use of foreign aid.
While the vast majority of Americans in the pews are supportive of Israel, that is not the case among some who have taken over leadership in some of the denominations that Jews have typically made common cause with over social justice issues. Some stalwarts of interfaith dialogue, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, the National Council of Churches and a Catholic group, were signatories to the letter.
Jewish groups were understandably outraged, and cancelled a late October national interfaith summit because of the “serious breach of trust by mainline Protestant Church leaders.”
Most Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians in the pews have no idea these types of actions are being undertaken in their name. But most shocking is what Rev. Peter Makari, a representative of the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, has done in order to promote the letter.
The United Church of Christ prides itself on being extremely tolerant. Its website and Facebook page are filled with such items as expressions of solidarity with vandalized mosques, greetings to the Jewish community on the High Holy Days, self-congratulations over the church’s involvement in anti-bullying efforts, and support of the transgendered.
In other words, UCC is the opposite of American Free Press, a publication started by Willis Carto, who also founded the Institute of Historical Review — the leading Holocaust denial group. He previously founded Liberty Lobby, an extreme racist and anti-Semitic group, and the Populist Party, which ran former Klan leader David Duke for president in 1988.
The AFP is filled with conspiracy theories, usually involving Jews and Israel. A recent issue’s cover story was “Petraeus vs. Israel,” charging General Petraeus was on Netanyahu’s “destroy” list and was forced out because he opposed Israel’s attempts “to engage the United States in a war against Iran.”
Crime stories’ headlines were recently prefaced with the phrases “Black Animal,” “Black Savage” and “Black Garbage,” but now have a more winking “Guess the Race.” Hardly the phraseology you’d find on the UCC site.
And yet, Makari gave a lengthy and friendly interview to AFP in late October, promoting the letter and speaking in dark tones about the Jewish lobby.
If the enemy of Makari’s enemy is his friend, then the UCC needs to decide whether they want to be considered friends with the likes of American Free Press. When asked about the interview, the UCC press office said there would be no statement forthcoming, despite calls from groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Makari to resign. The UCC said that Makari was not speaking for the denomination. The UCC and Makari also did not respond to questions from this publication.
Seventy requests for any sort of comment were sent to various UCC officials by CAMERA: The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. After several weeks, there was finally a statement from Global Ministries, which stated that “in the flurry of press coverage” about the letter, Makari was contacted by the AFP writer, who did not mention the publication he was writing for. Makari “conducted a cursory background check” on the writer before the interview but “did not know that it was going to be published on the AFP site which is clearly a virulently anti-Semitic website.”
Cursory background check? CAMERA points out that a Google search on the writer immediately brings up AFP. In mid-November, another piece by the writer, “U.S. Jews embarrassed by Israeli brutality,” starts with “What is viewed by many gentiles as a Jewish unquenchable thirst for the ongoing murder, maiming and humiliation of not just Palestinian men, women and children, but of anyone with a conscience opposed to the longest military occupation in world history, may have finally reached a breaking point.”
CAMERA asks why it took so long and so many requests for comment if the church truly was hoodwinked and embarrassed by being associated with AFP. The churches have not posted this response or any disassociation from AFP on their websites, nor has Makari commented publicly. The response CAMERA received was apparently circulated by Global Ministries only to officials in UCC and Disciples, and is not on the Global Ministries site either.
The overwhelming hatred that people like Makari have for Israel has blinded them so much that they apparently have no problem making common cause with hate groups, or at the very least they don’t feel a need to say anything publicly disassociating themselves from those groups.
Because the leadership of so many of these “mainstream” churches is so out of touch with reality and morality, it is incumbent that the Jewish community shun these denominations at the leadership level, but engage the regular members and let them know what is being done and said in their name.