Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) National President Morton A. Klein and ZOA Director Government Relations Dan Pollak released the following statement:
The ZOA vehemently condemns the letter authored by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and signed by six other lawmakers wrongly blaming Israel for “attacks against the Christian community in Jerusalem.” The charges against Israel come in the wake of an organized campaign by openly anti-Israel groups, including Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), to demonize Israel at a time when Israel is the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing and prospering. The campaign is also supported by J Street, the group which never misses an opportunity to prove it is in fact anti-Israel.
The facts are simple. As Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum wrote in the Jerusalem Post, there is no hesitation for bad news about Israel to be featured in the world media, and yet this claim of a supposed pattern of violence against Christians comes without any supporting data. In fact, the Christian population in Israel has grown by 1.5% in the last year and 84% of Christians are satisfied with their lives in Israel.
According to Deputy Mayor Hassan Nahoum:
“In tragic contrast, the Christian communities living under the Palestinian Authority are dwindling, the most glaring example being the Christian population of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, that has shrunk from 80% to 12% in the 27 years the PA control the city. Freedom of worship is a hallmark of our city and we protect it at all costs.”
The signers of the letter fall into two groups – several are consistently anti-Israel, and never miss an opportunity to attack the Jewish state. Others appear to be the victims of misinformation. In those cases, ZOA will be reaching out to the members of Congress to educate them with the facts regarding Christians in Jerusalem.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said:
“Christians in Congress have always been amongst the strongest supporters of Israel, so it should not be surprising that enemies of Israel have focused on reducing support by making outrageous charges that slander Israel. The role of Christian antisemites in attacking Israel for their own purposes fools no one. Finally, the involvement of J Street in demonizing Israel is typical of their despicable pattern of self-hatred.
“In fact, though, Jerusalem specifically and Israel in general have been showcases of Christian spiritual and material prosperity since Israel liberated the remainder of the city in 1967.”
Just last week, Christians paraded through Jerusalem in celebration of Easter. The city government is particularly proud that the route was made wheelchair accessible for the occasion. The idea that rising attacks “pose a grave threat to the long-term viability of the Christian presence in Jerusalem” is absurd on its face. The complaints attributed to “Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem” purposefully ignore the long-term bias of these religious leaders against Israel, and unfortunately, Jews in general. In the case of Churches for Middle East Peace, their stated positions include: “Pursue an end to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip…” Their website also supports virtually every congressional anti-Israel resolution and takes Iran’s side as well to ‘avoid war.’ J Street stated there is a lack accountability for ‘Jewish extremists attacking Christian institutions’ in Jerusalem. These anti-Israel reflexes are predictable but still deeply disturbing.
The letter is here. It was signed by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), French Hill (R-AR), Andy Harris (R-MD), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) in addition to Reps. Castro and Bilirakis.