Why Are the Lutherans Attacking Israel Again?

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This article was first published on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is a church in decline but one whose enthusiasm for attacks on Israel never wanes.

The decline is very clear in the numbers. When formed in 1988, the ELCA had over 5 million members, but it is now down to about 3.8 million—down over a fourth. The number of member churches is similarly in decline.

08_19_Israel_Palestine_01 A Palestinian points a plank of wood at Israeli troops during clashes in the West Bank Al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron, on August 16. Elliott Abrams writes that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s latest foray into foreign policy is another thinly veiled attack on Israel. Mussa Qawasma/reuters

At its triennial convention this past week, the ELCA built on previous anti-Israel resolutions to demand an end to U.S. aid to Israel. What passed is a resolution to:

–call on the U.S. President, in coordination with the United Nations Security Council, to offer a new, comprehensive and time-bound agreement to the governments of Israel and Palestine, resulting in a negotiated final status agreement between Israel and Palestine leading to two viable and secure states with a shared Jerusalem;

–urge this church’s members, congregations, synods, agencies and presiding bishop to call on their U.S. Representatives, Senators and the Administration to take action requiring that, to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid, Israel must comply with internationally recognized human rights standards as specified in existing U.S. law, stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state; and

–encourage this church’s members, congregations, synods, and agencies to call on the U.S. President to recognize the State of Palestine and not prevent the application of the State of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations.

A time-bound agreement: So facts on the ground—for example, the strength of Hamas or even the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in the Palestinian territories—would be irrelevant.

Stop all construction in East Jerusalem: Well, not really; just construction by Jews.

“Enable” an independent Palestinian state: As if the only worry about such a state, and its only problems, come from Israel—not poverty, extremists’ attacks, corruption and repression, for example.

End military aid to Israel: regardless of the threats it faces from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Iran and other enemies of Israel and us.

And of course, these standards and these requirements apply to one single country: Israel. In a world awash in repression and human rights violations, only Israel.

This resolution was passed by 82 percent of those voting. One wonders if the last few ELCA congregations, when there has been another 25 years of shrinkage, will pass an anti-Israel resolution just before turning out the lights.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.