The National Council of Churches laments the move of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We have previously warned that such an unwise and prejudicial action would make a peace settlement even more difficult to achieve and would indeed lead to violence. The deadly violence that followed the opening of the embassy bears out the truth of this warning.
At the time of this writing, at the border between Israel and Gaza, at least 61 Palestinians who were protesting the opening of the embassy have been killed by Israeli forces and 2,700 more have been injured. This is in addition to dozens already killed and thousands more wounded in recent weeks leading up to this move. The National Council of Churches condemns this violent and disproportionate response by Israeli forces. We consider it an illustration of the failure of Israel, the United States, and the international community to address the injustice of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the inability to conclude a two-state solution.
Moreover, we are deeply chagrined that Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist minister who has condemned Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and others to hell led prayers at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. We are further disappointed by the presence of evangelical pastor John Hagee, a proponent of the misguided theology of Christian Zionism, among the invited speakers. Their unfortunate participation in this ceremony reflects the reality that yesterday’s event in Jerusalem represents pandering to a segment of evangelical Christianity here in the US rather than an affirmation of the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and prayers of Christians who live in the Holy Land.
Finally, the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem illustrates the increasing isolation of our country within the international community when it comes to policy in the region. In failing to help constructively address the prolonged crisis in Syria, and after unilaterally withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, yesterday’s event in Jerusalem reflects the United States’ apparent abdication of its role as an honest proponent, broker, and partner for peace.