For several years I met with a group of Christian and Jewish leaders to discuss the Middle East. Jewish participants were concerned that mainline Protestant churches seemed unbalanced in their attitudes about Israel. Christian participants wondered why Jews seemed consistently uncritical of Israel. After many intense and difficult conversations, we produced a statement. Two of the most significant understandings that we reached were:

  • Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.
  • Christians hope and expect more from Israel than from other countries because we value Israel’s democracy, guarantees of civil liberties, and judicial processes. American Christians want Israel to thrive. We also expect more from Israel because of the substantial financial and military support that our nation provides.

I’m thinking about these statements as the Middle East peace process collapses in spite of Secretary of State John Kerry’s herculean efforts. The Chicago Tribune and the New York Times proposed that the United States walk away from the situation and tell the Israelis and Palestinians to call us when they are ready to negotiate seriously.

Is there nothing hopeful and useful that the rest of us can do? Some support BDS—boycotts, divestment, and sanctions directed at Israel—although the only guaranteed result of that effort is the anger and alienation of the American Jewish community and damage to interfaith relations. As an alternative, I’ve long believed that financial investment in the Palestinian economy is a positive, practical, and hopeful gesture.