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May 16, 2017 3:02 pm

American Jewish Committee Will Not Join Lutherans in Asking US to Pay Palestinian Debts

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a past UN General Assembly address. Photo: Screenshot.

JNS.org – Lutheran church leaders are again asking the US government to pay some of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) outstanding bills. But, in a reversal of past policy, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) is now declining to support the Lutheran effort.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) — the country’s largest Lutheran denomination — is mobilizing its members to urge Congress to pay the PA’s debts to the Lutheran-sponsored Augusta Victoria hospital in eastern Jerusalem.

The hospital recently announced that it “can no longer receive patients” because the PA has racked up a debt of $41 million to the hospital. According to reports, the debt grows by $4 million each month.

JNS.org reported in March that the AJC, a major mainstream Jewish organization, had quietly pressed US government officials and members of Congress to help pay the PA’s bills to Augusta Victoria. The US has provided $13 million annually to the hospital for the past several years. Another $11 million in American aid was sent to Augusta Victoria in January 2017.

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But the AJC has now changed its position. Asked if the organization would be taking action in response to the latest crisis, AJC spokesman Kenneth Bandler told JNS.org that, “The AJC will not ask the US government to pay any portion of outstanding PA bills to Augusta Victoria hospital.”

ELCA spokesmen have failed to respond to multiple requests for comment on the latest developments.

“Peace Not Walls,” a division of the ELCA, recently distributed an action alert asking Lutherans nationwide to “encourage your members of Congress to support funding in 2017 that will sustain Augusta Victoria Hospital … in light of the Palestinian Authority’s lack of payments.”

Farley Weiss, the president of the National Council of Young Israel, told JNS.org that the PA “has perfected a policy of deliberately using aid for improper purposes and then getting more aid, in this case from the US government, for its unpaid basic necessities, such as its hospital bills.”

In light of the fact that the PA provides some $10 million monthly to imprisoned terrorists, and $15 million monthly to terrorists’ families, “it has become morally revolting for organizations to continue to be duped by the PA — as the American Jewish Committee previously was,” Weiss said. He then praised the AJC for “properly correcting its policy so that it will no longer fall victim to this duplicitous strategy of the Palestinian Authority.”

“Every government must choose its priorities,” David Brog, the founding executive director and a current board member of Christians United for Israel, told JNS.org. “The PA has chosen to pay murderers who take lives, instead of hospitals [that] save lives. There could not be a clearer example of how the PA’s priorities harm individuals on both sides of this conflict.”

“[Funding the hospital] is not something Christians should be doing,” said Dexter Van Zile, who monitors and analyzes the Christian media for the Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. “By paying the unpaid bills of the Palestinian Authority, we protect the PA from the consequences of its decision to incite [violence] against Jews and support terrorism. We become complicit in future acts of terrorism. We put Jews at risk. [And] this is intolerable.”

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