Prominent black pastors across the United States are sending a very clear message this week to the Congressional Black Caucus, urging them emphatically to reverse the Caucus’ decision to boycott Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress.
Some two dozen House and Senate Democrats, many of them Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members, announced last week that they will not attend Netanyahu’s speech. The speech which, is being delivered on March 3 at the invitation of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, has faced waves of criticism.
Obama officials have said that Boehner’s failure to formally inform the White House that he was extending the invitation to the Israeli Prime Minister to speak on issues revolving around the proposed P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran was a breach of protocol.
The US president, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry have refused to meet with Netanyahu during his time in Washington.
The White House has been pressuring numerous US lawmakers to boycott the speech and show their support for the Obama administration. However, many active Christians are viewing any attempt to boycott Netanyahu’s address as a show of ill will towards Israel and a further undermining of the special relationship between the US and Israel.
Having made the decision to boycott the speech, the CBC has come under attack from Pastors across the US decrying the CBC’s break in relations to Israel who was once a valued ally.
In an emergency press conference last week, leading Black pastors and conservative activists gathered to denounce the CBC’s anti-Israel attitudes.
Syndicated columnist and conservative political activist Star Parker said that the CBC’s actions “sends a powerful message to Americans – especially the black community – that being black requires opposition to Israel.”
“The Congressional Black Caucus should be absolutely ashamed of themselves and these black ministers are standing to oppose them,” she stated. “We want the Israeli Prime Minister to know that he is welcomed here by the black Christian community.”
“The Black Caucus is out of step with black Christians by not welcoming this visitor bringing the ‘gospel of freedom’ from abroad. They should recognize that welcoming Mr. Netanyahu means, in the words of Dr. King, ‘standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values of our Judeo-Christian heritage.’”
Pastor Dexter D. Sanders of the Rock Center for Transformation in Orlando, Florida, said: “The thing to me that makes no sense is why the Congressional Black Caucus has teamed up with this current administration against Israel. And yes, I’m saying you have gone against Israel when you decide to protest the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, from coming and speaking on the behalf of the nation of Israel.”
Pastor Sanders said that the CBC’s actions are “a slap in the face to the people of Israel, and not only that, it’s a slap in the face to God. And not only that, it’s also a slap in the face of all Bible-believing African-American people in this country.”
Pastor Stephen Broden of the Fair Park Bible Fellowship in Dallas showed support for the prime minister’s speech, explaining that the leader of Israel knows more about the threats posed by Iran than any other world leader.
“Israel knows and understands Iran better than the rest of the world. This is not the time to involve ourselves in petty political maneuvering designed to embarrass our friend,” he stated.
Other pastors called the boycott “deplorable”, an act of “political maneuvering,” and were ashamed that US lawmakers would stoop to insulting a “friend” over such petty issues.
The nuclear deal being negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran is set to be finalized later this month, something which Netanyahu has been warning as a “bad deal” for years.