The Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) group has sent a letter to US President Barack Obama urging him to condemn Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria while supporting a French-initiated UN resolution to force a two-state solution on Israel.
CMEP is a coalition of 22 US church denominations and organizations promoting what it calls a “just, lasting and comprehensive resolution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The organization prides itself on being bipartisan, however it has been critiqued for its anti-Israel bias.
In its letter to Obama, dated June 29, CMEP asked the president to turn his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Noting an anticipated French resolution to be presented to the UN Security Council later this year setting a timeframe for a negotiated settlement after which France would unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, CMEP urged Obama “to consult with the parties involved with a view of voting affirmatively on a resolution with these parameters.”
The letter went on to implore his administration “to make clear that the US views Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine not merely as ‘illegitimate’ and ‘foolish,’ as it has already said, but also ‘illegal’.”
“The US should certainly not be acting to support settlements,” the letter continues. “ We urge your administration to clearly reject language in bills now passed or pending in the Congress that deliberately includes settlements in measures designed to support Israel.”
The ultimate goal of the organization, the letter explains, is “a secure Israel and a viable, contiguous Palestine.” It does not mention what concessions it expects the US to demand from the Palestinians towards this goal.
Established in 1984, CMEP has over 100 partner churches. Among them are several who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, such as Friends of Sabeel North America. CMEP itself claims to have “no position on BDS”, according to an open letter the organization published in JTA in 2012.
In 2010, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) issued a report on the covert anti-Israel nature of CMEP.
“CMEP pays little attention to the ideological and religious components of hostility toward Israel in the Middle East and oftentimes remains silent about the misdeeds of Arabs and Muslim regimes in the region, particularly in reference to human rights,” the report states.
“CMEP exhibits a persistent bias against Israel but does not traffic in obvious anti-Jewish rhetoric …the organization couches its criticism of Israel in cautious and circumspect language,” it concludes.
While the organization has condemned terror directed against Israel, it is far more vocal in its defense of Palestinians against what it sees as Israeli aggression. In 2011, CMEP wrote to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for her “assistance in helping Christians, Muslims and Jews enjoy full religious freedom and complete access to their holy places.”
The same year, in its condemnation of the murders of five members of the Fogel family in their Itamar home, the organization noted, “CMEP is also deeply troubled by the response of the Israeli government to this tragedy. The Israeli cabinet announced March 12 the building of several hundred new housing units in settlements in response to the murders and to pressure from far-right constituencies. Prime Minister Netanyahu was quoted as saying, ‘They murder, we build.’”
In 2012, an op-ed in The Algemeiner blasted the CMEP for its disproportionate focus on Palestinian suffering. “CMEP…does not promote the cause of peace and human rights in the most troubled region on the planet,” the op-ed read. “It promotes the cause of Palestinian statehood and that’s about it.”