AME Church demands US cut funding to Israel, accuses IDF of 'mass genocide' in Gaza

Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C.
Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C. | Metropolitan A.M.E. Church

The African Methodist Episcopal Church leadership has called on the United States government to cut funding for Israel, opposing Israel's war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, accusing Isreal of a "mass genocide." 

In a statement emailed to supporters last week, the leadership of the historically black denomination announced that it is calling on the U.S. to "immediately withdraw all funding and other support from Israel."

"Since 1954, Israel has shown a willful disregard for the human dignity of Palestinians. Since October 7, 2023, in retaliation for the brutal murder of 1139 Israeli citizens by Hamas, Israel has murdered over 28,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children," claimed the denomination, citing figures released by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry that don't differentiate between combatant and civilian casualties. 

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"The United States is supporting this mass genocide. This must not be allowed to continue."

The war began after Hamas, a terror group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, launched a surprise attack on civilian communities in southern Israel. Hamas militants killed at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 240 hostages. Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza with the aim of eradicating Hamas and securing the release of the hostages. 

Israeli operations in Gaza have resulted in the deaths of over 29,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, which makes no distinction between armed militants and unarmed civilians. Israel contends that at least 10,000 of those killed in Gaza are terror operatives, and its forces try to avoid civilian casualties in a complex urban environment, according to The Times of Israel

In their statement, AME bishops called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, adding that the "cycle of violence between historically wounded peoples will not be dissolved by the creation of more wounds or through weapons of war."

The statement also accused Israel of trapping "1.6 million desperate Palestinians in the southern Gaza city called Rafah," denying them access to food, water, shelter and healthcare.

"After this torture, they plan to murder them," the statement alleges, a claim related to Israel's recent vow to launch an offensive in Rafah if hostages are not freed. "The United States of America will have likely paid for the weapons they use. This must not be allowed to happen."

Signatories of the statement included AME Church Senior Bishop Adam J. Richardson, AME Council of Bishops President Stafford J. N. Wicker, Chair of Social Action Bishop E. Anne Henning Byfield, and Co-Chair of Social Action Bishop Francine A Brookins.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a pro-Palestinian Muslim advocacy group, celebrated the statement by AME Church bishops.

"We welcome this principled statement by the African Methodist Episcopal Church Council of Bishops as a reflection of the growing movement nationwide in support of Palestinian humanity and human rights," said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper in a statement.

"The Biden administration must respond to the majority of Americans who seek an end to Israeli government's ethnic cleansing and genocide by demanding an immediate ceasefire and a just resolution to the crisis that recognizes that Palestinians are also human beings worthy of life, freedom and dignity."

Mark Tooley, president of the theologically conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, took to social media to denounce the statement from the AME Church bishops.

"Stunningly bad anti Israel statement from AME bishops. No, church founder Richard Allen would not approve. Like all historic denominations, AME is declining.  Nondenominational black churches are typically more Israel friendly," he tweeted.

While many faith leaders have called for a ceasefire in Gaza, others have been vocal in their support for Israel's military aspirations. In an October letter, over 50 notable Israeli and American Christian and Jewish leaders urged President Joe Biden not to pressure Isreal into an immediate ceasefire. 

"Israel must do all that is necessary to destroy Hamas," the letter warns. "It is not sufficient for Israel to degrade or even defeat this brutal terrorist regime, which oppresses its own people. Israel must completely destroy every Hamas terrorist, so that this evil is erased from human history. If America pressures Israel into a ceasefire, Israel's enemies will be emboldened, and Israel imperiled, long into the future."

In January, over 1,000 black pastors called on Biden to push for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Pastor Dumisani Washington, the founder and CEO of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, told The Christian Post in November that most African American pastors and leaders liken the conflict between Israel and Palestine to the Civil Rights Movement, seeing Israel as an oppressor. 

Washington noted that black leaders such as the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for defending Israel's right to exist. 

"We have a long history like no other ethnic group in this country that goes back over a century of our connection with Israel and the Jewish people," Washington said. "But many people aren't aware of it." 

The U.S. has proposed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution calling for a "temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable based on the formula of all hostages being released, and calls for lifting all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale," according to a draft cited by Reuters.

The draft comes as the U.S. has vowed to veto a resolution proposed by Algeria calling for an immediate ceasefire, claiming it would put discussions on ending the war in jeopardy. 

The U.S. draft also warns that an offensive in Rafah would "result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security."

On Monday, most European Union countries signed a joint statement calling for an "immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a lasting ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance."

"We ask the Israeli Government not to take military action in Rafah that would worsen an already catastrophic humanitarian situation and prevent the urgently needed provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance," the ministers said.

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