Examples of Faithwashing

We offer these real life examples out of concern that they fail to reflect the values of justice our faith tradition demand of us. They together exemplify the five main ways we see faithwashing in interfaith programs and initiatives.

If you have a faithwashing story you would like to share, email a short video or written statement to info@faithwashing.org.

KEY

3

Partners with organizations that are involved in anti-BDS efforts or actively works against BDS.

1

Ignores realities of Israeli occupation and apartheid.

4

Frames the Israeli occupation as a religious conflict, rather than political occupation.

2

Explicitly or implicitly ban the discussion of politics in relation to Israel/Palestine.

5

Insists on dialogue as an alternative to BDS and other actions which hold Israel accountable.

For #1. MLI Yossi Klein Halevi

1. MUSLIM LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE (MLI)

Summary:
The Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI) is meant to “influence the North American Muslim community in reassessing its preconceived notions of Judaism and Israel.” The initiative takes Muslim American chaplains, journalists, academics, and cultural workers to Israel to shape their understanding of Zionism and Israel in order that they return to their communities and influence their views and pushback against support for Palestinian rights. MLI is funded by the Shalom Harman Institute, which has several Islamophobic donors and is involved in anti-BDS efforts. MLI participants have engaged in various efforts to normalize Israeli war crimes and anti-BDS after their trips.

Why is this faithwashing?
MLI explicitly bans critique of Israel (#2) and partners with organizations that are involved in anti-BDS efforts (#3). Their trips to Israel also ignores the reality of the Israeli Occupation (#1). Visit boycottmli.org for more examples of resistance to MLI’s rhetoric.

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For #2. CUFI

2. CHRISTIANS UNITED FOR ISRAEL (CUFI)

Summary:
CUFI organizes Christians to support Israel and become more and more Zionist, especially on college campuses, using rightwing, racist, and Islamophobic rhetoric to do so. From their website: “CUFI is the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with over 2.5 million members and 1.2 million Facebook fans. We educate America’s Christians about the biblical and moral imperative to support Israel. We equip America’s Christians to defend Israel in their churches, communities, online and in our nation’s capital. We’re also investing to win the long-term battle for the hearts and minds of the rising generation so that Christian support for Israel will survive for generations to come. Through our student program, CUFI On Campus, CUFI is changing the Israel conversation on college campuses.”

Why is this a faithwashing?
CUFI is actively racist and Islamophobic, creating a narrative of the good Christian West versus the evil Muslim world, with Israel as the protector of the West. This rhetoric is in line with the Christian Zionist belief that Israel must exist for the Messiah to return. CUFI frames the occupation as a religious conflict (#4), actively fights BDS (#3), and generally creates more Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism through their work.

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3. AUBURN SEMINARY

Summary:
After the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. voted to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation, the president of Auburn Seminary wrote: “The very close decision by the Presbyterian (USA) General Assembly to divest funds sets back the work toward a just and peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict resulting in two states for two peoples. It hurts the Presbyterian place at the table for peacemaking, and creates barriers not just between Presbyterians and Jews, and Israelis and Palestinians, but also within the Presbyterian body.” Rabbi Justus Baird is current Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary. In a blog post, he wrote “Surely part of diaspora Judaism’s mission is to strengthen the State of Israel. . . The 20th century thinker Simon Rawidowicz taught that the State of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora are the two foci of a single ellipse: equal and critical gravitational centers that shape and define the Jewish people. This Yom HaAtzmaut, let diaspora Jews not only celebrate the achievements of the State of Israel, but also reflect on their own mission as an equal part of the Jewish people.”

Why is this faithwashing?
Generally thought of as a progressive organization which trains and emboldens anti-racist spiritual leaders, Auburn Seminary unfortunately falls into the Progressive Except Palestine (PEP) category, actively working to fight the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.’s divestment from the occupation and undermining the BDS movement (#3). By focusing only on the two-state solution, they ignore the reality of occupation and apartheid in Israel/Palestine (#1) and insist on dialogue as the only method of resolving the conflict in Israel/Palestine (#5).

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For #4. JCPAFor #4. JCPA and Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

4. JEWISH COUNCIL ON PUBLIC AFFAIRS in partnership with PRESBYTERIANS FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE

Summary:
Jewish groups who claim to “specialize in interfaith dialogue,” led by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, worked with Presbyterians for Middle East Peace at the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.’s 2012 General Assembly to lobby against divestment from Israeli occupation. Although they claim to offer trainings in “Constructive Conversations about the Israel-Palestinian Conflict” through their “Civility Institue”, JCPA’s Israel Advocacy Initiative is a joint project with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to build grassroots support for Israel.

Why is this faithwashing?
JCPA actively works to counter the BDS movement via their Israel Advocacy Initiative (#3), ignoring the reality of the occupation by advocating for blanket support for Israel (#1).

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5. LOCAL INTERFAITH ALLIANCES

Summary:
In local interfaith alliances, Jewish community groups will often threaten interfaith relationships with church partners and Muslim mosques if they vote for divestment, support the BDS movement, or even critique Israel at all. These Jewish groups often attempt to censor any criticism of Israel in interfaith events. A leader from American Muslims for Palestine tells the story of CIOGC (The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago), an umbrella organization for all the Muslim organizations in Chicago, which every year holds an interfaith dinner at a synagogue in Chicago. This synagogue is headed by a rabbi who was later revealed to have been building a settlement in the West Bank. This caused a huge uproar, particularly since American Muslims for Palestine was part of the coalition. A leader in Movement to End Islamophobia and Racism (MERI) of North Carolina, tells of the Triangle Interfaith Alliance’s refusal to see the killing of three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC as a hate crime, because of the refusal of conservative Jewish organizations (members of the alliance) to admit that Islamophobia exists in an effort to protect Israel.

Why is this a faithwashing?
These interfaith alliances often explicitly ban discussion of Israel/Palestine (#2) and alliance members partner with groups that actively work to undermine BDS (#3).

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For #6. Aleph Institute

6. TOURS OF THE HOLY LAND

Summary:
Tours that bring faith leaders from around the world to carefully curated locations in Israel and Palestine faithwash the reality of the occupation of Jewish supremacy and the lack of Palestinian human rights. From the Aleph Institute, who runs one such tour: “Join us as we journey with open hearts to The Holy Land, to walk in the footsteps of men and women of faith who carved the pathways that continue to entice Pilgrims and Seekers, Children of Abraham & Sara, to come and drink the Milk and Honey and breathe in the Holiness and Hope. . . all with the goal of manifesting meaningful and healing interfaith relationships in our lives at home and in the dynamic Israel/Palestine region.” The Aleph Institute’s trip is sponsored by Authentic Israel, a part of the Tlalim Group, which prides itself on values of “Contemporary Zionism, Celebrating and debating the direction of the modern State of Israel,” and “Highlighting the beauty of the Land of Israel as a means to appreciate Israel as a whole.”

Why is this faithwashing?
These tours ignore the reality of the Israeli Occupation (#2) and frame the occupation as a religious conflict (#4). They also tell attendees on the tours that dialogue and mutual understanding is the only solution (#5).

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For #7. Interfaith Living Museum

7. THE INTERFAITH LIVING MUSEUM

Summary:
A museum funded by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan, and a number of Islamic and Jewish schools throughout the city, which aims to bring together young Muslim and Jewish students to teach them about “the similarities between their two religions, thus spreading the message of peace and tolerance – a message we hope will someday reach the close-minded people in Palestine/Israel, and change lives forever.”

Why is this faithwashing?
The museum ignores the realities of the Israeli Occupation (#1) and insists on dialogue as an alternative to BDS (#5).

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For #8. Fast for Peace

8. CAMPUS FAST FOR PEACE

Summary:
The Fast for Peace, sponsored by the Interfaith Youth Core on college campuses across the U.S. has been held on July 15, the convergence of Jewish and Muslim fast days. Avi Smolen wrote in a blog post that the fast “provided an opportunity for Jews, Muslims and anyone else to be in solidarity with each other—fasting both for our own traditions and adding a new layer of meaning: fasting together to show our similarities and our shared commitment to peace.” Rather than acknowledge the root causes of the conflict, the Fast for Peace (using hashtag #HungryForPeace) is often promoted by pro-Israel groups as a way to normalize the conflict and act like Israel and Palestine have equal standing.

Why this is faithwashing?
The fast frames the occupation as a religious conflict (#4) and insists on dialogue (or, in this case, fasting) as an alternative to BDS (#5).

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