From: (name withheld)
Date: February 13, 2023 at 6:13:31 PM MST
To: [email protected]
Surely as a strong advocate for secularism in foreign policy you must realize that sending money to Israel, a country with state subsidized rabbinates, is a violation of that hallowed separation of church and state you always bang on about whenever there is a Christmas wreath on a military base
Eager to hear your thoughts
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member James Currie
On Feb 14, 2023, at 10:40 AM, James Currie wrote:
Dear (name withheld):
I have been asked by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to respond to your recent email about U.S. aid to the State of Israel. The answer is actually very simple: You are, unfortunately, conflating the protections afforded by the First Amendment to our Constitution with the conduct and designs of American foreign policy.
If you want to consider this foreign policy issue from its inception, don’t start with Israel. I would direct you, instead, to the Marshall Plan following World War II. Under this Plan, the United States gave the equivalent of $173 billion to countries in Western Europe because we thought it was in our interest to help them recover from the war and resist communism. We subsequently provided regular amounts of foreign aid to dozens of other countries, some of which have state-recognized churches. Some of this aid has always been given for purely humanitarian reasons, such as with the recent post-earthquake assistance that we are providing to Syria and Turkey. But much of it, perhaps most of it, was given with larger geo-political aims in mind. We provided Egypt, for example, with some $85 billion in bilateral assistance between 1946 and 2020, because we as a country (meaning by our various Presidents and Congresses) decided that it was in our foreign policy interests to do so. This despite the fact that Islam is the official religion of Egypt. Likewise, we have provided the State of Israel with approximately $150 billion in foreign aid through the beginning of 2022. We made that decision for the same reason as our aid to Egypt: we decided it was in our best interest as a country to do so. According to the Congressional Research Service (Report RL33222), “At present, almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance.”
I’m afraid, Mr. McFadden, that your antisemitism is showing through quite clearly in the premise that underlies your question/comment to MRFF about U.S. aid to Israel. You seem not to accept—or maybe you just do not want to admit—that U.S. funds are not subsidizing any religious leaders in Israel, just as they are not in Egypt or other countries. The U.S. foreign aid that is provided to Israel is being given to one of our staunchest allies in the Middle East because we see it as in our interest to do so.
What MRFF stands for today and has always stood for is the separation of church and state in our own country, a separation that is founded on our own Constitution. The fact that our country, using the processes set forth in that Constitution, has decided to provide a small amount of our overall national budget (approximately 0.7 percent in 2020) for foreign aid is an example of the playing out of our near-240-year old political process. Maybe you should study history and government a bit before you spout off so freely and display your anti-Israel leanings so publicly.
Col. James T. Currie, USA (Ret.), Ph.D
Board of Advisors, Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Response from MRFF Supporter Rabbi Joel Schwartzman
On Monday, February 13, 2023, Rabbi Joel Schwartzman wrote:
Your understanding of Israel and its governmental system obviously is sorely lacking. Israel hasn’t got a First Amendment regarding religion. It also doesn’t have a Constitution. It has a set of Basic Laws which do not act to separate synagogue and state. The arrangement regarding religion and government paid clergy goes all the way back to the beginning of the state and to its first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion. There are many of us who wish he had made a different decision, but Ben Gurion did not believe that Orthodox Judaism would do well as the nascent state grew. He was wrong. But, comparing the Constitution of the United States and Israel’s Basic Laws is truly like comparing apples to oranges. Given present day circumstances, the analogy is actually and sadly laughable.
As one who has vociferously opposed the Wreaths Across America project, I have written that this money maker for the wreath-selling company is a clear violation of our Constitution’s First Amendment regarding the Separation of Church and State as these wreaths are laid in national cemeteries. I have mentioned my uncle who served in the Pacific in WWII and who, as a now deceased rabbi, lies in a grave in a national cemetery in Sarasota, Florida. If he were able, he would rise up from his grave and toss this religious symbol on to a grave other than his. Regardless of claims that these wreaths of green and red laid at Christmas time has no religious symbology, that even a fool understands that this is false. Want to lay wreaths that don’t exclude non-Christians? Try laying them in June, July or August. Surely that would be less offensive to non-Christians and their sensitivities.
I have secular relatives in who are buried in Israel. Yes, their ceremonies were conducted by Orthodox rabbis who are paid by the state. There are many of us who hope that this arrangement will one day come to an end, but in no way does their practice violate any laws of the state of Israel…and to think otherwise is only to display one’s ignorance.
If you are an actual person and the email address above is really yours, I would urge you to do reading about the Israeli system of government and the laws upon which it is based. Even Wikipedia would be more accurate than what you have proposed here.
Good luck with your studies.
Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman
Ch, Col, (Ret) USAF
From: (name withheld)
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2023 9:38 PM
To: Rabbi Joel Schwartzman
Subject: Re: Comparing Israel & the U.S. Regarding Separation of Church (Synagogue) and State
The problem is if we sent money to the Vatican like do to Israel you’d be up in arms
But not to when it’s to YOUR theocratic ethnostate
Response from MRFF Supporter Rabbi Joel Schwartzman
On Feb 13, 2023, at 10:15 PM, Rabbi Joel Schwartzman wrote:
Ah (name withheld) my man,
When the Vatican begins to provide the United States the technological help and cooperation with its missile systems and other armaments, and when the Holy see cooperates with the intelligence that helps to protect you and all the citizenry in the United States, when the Vatican is the one reliable and truly stable ally the U.S. has in the Middle East then maybe you can complain about the money the U.S. might be sending to Israel.
Again, my friend, your analogy is lacking in so many patently obvious ways. It is so superficial and bogus as to be laughable. You certainly haven’t done your homework. But keep it coming. After a hundred or so of these observations on your part, you just might get one right.
Have a good evening.
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
On Feb 13, 2023, at 8:07 PM, Mike wrote:
Hi (name withheld),
Mikey is busy dealing with antisemites and bigots of other stripes, so I’m trying to help respond to some of the more loony emails he gets.
First, we’re not ‘banging on’ anything, we’re just trying to see to it that people honor the fact that our military is made up of people of many and varied belief systems, all of which deserve to be respected.
Second, you apparently have confused the Israeli government with our own. The separation of church and state is one of the fundamental planks upon which our legal policies rest. That is not the case with the state of Israel. And that difference in our governmental approaches has no relevance when establishing and carrying out intergovernmental relationships.
As you may be aware, the U.S. Government has relationships with countries all over the world and we do not and cannot force them to emulate our policies, much as some might like.
If you have an issue with our long-standing relationship with Israel, I’d suggest you take it up with your Senator or Member of Congress. If you have an issue with Israeli policies you might consider contacting their embassy. If you have an issue with the separation of church and state here in America, I’m afraid you’re stuck with it.
(MRFF Board of Advisors)
Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
On Feb 13, 2023, at 8:06 PM, John Compere wrote:
Mr. (name withheld),
Please be advised the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is an American non-profit civil rights advocacy organization for the military that has been nominated 7 times for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result of our advocacy. We have represented more than 82,000 military men & women (95% of whom are Christians) who requested their right to religious freedom guaranteed them by the US Constitution be protected. We represent American military men & women when requested to do so by them. Engagement in US foreign policy is not our mission.
Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (composed of over 80% Christians)
- March 21, 2023 | No comments
- March 20, 2023 | No comments
Name Withheld is simply a typical bigot who assumes Mikey is connected to Israel because Mikey is Jewish. And he’s looking for a reason to criticize Mikey. Sadly, this is the best his feeble mind can do toward that end, even though it makes no sense.