Columnist Robert Novak praises my own Illinois congressman, soon-to-retire Representative Henry Hyde (R), in Wednesday’s edition (May 25) of the Chicago Sun Times. He writes: “Showing the courage that has typified a political career now in its final months,

[Hyde] is pleading the case of endangered Palestinian Christians to President Bush.” Hyde’s letter to Bush, in part, says: “I cannot be blind when Israeli actions seem to go beyond the realm of legitimate security concerns and have negative consequences on communities and lands under their occupation.”

The House International Relations Committee, chaired by Congressman Hyde, recently issued a five-page report which further concluded:

The Christian community is being crushed in the mill of the bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [And further, the security wall and expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank] are irreversibly damaging the dwindling Christian community.

This response is not a new one from Congressman Hyde. Two years ago he wrote Secretary of State Colin Powell to raise the same issue. He now claims that things are much worse. There is every reason to believe that this is the case. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., recently made a trip to the West Bank and raised the very same concerns.

What makes Hyde’s concerns so credible is that he has been a consistent supporter of Israel. And what makes his present actions so worthy of respect is that the man is retiring and doesn’t need to take this controversial stand at the end of his political life. It makes me wonder why more evangelical Christians, in congress or in church leadership positions, have not raised the very same issue. The problem, I fear, is that very conservative evangelical Christians generally support Israel, right or wrong. And the underlying reason seems to be their long commitment to the policies of Israel that they believe fit in with their odd, and often eccentric, interpretations of the Bible.

For decades many in the Jewish state have not shown real concern about the removal of Christians from certain areas of their land. Israel is a self-proclaimed just and open democracy but many Christians in Israel would beg to differ. The facts would appear to be on their side. at least in this case.

The House Report further contends that “fundamentalist” settlers in East Jerusalem “intend to establish their own brand of Jewish exclusivity” and that they have “Messianic aspirations on the Temple Mound.” There it is. But very conservative Christians will undoubtedly support the present political approach of Israel, which breeds instability and injustice. Why you ask? Precisely because they want to see the Temple built so that the End Times will come! Too many novels, and too many novel biblical interpretations, can and do create serious problems for real people.

One wonders if the usually strong voices of conservative Christian spokespersons will have the insight and courage that the Catholic Henry Hyde shows in this case. Hyde deserves the support of everyone who prays for the real peace of Jerusalem, whether they are Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox Christians. The entire church community is impacted by the actions of the present Israeli government. One can hope that President Bush will listen to this appeal from Congressman Hyde and the House Committee.

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