The U.S. Presbyterian Church’s Renewed Attack on Israel

, June 1, 2010

No. 98

  • The 2006 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church repudiated the anti-Zionist narrative affirmed by the previous gathering of this assembly in 2004. This repudiation, however, did not stop the denomination’s elected officials, staffers, and so-called peace activists from using the church’s resources to demonize Israel. In March 2010, anti-Israel partisans on a Middle East Study Committee (MESC) created by a vote of the denomination’s 2008 General Assembly released a 172-page report that demonizes Israel and downplays Arab and Muslim hostility toward Jews and their Middle Eastern homeland. This report, which will be on the agenda of the PC(USA)’s General Assembly scheduled for July, is nothing short of a full-scale assault on Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state.
  • The report effectively restates the narrative affirmed by the PC(USA)’s 2004 General Assembly: that Israel is in control of the violence directed at it and hence can unilaterally bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict through concessions and peace offers. The one-sided nature of the report should come as no surprise given the composition of the MESC, which numbers several pro-Palestinian activists including a former Presbyterian missionary to the Middle East who has expressed support for a one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In its deliberations the committee failed to meet with people willing and able to challenge the biased outlook of the committee members.
  • In addition to voting on the MESC report, delegates at the PC(USA)’s upcoming General Assembly will debate a number of proposals, including a resolution declaring Israel guilty of apartheid and another calling on the denomination to condemn Caterpillar for continuing to sell products to Israel. Delegates will also vote on an overture calling on the denomination to affirm a dishonest “Kairos” document issued by Palestinian Christians in late 2009. This document explicitly blames Palestinian violence on Israel and obliquely characterizes suicide bombings against civilians as a lawful form of “resistance.” Taken together, these resolutions and the MESC report will put Israel in the judgment seat at the PC(USA)’s General Assembly.
  • The obsessive way in which the PC(USA)’s peace activists have attacked Israel, and the failure of the denomination’s leaders to offer a word of correction, demonstrates that as a whole the church cannot be trusted to offer a fair, accurate, and comprehensive assessment of issues related to the future of the state of Israel.

Background

For the past several years, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been the scene of an all-too-predictable public drama. The protagonists are a relatively small number of so-called peace activists, some with ties to the Middle East, who seek to put the Jewish state in the judgment seat. Leveling chimerical accusations at Israel in the name of peace, these activists seek to enlist their fellow Presbyterians – and the church’s bureaucracy – into their efforts to banish the modern state of Israel from the community of civilized nations and portray it as uniquely worthy of criticism and condemnation.

This biennial ritual takes place with stage management and prompting by the elected officials and staffers of the PC(USA). The lay members of the denomination, however, have typically refused to mimic the twisted speech modeled for them by the so-called peace activists. In fact, a significant number of Presbyterians have refused to be bystanders to this spectacle and have worked to hinder and ultimately stop the process by which the PC(USA)’s credibility and institutions are used to demonize Israel. The overall impact of this ritual, which has become one of the defining characteristics of the denomination’s collective life and public identity, is continued divisiveness within the PC(USA) and resentment from the American Jewish community.

Remarkably enough, this ritual has played itself out even as the church has suffered a substantial decline in membership since the mid-1960s,[1] which has only accelerated in recent years. According to the denomination’s research office, the PC(USA) suffered a net loss of one million members from 1983 to 2003 and the church’s greatest numerical and percentage losses have all been in the past decade. “Indeed, the six greatest percentage declines (and five of the six largest numerical declines) took place from 2003 to 2008.”[2]

Clearly, this trend represents a threat to the continued existence of the PC(USA) as a denomination and under most circumstances would merit the lion’s share of the General Assembly’s attention. And yet for some reason, the church’s leaders have repeatedly allowed the peace activists in the PC(USA) to direct an inordinate amount of the General Assembly’s attention to divisive overtures regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, over which the church has little control or influence.

This enervating ritual will play itself out again at the denomination’s upcoming General Assembly, scheduled to take place in Minneapolis on 3 July 2010. At this gathering, church officials and delegates will be struggling with drastic budget cutbacks and layoffs necessitated by a troubled economy and declining membership. The denomination, which had imposed a one-week furlough on its employees in 2009 and announced a salary freeze for 2010, has to cope with a predicted drop in receipts from $93.8 million in 2010 to $76.2 million in 2012.[3]

Yet, as if struggling to eliminate $15 million in expenses from the church’s budget were not enough, delegates at the assembly will be confronted with a number of divisive proposals including one submitted by the denomination’s Mission Responsibility through Investment (MRTI) committee[4] to denounce Caterpillar for profiting from “nonpeaceful” uses of its products by Israel. This recommendation has angered PC(USA) members who live near the company’s headquarters in Peoria, Illinois, and has prompted some members to consider “divesting” from the denomination. On the other side, people hostile to Israel, particularly in the Newark Presbytery will, according to one church official, be angry if the church does not denounce Caterpillar.[5]

Clearly, the ongoing efforts of Presbyterian peace activists to single Israel out for condemnation threaten to divide the denomination at a stage when it urgent leads to unite so as address longstanding problems threatening its future. Given the persistence with which Presbyterian peacemaking activists have sought to demonize Israel and the ongoing willingness of the denomination’s leaders to allow this process to continue, the drama could be a convenient distraction from the problems facing the church as a whole.

Act One: 2004

The curtain opened on the drama when the PC(USA)’s 2004 General Assembly approved an overture that instructed the MRTI committee to “initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.”[6] The General Assembly stirred the pot further when it passed another resolution condemning the construction of a security barrier that ultimately helped bring an end to the Second Intifada by preventing suicide attacks emanating from the West Bank.[7] Along with these resolutions, the General Assembly passed another that condemned Christian Zionism on theological grounds,[8] and rejected a proposal that called for the denomination to stop funding a Messianic Jewish congregation in Philadelphia.[9]

Although these votes alarmed the American Jewish community for various reasons, most of the postassembly controversy centered on the divestment resolution because of historical memories of anti-Jewish boycotts. This point was underscored in a statement issued by a coalition of mainstream Jewish groups in November 2004 that read in part: “A policy of divestment or corporate action resonates in the Jewish consciousness with historic boycotts against Jewish companies and later Arab boycotts against the State of Israel; they are experienced by Jews as part of a pattern of singling out Jews for attack.”[10]

Although the divestment overture was originally submitted by a presbytery in St. Augustine, Florida, the denomination’s national leaders encouraged the passage of the resolution by inviting Rev. Mitri Raheb, a pastor at a Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, to speak to the gathered assembly.[11] During his speech, Raheb told delegates it was time to send a message to companies such as Caterpillar that do business in Israel. As he put it: “Sisters and brothers, this is a moment of truth.”[12] The assembly followed Raheb’s lead and approved the divestment overture on 2 July 2004 by a vote of 431-62.

Speaking to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) in 2006, Gary Green, a Presbyterian Elder who helped establish the Committee to End Divestment Now in response to the 2004 vote, said the church’s hierarchy showed a “distinctly pro-Palestinian bent.” The JTA reported:

After the Intifada began in September 2000, a concerted effort was launched to sway the church toward the Palestinian side and delegitimize Israel, Green said. This was evidenced by the election of the Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, a Palestinian-born minister, as moderator of the 2002 General Assembly.

Many delegates at the 2004 General Assembly were blindsided by the divestment resolution, unaware that it would even be on the docket, Green said. They voted for it based on long-standing church policy not to profit from companies that make money from war.

“It sounded good, and they trusted that people had done their work, but they had the wool pulled over their eyes,” Green said.[13]

The passage of this overture elicited expressions of support from anti-Israel partisans in the Middle East, the United States, and Europe. For example, Omar Barghouti and Lisa Taraki, prominent figures in the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) sent a letter of support to the PC(USA)’s stated clerk,[14] Clifton Kirkpatrick for the vote. In it they declared: “Initiatives like yours reassure us that despite the devastation, oppression and death visited upon our people and land on a daily basis there is still hope for peace and justice to prevail.”[15]

In America, activists from Jewish Voice for Peace defended and lauded the resolution.[16] So did the American Council for Judaism,[17] a historically anti-Zionist organization that was acclaimed by the house organ of mainline Protestantism, the Christian Century, for opposing the creation of a Jewish state during the 1930s and 1940s. And in February 2005, the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, an umbrella organization of churches with widely disparate theologies issued a statement in support of the PC(USA)’s decision, saying the church’s action was “commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith, and calls members to do the ‘things that make for peace’ (Luke 19:42).”[18]

Train in Vain

Depending on one’s point of view, the passage of the divestment resolution seemed like a great victory or a harbinger of more trouble to come. Duncan L. Clarke, a professor at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC, wrote that despite accusations of anti-Semitism from the American Jewish community, the passage of the Presbyterian resolution played a “catalytic role” in generating support for the divestment movement in the United States. “The divestment train has left the station, and important passengers are coming aboard,” Clarke wrote in the pro-Palestinian Journal of Palestine Studies.[19]

American Jewish leaders clearly saw the Presbyterian divestment resolution as the first of many. “The Presbyterian Church is probably just the first of many Protestant groups that will jump on the divestment bandwagon,” Rabbi Gary Bretton Granator, the interfaith affairs director for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) told the Forward in September 2004.[20]

As it turned out, these assessments were off the mark. Although the passage of the overture in 2004 did impart energy to anti-Zionist activists in other mainline churches, only one other denomination, the United Church of Christ passed a resolution that mentioned divestment from Israel as a peacemaking strategy. To date, no church in the United States has sold its stock in companies doing business in Israel, nor have anti-Israel activists had much impact on public opinion about the Arab-Israeli conflict, which remains strongly supportive of Israel.[21] As Boston-based researcher Jon Haber has reported, despite anti-Israel activists’ “non-stop attempts to insert the Arab-Israeli dispute into every civic institution in the land, general public support for Israel is today at an all-time high.”[22]

Nevertheless, Clarke did note one important aspect of the divestment campaign- its impact on mainline Protestant-Jewish relations in the United States. He reported that, as a consequence of the divestment movement, “relations between these Protestant denominations and the Jewish community range from awkward to warlike.” Here the evidence was irrefutable, and Clarke’s use of the word warlike was not hyperbole.

For example, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, responded to the divestment resolution and another resolution passed by the PC(USA) General Assembly condemning the construction of the security barrier by asking, “Do the authors of these Overtures value Jewish lives and Palestinian lives equally? Do they mourn the death of Israeli children in the same way and with the same intensity that they mourn the death of Palestinian children?” Yoffie continued: “In your Overture, Israel’s occupation is evil, as are, by implication, those who carry it out. And yet the word ‘evil’ appears nowhere else in the Overture. If the blowing up of Israeli children on a Tel Aviv bus is not an evil act and a terrorist act, then what is?”[23]

Similarly, Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice-president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis stated: “It’s hard for me to understand how religious groups can take lopsided approaches and ask Israel not to defend itself. It seems to me there is a lack of reality.”[24] And James Rudin, senior interreligious adviser for the American Jewish Committee wrote that the PC(USA) was “facing a self-inflicted firestorm” and that the resolution should be “rescinded and replaced by a balanced…peacemaking effort that does not punish Israel as if the Jewish state was the Middle East conflict’s guilty party.”[25]

Jewish opposition to the divestment resolution had little impact on the attitudes of the leaders and staffers at the denomination’s headquarters in Louisville. After a September 2004 meeting with Jewish leaders who asked that the PC(USA)’s leaders call for the resolution to be rescinded, the stated clerk, Kirkpatrick said, “I do not leave this meeting thinking that the decision by the General Assembly should be reversed.”[26]

Even though the divestment resolution had attracted the American Jewish community’s attention, the denomination’s lay members were largely unaware of the decision taken by the General Assembly. A survey conducted by the PC(USA)’s research services in November 2004 revealed that 61 percent of the lay members were “not aware” of the divestment vote. In comparison, 65 percent of the denomination’s pastors knew about the resolution. Significantly, only 28 percent of the church’s laity supported the resolution while 42 percent opposed it. However, 48 percent of the church’s pastors supported the resolution with 28 percent opposing it.[27]

The controversy reached the pages of Christian Century, the house organ for American mainline Protestantism, in February 2005 when the magazine published a written debate on the controversy. Rev. Vernon Broyles III, a spokesperson for the denomination portrayed the church’s divestment policy as an innocent response to the concerns of the Presbytery of St. Augustine in Florida, which had brought the overture to the General Assembly.[28] He also asserted, without offering evidence, that the resolution “in no way ignores the responsibility of the Palestinians to work toward a peaceful future.”[29]

Broyles also portrayed the Arab-Israeli conflict as a human rights problem that could be ended with an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Invoking Israel’s Law of Return to prove that Israel is not a well-functioning democracy, Broyles wrote:

If one is a Jew anywhere in the world, one can show up and be welcomed into citizenship. But if one is an Arab Israeli citizen, there are different rules and rights of citizenship. A Palestinian who is a longtime resident of East Jerusalem may not even have those rights. That looks very much like the American south in the 1950s when there was also “democracy” for blacks.[30]

Here Broyles inadvertently reveals the underlying concern of Presbyterian peace activists: Jewish sovereignty. In a world in which the Arab League of States has twenty-two members and the Organization of the Islamic Conference has fifty-six, Broyles and the anti-Israel activists he defends focus on the alleged misdeeds of Israel, even though it protects the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, and strives to uphold the laws of war, much more than any other Middle Eastern country. These countries are generally Judenrein or close to it, and when their regimes find themselves under assault they have not balked at massacring their opponents.

Yet, instead of grappling with these realities, the denomination’s peace activists hurl epithets at Israel and then assert that they acknowledge its right to exist, as if they are doing the Jewish state a favor despite its sins. The issue they do not address, however, is why it should be necessary to affirm Israel’s right to exist in the first place. The answer is simple: Israel’s existence is not a settled issue in the Middle East.

Barbara Wheeler, then president of the Presbyterian-founded Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City stated that the divestment resolution was part of an attempt to “create economic and political instability in the target country by withholding resources from companies operating in states that need the companies’ expertise and economic activity.” This is a drastic step that was justified when dealing with South Africa, which “deserved to be undermined.” She continued: “However strenuous one’s criticisms of current Israeli policies, that cannot be said of the democratic government of Israel, whose existence the PCUSA supports. The divestment device is not a moral fit for this situation.”[31]

Ira Youdovin, executive vice-president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis focused on a synopsis of the Arab-Israeli conflict[32] presented to the denomination’s General Assembly in 2003. This document, which served as a Presbyterian primer about the conflict and helped portray Israel as a legitimate target for divestment, contained “not one word about the genocidal ideologies openly espoused by Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian organizations which reject the very notion of a Jewish presence not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but anywhere in the Middle East.” Youdovin continued:

In particular, its treatment of the PLO leaves the reader gaping open-mouthed in amazement: “The PLO, like many other resistant [sic] movements, engaged in militant activities within Israel” [italics Youdovin’s]. That’s all it says! Deliberately omitted is the PLO’s infamous terrorism at the 1972 Munich Olympics, as well as its bloody history of hijackings, airport bombings and assorted acts of terrorism that randomly took the lives of innocent people, Jews and non-Jews, throughout the world.[33]

As subsequent paragraphs will show, this is not the last time that a document submitted to a PC(USA) General Assembly omitted crucial details about Palestinian terrorism against Israel, demonstrating just how indifferent so-called peacemaking activists in the PC(USA) are to admonition and correction.

Act Two: 2006

By early 2006, the PC(USA) laity was aroused to action as several presbyteries including those in Mississippi, Virginia, Illinois, Baltimore, Alabama, Texas, Minnesota (and western Wisconsin), southern New Mexico, and Arkansas submitted overtures to the General Assembly. These called on the body to rescind the divestment vote or for the MRTI committee to stop or suspend the divestment process initiated in 2004. In comparison, only three presbyteries – headquartered in Newark, Boston, and San Francisco – issued statements in support of divestment.

The text of the antidivestment resolutions submitted to the General Assembly confirmed what the November 2004 survey revealed: a significant portion of the Presbyterian laity did not support divestment and clearly did not share the understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict affirmed by the PC(USA)’s 2004 General Assembly.

The Eastern Virginia Presbytery, for example, called for the 2004 vote to be suspended, adding that “It is our prayer that our denomination will seek balanced, positive overtures for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead of directing negative actions at only one of the involved parties.”[34] The Presbytery of Great Rivers, located in Illinois (where Caterpillar, one of the targets of anti-Israel activism, is headquartered), called for the 2004 vote to be rescinded, arguing that “the action supporting divestment talks was perceived by many as an attempt to damage corporate relations. The action has, instead, damaged the reputation of the PC(USA).”[35] The Sheppards and Lapsley Presbytery in central Alabama stated: “it is wrong to single out Israel as the object of a ‘divestment’ policy when other states and parties in the region are also guilty of serious human rights violations that can and must be addressed.”[36]

Despite strong lay opposition to divestment as a “peacemaking” strategy, the 2006 General Assembly left the door open for more divestment-related activism. The assembly acknowledged the hurt caused by the resolution to the Jewish community and to members of the PC(USA) and asked for “a new season of mutual understanding and dialogue.” This overture (11-01) did not, however, instruct the denomination’s investment committee to cease the divestment process initiated by the 2004 General Assembly, but merely rescinded the decision to single Israel out as a target for divestment. The overture indeed called on the committee to ensure that the PC(USA)’s funds that pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank “be invested in only peaceful pursuits, and that the customary corporate engagement process…of our denomination is the proper vehicle for this role.”[37]

In plain language, the General Assembly reversed its policy of singling Israel out for divestment but did not preclude divestment from companies that do business in Israel. Instead, the PC(USA)’s 2006 General Assembly affirmed a preexisting process by which divestment could proceed. This gave the denomination’s peace activists, leaders, and staffers the authorization they needed to continue the endeavor of divestment from companies doing business in Israel. In sum, the divestment process begun in 2004 was never halted by a subsequent vote of the General Assembly.

This reality was understood by one delegate who voted against the resolution despite having sympathies for Israel. Soon after the vote, the Forward reported:

Adam Fischer was one of six who voted against the motion. While he called it a “step in the right direction,” he noted that it doesn’t rescind the process that could lead to divestment.

Fischer fears that Israel’s detractors will abuse the new resolution for anti-Israel ends.[38]

To further drive the point home, the 2006 General Assembly approved another overture that instructed the MRTI committee to proceed with efforts to speak with companies about their business practices in “Israel and Palestine.” This overture, which was passed as part of a consent calendar, stated that the MRTI committee would need $20,150 to cover the expenses of meeting with corporate officials in 2007.[39] Given all this, it should be no surprise that the denomination’s leaders, including Kirkpatrick, described Overture 11-01 as an affirmation or clarification of the 2004 divestment resolution and said no substantive changes had been made in the church’s policy.[40]

To be sure, the passage of Overture 11-01, coupled with the approval of another resolution declaring suicide bombing a crime against humanity (over the objections of the General Assembly’s “Peace and Justice” Committee),[41] represented a setback for the anti-Israel camp in the denomination by demonstrating that the 2006 General Assembly had adopted a fundamentally different understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict than the one affirmed at its previous gathering.

This message, however, did not get through to the denomination’s peace activists, staffers, and elected officials who continued to use the church’s resources and identity to further their anti-Israel agenda. During the summer of 2006, the denomination’s news service continued to post a steady diet of articles from a number of sources, most notably Ecumenical News International (ENI), that portrayed Israel in a negative light and downplayed Arab and Muslim violence.

For example, in the weeks after the General Assembly, the PC(USA) News Service rebroadcast an ENI article about church leaders in Jerusalem blaming Israel for the decline of the Christian population and asking the U.S. Congress not to pass a resolution condemning Palestinian leaders for their failure to protect the rights of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza.[42] The day after this article appeared, the PC(USA) posted another ENI article detailing how a group of pro-Israel Christians were spit upon by Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.[43] Clearly, reminding Presbyterians of Israeli sins remained a high priority at the PC(USA)’s headquarters.

More evidence that PC(USA) leaders in Louisville were intent on promoting an anti-Israel agenda despite the 2006 General Assembly vote came in early 2007 when the denomination issued a list of “resources” for support of “A Week of Prayer and Witness with the Christians in the Middle East,” scheduled to take place in local churches sometime between Easter and Pentecost that spring.[44] This list of resources – directed at youth-group leaders and Sunday school teachers within the PC(USA) – recommended that instructors show high-school-age Presbyterians Peace Propaganda and the Promised Land, an egregiously one-sided documentary produced by the American Media Education Foundation (which includes Noam Chomsky on its Board of Advisers). This film is not a dispassionate or fair assessment of the Arab-Israeli conflict but is, according to the New York Times, a pro-Palestinian documentary that “presents a condensed argument in favor of prosecuting Israeli leaders in the court of American public opinion.”[45]

The film’s producers remain conveniently silent about how the “war between Israel and the countries of Syria, Jordan and Egypt” began in 1967. They fail to report that before Israel launched a preemptive strike, Egyptian leaders blockaded the Straits of Tiran, called for Israel’s destruction, massed troops and tanks on the border with Israel, and expelled a UN peacekeeping force from the Sinai. And from 1964 through the first four months of 1967, Egypt had launched more than a hundred cross-border attacks. [46]

The list also recommends that Presbyterian youth leaders show The Dividing Wall to their charges. This twenty-three-minute video, produced by the Mennonite Central Committee, is filled with images of armed Israelis lording it over Palestinian civilians and children who climb over piles of rubble and peer through the security fence. The only hint of Palestinian violence is eight seconds of footage of Israeli first-responders inspecting a bus blown up by a suicide bomber and a brief snapshot of an Israeli victim of suicide attacks.[47]

Neither of these films promotes an honest, accurate, or comprehensive understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict; yet PC(USA) staffers in Louisville recommended them as such to youth leaders in the denomination. Clearly, the denominational staffers and elected leaders paid little heed to the concerns raised at the 2006 General Assembly about the unfair and one-sided nature of the denomination’s “peacemaking” endeavor.

A Bait-and-Switch Episode

For a brief moment before the General Assembly in 2008, it appeared that the PC(USA)’s leaders and staffers had finally gotten the message and repented of the anti-Israel animus they had ignored or facilitated on the part of the so-called peace activists in their denomination. This moment came on 2 May 2008 when the church’s office of Interfaith Affairs published a document titled “Vigilance against Anti-Jewish Ideas and Bias.” It offered a thoroughgoing critique of the denomination’s public statements about the Arab-Israeli conflict that was remarkable for its frank acknowledgment of anti-Jewish animus in some quarters of the denomination and that this animus had manifested itself in the church’s involvement with the Arab-Israeli conflict. As the document asserted:

When our analysis or critique of the Israeli-Palestinian situation employs language or draws on sources that have anti-Jewish overtones, or clearly makes use of classic Christian anti-Jewish ideas, we cloud complicated issues with the rhetoric of ignorance or subliminal attitudes, or the language of hate, and undermine our advocacy for peace and justice. Critical questions such as ending the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel or the future of Jerusalem are complex and difficult. It does not help to import stereotypes, anti-Jewish motifs or classic ideas of Christian anti-Jewish theology into our discussions.[48]

The document also warned against mischaracterizations of Zionism as a political movement:

Similarly, in a few materials that have been circulated by Presbyterians, one finds characterizations of Zionism that distort that movement. They do not accurately present the history of the Zionist movement or acquaint readers with its internal debates and ethical concerns. Instead, Zionism is often presented as a monolithic force or merely as an extension of European colonialism and result of anti-Semitism, and nothing else. In such materials, the problems and suffering of the Palestinians are attributed solely – and inaccurately – to Zionism alone. The origins, development and practices of Zionism and its relationship to the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian situation are much more complex than such a picture presents.

Given the tendency of Presbyterian commentators to engage in troublesome polemic regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, there was a definite need for such a statement. For example, in the 2004 resolution on Christian Zionism, the PC(USA)’s General Assembly had encouraged churchgoers to read Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians. This text, written by Rev. Dr. Gary Burge, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois and an ordained Presbyterian minister, portrays Jewish sovereignty as a violation of the boundaries set for the Jewish people by Christian theology.

As detailed previously by this author,[49] this tendency is particularly obvious in Burge’s gloss on John 15:6, which states: “If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.” Burge interprets this passage as meaning: “God’s vineyard, the land of Israel, now only has one vine, Jesus. The people of Israel cannot claim to be planted as vines in the land; they cannot be rooted in the vineyard unless first they are grafted into Jesus. Branches that attempt living in the land, the vineyard, which refused to be attached to Jesus will be cast out and burned.”[50]

Another Presbyterian, Don Wagner, a professor at North Park University in Chicago uses similar polemic. In his book Dying in the Land of Promise: Palestine and Palestinian Christianity from Pentecost to 2000, Wagner compares Jewish settlement in Palestine with a “killer-vine” that he discovered was destroying rosebushes in his backyard:

I was amazed at how thoroughly the vine had surrounded the base of the rose bushes with over a dozen nodules, each of which was the source of long vines that stretched through the roses and had extended to other flowers in the garden. I felt as if I was too late to salvage not only my prize rose bush, but the entire flower garden.

After recovering from my discouragement I sat down in the bright sunlight to reflect on the newly weeded but significantly reduced garden. I began to realize that I had just experienced something analogous to the past one hundred-year process of Zionist occupation in Palestine. The weeds and vines had moved in to take over the land and disrupt the flowers and vegetables that had been the previous dwellers.[51]

This passage, reminiscent of Isaiah’s description of ancient Israel as a barren vineyard, portrays Jewish inhabitants of Israel – even those who fled to Palestine before, during, and after the Holocaust – as an intrusive vine, a weed invading an Edenic Middle East. Like Burge’s branches who refuse to be grafted into Christ, such vines and weeds are worthy to be “cast out and burned.” This language is not as explicit as depictions of Israel as a cancer in the Middle East,[52] but it is still murderous in its implications.

To be sure, not all Presbyterian rhetoric is as hostile as Burge’s and Wagner’s, but it is still virulent enough. In 2004, Victor Makari, who serves as coordinator for the PC(USA)’s Middle East office, introduced some troubling rhetoric of his own into the discussion, invoking a stereotype of Jews as obsessed about money. In an article in the denomination’s now defunct publication Church and Society, Makari wrote that complaints about Israeli policies have fallen on deaf ears, “but when Mammon was aroused, flood gates of anger broke loose.”[53] The implication was that Israel and its Jewish supporters only paid attention to the PC(USA)’s complaints about Israeli policies once the denomination attacked Israel along financial lines.

Although the “Vigilance” document generated effusive praise from Jewish leaders,[54] it was ignored by the denomination’s news service and religious newswires such as the Religion News Service and the Ecumenical News Service.

Then on 11 June 2008 – ten days before that year’s General Assembly was set to begin – the PC(USA) issued, with little warning or explanation, a drastically altered version of the document. The new version substantially downplayed previous admissions of anti-Jewish bias in the PC(USA)’s  public statements about the Arab-Israeli conflict. One crucial admission of wrongdoing did survive the revision in an altered form, but for the most part the document’s self-criticism was bereft of its moral force. Moreover, the new document introduced the tired old cliché that criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic and then went on to cite a number of alleged Israeli misdeeds while soft-pedaling those of its adversaries. In other words, an expression of contrition had morphed into another opportunity to offer a bill of particulars against the Jewish state.[55]

This bait-and-switch episode prompted a joint press release from more than a dozen Jewish organizations including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Hadassah, expressing regret at the evisceration of the original document. The statement acknowledged that there is indeed legitimate criticism of Israel but that “some criticism crosses the line. Sadly, many PC(USA) statements have and continue to cross this line.” It concluded: “In June 2006, Jewish organizations broadly welcomed the call for a ‘new season of mutual understanding and dialogue’ issued by the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)…. Today, we note with profound hurt that the season for which we continue to hope has indeed not yet arrived.”[56]

In response to the episode, one Presbyterian blogger asked bluntly, “How will the Jewish people ever trust the Presbyterian Church (USA) again?”[57]

Interestingly enough, media outlets that did not cover the document when Jewish groups praised it, now found it newsworthy when they complained about its revision. For example, the Presbyterian Outlook, which, along with the denomination’s news service ignored the document when it was first issued, published an article on 14 June 2008 with the headline “Revisions to ‘Vigilance against Anti-Jewish Ideas and Bias’ Unleashes Criticism and Support.”

To make matters worse, Jerry Van Marter, director of the PC(USA)’s news service told the New Jersey Jewish Newson 19 June 2008 that “Jewish groups go nuts every time we make any statement they interpret as favorable to Palestine or the Palestinians.” The article continued: “Van Marter said church leaders amended their first statement ‘to make it more balanced, and apparently it still doesn’t satisfy our Jewish friends…. The Presbyterian Church understands precisely why Jewish groups are upset, because we refuse to be one-sided. We’ve been on record for a two-state solution for 60 years now.'”[58]

When Van Marter said the document “still doesn’t satisfy our Jewish friends” he ignored an important point: Jewish leaders had already offered effusive praise for the original document. They were satisfied and said so. With the word still, Van Marter mendaciously portrayed Jewish leaders as having been unsatisfied all along when in fact they were outraged at the document being watered down, without warning or consultation. And with the assertion that “Jewish groups are upset” because the church refused to be one-sided, Van Marter apparently forgot that the denomination’s 2006 General Assembly had faulted the previous General Assembly for the hurt a one-sided resolution had caused to the Jewish community.

Kirkpatrick and the director of the church’s General Assembly Council, Linda Valentine did not embrace the mendacity modeled for them by the denomination’s press officer. Instead they sent a letter of apology to Jewish leaders admitting that “in making the changes to its original version, we have strained our relationships with you, and awakened mistrust between us, and we regret this.”[59]

“If You Would Have Heard the Screams of the Zionist Lobby”

Two years later it was revealed that the statement was revised to mollify members of the PC(USA), some with ties to the Middle East, who were outraged by the criticisms leveled in the document. Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, the Palestinian American who was elected moderator for the denomination’s 2002 General Assembly, wrote a letter of complaint about two documents, one on Christian-Muslim relations and another on Christian-Jewish relations to the director of the PC(USA)’s General Assembly Council. Akel protested that he had not been included in the deliberation process and had been effectively sidelined by Rev. Jay Rock, the denomination’s interfaith professional. Akel wrote:

Linda, it is a sad day when we, members of this church, are treated with disdain and contempt by our national staff. This is not the first time we are treated this way by Jay Rock. It has not been two years since he issued the “Vigilance” statement without proper consultation; and subsequently I and other concerned Presbyterians had to fly to Louisville (at our own expense) to meet with you and GAMC [General Assembly Mission Council] staff to discuss it. Please see to it that this misconduct stops.[60]

Complaints of being treated with disdain and contempt are ironic coming from a pastor who, in the months after the 2004 divestment vote, gave an interview in Arabic to the Al Quds newspaper in East Jerusalem in which he stated: “if you would have heard the screams of the Zionist lobby in Washington, you would have known the importance of this decision [to divest].” Akel continued: “The world has announced tons of reports and resolutions from the United Nations, but the Zionist lobby didn’t even bother itself in answering it. But the divestment decision created fear in the circles supportive of the occupation and imposed the subject on the work schedule of the whole American public opinion.”[61]

His disdainful reference to the “Zionist lobby” indicates that for Akel the divestment vote was not about promoting peace, but about using the PC(USA)’s bureaucracy to strike a blow against Israel and its American supporters.

It is ironic that through his personal complaints to the PC(USA)’s headquarters in Louisville, Akel was able to rescind a document that admonished people against using virulent rhetoric that he himself was guilty of invoking. This irony emerges all the more from his involvement in an openly anti-Semitic presentation about the Arab-Israeli conflict – given by a speaker he recommended – at the College of Wooster in Ohio in October 2003. When the college needed someone to replace a speaker from the West Bank who had been denied a visa by the U.S. State Department, organizers at the PC(USA)-affiliated school called the denomination’s headquarters to find a substitute.

The person they found – at Akel’s suggestion – was Samir Maklouf who, during his talk, invoked the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a reliable source of information about the Jewish people and their history. According to theCleveland Jewish News, Makhlouf told the audience at Wooster that the Protocols explained “how Zionists have been taking over the world’s political, economic, religious and communications organizations.” The article continues: “Makhlouf’s 15-20 minute slide presentation was rife with dead Palestinian bodies ‘proving’ Israeli war crimes. The slide show ended with a Star of David morphing into a swastika, and had frames equating Zionism with Nazism. The ‘equals’ sign was then replaced by a ‘greater than’ sign, suggesting that Zionism was even worse than Nazism.”[62]

Such symbolism is a clear attempt to delegitimize Israel and according to British philosopher Bernard Harrison, anti-Semitic. Harrison writes:

Coupling the Star of David with the swastika, and Israel with the Nazis, while sedulously promoting by underhanded means the impression that there is as little to be said of the former as for the latter, is not to engage in “criticism of Israel”; it is rather, as Jews have been entirely correct to point out, to engage in the dissemination of political anti-Semitism in its most traditional form.[63]

Laudably, Akel distanced himself from Makhlouf’s anti-Semitic commentary. He went on to claim, however, that the real story journalists should have covered was the State Department’s refusal to give a visa to the original scheduled speaker, Rana Khoury.[64]

The upshot is that the “Vigilance” document was rescinded by officials in Louisville to mollify some of the very people who most needed to hear its warnings.

Act Three:  The 2008 General Assembly

This bait-and-switch episode set the stage for the 2008 General Assembly, which was largely a replay of the 2006 gathering. Presbyteries in Newark and San Francisco submitted overtures that portrayed the Arab-Israeli conflict as almost entirely, if not entirely Israel’s fault and the Jewish state as the only actor worthy of vocal admonition or correction by name. The Newark Presbytery’s overture called for the United States to suspend military aid to Israel.[65] The San Francisco Presbytery submitted a resolution calling on the denomination to divest from Caterpillar and Motorola for profiting from Israel’s occupation of “Palestinian territories.”[66]

Predictably, none of these resolutions nor the rationales accompanying them acknowledged the catastrophic outcome of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, nor did they describe Hamas’s misrule in that territory. The Newark overture, which was accompanied by a rationale that was a litany of alleged Israeli misdeeds and did not mention Hamas or Hizballah by name, failed to pass on a hand vote despite an endorsement (with some amendments) from the General Assembly’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. The San Francisco overture, which offered a similarly one-sided litany of Israeli transgressions, failed on a voice vote.

The failure of these overtures was clearly a rebuke to the anti-Israel partisans within the denomination. So was the passage of another overture calling on the church to be “nonpartisan advocates for peace” and to “not over-identify with the realities of the Israelis or Palestinians” when speaking about the Arab-Israeli conflict.[67]

As subsequent events – de scribed below – reveal, the passage of this overture would have very little impact on the Middle East Study Committee (MESC), which was created by yet another overture regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict at the 2008 General Assembly. This resolution instructed the moderators of the General Assemblies dating back to 2004 to select a nine-member committee charged with preparing “a comprehensive study, including recommendations, that is focused on Israel/Palestine within  the complex context of the Middle East.”[68] This document will serve as a focal point for Israel-related debate at the PC(USA)’s upcoming General Assembly scheduled to take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 3-10 July.

Act Four: The 2010 General Assembly

The MESC report will not be the only document related to the Arab-Israeli conflict that will be discussed at the gathering. Delegates will also vote on a report from the denomination’s MRTI committee that calls for the church to denounce Caterpillar for selling its products to Israel and on four overtures assailing Israel’s legitimacy, all submitted, predictably enough, by the San Francisco and Newark presbyteries. Two of these resolutions call for the church to divest from Caterpillar and a third calls on the PC(USA) to declare Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid.[69] A fourth, proffered by the San Francisco Presbytery, calls on the church to affirm the “Kairos” document authored by a group of Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem in December 2009.[70]

The document bears the title “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering.”[71] It is a tour de force of dishonesty, self-pity, and blame that includes all the shopworn claims made by these leaders for the past decade: the conflict is all Israel’s fault, the Palestinians are innocent; Israelis sin, Palestinians make mistakes; Palestinian violence is justified, Israeli violence is not. This document is so one-sided and distorted that one of its original signatories, Lutheran bishop Munib Younan has removed his name from the list of authors because he “likes to hobnob with Jewish religious figures and Israeli officials” and “does not want to endanger these relationships” by having his name associated with the text.[72]

The statement asserts that “if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear, and no insecurity.” It attempts to root Palestinian “armed resistance” – a euphemism for terror attacks against civilians – in Israeli intransigence, without acknowledging, for example, that it was Arafat – not Israel – who turned down the offer at Camp David in 2000.

The document also calls on Christians to engage in boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel so as to free both Israelis and Palestinians from “extremist positions of the different Israeli governments” without acknowledging the role Hamas has played in the conflict. Indeed, it turns speaking about Hamas’s violence and hostility into an act of propaganda: “Some political parties followed the way of armed resistance. Israel used this as a pretext to accuse the Palestinians of being terrorists and was able to distort the real nature of the conflict, presenting it as an Israeli war against terror, rather than an Israeli occupation faced by Palestinian legal resistance aiming at ending it.”

The notion that suicide bombings that target civilians qualify as “legal resistance” should set off alarm bells for any would-be peacemaker. Yet, for some reason, the implications of this passage were lost on the officials at the San Francisco Presbytery.

The problems with the “Kairos” document were not lost, however, on the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which condemned the text as anti-Semitic and supersessionist. In a resolution affirmed on 15 April 2010, the board stated that careful consideration of the statement reveals it to be “a morally inconsistent and theologically suspect document that speaks only part of the truth, and not always that.” The document, the board reports, rejects “the very notion of a Jewish state,” implicity condones and even praises suicide bombers, and “ignores the reality of Israelis forced to flee for their lives into bomb shelters, or in fear of being blown up while eating in a restaurant, celebrating a Passover Seder or dancing at a Bar Mitzvah Celebration.”

In light of these problems, the board asserts that they “expect more from our interfaith partners” and “wonder if [church organizations who embrace the document] do not recognize [its] supersessionist and anti-Semitic nature…or whether they no longer care to share interfaith dialogue with us.” [73]

The MESC Report

The “Kairos” document offers essentially the same narrative about the Arab-Israeli conflict affirmed by the PC(USA)’s General Assembly in 2004 – that the occupation is at the root of violence perpetrated against innocents on both sides of the conflict. The same can be said about the MESC report released in March. This report is not an honest attempt to analyze the conflict in a factual, comprehensive manner, but is instead a depiction of Jewish sovereignty – and the force used to defend it – as uniquely evil factors in the Middle East. Whatever their flaunted concern for international law and human rights, the authors of this document do not make peace and justice the unifying principles for the story they tell. The story begins and ends with the occupation, just as it did for the 2004 divestment resolution, and like other mainline commentary provides little detail about the theological and ideological hostility directed at Israel by religious, political, and cultural leaders in the Middle East.

The report’s message is encapsulated in this sentence: “While there are many subordinate factors that contribute to the lack of a just peace in Israel-Palestine, the major issue for a just peace is the continued occupation that has been ongoing for the past forty-three years.”[74]

After a brief introduction, the MESC report presents a series of letters to various audiences. In a letter to American Jews, the authors affirm Israel’s legitimacy as a state for the Jewish people and assert that criticism of Israel should not be used as “a battering ram against Israel’s right to membership in the community of nations nor to deepen anti-Semitism or any categorical blame of the Jewish people for the ills of the world.”

In the next paragraph, the authors state that while it has been difficult to work for peace with the mainstream Jewish community because of its reluctance to criticize Israeli policies, they hope to be able to work with “organizations like J-Street [sic], B’Tselem, [and] Jewish Voice for Peace,” which understand that “being truly Jewish is not tantamount to complicity in the excesses of Israeli policy.”

In other words, right after reassuring American Jews that Jews should not be blamed for the ills of the world, the authors clearly allege that Israel’s American Jewish supporters are not “truly Jewish” and are partly at fault for the lack of peace in the Middle East. The dividing line the authors place between innocent and guilty Jews is whether or not they are willing to condemn Israeli policies that Presbyterian peacemakers find objectionable.

In the rest of the document the authors stack the deck against Israel’s Jewish supporters by describing Israeli actions in such a biased, distorted, and de-contextualized manner that even J Street, an organization the authors cite as a “good” Jewish group, objected. It complained that the MESC’s analysis “downplays Israel’s very real security concerns, appears to shrug off any Palestinian responsibility for resolving the ongoing conflict, and underplays the Israeli narrative throughout.”[75]

The authors’ letter to American Muslims is much more conciliatory. Instead of subjecting them to a litmus test, the authors challenge American Muslims to play the role of “bridge builders” both within Islam and between East and West. They go on to state that “American Muslims have come under more scrutiny, pressure, and indeed racism since the tragedies of Sept. 11th. Violence is a phenomenon of the human condition, not the extensive domain of any religion or people group, as our own Christian history suggests.”

A similar statement could have been directed at American Jews as well, but was not. As the previously described letter corroborates, Jews as a community have come under intense scrutiny, pressure and, indeed, racism over the past few years. Callers to C-Span’s Washington Journal routinely level anti-Semitic epithets at Jews for their support of Israel.[76] FBI hate- crime statistics indicate that American Jews are much more likely to be victims of hate crimes motivated by religious bias than American Muslims.[77]

As if to underscore their bias, when the authors ask American Muslims “as leaders of the Islamic world to speak and act strongly on behalf of justice for all, including Christians and your fellow Muslims,” they for some reason do not ask them to stand up for the rights of Jews as well.

This omission is telling. Presbyterian peacemakers, who for years have been demanding that the Jewish state respect the rights of Arabs and Muslims, cannot even bring themselves to ask Muslims to promote the rights of Jews.

A Scriptural Millstone for Jews; Permissiveness toward Muslims

A similar tendency to encumber Jews with obligations and minimize Muslims’ obligations to work for justice and peace is evident in the document’s analysis of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures as they relate to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The authors invoke scripture to put the modern state of Israel and Jewish self-understanding under intense scrutiny. At the same time, they give scant treatment to the role Muslim teachings about Jews and the Holy Land have played in fostering violence in the Middle East.

The scriptural analysis addresses four themes: justice, Zion, covenant and land, and reconciliation. For each of these the authors list relevant passages in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and then close out the analysis with a Muslim aphorism that confirms what the previous scriptures state. The reader is left with the impression that there is fundamental agreement between the various traditions over matters related to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In their scriptural analysis of justice, the authors report that the sources describe this principle as an essential attribute of God that is required of rulers and God’s people and must be accorded to everyone – not just to those within one’s own ethnic group. In their analysis of Zion, the authors report that Zion or Jerusalem is depicted in the Hebrew scriptures as God’s dwelling place whose inhabitants must behave in accordance with their covenant. The Hebrew scriptures also describe Zion as “a place to which not only Jews but also other peoples and nations will come both to worship God and God’s teaching” and ultimately as a place where exiles will return as a harbinger of “an age of peace and a joining with other peoples and nations to worship and study the teachings of the one true God.” The authors state: “It is thus noteworthy that while Jerusalem has indeed become a place holy not only for Jews but also for Christians and Muslims, the longed-for age of peace and reconciliation has yet to come.”

The Christian scriptures, the authors report, “transferred the locus of God’s concrete presence in the world…from the place of Zion – that is Jerusalem – to the person of Jesus.” This transformation has serious consequences for how Christians, Presbyterians particularly, interpret the next theme of covenant and land.

On this issue, the authors assert that most modern Presbyterians will respond with horror to the accounts in Deuteronomy of Israelites taking the land through “Holy War.” After invoking Jewish scholar Jon Levenson’s work about hostility toward the Canaanites in the Hebrew Bible, the authors state that “most Presbyterians believe that ‘land promise’ ought not to be realized through ‘land violence’ and that the claiming of ‘promised land’ does not justify the displacement of ‘the others’ who have long lived there.”

The rest of the document uses this principle – that land should not be taken by force – as a yardstick to assess Jewish but not Muslim actions. Despite responding with horror to the narrative offered in Deuteronomy, the authors speak in nonjudgmental and benign terms about the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land. They write that “shortly after the Persian conquest came the Arab conquest-and Islam.”

Yet most of the Christians who were indigenous to that region continued to live there-carrying on with their everyday lives, learning to speak Arabic either in addition to or instead of Aramaic and/or Greek, and continuing to worship the God made known to Abraham and made known in Jesus. Many of today’s Palestinian Christians are direct descendants of these for whom Roman Palestine had become both their homeland and their Holy Land, where the central mysteries of their Christian faith had taken place.

The bias is readily apparent. Whereas the Israelite conquest of Canaan is portrayed as a violent, unjust act that deprived the Canaanites of their lives, property, and humanity, the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land is characterized as condign, with no mention either of the force used to achieve it or the ideology used to justify it. It is presented as a neutral historical fact, a fait accompli, without any moral opprobrium. Indeed, the Muslims are implicitly given credit for allowing Christians to remain in the Holy Land despite numerous credible historical accounts of Christians being forced to convert, murdered, or sold into slavery throughout the Middle East, in many instances with scriptural and theological justification.

The passages that describe the Israelite conquest of Canaan have more than their equivalent in Muslim writings, which are filled with promises of land conquest and booty and justifications for violence against Islam’s enemies – particularly when these enemies are Jews. The authors invoke passages from the Koran on the importance of justice, yet make no mention of, for example, verses such as Sura 9:5, which instructs Muslims to lie in wait “in every stratagem” for nonbelievers, “but if they repent [and accept Islam] and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them; for God is oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Nor do they acknowledge Muslim scriptures that portray Jews who deny the truth of Islam as enemies of God, which clearly have their analogs in Christian writings as well. One need not resort to anti-Muslim websites to find these passages but merely obtain an authoritative translation of the Koran and open it to the index. There one will find passages on how God punished Jews by turning them into “apes and swine,” how Jews are “cursed” by God, filled with “enmity,” “greedy of life,” and “work iniquity.” One will also find references to passages describing how Jews presume to write scripture “with their own hands.” [78]

It can be hoped that such passages are open to reinterpretation and do not necessarily determine how modern-day Muslims relate to today’s world. Nevertheless, literalist readings of such passages are a major and undeniable factor leading to violence against Jews – and Muslims – in the Middle East, a factor that this document ignores.

Although this issue has attracted much attention in the years since 9/11, it was well documented before the attack. For example, in a 1987 work Ronald L. Nettler detailed how Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutb retrieved early conceptions of Jews in Muslim scriptures, particularly the Koran, to portray modern Jews as enemies of God, Islam, and Middle Eastern civilization in his seminal essay “Our Struggle with the Jews.” In Qutb’s writing, Nettler noted, “Muslim personal and communal perspectives toward real Jews draw sustenance and backing from earlier mythology on the subject.”[79]

Whether the members of the MESC want to accept it or not, the treachery and perfidy of Jews is in many quarters a central tenet of Islam’s message in Muslim-majority countries, just as it was – and perhaps still is – part of the Christian kerygma (message of salvation).[80] As Robert Wistrich notes, “Such statements are not marginal or unusual in the Arab-Muslim world, they are mainstream,”[81] and such archetypes are “projected onto the State of Israel and Zionism far more often than is generally assumed.”[82] Anyone who ignores this issue, as the MESC has done, cannot claim the mantle of Middle Eastern peacemaking.

And while the authors remind their readers of the Jewish obligation to live in Zion, they fail to report that God’s assurances to Muslim believers about the land they conquer and inhabit do not come with nearly as many requirements to “do justice” as do God’s assurances to the Israelites and their descendants. Indeed, in Islam the promise of land comes with assurances of booty and treasure. There are obligations as well, but these often involve the conversion or subjugation of non-Muslims. Instead of acknowledging this problem, the authors remind Christians, Jews, and Muslims of the conditional aspects of God’s promise of land to the Jews while failing to heed the aggressive and permissive nature of Islam’s land theology[83] and hostility toward Jews.

Like other so-called peacemaking commentary from mainline churches, the authors of the MESC report make the covenantal obligations in the Hebrew scriptures a millstone around the neck of the Jewish people and their state. They update and translate these obligations into the jargon of international law and human rights while remaining silent about the human rights violations of Muslim and Arab countries. Moreover, they say nothing about the Muslim theology regarding the land and the status of non-Muslims, Jews in particular, and its impact on the prospects for peace in the Middle East. To stack the deck against the Jewish state even further, the authors invoke Christian scripture in a way that portrays Jewish claims of peoplehood and territory as overly particularistic, tribal, and primitive.

This is evident in the section on “reconciliation” where the authors assert that “through the life, death, and, resurrection of Jesus Christ, God accomplished a reconciliation with all of human kind-indeed the whole of creation.” This reconciliation, they add, is the “ground and empowering force for reconciliation among humans – between one person and another, between the individual and the group, between one group and another – in fulfillment of the eschatological vision of peace, of shalom found in both Micah and Isaiah….” Implicit here is that Jews cannot even achieve the vision of peace outlined for them in their own scriptures because of their denial of Jesus as the Messiah.

The MESC fails to provide an honest assessment of the role theology and scripture play in determining the circumstances in which the Jewish people find themselves. Instead the MESC proffers to Israeli Jews a utopian Christology and eschatology that purportedly renders divisions between Israel and its adversaries meaningless if only Israeli Jews would adopt a Presbyterian – or Christian – understanding of the conflict. Instead of making a sincere effort to understand how Israeli Jews view their circumstances, the MESC committee uses scripture and theology to manipulate and bully American and Israeli Jews to see things their way.

Distorted History

The lengths to which the study committee was willing to go to distort history become obvious in the “historical analysis” prepared by two committee members, Nahida H. Gordon and Frederic W. Bush and included as an appendix to the report. The overall intent of this analysis is to portray Israel’s creation solely as a consequence of Western guilt over the Holocaust and not as a realization of the Jewish right to self-determination.

This is particularly evident when the analysis compares the influx of Jews into Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century with the immigration of Armenians into the area as a result of the Armenian genocide. Whereas the Armenians came merely to “live, raise their families and contribute to the culture of their new home,” the Jews came to displace the Palestinians and take “the land of Palestine from a majority of its inhabitants at gunpoint.” What the authors fail to acknowledge is that when the Jews declared independence in 1948, they were merely asserting the same right demanded by the Armenians when they declared independence in 1918.

There are many other egregious omissions and errors. For example, the description of the Six Day War in 1967 portrays Israel as the aggressor by failing to mention the genocidal rhetoric voiced by Arab leaders before the war and by omitting any reference to Egypt’s decision to evict UN peacemakers from the Sinai in the weeks leading up to the conflict. The authors also falsely report that the Gaza Strip is “under total Israeli control” as if Israel had not withdrawn from the territory in 2005 and as if Israel still controlled Egypt’s border with the Strip. Ironically, in its list of recommendations, the study committee calls on the General Assembly to condemn “Egyptian collaboration in the enforcement of the blockade of Gaza.”

Another example of how Gordon and Nahida demonize Israel is their discussion of its assassination of Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, whom the authors describe as nonviolent. Actually he was a high-ranking member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and met with the perpetrators of the Lod Airport massacre, during which Japanese terrorists hired by the PFLP killed twenty-six people and injured eighty, many of the victims being Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico. Here is how the analysis describes the assassination:

…Israel has carried out targeted assassinations overseas for more than thirty years. These assassinations were not always against militants who use armed resistance to Israel but also against those who used nonviolent resistance. Consider the case of Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian journalist, novelist, and short story writer, who was assassinated along with his young niece, Lamis, on July 12, 1972, by Israeli agents in a car bomb explosion in Beirut. By the time of his early death at the age of 36, he had published eighteen books and written numerous articles on the [sic] culture, politics, and the Palestinian people’s struggle. His works have been translated into seventeen languages. A collection of short stories about Palestine’s children was published in English in 1984 and was titled Palestine’s Children. Kanafani’s untimely death deprived the Palestinians of an eloquent voice. (emphasis added)

The text goes on to quote a long passage from his writings, which the authors state “perhaps explains why he was deemed to be so dangerous.”

An article[84] published in Haaretz about Kanafani’s literary career provides some background that Gordon and Nahida conveniently omit:

In 1972 [Kanafani] paid with his life for his membership in George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In pictures published in Beirut newspapers, Kanafani – who was the PFLP spokesman, editor of the organization’s weekly newsletter Al-Hadaf (The Target) and Habash’s right-hand man – is seen photographed in his office with the participants in the massacre carried out by the Japanese Red Army organization at Lod airport in Israel in May 1972.

Clearly, then, Israel did not kill Kanafani because of his eloquent writings, as Gordon and Nahida suggest, but because he was a high-ranking member of a terrorist organization responsible for multiple hijackings and an airport massacre. Kanafani met with the perpetrators before the attack and according to Stewart Steven, author ofSpymasters of Israel, “had helped plan the killings.”[85]

Gordon and Nahida’s deceptive omission of well-known and relevant facts about Kanafani’s ties to the PFLP, and characterization of him as a nonviolent writer, is a sophisticated and devious act of incitement against Israel that should set off alarm bells within the PC(USA). It projects an image of Israel as a nation that would kill a journalist merely for his writings.

In sum, the report represents a missed opportunity for the PC(USA) as a whole and for the so-called peace activists in the denomination. After relentlessly attacking Israel without intermission for most of the past decade, the PC(USA)’s 2008 General Assembly gave Presbyterian peacemakers a chance to offer their church – and by extension the American people – a comprehensive and fair-minded description of the factors that contribute to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity, they squandered it by attempting once again to designate Israel as the scapegoat of the international system. Accompanying this distorted narrative is a nasty attack on the legitimacy of Jewish immigration to Palestine before 1948 and a depiction of Jews who support Israel as malevolent, misguided, and failing to uphold their true calling as Jews.

The report offers a highly dramatic story that will elicit strong emotions from those who take its anti-Israel message to heart. It could instead have provided a fair analysis, but did not.

The Response

The Simon Wiesenthal Center declared that the PC(USA) was preparing to declare war on Israel.[86] Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL stated:

The Presbyterian Church USA, despite their resolution two years ago to take an even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has gone back on its word with this offensive and biased report. Rather than take a neutral or balanced approach, the Presbyterian Church committee has offered up a toxic mix of bad history, politically motivated distortions and offensive attacks on Judaism and Israel.[87]

The abovementioned Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella organization for American Jewish groups, also condemned the report saying it “makes highly selective use of sacred texts, historical events, and current realities to build a narrative against the Jewish state.”[88] As noted earlier, even J Street objected.

Members within the PC(USA) have also expressed their outrage over the report. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace (PMEP), a group comprised of many of the same activists who worked to overturn the divestment resolution at the 2006 General Assembly, said in a press release that the report offers the “theologically and politically naive assumption that peace would blossom in the Middle East if only Israel would end its occupation of the disputed territories.” The PMEP also asserted that the report should “be discussed and categorically rejected because of its naive worldview. After spending much time and money to produce this report, it is sadly, an offense to serious-minded peace-makers.”[89]

Act Five: After the General Assembly

Whether the report is affirmed, rejected, or amended by the 2010 General Assembly, the PC(USA)’s so-called peace activists have yet again put Israel, and only Israel, in the judgment seat, and  the damage to the church’s reputation in the American Jewish community will be long-lasting. As noted, the General Assembly had already passed a resolution that acknowledged the hurt caused by the 2004 divestment resolution and asked for a new season of understanding.

Nevertheless, the church’s peace activists – with the connivance of the elected leaders and staffers – have again proffered resolutions that portray Israel as a singular force for evil in the Middle East. This raises serious questions about the PC(USA)’s ability to deal with issues regarding the Jewish people in a responsible and forthright manner. While Jewish groups should continue to work with activists inside the church to correct the PC(USA)’s narrative about the Arab-Israeli conflict, they should also strive to inform the American people about the untrustworthiness of the PC(USA)’s witness about Israeli and Jewish history. In particular, they should portray the anti-Zionism in the PC(USA) for what it is: a gasp of anti-Jewish invective from an institution on the verge of collapse.

 

*     *     *

Notes

 

[1] In 1965, the denomination enjoyed an inclusive membership of approximately 4.2 million members; by 2007 this had declined to 2.9 million (Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, 1967, 2009).

[2] Jack Marcum, “The Presbyterian Church (USA) at 25: A Statistical Look at Denominational Change,” Research Services, Presbyterian Church (USA), undated document. Retrieved 5 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/research/compstats/cs2008/IntroEssay.pdf. These figures do not match those reported by theYearbook of Canadian and American Churches because the yearbook’s numbers are based on “inclusive membership,” which encompasses all baptized members of a denomination whereas the PC(USA) limits its analysis to “active members” of the church and does not include baptized Presbyterians who are no longer participating in the life of a local church. For more information, see the PC(USA)’s Book of Order, Ch. 5, “The Church and Its Members.” Retrieved 5 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/oga/publications/2009-2011-boo.pdf. It should also be noted that out of 173 presbyteries in the United States, only four increased in membership. The Yukon Presbytery increased by 1.4 percent; East Tennessee, 0.9 percent; Middle Tennessee, 1 percent; Eastern Oregon, 0.9 percent. Every other presbytery declined in membership, some by significant percentages. For more information, see www.pcusa.org/research/compstats/cs2008/2008table4.pdf.

[3] Peter Smith, “Hit by Economy, Presbyterian Council Plans Further Cuts,” Courier Journal (Louisville), 29 March 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2010, www.courier-journal.com/article/20100329/FEATURES10/3290307/Hit+by+economy++Presbyterian+council+plans+further+cuts.

[4] The Mission Responsibility through Investment committee is the institution within the PC(USA) charged with ensuring that the church’s stocks are not invested in companies whose actions violate the denomination’s criteria for socially responsible investment. This institution also engages in shareholder activism to pressure companies to change their policies. See William Somplatsky-Jarman, “Mission Responsibility through Investment: Thirty Years of Socially Responsible Investing,” Church and Society, Presbyterian Church (USA), September/October 2002, 6-53.

[5] Leslie Scanlon, “Mission Council Sets Stage for Messy General Assembly,” The Presbyterian Outlook, 5 April 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2010, www.pres-outlook.com/news-and-analysis/1/9815.html.

[6] “On Supporting the Geneva Accord, Urging Israel and Palestine to Implement the Accord,” Item 12-01. Approved by the PC(USA)’s 2004 General Assembly. Retrieved 14 July 2009,   http://index.pcusa.org/NXT/gateway.dll?fn=default.htm$f=templates$vid=GA216:10.1048/Enu$3.0.

[7] “On Calling for an End to the Construction of a Wall by the State of Israel,” Item 12-02. Approved by the PC(USA)’s 2004 General Assembly. Retrieved 16 April 2010, http://web.archive.org/web/20041121031340/www.pcusa.org/interfaith/pdf/ovt04-33.pdf.

[8] “On Confronting Christian Zionism,” Item 12-03. Approved by the PC(USA)’s 2004 General Assembly. Retrieved 16 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/ogaresources/journal2004.pdf, 855-861.

[9] “On Re-Examining the Relationship between Christians and Jews and the Implications for Our Evangelism and New Church Development,” Item 06-09. Approved by the PC(USA)’s General Assembly in 2004. Retrieved 16 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/ogaresources/journal2004.pdf, 440-443.

[10] “Leading Jewish Organizations Call on Protestants to Focus on Middle East Peace, Reject Divestment from Israel,” Jewish Council for Public Affairs, 30 November 2004. Retrieved 6 April 2006, www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/press/press_iframe/www.e-guana.net/organizationse2d3.html?action=printContentItem&orgid=54&typeID=78&itemID=9981.

[11] Ira Rifkin, “The Divestment Genie,” Jerusalem Report, 6 September 2004, 29.

[12] Alexa Smith, “Assembly Endorses Israel Divestment,” Presbyterian News Service, 2 July 2004. Retrieved 6 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/ga216/news/ga04121.htm.

[13] Jacob Berkman, “Ties Remain Strained with Presbyterians after Divestment,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 14 December 2006.

[14] The stated clerk is the executive officer of the Presbyterian Church (USA) responsible for its day-to-day operations and for enacting the policies set by the denomination’s General Assembly, which is the church’s legislative body.

[15] Lisa Taraki and Omar Barghouti, “Presbyterian Paradigm: An Open Letter in Support of the Presbyterian Church’s Decision to Divest from Israel,” Counterpunch, 17 August 2004. Retrieved 6 April 2010, www.counterpunch.org/taraki08172004.html.

[16] “Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Divestment,” Jewish Voice for Peace, 8 December 2004. Retrieved 26 April 2010, www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/publish/article_187.shtml.

[17] Allan C. Brownfeld, “Jewish Groups Criticize Presbyterian Vote to Divest from Israel,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2005, 54-55. Retrieved 6 April 2010,  www.wrmea.com/archives/Jan_Feb_2005/0501054.html.

[18] “Minute on Certain Economic Measures for Peace in Israel/Palestine,” WCC Central Committee, Geneva, 15-22 February 2005. Retrieved 6 April 2010, www.oikoumene.org/gr/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/international-affairs/regional-concerns/middle-east/minute-on-certain-economic-measures-for-peace-in-israelpalestine.html. The biblical verse cited in this quotation (Luke 19:42), interestingly enough, appears soon after Jesus prophesizes the destruction of Jerusalem. From the standpoint of Christian-Jewish relations the use of this passage seems questionable, especially in light of the number of other passages related to peace that could have been invoked instead.

[19] Duncan L. Clarke, “Mainline Protestants Begin to Divest from Israel: A Moral Imperative or ‘Effective’ Anti-Semitism?” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Fall 2005): 51. Retrieved 13 April 2009, www.jstor.org/stable/4486846.

[20] Rifkin, “Divestment Genie.”

[21] Lydia Saad, “Support for Israel in U.S. at 63%, Near Record High,” Gallup.com, 24 February 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010, www.gallup.com/poll/126155/Support-Israel-Near-Record-High.aspx.

[22] Jon Haber, “Running the Numbers,” Divest This!, 5 March 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2010, www.divestthis.com/2010/03/running-numbers.html.

[23] Eric J. Greenberg, “Jewish Groups Scramble to Head Off Divestment Push,” Forward, 1 October 2004, 3.

[24] Gary Stern, “Presbyterians, Jews Start Talks,” The Journal News, 29 September 2004, 1A.

[25] A. James Rudin, “Presbyterians Have a Double Standard when It Comes to Israel,” Religion News Service, 23 September 2004.

[26] Greenberg, “Jewish Groups.”

[27] John Marcum, “Current Issues in Church and Society: The November 2004 Survey,” Research Services, Presbyterian Church USA, February 2005.

[28] Vernon Broyles, “The Presbyterian Case for Divesting from Israel,” Christian Century, 8 February 2005, 32.

[29] Ibid., 31.

[30] Vernon Broyles, “Occupation Is the Issue,” Christian Century, 8 February 2005, 37.

[31] Barbara Wheeler, “Divestment Strategy Is Unwise, Ineffective,” Christian Century, 8 February 2005, 33.

[32] “A Historical Synopsis of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Presbyterian Church (USA), 2003. This synopsis was included in the background material accompanying a resolution affirmed by the PC(USA)’s 2003 General Assembly titled “End the Occupation Now.” Retrieved 12 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/oga/publications/endoccupation03.pdf.

[33] Ira Youdovin, “Demonizing Israel, Whitewashing Terrorism,” Christian Century, 8 February 2005, 35.

[34] “On Suspension of Divestment Resolution,” Item 11-05. Answered by the passage of Item 11-01 by the PC(USA)’s 2006 General Assembly. Retrieved 31 March 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=721.

[35] “On Rescinding the Actions of the 216th General Assembly as They Apply to Divestment of Stock in Caterpillar, Inc.,” Item 11-10. Answered by the passage of Item 11-01 by the PC(USA)’s 2006 General Assembly. Retrieved 31 March 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=789.

[36] “On Moving from a Divestment Strategy to a Strategy of Investment in Business That Promotes Peace and Reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians,” Item 11-20. Answered by the passage of Item 11-01 by the PC(USA)’s 2006 General Assembly. Retrieved 16 April 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=715.

[37] “On Rescinding and Modifying Certain Actions of the 216th General Assembly (2004) Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Item 11-01. Approved by the PC(USA)’s 2006 General Assembly. Retrieved 10 September 2009, http://pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=689.

[38] “Presbyterian Parley Poised to Drop Divestment Push,” Forward, 23 June 2006, 3.

[39] “On Communicating with Corporations Doing Business in Israel and Palestine,” Item 11-16. Approved by the PC(USA)’s 2006 General Assembly. Retrieved 31 March 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=935.

[40] Berkman, “Ties Remain Strained.”

[41] “Commissioners’ Resolution: On Declaring Suicide Bombing a Crime against Humanity,” Item 9-20. Approved by the PC(USA)’s 2006 General Assembly. Retrieved 31 March 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=1343.

[42] Michele Green, “Holy Land Church Leaders Urge US Congress to Drop Palestinian Vote,” Ecumenical News International, 13 July 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2010, www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2006/06357.htm.

[43] Michele Green, “Orthodox Jews Attack Pro-Israeli Christian Tourists in Jerusalem,” Ecumenical News International, 14 July 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2010, www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2006/06358.htm.

[44] www.pcusa.org/worldwide/weekofprayer/youth_study_resources.pdf.

[45] Ned Martel, “Eager to Place the Blame for a Never-Ending Conflict,” New York Times, 28 January 2005, 25.

[46] Dexter Van Zile, “PC(USA) Promotes ‘Propaganda’ Film,” Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, 15 March 2007. Retrieved 1 April 2010, www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=118&x_article=1302.

[47] Dexter Van Zile, “The Mennonites’ Mission,” Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, 20 February 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2010, www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=118&x_article=1452.

[48] Office of Interfaith Relations, Presbyterian Church (USA), “Vigilance against Anti-Jewish Ideas and Bias,” May 2008. Retrieved 6 April 2010, www.jcrelations.net/en/?item=2973.

[49] Dexter Van Zile, “Mainline American Peacemakers against Israel,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, November 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2010, www.jcpa.org

[50] Gary Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2003), 176.

[51] Don Wagner, Dying in the Land of Promise: Palestine and Palestinian Christianity from Pentecost to 2000(London: Melisende, 2003), 247.

[52] One of the most troubling aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has largely been ignored by American mainline Protestant churches including the PC(USA), is the way in which religious, political, and cultural leaders portray Israel as a cancerous entity that needs to be excised from the Middle East for the Muslim and Arab peoples to regain their rightful place in history. For example, In February 2008, General Mohammad Ali Jaafari, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, described Israel as a cancerous bacterium that will be destroyed by Hizballah. (See Dudi Cohen, “Cancerous Israel to Be Destroyed by Hizbullah,” Ynetnews, 18 February 2008; retrieved 14 April 2010, www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3508176,00.html.) And in May 2005, Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris said during a Friday sermon broadcast on a Palestinian Authority-owned television station: “With the establishment of the state of Israel, the entire Islamic nation was lost, because Israel is a cancer spreading through the body of the Islamic nation, and because the Jews are a virus resembling AIDS, from which the entire world suffers.” (See “This Week’s Palestinian Authority Sermon: We [Muslims] Will Rule America; Israel Is a Cancer; Jews Are a Virus Resembling AIDS; Muslims Will Finish Them Off,” Middle East Media Research Institute [MEMRI], 17 May 2005; retrieved 14 April 2010, www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1376.htm). Clearly such language constitutes a warrant for genocide and is a threat to peace.

[53] Viktor E. Makari, “… Some Disputed Barricade…,” Church and Society, Presbyterian Church (USA), September/October 2004, 5.

[54] Dexter Van Zile, “Presbyterian Officials Prepare for General Assembly with Bait and Switch,” Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, 20 June 2008. Retrieved 6 April 2010, www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=118&x_article=1499.

[55] Interestingly enough, the revised version of this document has since been removed from the denomination’s website. It is still, however, available in pdf form at www.churchandworld.com/PCUSA/2008/News/June2008Statement.pdf (retrieved 12 April 2010).

[56] “JCPA Joins Jewish Agencies Expressing Profound Hurt by Presbyterian Church Actions,” 13 June 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2010,  www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/press/press_iframe/www.e-guana.net/organizations601a.html?action=printContentItem&orgid=54&typeID=78&itemID=22388. Commentators within the denomination were also outraged by the denomination’s actions.

[57] Viola Larson, “Not Just a Broken Confession of Sin but a Disappearing One!” Naming His Grace, 11 June 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2010, http://naminghisgrace.blogspot.com/2008/06/not-just-broken-confession-of-sin-but.html.

[58] Robert Wiener, “Presbyterian Confab Worries Advocates for Israel,” New Jersey Jewish News, 19 June 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2010, http://njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/061908/njPresbyterian.html.

[59] Letter dated 18 June 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/interfaith/pdf/invitation.pdf.

[60] Item 242, General Assembly Mission Council, 23-26 February 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/gamc/business/feb10/information/242.pdf.

[61] Jerry Gordon, “Divest Hate,” American Thinker, 16 June 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2010, www.americanthinker.com/2006/06/divest_hate.html.

[62] Stephanie Garber, “Message of Hate Brought to Wooster Campus,” Cleveland Jewish News, 5 February 2004. Retrieved 9 April 2010, www.clevelandjewishnews.com/articles/2004/02/05/news/local/bhate0206.txt.

[63] Bernard Harrison, The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 71-72.

[64] John H. Adams, “PCUSA’s Choice of Anti-Semitic Speaker Prompts College Apology,” The Layman, 1 March 2004. Retrieved 13 April 2010, www.layman.org/News.aspx?article=14267.

[65] “On Supporting Israel’s Right to Exist, but Calling for Temporary Suspension of Military Aid to the State of Israel,” Item 11-07. Disapproved by the PC(USA)’s 2008 General Assembly. Retrieved 1 April 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=1701.

[66] “On Divestment from Caterpillar, Inc., and Motorola, Inc., for Profiting from the Israeli Military Occupation of Palestinian Territories,” Item 11-23. Disapproved by the PC(USA)’s 2008 General Assembly. Retrieved 12 April 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=1733.

[67] “On the 218th General Assembly (2008) Being a Voice for the Victims of Violence in Israel and Palestine,” Item 11-06.  Approved by the PC(USA)’s 2008 General Assembly. Retrieved 26 March 2010, http://pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=1691.

[68] “Prepare Study on Israel/Palestine within the Context of the Middle East,” Item 11-28. Approved by the PC(USA)’s 2008 General Assembly. Retrieved 31 March 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=1941.

[69] “On Recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices Constitute Apartheid against the Palestinian People,” submitted to the PC(USA)’s 2010 General Assembly. Retrieved 12 April 2010, www.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=3067.

[70] “On Commending ‘A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith and Hope from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering’ as an Advocacy Tool,” submitted to the PC(USA)’s 2010 General Assembly. Retrieved 12 April 2010, http://.pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=3069.

[71] This document is available in numerous places online, including the website of the World Council of Churches: www.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/files/wcc-main/2009pdfs/Kairos%20Palestine_En.pdf (retrieved 13 April 2010).

[72] Malcom Lowe, “The Palestinian ‘Kairos’ Document: A Behind-the-Scenes Analysis,” New English Review, April 2010. Retrieved 13 April 2010, www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/60512/sec_id/60512.

[73] “CCAR Resolution on the 2009 Kairos Document.” Adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis 15 April 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2010, http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/resodisp.pl?file=kairos&year=2010.

[74] MESC report, March 2010, 37. Retrieved 23 April 2010, www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace/pdf/part1d.pdf.

[75] Rachel Lerner, “J Street Troubled by Presbyterian Church Report,” J Street’s Blog, 19 March 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2010, www.jstreet.org/blog/?p=914.

[76] Myron Kaplan, “C-SPAN’s Washington Journal: A Platform for Defaming Israel and the Jewish People,” Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, 30 December 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2010, www.camera.org/index.asp?x_print=1&x_context=2&x_outlet=35&x_article=1778.

[77] The FBI’s Uniform Hate Crime Reporting Program found that that 66.1 percent of the 1,732 antireligious hate crimes recorded in 2008 were motivated by anti-Jewish bias, 7.5 percent by anti-Islamic bias. Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Victims, Hate Crime Statistics, 2008,” November 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2010, www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2008/victims.html.

[78] ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an: New Edition with Revised Translation, Commentary and Newly Compiled Comprehensive Index (Beltsville, MD: Amana, 2006), 1742-1743.

[79] Ronald L. Nettler, Past Trials and Present Tribulations: A Muslim Fundamentalist’s View of the Jews (New York: Pergamon Press, 1987).

[80] For a summary of how the Church’s most powerful expressions of Christ’s divinity and redeeming power are often accompanied by virulent denunciations of Jews – even in the context of peacemaking – see Dexter Van Zile, “A Warning, Not a Primer,” UCCtruths.com, 19 September 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2010, http://ucctruths.blogspot.com/2008/09/guest-post-warning-not-primer.html.

[81] Robert Wistrich, A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (New York: Random House, 2009), Kindle location 988.

[82] Ibid., Kindle location 993.

[83] If the division of the world into a Dar al-Harb (House of War) and a Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) does not qualify as a “land theology,” the phrase is meaningless.

[84] Dalia Karpel, “With Thanks to Ghassan Kanafani,” Haaretz, 15 April 2005. Retrieved 23 April 2010, www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=565228&contrassID=1&subContrassID=14&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y.

[85] Stewart Steven, Spymasters of Israel (New York: Scribner, 1981).

[86] “Presbyterian Church USA Ready to Declare War against Israel: Take Action Now,” Simon Wiesenthal Center, 22 February 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2010, www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=lsKWLbPJLnF&b=4441467&ct=8021695.

[87] “Presbyterian Church USA Report ‘Offensive Attack on Judaism and Israel,'” Anti-Defamation League, 11 March 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2010, www.adl.org/PresRele/IslME_62/5716_62.htm.

[88] “National JCPA Calls on the Presbyterian Church to Revise Anti-Israel Report,” J-Newsline, 15 March 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2010, http://jcommunitynews.blogspot.com/2010/03/national-jcpa-calls-on-presbyterian.html.

[89] “Presbyterians for Middle East Peace: A Press Release,” Naming His Grace, 15 March 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2010, http://naminghisgrace.blogspot.com/2010/03/presbyterians-for-middle-east-peace.html.

Dexter Van Zile

Dexter Van Zile is Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. He has a BA in politics and government from the University of Puget Sound and an MA in political science/environmental studies from Western Washington University.