Sunday, July 26, 2009

More from the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network's booklet Steadfast Hope

I have deleted my last posting in order to put this closer to my posting Were Holocaust victims linked genealogically to biblical Israel?. I have decided to simply place some quotes here from the booklet, "Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace" published by the The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

In my last posting I quoted this from the booklet:

“The founding narrative of the State of Israel links the modern-day Jews’ claim to the land of Israel/Palestine to their direct genealogical descent from the ancient Israelites. Recent anthropological scholarship shows that this widespread belief is very likely a myth, not historical fact. Shlomo Sand, an expert on European history at the university of Tel Aviv, and author of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? posits that the Jews were never exiled en masse from the Holy Land and that many European Jewish populations converted to the faith centuries later. Thus, he argues, many of today’s Israelis who emigrated from Europe after World War II have little or no genealogical connection to the ancient land of Israel.”

This anti-Semitic statement makes the whole booklet suspect but there is more. I will write out a couple of quotes from Steadfast Hope and then show how the quotes are misleading by using other authors to counter them.

"On March 10, 1948, (Well before surrounding Arab nations joined the conflict), David Ben Gurion (Who later became Israel's first Prime Minister) and his advisors implemented Plan Dalet, a military operation to depopulate and destroy non-Jewish villages, The goal was the ethnic cleansing of Palestine's non-Jewish population." (p.9)

The term "ethnic cleansing" is used constantly in this booklet. In contrast, Walter Laqueur, who is not a conservative, but an excellent historian, in his comprehensive book "A History of Zionism: From the French Revolution to the Establishment of the State of Israel," writes about what happened shortly after The United Nations voted for the partition of Palestine:

"The next morning the Palestinian Arabs called a three day-protest strike, and Jews in all parts of the country were attacked. On that first day of rioting seven were killed and more injured; the fighting continued to the end of the mandate. The next months, as chaos engulfed Palestine, were a time of crisis for the Jewish community. ...The most pressing task facing the Jewish population was to strengthen its defenses, since the Arab countries had already announced that their armies would enter the country as soon as the British left. Syria was not willing to wait that long: an 'Arab Liberation Army" inside Palestine was established in February with the help of Syrian officers as well as irregulars." (p. 583-84)


"While Britain continued to supply arms to the neighboring Arab countries, and America had declared a general arms embargo, the Jewish forces had great great difficulty in obtaining supplies. By February the Arab forces were on the offensive throughout the country. While they did not succeed in capturing Jewish settlements, they all but paralysed the traffic among them, and even Jerusalem was about to become a besieged city. The Jewish relief force sent to the help of the Ezion settlements had been wiped out to the last man, a terrible loss by the standards of these days." (p583)

And writing of the horrible retaliations that happened on both sides, including the destruction of the Palestinian town Dir Yassin, Laqueur writes:

"Fighting became more intense and savage, as acts of reprisal followed one another. On 8 April, most of the inhabitants of the Arab village of Dir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem, 254 in number, were killed by a combined IZL-Sternist force. Three days latter, a Jewish medical convoy on its way to the Hadasssa hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed in the streets of Jerusalem with the loss of seventy-nine doctors, nurses and students. A British force stationed two hundred yards away did not intervene." (p 584)

Another statement from "Steadfest Hope."

"On June 5, 1967, Israel initiated a preemptive strike by bombing and then invading Egypt, Jordan, and Syria with the goal of expanding the boundaries of the state."

Not only had there been constant terrorist attacks against Israel but Egypt began to mass troops along its borders with Israel. Nasser ordered an international peace keeping force to leave. Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israel stopping her flow of oil. Mitchell G. Bard in his book Myths and Facts: A guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict writes that Israel was ringed by a massive troop build up from many Arab countries. Nasser announced :

'The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not declarations.'

Syrian defense minister Hafez Assad stated that 'I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.'" (p 53-54)

While it is true that dialogue and understanding often being peace, lies, such as these above, bring discord and even persecution. I will continue in some further posts writing about the problems with this material.


Anonymous said...

I am thankful Viola for your reporting of this disgraceful booklet that is being published in our name.

Frankly, I am still shocked that this kind of rhetoric is STILL being put forth in our denomination after our last public disgrace in the divestment debacle.

What a sad, pathetic group of hatemongers this "mission network" is!

Viola Larson said...

Toby I don't believe they are all hatemongers, but they are using history badly. Really it is not history it is propaganda. Everything they are saying about the history of Israel comes either from radical Palestinians and Arabs or from a few Israeli (Shlomo Sand for instance)whose history writings are suspect by everyone.

Anonymous said...


Go away for a few weeks and look what you've tackled!

I think you need to address a few questions if you want to be effective:

1) What makes Shlomo's statements "anti-Semitic"?

2) How does one accuse a son of Polish Jews who survived the holocaust and went to Israel in 1948 and who fought in Israel's army in the war of 67 of being an anti-Semite?

3) What makes quoting him anti-Semitic?

4) You quote extensively from Walter Laquer as "in contrast", but nothing in the quotes refutes the "Steadfast Hope" quote. They could both be entirely true and probably are.

5) The last quote likewise is not refuted. Israel did in fact launch a preemptive strike in 1967 for the purpose of establishing new borders it could defend and to disarm the armies that were massing against it.

Your quotes seem to be true as are the quotes from Steadfast Hope.

All acts of violence have acts of violence that cause them. Each one of them is the logical conclusion of the violence that precedes it. Like a chain, each link connects the link before it to the link after it.

The irony is that the chain can be broken at any point, but rarely is.

I think that the point your are trying to make is that Jesus taught us how to break the chain, teaching us to love our enemies and do good to those that persecute us. But it's not yet coming out.

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

Tom Evans
Leaving KC

will spotts said...

I'm not sure I buy that they're lovemongers.

The fact that they tolerate this - that in so many instances they permit and encourage blatantly anti-semitic items - that they excuse it - that they offer silly rationales for it - and that they make common cause with those whose idiom clearly is hate - really makes it difficult to consider them well intentioned.

Yes, I know they consider themselves well-intentioned. And yes, I know they are motivated by compassion for Palestinians, and by a sense of outrage at perceived (and some real) injustices. However, compassion that only extends to one side, that only extends to those you are inclined to agree with is no virtue.

Let's consider for a moment the history:

1. numerous meetings with Hezbollah that were used by Hezbollah for media purposes.

2. Quotes comparing Hezbollah favorably to Jewish leaders. (Note, for example, the Stone quote).

3. An assertion that Israel committed the same human rights abuses as Sudan - made by our former stated clerk (on film). [This is a derranged comparison.]

4. Genetic arguments of this kind - that were blatant here, but fairly strongly implied in many other materials.

5. False information given about the security barrier.

6. False information given about the opinions of Jewish leaders to the 2004 GA.

7. The assignment of the 'occupation' as the root cause of all evil acts in the region by the 2003 and 2004 GA's.

8. The deicide and crucifixion imagery used by PC(USA) partners.

9. The membership in organizations that overtly call for the destruction of the State of Israel. (What else does, 'from the river to the sea' mean?)

10. The use of materials from other denominations that rely on extreme replacement theology.

11. The assertion that the Jewish lobby controls the US government.

12. The statement by a PC(USA) official calling for Jews in the diaspora to "get a life".

13. The power point presentation circulated by the IPMN that contained blatanly antisemitic elements.

14. The misrepresentation by PC(USA) officials of the 2006 GA actions.

15. The failure of PC(USA) officials to carry out express instructions of the 2006 GA.

16. The persistant failure to correct false information when it has been proven false - though it may have originally been offered in good faith.

17. The assertion by a PC(USA) official that Jewish groups only to divestment because "Mammon was aroused".

I'm sorry - any way I look at it, the actions here do not seem to be those of moral and decent human beings.

Viola Larson said...

Most Jewish scholars refute Sand's history. So for the author's of the publication to use it as factual history is "very" biased.

My quotes from Walter Laquer do refute this statement: "Well before surrounding Arab nations joined the conflict." Also his descriptions of the conflicts show that the rest of the statements is simplistic and untrue.

I have given also an explanation of why Israel would make a preemptive strike.

I will not argue these points anymore nor will I allow you to put words in my mouth. I wrote what I wrote because other Presbyterians need to know the true history of what happened.

Viola Larson said...

I know Will, and thinks for numerating all of the anti-Semitic sins of some Presbyterians

Unknown said...


One other point: The Jews in Israel/Palestine accepted the division of Israel/Palestine proposed by the UN in 1948. The Waqf in Jerusalem and the surrounding countries (I am not sure that I can speak of Palestinians as individuals or as groups) did not. Curiously at the end of the 1948 war Israel had more territory than it would have had if all had accepted the division of territory proposed by the UN.

Also the UN proposed the Jerusalem would be an independent city.

The refusal of others to accept the UN mandate contributed to the outbreak of the 1948 war.

Unknown said...

One other point: although Nassser talked about the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan massed on the borders of Israel if I remember correctly Jordan did not enter the war immediately and neither did Israel attack Jordan immediately. Jordan entered the 1967 was later in the week but I'm not sure how many days later. Then Israel responded.

Curiously if Jordan had not entered the war it would still hold the West Bank as sovereign territory. To be fair the Palestinians didn't want the Jordanians as their rulers.

It is true that Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt and Syria in 1967. Israel waited until after Egypt and Syria attacked in 1973 much to their detriment in the beginning of that war. The attack from Egypt and Syria was expected but Israel didn't want to be accused of making a preemptive strike again.

Bob Campbell.
Sorry I forgot to put my name on the last note.

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Bob that is all important information. You will find none of it in the bookletexcept some honesty about the war in 73.

Kattie said...

"Most Jewish scholars refute Sand's history."

Viola, how do you back that statement up with facts?

Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Kattie did you want to provide me with a list of those Jewish historians who do back Sand's history?

will spotts said...


I do not wish to speak for Viola. However, I believe she is assuming a familiarity with the regular tropes of rabidly antisemitic literature. One cannot read even cursorily the writings of 'British Israel' types, of neo-nazis, and similar groups without hearing about Khazars and others. The usage of this in that literature is to deny the notion of a poeple to the Jews.

Sand's argument (at least in interviews and other writings - the book not currently be available) is heavily dependent on this Khazars, and other non-Jewish groups. For Sand, the notion of a Jewish people is a myth that developed in the 19th Century.

Where there Khazars? Of course. Were many Khazars Jewish? Also of course. What are their origins? And what happened to them? Evidence is lacking.

Sand seems to make a couple of fundamental errors in his reporting of Jewish scholarship on the subject. This has always embraced what history of the Khazars was known. There has never been a contention that the Jewish people were genetically pure. Such a thing is, on its surface, ridiculous. The genealogy of King David has non-Israelites. The contention that large majorities of the Jewish people are unrelated to Israel is, however, a huge leap at best, and falisibiable by genetic research. (Which demonstrates that a large portion of Ashkenazi Jews share greater genetic similarities with Arabs than with either Central Asians or other Europeans.)

Can the subject be discussed? Of course. Its use here, however, is similar to that in the overtly racist literature with which Viola is familiar. The citation of Sand is represented as the current state of scholarship - and the nature of Sand's work is not quite revealed.

You raise a question about antisemtism that is on some level valid, but at the same time often used as a misdirection because the same standard is not applied to other groups. Specifically - you argue that Shlomo Sand cannot conceivably be regarded as antisemitic because he is Jewish - so quoting him cannot be regarded as antismeitic. This does not follow.

Sand himself has an agenda that fits well with that of the IPMN.

But suppose a writer of African descent produced a book supporting the Hamitic hypothesis so popular among white racists of a previous era. Then suppose a white group whose history of bias was notable then used the author's writings - advocating the hypothesis - while claiming his status as a person of African descent innoculated them against charges of racism. It would be manifestly false.

It is, in fact, disturbing that this opportunity has provided an ethnic 'fig leaf' for an already recurring theme among mainline church activists. Namely the lack of connection between Jews of today and the people of biblical Israel. Such a usage - finding someone Jewish to lend support to a pre-existing emphasis, in itself raises questions.

Anonymous said...


Viola censored my last response here, so this may be a one sided conversation, but I will try one small question:

Is there any line that must not be crossed in the Christian defense of Israel? If so, what is that line?


will spotts said...

Tom - I'm missing the relevance of this question. But OF COURSE there are lines of ethical conduct.

What is unethical, dishonest, bigoted, or wrong remains so regardless of one's objective.

However, the record of church organizations on the Jewish people generally (a phrase the PC(USA) now disallows according to Sand's work) - demonstrates pattern. Over millennia.

It is not an issue of collective guilt, but of credibility and of pronounced tendency to err. And if church organizations can be prevented (dissuaded or at least challenged) this time for entering those waters they have entered so many times before that have led to horrific consequences against the Jews specifically - that would be a good thing.

Dexter Van Zile said...


Thanks very much for your blogpost on this document.

I've obtained a copy of the booklet myself.

I do not think you are out of line in asserting that passages in this document are anti-Semitic.

The document so far, ignores Muslim and Arab hostility toward Jews in the Middle East. In the course of my work, I've come to the conclusion that a Christian refusal to take Muslim and Arab anti-Semitism seriously is itself an anti-Semitic behavior.

This document offers little, if any acknowledgment of the hateful anti-Jewish ideology that has taken root in groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

The fact that Jews write some of the copy for the document does not give the Christians responsible for its publication leave to ignore the anti-Jewishincitement in Palestinian (and Arab) media.

I am still working my way through this document, but it its clear to me that the activists and church officials who have published this document have put their markers down on the same distorted narrative that was used to justify the passage of Overture 12-01 in 2004.

I've already discovered one factual error in the document -- on the first page of text. It states that while the rhetoric surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict is changing, "actual policy has not: no settlers have moved back to Israel..."

Wrong. Approximately 8,000 Jewish settlers were pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, four years before the booklet was published.

I am working on a longer critique of this booklet, but suffice to say, it is deeply discriminatory in its portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Presbyterians should be shocked it was published in their name.


Dexter Van Zile
Christian Media Analyst
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

Viola Larson said...

Dexter please let me know when you are finished writing your analysis of the booklet. I will be very interested in reading it.

Viola Larson said...

My e-mail is