Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recommendations & all the documents-breaking faith with the Jewish people

The document "Breaking Down the Walls: Part Two: Recommendations, written by the The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Middle East Study Committee is filled with political recommendations that extend far beyond the Israel and Palestine problem.

Yet the committee initially blames all problems on the Israeli and Palestinian issues writing “The undue influence of outside forces continues a history of colonial interference throughout the Middle East. Yet most expert observers and popular opinion polls confirm that the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is playing a central role in exacerbating region-wide grief and grievance.” If I wrote, that having said the above the committee is blaming most of the problems in the Middle East on Israel, most readers would exclaim that isn’t what they said.

But what does the paper “Our Witness: ‘What We Have Seen and Heard’ say? “Inexcusable acts of violence have been committed by both the powerful forces of the Israeli military and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, as well as, the Palestinians, of whom a relatively small minority has resorted to violence as a means of resisting the occupation.” (Italics mine)

And “As the MESC traveled throughout the region, the overwhelming consensus of all members was that Israel’s occupation of the West bank and Gaza is a sin against God and fellow human beings. While there are 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.”(Italics mine)

This is the problem throughout most of the Recommendation Document. Recommendations are in many cases stated in what seems to be a fair even handed way but when they are tied to the other documents written or recommended for study by the committee they are almost always pointing toward Israel.

A whole list of human rights and moral principles are affirmed under section I. And few would quibble with most of them yet tied to the other documents and the accusations made by those documents readers will understand that the committee believes Israel has broken most of these human rights and moral principles. Therefore the section on human rights is largely about Israel although the recommendation does not say so.

For instance under the rights section is this, “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) affirms-The moral goal for nations to create a nuclear-free world and toward that goal, to sign and comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other relevant treaties.” When the reader looks at the paper “Our Witness: “What We Have Seen and Heard” they read about Iran’s attempt to develop a nuclear warhead and then they read this, “While this growing fear [by the Israelis over Iran’s plans] is a deep concern, an equal concern is the number of nuclear warheads that Israel currently stockpiles and thus the growing sense of Iranian vulnerability and insecurity.” (Italics mine)

Another problem with the recommendations is the attempt to make equations that are unequal. For instance equating the use of anti-Semitism in the Middle East with Islamophobia, and the attempt to equate the Holocaust with the Nakba (the loss of homes and exile by around 750, 000 Palestinians during the 1948 war that secured the new Jewish State of Israel). The recommendation, listed under IV. “Urgent Actions for a Comprehensive Peace with justice in the Middle East” is:

“Calls all parties in the Middle East to cease rhetoric and actions that demonize others, whether that takes the form of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, as well as rhetoric and actions that threaten the well –being of another nation or people. This includes threats by Iranians and members of Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, sponsorship by Iran of Holocaust-denial conferences, Israel efforts to deny the Nakba and threats of mass transfer (expulsion) of the Palestinians into Jordan or elsewhere, and perpetuation of maps and textbooks that deny the existence of internationally recognized borders, states, and occupied territories.”

There appears to be a lot of excellent thought put into that statement. However there is a vast difference between Holocaust denial and the denial of Nakba. I will explain. The Holocaust in all of its horror is undeniable, but the Nakba has a mixed history. Few Israelites would deny that the 1948 war caused untold trauma because of the dislocation and, yes, even massacre of Palestinians. But that isn’t the complete story. Jewish people were also massacred and not all refugees were ‘forced’ out of their cities and homes.

My other thought is that in the Middle East there is a vast disparity between the use of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Palestinian television even has children’s programs that use gross anti-Semitism. So while both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are terribly wrong the recommendation does not address the real issue. And totally left out of any of the equation is any mention of anti-Zionism which is now the new anti-Semitism.

Perhaps the most troubling part of the Recommendations document is two places that address the Kairos Palestine Document and another which would allow the General Assembly to receive the report
A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis.

Under “For the Witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” the 219th General Assembly (2010) the Kairos Palestine Document is recommended “in its emphasis on hope for liberation, nonviolence, love of enemy, and reconciliation,” and the recommend includes lifting up the document “for study and discussion by Presbyterians.” This also includes providing a study guide.

In another posting I have shown that this is not a pacifist document. Not only does it blame Israel for any terrorist acts by Palestinians it also commends all of those who died in service to their country which could include those who died committing suicide attacks. But the most damming part of the Kairos document is its move toward turning Israel into a non-Jewish state. I have quoted from the document in a different posting:

“Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority.” (Emphasis mine)

My answer to that is “A Jewish state is not by necessity a religious state, and notice the term “numerical majority” has been slipped into this equation. All of this is to say that the Kairos Palestine Document is asking that there no longer be a Jewish State in the Middle East.” I wrote that the Kairos Palestine Document attempts to unravel the idea of a Jewish State and substitute the idea of a sacred land for diverse faiths. The posting is
Presbyterian Middle East Study Team & "The Kairos Palestine Document" no longer a Jewish Nation?

The Kairos Palestine Document also has the possibility of being ‘received’ by the denomination under part VIII. “Engaging This Report.” There it asks the 219th General Assembly to receive the Appendixes and other documents which includes the Kairos Document. But, as I stated above, there is another troubling document the committee is asking the Assembly to receive “A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis.” This document not only begins with a manipulative and untruthful early history for Israel it ends suggesting that a one state solution is the only possibility.

So a whole series of documents, at least one reminding the readers, that a two state solution has always been the policy of the Presbyterian Church includes one with this statement:

“An objection to a one-state solution is the fear that Israel will cease to be a Jewish state. However, Mark Satin, claims that the majority of those proposing a one-state solution do not question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state but rather ‘they question the wisdom of its existing as a specifically Jewish state when Jewish life and culture could be equally well (arguably more securely and benignly) preserved in the same region in a secular, democratic state that was constitutionally sensitive to the needs of all its peoples. …” (46) (Italics the author's)

The paper goes on to speculate on such things as “The state would have to be bilingual with both Arabic and Hebrew signage and all legal documents. The issue of what to call the country can be resolved.” (47)

This in the face of several statements by the Study Committee that the time is almost past for a two state solution and their use of authors such as Ali Abunimah who proposed a one state solution in his book, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, is troubling.[1] Taken altogether the many documents compiled, written and recommended by the PC(U.S.A) Middle East Study Committee represent an assault on the Jewish State of Israel. If the General Assembly votes for these documents they will have broken faith with the Jewish people both those who make up the state of Israel and those who are citizens of the United States and elsewhere.

[1] (For a posting about Ali Abunimah and his speech at a Presbyterian Church see
Is an overture for a one state solution looming on the horizon?


Marcie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It's our m.o. I expect it by now.

Anonymous said...

Viola, can you please explain how anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism? It's easy to define anti-Semitism, but the definition of Zionism (and anti-Zionism) is much more complex, so I don't see how one necessarily follows from the other.

Thank you.
Rev. Piper Cartland
Eagle River, Alaska

Viola Larson said...

Piper I did a posting a while back that has an official document that covers that-go to the side and click on anti-Semitism and then scroll down until you come to "A very helpful document: "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism" on a PCUSA site" or go to

Dexter Van Zile said...

Zionism is the aspiration of the Jewish people for a sovereign state of their own in their historic homeland. It's Jewish nationalism.

Judea Pearl, the father of Danny Pearl, has stated that anti-Zionism is racism in that it denies the Jewish people a right to a sovereign state.

The anti-Zionism that has manifested itself in Great Britain, the rest of Europe, Canada and to a much lesser extent, the United States is an attack on the Jewish people in that it portrays Israel as an apartheid, genocidal state, a monstrous nation.

Who but a monstrous people can defend the actions of such a state?

If you are interested in this subject, read Bernard Harrison's "The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel and Liberal Opinion."

Harrison writes that apartheid accusation "serves much the same purpose in the polemics of certain sections of the European and American Left as the equation of the Star of David with the Swastika, namely, to convey the impression that Israel no more 'deserves' to exist as a state than the Third Reich or apartheid-era South Africa did. As it is usually stated, the accompanying implication is that no other country comes close to deserving, on these grounds, the hostility of all right-minded people."

He also details how some commentary about Israel portrays Jews as “a malign and conspiratorial political entity” that must be combated or expelled “lest the host body politic be irretrievably harmed or corrupted or both.”

Sadly, this is a problem with some of the more extreme supporters of the mainline peacemaking campaign in the U.S.

Also, people should read Robert Wistrich's new book "A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to Global Jihad."

People interested in countering the narrative offered by the so-called peacemakers in the PC(USA) should read both of these books, Harrison's especially.

Wistrich's book is valuable details the animus toward Jews and Israel in the Middle East.

Harrison's book is valuable in that it details, among other things, how the demonization of Israel contributes to hostility toward Jews.

Pastor Bob said...

Is it Islamophobia to say that Christians are persecuted and repressed in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Iraq, Iran Turkey and Saudi Arabia? And maybe other countries too that I don't remember at the moment. While fear of Islam does exist in countries in the region. Persecution of Christians is a fact.

Viola Larson said...

Bob although the papers and now I don't remember which one speaks slightly to the persecution of Christians it mostly blames the loss of the Christian population on Israel and the war in Iraq. That is an old story that has gone on for far to long.This below is from "Our Witness: 'What We Have Seen and Heard.":

"At present it is estimated that 9,246,000 to 16,206,000 Christians live in the Middle East. Currently, Christians have been emigrating from the Middle East, and reasons for the outmigration vary by country. Political upheavals in Lebanon; discrimination in Israel, Egypt, and Iran; the occupation and economic decline in the West Bank and Gaza; and security and discrimination in Iraq are some of the reasons. There are political reasons to try to inflate the numbers; we are told that the actual numbers are closer to the lower ends of each range. Christians in Jordan and Syria appear to experience the least difficulties in the Middle East; however numbers are reported to be declining there as well. The Table below provides estimates by country.
Although the numbers of Christians in Israel and the Palestinian Territories have remained steady, or may have even increased slightly, they have not kept pace with the normal rate of population growth. Their proportions have declined significantly and their influence greatly diminished.The reduction to the present 1.37percent in the proportion of Christians19 is attributed to lower birth rates and the higher rates of outmigration, which result from the occupation with its difficulties for daily life. A further concern of this outmigration is that those able to migrate, either Christian or Muslim, are those with education and whose political views are “liberals or seculars” thus tending to leave behind a greater proportion of those on the extremes in political orientation.
This dwindling presence of Christians in the Middle East is a deep concern due to the role that Christians have played in being a mediating, reconciling presence. Without that presence, we fear a more religiously polarized Middle East, more prone to extremism."

Notice there is nothing about persecution. And so after the liberal Christians leave I am wondering who the extreme Christians are that will be left?

Dexter Van Zile said...

Rev. Piper:

Here is how anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.

Not for the fainthearted, but watch until the very end.

Thomas Bower said...

Viola, I read everything that you write that I can get my hands on. I join you in "evangelical causes" within the PCUSA and the broader church. You and I probably see eye to eye on most of the hot botton issues. One exception: The Middle East. As an evangelical pastor (PCUSA)who has been in and out of the Middle East for over forty years, I think in general you are wrong. Your Biblical exegesis is wrong as is your politics. I'm not going to fight or argue with you. My energies are going in working with Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding ( Our great sadness is that anti-zionism is being turned into anti-semitism.
We (including evangelicals) will look back on that in a generation and see how wrong that was and how destructive for the Kingdom of Christ.

Viola Larson said...

Hi Thomas,
In a real sense you are arguing with me. And that is okay, that is what the comment section is for. I am glad you are an Evangelical and that you care about the people in the Middle East. I did visit your site- I still think your history of Israel is wrong. I think until the Jewish plea for a Jewish homeland is understood by friends and enemies there will be problems. And I do see you as one sided. If you have some influence where was your voice when the Israel/Palestine Mission Network put up that horrible video "I Am Israel." Where is your voice on the issue of whether the Jews now in Israel are the ancestors of ancient Israelites? That is an error, that they are not, in the book Steadfast Hope published by IPMN. I have to ask these questions because this kind of thing is what keeps the rest of us from talking about the wall, settlements and other things.

Pastor Bob said...

I guess that kicking people (non Moroccans) out of Morocco because they are serving as foster parents and they are Christian doesn't count to them? Or destroying Coptic churches or killing people at worship and wounding others (and then having the police arrest some of the Christians as well as Muslims?
Or setting off bombs at churches in Iraq? (And many Christians from Iraq have fled to Syria and Jordan) Arresting Christians for daring to have worship in Saudi Arabia? Killing Christians in Turkey? Arresting Christians for being Christians in Iran?

Nope none of it is persecution, is it? No matter how often it happens. HA!

Presbyman said...


Since you have engaged so vigorously with this report, I think you should know that the new lobbying group known as "J-Street" has objected to being named as some kind of supporter of this report:

J-Street ain't AIPAC, by the way. If this report causes them distress, it just shows how extreme it really is.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Viola Larson said...

Hi John,
Yes I saw that report this morning although I can't remember where. That is a terrible thing-that means the committee lied and were just using their name. And you are right that does show how radical the report is. Thanks for reporting it here.