Thursday, March 4, 2010

Two anti-Semitic Overtures coming to the Presbyterian (U.S.A.) General Assembly from San Francisco Presbytery (Update)

After finding out that San Francisco Presbytery has passed a couple of horrendous overtures, one calling Israel an apartheid State "SanFran-Apartheid" and one commending the Kairos Palestine Document "SanFran-Kairos" (Both found here Report #9 )* I have wondered about the possibilities of demonstrations at the 219th Presbyterian (U.S.A.) General Assembly. Will The International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian protest group, show up, in step with San Francisco Presbytery? Will groups seeking rights for LGBT people demonstrate? Or will that awful family group, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church show up to insult the more progressive presbyteries like San Francisco while agreeing with and applauding their anti-Semitism.

The overture calling Israel apartheid, “On recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People,” is attempting to put it in such a manner that the United Nations would state that Israel is committing crimes of Apartheid. “The General Assembly directs the Stated Clerk of the PC (U.S.A.) send this overture to the United Nations, encouraging them to find the state of Israel is committing the crime of apartheid and to take appropriate actions.”

Included in the overture is the need to not only push Israel back to her borders before the 1967 war but back to her borders before the 1948 defensive in which the new state defended herself against at least five Arab nations. The link to that suggestion in the rationale is on a site,
Palestine Think Tank, whose authors insist that “Zionism is wrong. Zionism is racism. For Zionism to happen, it means the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of the land of Palestine. We accept nothing about Zionism as being positive …”

The site also has a section for videos, this is one of them:

The link also provides the reader with titillating cartoons and articles. One cartoon with an article is a caricature of President Obama dressed as Prince Machiavellian. Another is a picture of the Star of David stuck in a Jewish menorah which is stuck in a gun.

The rationale for the overture is huge with maps included, some from the above site. Many of the end note links go to the Booklet Steadfast Hope: the Palestinian Search for a Just Peace,” published by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I have pointed out in several postings the anti-Semitism of this particular booklet.

It suggests that the Jewish people who immigrated to Israel are not the descendents of ancient Israelites. It states that the Jewish media in the United States and Israel controls government and world policies. It considers the Israelis liars who are not defending their country but are instead attempting to commit genocide.[1]

site that is used for information and as a link is mainly involved in encouraging the academic boycott of Israel. That kind of boycott is always a bad idea as it is a direct attack against academic freedom. On that site is an article tying the cause of academic freedom to the Enlightenment and insisting that philosophers like Immanuel Kant thought that, “At best academic freedom was perceived as the right to ask troubling questions. At worst was the right to harass whomever asked too much.”

The author, Anat Matar, believes academic freedom simply gives power to rulers rather than citizens. But, if I want to read an academic paper from Israel, or hear an Israeli professor speak at a nearby university and I can’t because of an academic boycott, not only is the professor’s freedom curtailed so is mine. So are the freedoms of Israel and the whole world.[2]

The Overture “On recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People,” with its rationale appears to be full of facts but they are all one sided facts taken mostly from sites and persons who are only interested in the Palestinians. There is nothing at all about the needs of Israel.

The second Overture, “On Commending “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith and Hope from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering” as an Advocacy Tool is not any less anti-Semitic than the apartheid one. I have already written about the “On Commending “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith and Hope from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering” which is also referred to as the Kairos Palestine Document.

The biggest problem with the document is that it calls for a non-Jewish state to replace the Jewish State of Israel. There are many other problems and you can read about them at
Presbyterian Middle East Study Team & "The Kairos Palestine Document" no longer a Jewish Nation? This past week the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent out a press release stating that the Presbyterian Church was ready to declare war on Israel.” Amazingly they had not yet seen these two overtures. If these two overtures pass war will have been declared and there undoubtedly will no longer be any relationship between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Jewish people in the United States. May God have mercy on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Update:* The overtures are not yet on the 219th GA site-but they are on the Presbytery of SF site. I have linked to them so you get the whole packet of overtures. I am not sure if they were changed in any way. But they look the same as the ones I have in my e-mail.

[1] See
Naming His Grace: Were Holocaust victims linked genealogically to biblical Israel?

[2] The overture uses this site to point to a quote by Ariel Sharon in 1998. The gathering of such quotes can be suspect since they are many times out of context.

#Every so often blogger makes it look look like I have deleted a comment by changing the number down. So check before thinking I deleted you.


Anonymous said...

For some Christians, there can never be enough pogroms. I guess their next overture will denounce the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and baby sacrifice in the synagogue.

Anonymous said...

could it be, and I ask this seriously, that it is not anti-semitic, but a concern for Palestinians (of all faith persuasions)?

I weary of you seeing every critique of Israel as anti-semitic.

Kerri Peterson-Davis
Cleveland, OH

Pastor Bob said...

A few observations:

1. Israel certainly has more military power than the Palestinians.

2. The most recent settlers are scary. They steal land, destroy ancient olive orchards and shoot at Palestinians who aren't doing anything wrong.. They also fight against the Israeli military.

3. Non Jewish Israeli citizens are treated as second class citizens.

4. Some Palestinian groups shoot missiles into Israel seemingly with the apparent approval of Hamas.

5. Hamas is actually the duly elected government of Palestine. This happened most probably because of the corruption in Fatah. Refusing to talk with Hamas, no matter what their terrorist activities may be, ultimately plays into the hands of the radicals. If Hamas is the legitimate government then any negotiations should be done with them. Palestinians are not going to accept a deal made by Fatah.

6. Palestinian leaders and some Presbyterians want the right of return for all Palestinians. This would destroy Israel as a Jewish state which would probably be replaced by an Islamic state, not right away but sooner or later. The idea that there should be (or could be) one state in what is now Israel and Palestine is unrealistic.

7. Neither side is currently presenting options that might actually bring peace.

8. If the PCUSA wants to make a statement that means something it has to state the whole truth not just the views of one side or the other.

9. The security barrier, particularly the parts that are walls, is ugly, often on Palestinian land and unjust. It also happens to be the one thing that ended suicide bombings in Israel.

John McNeese said...

“If you are genuinely concerned about real anti-Semitism, stop tossing out that charge every time someone does something that any Jew finds disagreeable. The charge of anti-Semitism is powerful, which is why people love to use it. But it is powerful precisely because it describes an ugly state of mind and the potentially deadly actions that flow from it. If regularly used to describe anything else, the term, like the boy's cries of wolf, will lose its potency, including at those moments when real wolves approach.”

Brad Hirschfield Rabbi, Writer, and Expert in Public Life
Huffington Post, March 2, 2010

John McNeese
Ponca City OK

Viola Larson said...

"it is powerful precisely because it describes an ugly state of mind and the potentially deadly actions that flow from it," exactly John.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

John McNeese said...


Have you actually read the San Francisco overtures in their entirety? They are well-researched and documented. Critical of Israel? Yes. Anti-Semitic? No.

Your comments on possible demonstrations borders on hysteria. Fred Phelps? The PCUSA supports a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders. Those maps can be found on multiple sites, including Israeli sources. Your links to other sites only attempts to muddy the water and has nothing to do with the overtures from San Francisco.

You throw out the anti-Semitic charges to shut down rational discourse on the issue. Is that your purpose?

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Viola Larson said...

Yes John, I have read the overtures. I don't usually write on things unless I have read them. And these two overtures would either change or encourage change of several positions on Israel by the PCUSA, including the existence of a Jewish State of Israel and/or the borders back to the 1947 UN mandate. Have you read the overtures?

Viola Larson said...

John I have to apologize for asking if you had read the overtures. I sent everybody back to my e-mail which of course they could not read. I have now linked to the overtures along with others at the SF presbytery site. These will eventually be on the 219th General Assembly site.

John McNeese said...

Yes, I read them yesterday before I wrote my comment. I found them on the website of the Presbytery.

Beloved Spear said...

That's lamentable. In speaking to a conflict like this one, what is needed in this is vigorous and intentional impartiality, and those overtures are unlikely to further that cause.

On the other hand, the Wiesenthal Center has significantly overplayed it's hand here. It's the kind of hyperbole that is to be expected in this conflict situation, but it really is impressively over the top. Particularly over the top was a recent document released by the Center, in which every member of the Committee was tagged as either Anti-Semitic or Anti-Israel. That included some profoundly dishonest statements about former PC(USA) Moderator Rev. Susan Andrews. I know Rev. Andrews because her former congregation shares space with my wife's synagogue. She's about as far from anti-Semitic as they come. Again, though, overstatement and reflexive demonization are to be expected in a conflict of this nature.

Doug Hagler said...

The main germane point I see here is that neither side is proposing any way forward that would actually lead to peace.

I think that anit-Semitism is misused in this post (I find that term used a lot on your blog Viola to describe things critical of Israel - I don't see a parallel term for things critical of Palestine. Perhaps we need a loaded word for those so at least it is fair?)

The fact is that Israel has far more power than Palestine and therefore bears more of the responsibility to bring peace. This does not describe Israel's relationship to it's many neighbor-enemies, but with Palestinians who have no government worth the name, no military, no money, no jobs and no access to opportunities to better themselves. This is not a 50/50 relationship by any stretch of the imagination. Any way forward toward peace must be more critical of Israel than it is of Palestine - not uncritical of Palestine, but the side with far more power should at least have a little more responsibility, and right now Israel does not seem even willing to stop stealing Palestinian land with new "settlements".

I don't think calling for the dissolution of the state of Israel is a good idea, but that being said I have not seen much of anything I'd call a good idea where Israel and Palestine are concerned.

Viola Larson said...

I am beginning to think I need a posting on what anti-Semitism is- using the article I put up-A very helpful document: "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism" on a PCUSA site" at

And Doug in my mind trying to pass a document at General Assembly that would encourage a push to make Israel a non-Jewish state couldn't get more anti-Semitic.

Hucke said...


You are absolutely right. Anti-semitism does not have to be direct or or even intentional to be anti-semitic.

Doug Hucke

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Doug H. I am glad you agree: )

Will McGarvey said...

I am having a hard time finding in the document how it encourages an end to a Jewish state in the Levant. If Israel continues it's policies of home demolitions, land confiscation, administrative detention, and torture - documented by Israeli human rights organizations - without creating a viable Palestinian state, then they will be creating the only natural outcome of the Palestinians calling for their civil rights. If Israelis are serious about peace, they would stop the occupation and accept the deal offered by the Arab League for full diplomatic relations with all of their neighbors - including Iran.

I'm sorry, but blaming Presbyterians for standing up for international law and human rights seems disingenous and partial. Calling us anti-Semitic means that I must agree with your position of Israeli hegemony over Palestinian civilians or my position is unchristian.

Viola Larson said...

Hi Will,
The State of Israel was created as a Jewish State. It was meant as a safe place for the Jewish people who have been persecuted for 2000 years. You need to read my posting on the Kairos Palestine document that I have linked to in this posting.

And as for your statement, “If Israelis are serious about peace, they would stop the occupation and accept the deal offered by the Arab League for full diplomatic relations with all of their neighbors - including Iran,” what deal would that be?

It is in the charters of Hamas and Hezbollah to destroy them. Iran intends to destroy them. I think someone has misinformed you.