Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Some excellent writing on the problems in the Middle East

To not stand alone is good. Sometimes one must do so but not now in the case of several Presbyterian (U.S.A.) organizations which are not only attacking Israel but also the Jewish people in the United States. Several good friends of mine are blogging about the escalating problem and although they are not PC (U.S.A) they have very good reasons for joining the fray.

Will Spotts

Will Spotts who was PC (U.S.A.) for many years but left the denomination partly because of the battering that Israel and the Jews have taken from this and other mainline denominations is providing his very logical and compassionate voice to the problem. Will had a blog at one point entitled Whatsoever Things. If you click on that now you will find that the Title has changed to, “The PC (USA) on Israel and Palestine.

His first posting is About: First Do No Harm where he explains why he has once again decided to defend righteousness by means of a computer. His second posting is MAP THING: Why Willful Ignorance Is Not an Option And in the third posting which is a series he begins to dig into the options the PC (U.S.A.) has. That one is Which Is It to Be – Pro-Palestinian, Anti-Israel, or Antisemitic? (part 1). He is writing in areas I have not explored or even touched.

For instance This:

“Most importantly, I have been amazed by the lack of reaction among ‘ordinary’ Christians. It is as if these ‘ordinary’ Christians – who are not themselves antisemitic, and who do not, themselves hold Israel to a double standard – remain perfectly content for organizations to which they belong to do so. It is as if they do not recognize their responsibility and culpability for the actions of churches where both their membership and their financial contributions are voluntary.”

And this:

“The word ‘antisemite’ itself was apparently coined by Wilhelm Marr when he formed the German ‘Antisemitic League’ (“Antisemiten-Liga”) specifically to combat the ‘Jewish threat to Germany’. Marr also used the phrase “Jew hatred” (Judenhass) in a pretty much equivalent fashion. Marr’s emphasis was placed on non-religious, race based opposition to the Jewish people. The word ‘antisemitic’ came to be preferred over ‘Jew hatred’ because it seemed to provide a thin, pseudo-scientific veneer for the whole concept.”

Please read all, it is worthwhile and at this time in our history very important.


David Fischler

The other person is David Fischler who a Pastor of an Evangelical Presbyterian Church and blogs at The Reformed Pastor. He just this year visited Israel and posted some wonderful pictures. David doesn’t always write about Israel and Palestine but when he does his posts are extremely thoughtful, logical and full of a Pastor’s good sense and care.

Just this week David read what I had posted on San Francisco’s latest overture, 08-09 On Referring “Christians and Jews: People of God” and “Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations” in which their diatribe is extreme. And here I am talking about the information they have added to the rationale. It is a paper provided by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. David posted about the information here PCUSA Israel-Haters Rave Away. As a Reformed Pastor who is Jewish the IPMN must be extremely insulting to him, perhaps scary.

Here is a section from his post:

“I think at this point that it has become crystal clear what the IPMN stands for. Jews who are so foolish as to desire to live in the historic homeland of their people should be at the mercy of the Jew-haters who dominate most of the nations that surround them. The claims of the Jewish people on that homeland are to be rejected, Israel’s right to exist denied, and the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state advocated.”

Please use the material at both of these gentlemen’s blogs.

13 comments:

Neil D. Cowling said...

I have been at a loss to respond to the vitriolic "hatred" accusation thrown at some of my friends until this morning when I looked at the following in the New York Times. The story comes from a place just a few miles from where I live.

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. — Criticizing Israel has long been the equivalent of touching a third rail in many Jewish families and friendships, relegating disagreements to a conversational demilitarized zone where only the innocent and foolhardy go.

Bob Maggid listens to a discussion about Israel in Farmington Hills. Many Jews have differing views on Israeli policies.
“You cannot really engage in that conversation,” said Phillip Moore, a teacher in this Detroit suburb who has embraced strong opinions on many topics in his life — on politics, education, even religion — but avoids the subject of Israel at gatherings of his Jewish relatives.

“You raise a question about the security forces or the settlements and you are suddenly being compared to a Holocaust denier,” said Mr. Moore, 62. “It’s just not a rational discussion, so I keep quiet.”

With Mr. Moore, I think I will remain quiet.

Peace!
Neil D. Cowling, Pastor
Kirk of Our Savior
Westland, MI

Presbyman said...

Viola's posting is about far more than criticizing Israel. I wish Neil was as concerned about some of the very anti-Jewish language used by "some of his friends" as he is about Viola and some others criticizing said language.

It just doesn't wash for me anymore, to hear the self-pitying complaint that "wah wah, you can't criticize Israel." Criticizing Israel, and sometimes Jews, is a thriving cottage industry in academia, much of the media, and the mainline church.

Frankly, Neil's post strikes me as passive-aggressive.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Presbyman said...

Phillip Moore and Neil Cowling say they will "keep quiet" because they are oh so intimidated ... then Phillip Moore complains to the New York Times and Neil posts his thoughts on a widely-read blog.

Right!

John Erthein
Erie, PA

reformedpastor said...

Neil: Your NYT article notwithstanding, there is no hesitation on the part of lots of defenders of Israel to criticize that country when necessary. I've been very forthright about my opposition to many aspects of Israeli settlement policy, for instance.

Rather than whining about how your friends "can't criticize Israel," why not respond directly to the critiques of the documents that Viola, Will, and I have done and will continue doing? We don't just name-call, you know. We offer very specific criticism of very specific language, of facts that are misrepresented or omitted entirely by people such as the IPMN. If you've got a problem with something one of us says, spell it out. Saying you are going to "remain quiet," on the other hand, is the coward's way out.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

PS--Thanks for the kind words, Viola. Keep up the great work!

Viola Larson said...

Neil,
On my last posting I quoted somethings from the IPMN document attached to overture 08-09. For instance this:

“By neglecting the reality on the ground, this report would ‘make nice’ with certain American Jewish organizations to avoid unwarranted charges of anti-Semitism. These are the organizations that have provided financial and political support for the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands since 1948, and used threat and intimidation to censor debates about Israel within and without the Jewish Community. A report that confesses Christian guilt for the past and calls for changes in our theology and practice but neglects to mention contribution of American synagogues to the oppression of Palestinians over the past six decades appears to us as inauthentic interfaith dialogue.”

With this footnote:

“The package (a bomb?) sent to 100 Witherspoon St in 2004, the fire in a Rochester Church, the picketing of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship event at GA when Professor Norman Finkelstein was a featured speaker, and the many visits of teams of Jewish neighbors to local Presbyterian Churches are examples of these tactics.”

This is a direct attack not on the Israel goverment but on the Jews in America. What do you have to say about it? Do you care?

Neil D. Cowling said...

Interesting. Yes, Viola, I read your post and I read your quotes from the IPMN source. The problem is that they don't prove what you want them to prove, namely, that folks in the IPMN exhibit "hatred for Jews." It is one thing to say, they are wrong here and they are wrong there, but do such wrongheaded critiques prove "hatred for Jews." I think not. Saying that Mr. Moore or I are "whining" or crying "wah wah" is not only wrong, it is childish. It is not reasoned reflection.

Was I passive-aggressive? Perhaps so. But would you rather I was aggressively aggressive and assert that what has been said here exhibits hatred for some of my friends?

I disagree vehemently that folks on IPMN exhibit hatred for Jews whether Israeli or American. Viola just as vehemently asserts what I believe to be false. She does it on a "widely read blog." Where would you rather I express my disagreement?

Peace! Really!
Neil D. Cowling, Pastor
Kirk of Our Savior
Westland, MI

reformedpastor said...

Neil: So far, you have said nothing of substance. You dispute one conclusion that Viola reaches, and don't even bother to explain how that conclusion is wrong except through asserting the opposite. But here's the problem:

IPMN says nothing negative in their document about terrorism. To the extent that they refer to it at all, it is to say that Israel brought it on itself. They say nothing about the repeated invasions or planned invasion of Israel. They say nothing about the deliberate targeting of civilians in Israel. They say that Palestinian land has been "occupied" since 1948, which must refer to Israel itself rather than the West Bank and Gaza. They "accuse" American Jews of supporting their co-religionists in Israel as if it were some kind of gross immorality. They speak of Jewish organizations as if they have the power to shut down all criticism of Israel, which makes the very existence of the IPMN a bit of a puzzle, not to mention the numerous statements that have come out of other PCUSA leaders in recent years. The overall impression is inescapable: the IPMN wants to see Israel cease to exist, at least as a Jewish nation, and thereby deny Jews the one place that they can call their own.

So here's the challenge: defend any or all of this. Show us where we're wrong, using the IPMN's own words, rather than your interpretations of their motives. Show us that they dont' have any problem with there being one Jewish state amid a sea of Arab/Muslim ones, show us that they don't blame the victim when Jewish civilians are targeted for murder. Show us that they actually condemn terrorism (I can find only one reference to it on their site). Show us that they don't make the absurd correlation between Israel's self-defense and South African apartheid. Show us that they recognize that Israel has a right to defend itself against armed invaders and thugs. Show us that they don;t really think that Jewish organizations have some kind of conspiratorial control over the government, media, academia, and other institutions such that they can squelch criticism of Israel.

In their own words.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Neil D. Cowling said...

David,

The only thing I have argued with over time with Viola is precisely that I contend that her accusation of "hatred of Jews" is wrong. If that is to be without substance, so be it. If everything you say is true then one must still ask "Does that constitute 'hatred of Jews?'" Frankly, that is the only thing I am arguing about.

Peace!
Neil D. Cowling, Pastor
Kirk of Our Savior
Westland, MI

Neil D. Cowling said...

David,

The only thing I have argued with over time with Viola is precisely that I contend that her accusation of "hatred of Jews" is wrong. If that is to be without substance, so be it. If everything you say is true then one must still ask "Does that constitute 'hatred of Jews?'" Frankly, that is the only thing I am arguing about.

Peace!
Neil D. Cowling, Pastor
Kirk of Our Savior
Westland, MI

reformedpastor said...

Neil,

Sorry about that. From your initial post, I thought you were suggesting that criticizing the IPMN document constituted muzzling of all criticism of Israel. My bad.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Pastor Bob said...

This is not a comment on the report itself or those who wrote the report. It is rather a comment about reality on the ground. Some Palestinians (and I believe this is a part of Palestinian education in some locations) and also Egyptians and others in the area use the protocols of the elders of Zion as proof of the intent of Jews to take over the world. I thought we gave this up a long time ago, after Nazi persecution of the Jews.

Finally, I have had no problem discussing my views on settlements and attacks against Palestinian civilians by radical Israeli groups with my Jewish friends. I find they share at least some of my concerns.

Viola Larson said...

Bob,
As usual, I agree that there could and needs to be a discussion about Settlements, wall, etc. But how can one do that in the face of such diatribes as is in this paper. It is just so unacceptable. I wonder if there is any way we could get someone in the Office of the General Assembly to respond to it.

will spotts said...

Viola - thanks so much for your kind comments.

Pastor Bob - I agree with you rather strongly. I believe there is much that can be done to improve the situation. Unfortunately, Viola is right - the materials coming from many sectors in the PC(USA) and other mainlines are skewed in terms of their lack of fundamental fairness - that any discussion of practical helps and legitimate serious concerns, even real criticisms, ends up being missed.

It is as if we are being manipulated / forced into a choice of support Israelis and forget the Palestinians, or support the Palestinians and forget Israelis. Both people have legitimate, serious, genuine concerns. The lack of acknowledge of that fact has caused Viola, me, David, and many others to have to spend our time objecting to the manifest unfairness of the presentations - NOT looking for productive solutions.

I guarantee you, if looking for helpful solutions were the focus of these organizations - all of us would be fully on board, lined up to help.

God willing, maybe the GA can somehow correct this in the PC(USA). To do so, however, it would have to very firmly rein in a number of employees, officials, and networks of the PC(USA) - and it would have to speak frankly to its partner organizations about what is and isn't acceptable or moral advocacy.

Will Spotts
North East, MD