Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I have no words: Carol Hylkema's answer to my e-mail

I simply have no words-this is how someone keeps from apologizing for slander and attempts to shift the blame on to someone else about something else. This is the letter sent to me by Carol Hylkema of the Presbyterian (U.S.A.) Israel/Palestine Mission Network as answer to my letter found here, An exchange of e-mails about item 08-09.
June 9, 2010

"Dear Ms. Larson,

Thank you for your email our calling attention to the error that we made in the footnote on page 2 of our memo to the GAMC of February 18, 2010. As with all IPMN documents, we have an extensive vetting process in which a number of people help edit several drafts of what we send out. During this process the footnote about the letter to Louisville and the fire in a Rochester church was added. We regret that in the final editing, we did not catch this factual error.

Accusing an organization of lying and slander is a serious charge and a substantive jump from asking if we simply got something wrong and requesting that we review it. Promoting respectful dialogue in the search for truth and justice has always been our goal and we trust you share the same goal.

If you are coming to GA, we invite you to stop by the IPMN booth in the Exhibit Hall for further dialogue on Israel-Palestine.

Yours sincerely,
Carol Hylkema, Moderator, on behalf of the
Steering Committee of the Israel Palestine Mission Network
cc: Victor Makari

Hunter Farrell"

To remind readers of what the original letter said go here 111 Refer Papers Attachment.pdf.
This is attached to 08-09 for GA commissioners to read when voting on that item. They undoubtedly will see it and not see this posting. This is what they will read:

“By neglecting the reality on the ground, this report [the Jewish paper they are attempting to redo] 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 debate about Israel within and without the Jewish community.1 A report that confesses Christian guilt for the past and calls for changes in our theology and practice but neglects to mention the contribution of American synagogues to the oppression of Palestinians over the past six decades appears to us as inauthentic interfaith dialogue.”

With this note attached to it:

"1 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 type of censorship and intimidation is so frequent that Jewish Voice for Peace has created a special website to document it.

It is probably better for me to not write anymore because as a Christian and a Presbyterian I am, at the moment, outraged.

One more thought. I hope that someone will read Ms Hylkema's letter aloud to the commissioners in committee 8, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.


will spotts said...

This is hilarious.

Very sad. Outrageous. But also ridiculous.

Viola Larson said...

And it raises more questions and accusations then it answers.

Anonymous said...

Carol Hylkema ought to retract the outrageous statements, trying her best to get the truth before the same audience to which her organization passed off such base rumor and untruth.

Her "Oh, so we accidentally made a little bitty mistake. What of it?" kind of response does not an apology make, and is really quite pathetic.

Jim Berkley
Seattle, WA

Anonymous said...

So they have an "extensive vetting process" in which several people eyeball documents, but a lengthy footnote containing demonstrably false and malicious assertions just mysteriously got attached by some unknown person at some unknown stage of the production process (isn't the passive voice wonderful for evading responsibility?). What a load of cr*p, pardon my French.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Jeff Winter said...

There are too many Carol Hylkemas in the PCUSA. Sometimes I can't sleep at night because I am thinking about the damage these people do to the Gospel.

Alan Trafford said...

Viola, I have never taken the trouble to thank you for your faithful, thoughtful work, as expressed in your blog, but I do so now. I'm grateful that you are willing to do the hard work in order to hold accountable those who wish to impose their theology upon the church. That you continue to do so with grace and intelligence is a credit to you. May the Lord continue to bless you richly.

Neil D. Cowling said...

I am glad to see y'all having fun mocking my good friend and loyal servant of the church, Carol Hylkema. Frankly, I thought she struck quite the right tone in her response. She admitted and regretted the mistake, which I felt all along the problem was from the start. If that is not sufficient from your perspective then perhaps you should request that she grovel in the dirt.

Further, she was surely right in suggesting that a request for a correction at the outset would have been productive in furthering an honest exchange of views than was the charge of anti-Semitism against the IPMN.

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

Viola Larson said...

When I notified Carol that the video, “I Am Israel” they had placed on their site was made by a radical Muslim and that even he had protested that what they wrote about it was a lie this is what she wrote back to me, “Thanks for your input.” That is absolutely all.
They finally did remove the video after even some of their own people protested. I didn’t feel it would do much good to write her on this. You can read about that here:

And I must say that the note is still on the letter attached to the item 08-09 and its font is as large as the letter’s font. The Commissioners who read that will not know that it is a lie. That is unless IPMN admits it to that committee.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Viola - or any of the commentors have a problem with people making mistakes. Good faith mistakes are understandable and can often be corrected. No one expects people not to make mistakes.

That does not seem to be the case here.

Noting the rhetorical function of the footnote - to highlight the "threat and intimidation" used by "American Jewish organizations" "to censor debate about Israel within and WITHOUT the Jewish community" - I find the assertion that it was a mistake dubious.

I have no doubt that whoever inserted the footnote probably did not intend to make a factual error. And I imagine the IPMN does regret the fact that the assertion was falsifiable.

What does not seem to have been a mistake was the original assertion that the footnote was used to support AND the inclusion of the footnote - assuming it had not been demonstrated false. Additionally the list in the footnote that seems to place bombs and arson on the same level as legal protest and Jewish visitors to Presbyterian churches is also troubling.

Which mistake is regretted? The whole footnote? The false arson claim? The false bomb suggestion? Or the accusation lobbed at American Jewish organizations that is not solely contained in the footnote?

Will Spotts
North East, MD

John McNeese said...

Here is an interesting except from “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” by Peter Beinart, a long and detailed article in the New York Review of Books.

“Not only does the organized American Jewish community mostly avoid public criticism of the Israeli government, it tries to prevent others from leveling such criticism as well. In recent years, American Jewish organizations have waged a campaign to discredit the world’s most respected international human rights groups....”

The full article can be accessed from Presbyweb of June 10.

Viola Larson said...

What does that have to do with this posting?

Pastor Bob said...

It looks like Israel/Palestine has to be added to the long list of things Presbyterians shouldn't discuss in polite conversation. Soon the list we be so long we won't talk at all. Which might be a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting read, John. Thanks for pointing it out.

It doesn't really help the IPMN's charge, however. You can very easily find a fair number of Jewish writers to agree with the IPMN's allegation. The Middle East Study Committee, for example, quotes, seemingly favorably, an Israeli activist calling Israel a Nazi state.

That different Jewish speakers have different opinions on the topic depending on their politics is not surprising.

The criticism itself is, however, faulty. First, for appealing to false allegations / mis-statements of fact. But also for one simple reason - these unnamed American Jewish organizations must be horribly ineffective given the steady stream of statements critical of Israel we are seeing.

On the other hand, the US is unique among the nations of the world in the sense that the anti-Israel (and undeniably accompanying anti-Jewish) memes have not penetrated to the degree that they have in most other parts of the world. Maybe this represents the colossal success of the American Jewish establishment at stifling the flow of honest information. I personally reject that thesis, but it does seem to be widely held.

Will Spotts

John McNeese said...

What does that have to do with this posting?

Because the article gives us insight into the opinions, within the Jewish community, of those who have negative views about the conduct of American Jewish organizations, as does the IPMN. The hissy fit and slander brouhaha you have manufactured over a “footnote,” within this denomination, is a tempest in a teapot.

I read you have joined the Rev. Dr. John Wimberly on the steering committee of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. Wonders never cease. Maybe you can join him in overturning G-6.0106b.

Will thanks for reading the article. That fair number of Jewish writers is growing.

Viola Larson said...

Do you think that most Jewish citizens in the United States think that that footnote, which is not true, is okay?

So you are not pleased that the Rev. Dr. John Wimberly and I agree on something. I think it is great.

So, a hissy fit- huh, isn't that where people get really mad and even say things about other people that are not true?.

Viola Larson said...

Okay John, I have read the article. The house is quiet and it’s late, but I want to say one important thing. The author of the article in describing an older liberal American Zionism writes this:
“These American Zionists are largely the product of a particular era. Many were shaped by the terrifying days leading up to the Six-Day War, when it appeared that Israel might be overrun, and by the bitter aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, when much of the world seemed to turn against the Jewish state. In that crucible, Israel became their Jewish identity, often in conjunction with the Holocaust, which the 1967 and 1973 wars helped make central to American Jewish life.”

This is good. It is a true understanding of the past history of Israel. Everything that IPMN and the Middle East Study Committee have written about Israel’s history ignores this part of their history. They would never write about the terrifying days leading up to the six day war. In stead they have accused Israel for starting it to gain land. They know nothing of a complete history. They are not helping anyone. Not the Israelis or the Palestinians because they can’t let go of their one sided views.

I can read this article, and although not agreeing with all of it at least listen. I cannot listen to someone whose material is morally bankrupt and historically ignorant.

Pastor Bob said...


I read the article too. The specific message of the article is that younger Jews do not see Israel in the same way or light their parent's generation does, or at least not secular Jews. The article says that Orthodox Jews (and I would add Ultra Orthodox Jews) do not see Israel in the same way their parents do. But there is a radical difference between the views of younger secular Jews and those such as the IPMN. Secular Jews are more willing to criticize Israel than their parent's generation. I suspect that this in part has to do with the fact that they did not experience the fears of the 1967 or 1973 wars.

But there is another feature of the article that stands out. Young secular Jews want Israel to exist. They are more willing to criticize the actions of the past and current governments Israel. publicly. But the article also makes it clear that these young secular Jews want a just two state solution. So do their parents.

There seems to be a false impression among those who want one secular state in Israel/Palestine that my generation (those who came of age during the time of the 1967 and 1973 wars) will not criticize Israel publicly. That has not been my experience. Many American Jews are frustrated with policies of the current actions of the government of Israel. They want to see partners on the Palestinian side that seek a just solution that will allow a Jewish state to exist. So does the younger generation. The biggest difference is the fervency with which that opinion is held and supported.

I suspect that if the threats to kill all the Jews in Israel/Palestine had any chance of happening younger secular Jews would stand for Israel is an all out war situation.

No where does the article say that younger secular Jews wouldn't mind if Israel was destroyed.

Viola Larson said...

Yes, Bob, I see that in the article too. And one of the books I have used when writing here points that out also. A History of Zionism: From the French Revolution to the Establishment of the State of Israel by Walter Laqueur.

Certainly the young secular Jews do not believe there was a Moses or even a King David nor do they have memories of the holocaust. It does make a difference.

But like you say many still want Israel to exist.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Very cute Viola!

Just wipe out the comment, so we don't know what a liar you really are. You accused me of deception, and you won't even allow me to defend myself. How well do you sleep at night?

Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Kattie since a lot of other people are reading my blog, I will explain to them what is going on. You can listen in if you want to, but don't comment again.

I have told Kattie in the past to stay off my blog because of insults such as the ones she just posted.
She came back under a different name I think it was last week. She did it in such a way that her origin could not be seen on the feed at the front of my blog.

But I could see her on my personal feed.

And now you know the rest of the story.

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Anonymous said...

Often, I (and others, too, I’m sure) can be overwhelmed by the complexity of events that occur on the world stage. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a case in point. Both sides of the debate have more-than-capable advocates. Is everything they tell us true? What should we believe? I don’t know for sure. I tend to be influenced by two factors, though: (1) that I can hardly imagine what it must be like for Israel, surrounded and targeted by others who wish to see it annihilated; and (2) that I’m not inclined to take the side that includes hateful scourges such as Chavez, Ahmadinejad, bin Laden, etc. I commend you, Ms. Larson, for seeking the truth in this debate. You deserve better than the harsh criticism you’ve received.

Paul Strickert

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Viola Larson said...

Paul I think your two factors are right. As for the last one those who are, and here I want to say, using the Palestinians, such as Chavez and Ahmadinejad, are part of a strange socialist movement who are intent on using them as a rallying point for their own agenda. Sometimes I wander over to Zombietime a photo journalist in San Francisco who is always taking pictures of protests and adding captions to them. Here is one on the 20th of March he calls San Francisco "Anti-War" Rally: The New Communist/Truth/Jihad Alliance. You can find it here, warning there are a few pictures that might offend you.
That isn’t to say that all of those standing on the side of the Palestinians are a part of this. Not at all, but there is a strange alliance going on, probably more in South America and the United States then anywhere else.

Viola Larson said...

Thank you for your comment. It is very encouraging.

will spotts said...

Viola -

I don't think that's a new development in Central and South American communism / socialism.

It seems to spring from when the Soviets changed sides in the 60s. At that point, the USSR began to really back and anti-Zionist movement. Some of the Soviet era propaganda seems eerily familiar to anyone aware of current "anti-Zionism".

(Recalling Dr. King's rejection of anti-Zionism, I'm inclined to believe that this must have been a significant issue even then.)

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