Monday, January 6, 2014

OVT-017-an overture about Israel that uses Angela Davis as a proof text. Update

See Update below

OVT-017- On Engaging Presbyterians to Witness for Palestinian Human Rights and for Ending the Occupation of Palestine—From the Presbytery of Grace. This is an overture with a concurrence from the Synod of the Covenant. It is an extremely troubling overture with clear goals hidden in very vague wording. It is also potentially dangerous because some of its rationale could involve the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the use of both anti-Semitism and Marxist ideology. And once again it is full of very one-sided history and in some areas contradictory.

First one should point out, as always, Israel does have problems with such items as the settler movement, water rights and the placement of the security wall. However, to speak of these problems without addressing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State without threats of annihilation is wrong. To not address suicide bombers or rockets entering Israel from radical Islamist in both the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon shapes the overture and rationale into nothing but propaganda.

What is clear in the document is a call for the PC (U.S.A.) to define Israel as an apartheid state, to call for the United States to end military aid in the amounts they now give to Israel and insist that all other organizations of the PC (U.S.A.) use the document to shape their own policies toward Israel. Part of the statement rather then referring to Israel and the Palestinian Territories refers to those living within the former Mandate Palestine.

It should be noted that an attempt to bring reconciliation among all of these religious and ethnic groups in this area is a worthy cause but to define them as those living within former Mandate Palestine has too great an implication since this overture is bolstered by many seeking the end of the Jewish State. And this is where this overture turns particularly ugly.

One of the entities named in the rationale, as experts, is the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine,” which is an off-shoot of what was the Russell Tribunal on Vietnam. The description of the tribunal on their web site is, “The Russell Tribunal on Palestine is an International People’s Tribunal created by a large group of citizens involved in the promotion of peace and justice in the Middle East.” In other words this is an unauthorized tribunal heavily laden with socialist and even Marxist members. As the tribunal themselves explain:

"The legitimacy of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine does not come from a government or any political party but from the prestige, professional interests and commitment to fundamental rights of the Members that constitute this Tribunal".

Some of the more notorious members of this tribunal are: Angela Davis a member of the communist party, Cynthia McKinney, who claimed that President Bush was involved in 9-11, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, John Dugard , Michael Manfield, and Aminata Traoré.

In the rationale there are quotes by other persons not connected to the Russell Tribunal. One person that is quoted is Ramzy Baroud, editor of the Palestine Chronicle. Baroud, a Palestinian American, has had several of his articles published on Veterans Today, the web site that the Southern Poverty Law Center, on their Hate Watch blog, describes as having entered the neo-Nazi realm. Likewise Baroud's Palestine Chronicle uses many of Veterans Today's writers. Also Baroud writes for Press TV, Iran's state funded media. They use Veterans Today as their United States outlet.

The latter part of the rationale is devoted to information about the Israel and Palestine problems as seen by the United Nations and the policies of the PC (U.S.A.). There is also history which is not accurate such as:
“On November 29, 1947, the United Nations adopted a Partition Plan for Palestine that divided the League of Nations’ British Mandate of Palestine. In this partition plan, 44 percent of the land was allocated for an Arab state and 56 percent was allocated for the Jewish state. While Israel did become an independent state in 1948, the independent Palestinian state did not come into existence because the land designated as an independent Palestinian state was militarily occupied by Israel.

 Between 1948 and 2009, the state of Israel has systematically occupied and/or annexed most of the land that had been designated by the United Nations for an independent Palestinian state. In doing so, Israel has denied the Palestinians a right to a nationality.”

The first statement that Palestine did not become a state after 1948 because the land designated as an independent Palestinian state was “militarily occupied by Israel” isn't true. And the events that followed are so complex that it would take a very long paper to sort out the matter. The issues cannot be brought down to such simplicities.

Overture 017 is faulty at its core as it leaves out important information on Hamas and other radical Islamic groups within Gaza. It fails to tell the whole history of both sides of the Israel and Palestine conflict. It uses spurious groups and information to under gird its recommendations To pass this overture would bring shame to the PC (U.S.A.).

Update: This overture-017 states that it has a concurrence with the Synod of the Covenant. Under Presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Order there is this:

" [G-3.0302d] under (The presbytery has a responsibility to maintain regular and continuing relationship to synod and General Assembly by:

d. proposing to synod such measures as may be of common concern to the mission of the church, and/or proposing to General Assembly overtures that have received a concurrence from at least one other presbytery, ... "

It seems that without another concurrence from another presbytery, this overture is not yet valid or at least should be challenged.  


Anonymous said...

In the late 1970's I worked at the PCUS headquarters in Atlanta as I went to seminary. My "enlightenment" came one day as I was in a meeting with the Director and Associate Director of a particular division. We were preparing a resolution to be voted on by the Board when they met the approaching week. The resolution was worded rather vaguely and I asked if we should not be more specific in what we were proposing. The Associate Director looked at me and said, "Xx, you need to learn how to prepare a resolution. Always be ambiguous so that everyone thinks they know what it means. Then after it passes and all go home we interpret it as we want to do what we want." That day I came to understand how business was conducted among some in the leadership of the church. Needless to say I am highly suspicious of vaguely or ambiguously worded resolutions and overtures. You should be also!

Viola Larson said...

Yes, anonymous I am-this overture is vague enough to do all kinds of damage.

will spotts said...

As appalling as this is, and as truly odd as the 'former Mandate Palestine' language is for its fundamental dishonesty, I have to say this is unsurprising in light of the PC(USA)'s record on the issue.

The PC(USA)'s resolutions and activism of PC(USA) insiders are all cut from the same cloth.

Viola Larson said...

Yes Will, but the problem, as I see it, is that the cloth keeps getting darker. Every GA we let just a little more anti-Semitism seep into the overtures. A few years back anti-Israel organizations and presbyteries would have been wary of such groups as the Russell Tribunal. But thankfully the GA hasn't passed most of the awfulness just some of it.