Monday, June 9, 2014

Rising among us: anti-Semitism

This week my husband and I watched a very poignant movie, "The Book Thief." The story is set in a small town in Germany during the rise of Hitler and World War II. The story gives insights into the lives of normal, common people as they became engulfed in the rising evil of the Nazis. Some held on to their humanity, even growing in goodness. Others succumbed to the evil surrounding them.  I did not tell my husband and he did not see that I started crying during a scene of the event called the kristallnacht: the night of broken glass. The night when over two-hundred synagogues in Germany were destroyed, shops and homes were also destroyed and over one-hundred Jews were killed. That was the beginning of the Holocaust.

My emotions were drawn rather tight, particularly  with an e-mail from one of the Rabbis from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He was expressing his regrets that he would not be at the coming General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He was sorry that he would not see friends that he usually only sees at the GA. But because of the horrendous book Zionism Unsettled compiled and published by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and sold by the PC (U.S.A.), members of SWC will not attend the GA. I agree with them, sitting this out is an important action, but I feel tremendous sorrow that  my denomination has arrived at such a time that some Jewish people, important people, feel they must absent themselves from being in the presence of our policy making.

Over the several years that I have been writing about Presbyterian issues, I have shuddered at the total lack of grace toward others shown by the IPMN. And this applies to those who surround and help them. The list of their ethnic slander is endless. My first real notice of them was when reading their publication Steadfast Hope, I discovered they were dismissing the genetic link between modern European Jews and ancient Israelites. They were pushing the idea that the European Jewish immigrants to Israel were merely converts and not real Jews. And they were insisting that the United States Media was controlled by Jewish and Israeli organizations.

The next problem that the IPMN presented had to do with the videos they at that time placed on their web site. They managed to post a video made by a radical Muslim. The video called "I am Israel" dripped with vileness. It too insisted that the media in the United States was owned by Jewish and Israeli organizations but the maker went further.  The words at the end are:

 "I am Israel ... I have the power to control American policy  All the forces of the world are powerless against me including the UN as I have the American Veto to block any condemnation of my war crimes ...  I am Israel I influence America mainstream media too."

And then there was the Facebook page with constant linkings to vile anti-Semitic web sites. The page was closed when several of us started commenting there letting the people reading know what kinds of sites were being linked to by IPMN. There are places on the web where some of the worst of the material was archived after the IPMN closed their account. Camera Snapshots has a helpful article with several pictures.

Probably the vilest action by the IPNM outside of writing "Zionism Unsettled" was writing lies about Jewish Americans into a recommendation on an item for business at the 2010 GA. The lie is still there. The item was "On referring Christians and Jews: People of God" and "Understanding Christian Muslim Relationships." IPMN was attempting to have the Jewish part disapproved; in their recommendation they wrote in a note:
"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." (111 Refer Papers Attachment.pdf)
The fire in a Church and a bomb sent to Louiville was pure fabrication.  They lied about the Jewish people in the United States.
The final stab at all Jews was IPMN's  publication Zionism Unsettled which is filled with half truths and lies about Zionism. This was the straw that broke the camel's back for many Jews. The booklet states such things as "Zionism is by nature a system of discrimination and exclusion” (50) and:

"What is quite clear from a Palestinian Christian point of view … is that the emergence of the Zionist movement in the twentieth century is a retrogression of the Jewish community into the history of its very distant past, with its most elementary and primitive forms of the concept of God. Zionism has succeeded in reanimating the nationalist tradition within Judaism. Its inspiration has been drawn not from the profound thoughts of the Hebrew Scriptures, but from those portions that betray a narrow and exclusive concept of a tribal god."

All of this and other hateful actions by the PC (U.S.A.) broke over my pleasure in watching the movie "The Book Thief." This is the reality of what is happening in the PC (U.S.A.). The plot is just too real. It began very slowly, the movement to destroy the Jews of Europe. The actions  of a few hate filled individuals ballooned into  a movement that would destroy 6 million Jews and many other people groups, including gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses, homosexuals and Christians who were members of the confessing churches.

It started with the idea that Jews controlled everything including governments and media. It blended with the fascist groups of Eastern Europe which still exist today. It bled into some of the governing bodies and individuals of the Middle East and, seemingly, forever planted myths and horror stories about the Jews in the minds of Middle Eastern people. Individuals paid no attention to those who were lying about the Jews. They shrugged and failed to stop the monster that was coming. 

 It is surely time to grow in goodness rather than pulling a coat of indifference about ourselves. Hopefully my friend will be able to return to a later GA within an atmosphere of fairness and kindness. Hopefully the Jewish people will find sincere reconciliation within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Hopefully we will remove from our midst all anti-Semitism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


It is ineffective, and repulsive to anybody who sees it, to superimpose images of Nazi persecution of the Jews upon the work of the Church.

The PC(USA) has many voices. Quite a few of them are just making noise. It doesn't make the PC(USA) Anti-Semitic. You and I are elders in the PCUSA and we are not Anti-Semitic. Our congregations are not Anti-Semitic. And we have adequate means of shutting up any committees that we feel are mis-representing us and the Church.

So why not go down the path of doing that, instead of trying to cast aspersions on all of us with images of Nazis. What is going on in Israel, and what is going on in the US, and what is going on in the PCUSA, and the GA, and its advisory committees has nothing to do with Germany in the 30s and 40s. To try to make it look like it is comes across as eloquently as cussing. It makes you look bad, not them.

There are things for which Nazi Germany should stand as a reminder. A powerful reminder. Of what Nationalism gone a muck can be. Of where hatred and bigotry and scapegoating can go. Of the power that propaganda can have over the hearts and minds of whole nations and the need to stand by the principles Jesus taught us, regardless of where the majority lies. As a reminder that extreme Right wing politics can birth as much evil as extreme left wing politics, and that nations that place their trust in the hands of one figure head usually pay a heavy price in blood for such folly.

But to overlay all of that on our poor little church just elevates a silly little committee to a level of importance they don't deserve. If anything it gives them strength and a platform.

The best way to end this is to bring to the GA a motion to thank the committee for their work, and disband them. Their services are no longer needed. The end.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles CA