The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned the new statement issued by the Presbyterian Church USA which, while purporting to oppose anti-Semitism in coloring its views of the Middle East, takes a condemnatory line against Israel, holding it responsible for the existence of the conflict and for the suffering that issues from it. The statement was issued just days before the Presbyterian Church USA is due to consider a range of motions on the Middle East at its biennial convention.
The statement, entitled, ‘Vigilance Against anti-Jewish Bias In the Pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian Peace,’ says in its introductory section that “We Presbyterians are called, on the one hand, to work and speak out for justice and peace in relation to Israel and Palestine [sic]. On the other hand, we also embrace a second calling, which is to build positive and respectful relations with our neighbors of other faiths, including our Jewish neighbors, based on honest exploration of our faith traditions, and on our shared concerns for peace and justice. How can we best be true to both of these callings amid the political realities, contentious advocacy, and tensions of this time?” [ZOA: Why does the Presbyterian Church USA imply that working for “justice and peace” in the Middle East on one hand and building “positive and respectful relations with our neighbors of other faiths, including our Jewish neighbors” on the other are conflicting tasks? Is it because the Presbyterian Church USA regards Israel as the wrongful party standing in the way of justice?]
The statement also includes a section, called ‘Being true to our calling as Peacemakers,’ which reads as follows:
“Christian faithfulness, as well as the policies of our church, demands that we maintain our commitments:
· To call for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories;
· To condemn acts of terror and work for an end to the violence that tears apart the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike;
· To continue engagement with corporations as mandated by the General Assembly as a viable approach to achieve justice in this situation;
· To criticize forms of Christian Zionism that advocate beliefs and practices that negatively affect the lives of Israelis, Palestinians and others in the Middle East; 1
· To end the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza;
· To speak out against the placement of the separation barrier, and against the continued building of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories;
· To urge all parties to respect and uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to abide by the requirements of international law;
· To work in every way possible, with ecumenical partners, Muslims, Jews, and any others, for a viable, two-state, Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
[ZOA: The first bullet clearly places Israeli “occupation” of “Palestinian territories” as the cause all troubles; in contrast, there is no mention in any of these bullets of the Arab-initiated war against Israel’s existence as a Jewish state that has been the staple of the conflict from its beginning. This automatically makes Israel the aggressor that must make amends, not the victim whose minimal rights have yet to be recognized in word and deed by her neighbors. In fact, the territories in question are unallocated under international law, have not previously belonged to any state and were illegally occupied and annexed by Jordan and Egypt prior to coming into Israel control. Moreover, some 98% of Palestinians today live under Palestinian rule in Judea, Samaria and Gaza: Israeli writ does not run in these places and by no means can they be called occupied.
The second bullet, in its call for an end to terror and violence that harms both sides, evades identifying Palestinian terrorism by name and thus fails to indicate that this is the source of violence and bloodshed. No Israeli security measures, incursions, roadblocks, military strikes etc. would be occurring but for the incessant attempts to murder and maim Israeli civilians, of which the Israeli security services report more than 15 alerts each month from Judea and Samaria alone. This failure to identify aggressor and victim give aid and comfort to the Arab/Muslim cause to eliminate Israel and the terrorists who act in the name of that cause.
The fourth bullet presumes to condemn Christian Zionists for advocating “beliefs and practices that negatively affect the lives of Israelis, Palestinians and others” whereas in fact it is Christian Zionists who have had the moral backbone to call aggression against Israel by its name and to oppose a concessionary Israeli policy to unreconstructed terror regimes. The Presbyterian Church USA may believe that creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel will bring peace, but no-one else is duty-bound to share its flawed analysis which, if implemented under current circumstances, would only lead to the creation of a Palestinian terror state, not peace.
The fifth bullet speaks of working to “end the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza”, but there is not a word on ending the assault on Israel that has killed scores of Israelis, driven thousands into air raid shelters and made towns like Sderot virtually uninhabitable.
The sixth bullet condemns the so-called “separation barrier” in reality a security fence for the most part and Israeli settlements, thereby denying Israel legitimate security measures that save Israeli lives and denying the right of Jews to live in their ancestral, religious and legal homeland. We do not accept that Jews can be barred from living anywhere, least of all from living in the biblical land of Israel. The Presbyterian Church is duty bound to explain on what basis they make such a call and just how precisely such a call is consistent with justice, morality and the bible they would claim to uphold.]
The statement makes other disturbing claims:
· “Anti-Semitism is a racial bias, compounded of fear and deep-seated, sometimes unconscious, hatred, directed against Jews because they are Jews. Anti-Semitism is like the racial prejudice and discrimination directed against Arabs, African Americans and other ethnic groups, and also has close parallels to anti-Muslim bias”: [ZOA:This is untrue and betrays a lack of understanding regarding the nature and scope of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is not simply bigotry or prejudice against Jews as one might have against other peoples. It is a demonizing of Jewish people such as has never been done against other groups (for example, claiming Jews seek to control the world, destroy civilization, are pernicious parasites, and other dehumanizing concepts, which are quite different from having merely mean-spirited, ugly or uncharitable feelings towards other groups.]
· “Denunciations of Judaism or the Jewish people, rather than the state of Israel and its policies, as the oppressive force in the Israeli-Palestinian situation, repeat the classic theme of collective Jewish guilt for Christian suffering“: [ZOA: We do not regard the “denunciation” of Israel as “the oppressive force in the Israeli-Palestinian situation” as amounting to any improvement over past Christian hostility and lack of love for Jews. This is but a revised formula which still holds Jews responsible for the ills of the Middle East which actually issue from the Arab/Muslim rejection of Jewish independence within any borders.
· “The problems and suffering of the Palestinians should not be attributed solely to Zionism”: [ZOA: The suffering of Palestinians is a direct consequence of a Palestinian and Arab policy to eliminate Israel‘s rightful emergence. By saying that it is due in part to Israel and Zionism, the Presbyterian Church USA endorses the Palestinian propaganda line that Palestinians were uprooted to make way for Israel, whereas in fact Arab opposition to Israel created the war that in turn created refugees. Without that Arab-initiated war, there would have been no Palestinian suffering. Between 1948 and 1967, Arabs made no effort to create a separate Palestinian state in these territories that were then Arab-controlled and no Arab state permitted the Palestinian refugees to be resettled and rehabilitated. Yet the statement makes no reference to this history and instead places primary responsibility for Palestinian suffering on Israel.]
· “On the one hand, we are called to support the efforts of Palestinian Christians to speak theologically about what is happening to them at the hands of Israel and as a result of its policies. At the same time, we are also called to discern echoes of, and to confess our own complicity in, the historic condemnation of Jews as “Christ-killers,” and to eschew any such anti-Jewish teaching“: [ZOA: This statement is dishonest and hypocritical: the only place in the Middle East in which Christians flourish and can worship freely without threat or intimidation is within the state of Israel. At a time when Christians in Gaza, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world are endangered, persecuted and dwindling in numbers, the Presbyterian Church USA should be commending Israel, not condemning it. Any suffering experienced by Palestinian Christians is a direct result of the hostilities being conducted against Israel by Arab groups and the responsibility for their suffering should be placed where it belongs. It is also puzzling that the Presbyterian Church USA has so much to say advocating on behalf of Palestinians, most of whom have been shown by polls to reject Israel‘s existence and to approve of terrorism against Jews, but seems to have little to say about the sufferings of Christians elsewhere in the Middle East.]
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are not expecting that other organizations like the Presbyterian Church USA will necessarily agree in whole or in part with our view as to what policy Israel or America ought to pursue. But we do believe that elementary honesty as to the nature of the conflict is required before anyone can state what their policy is. Nowhere in this document does the Presbyterian Church USA even mention that the Palestinians have not fulfilled their commitments under the signed Oslo agreements and the 2003 Roadmap peace plan — to arrest terrorists and confiscate their weaponry, and end the incitement to hatred and murder in the Palestinian Authority-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feeds terror. Nowhere does it denounce the glorification of ‘martyrdom,’ the valorization of suicide murder, the naming of schools, streets and sports teams after suicide bombers, or the promotion of Holocaust denial.
“If the Presbyterian Church evades the truth regarding the nature of the Arab offensive against Israel, it will be unable to formulate policies that are fair, just, truthful, realistic and likely to help bring an end to it. The sooner the Arab and wider Muslim world understands that its war on Israel‘s existence as a Jewish state is unacceptable and will not obtain the support of the West, the sooner will be the prospect of the Arab/Muslim world abandoning that evil design. By issuing a statement that misconceives and misrepresents the causes and nature of the conflict, the Presbyterian Church is giving aid and comfort to extreme forces in the Arab and Muslim world who believe that, with more violence and pressure, the West might abandon Israel, leading to an eventual victory over Israel.
“The Presbyterian Church has a long history of enmity towards Israel and the Jewish people and, despite the commendable efforts of several Presbyterian leaders to eliminate this hostility within the Church, it is tragically all too apparent that this enmity still exists in at least some quarters of the Church. We hope the Church will take a different approach at its forthcoming biennial convention and reject this statement.”