Presbyterians insist on ‘breaking down the walls’ in Israel/Palestine despite pressure from the Jewish community

Israel/Palestine
on 65 Comments

I’ve just returned from Minneapolis, having attended the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA at the invitation of the denomination’s Israel Palestine Mission Network. The PC(USA) is at the epicenter of the struggle of the Christian community in the U.S. to come to terms with the challenge of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

A victory had already been achieved before the start of the Assembly.  Overtures from presbyteries from around the country urging action on justice for Palestinians would amount to over 40% of the actions considered by the Assembly. These included revisiting the 2004 decision to undertake phased divestment from companies implicated in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and an overture affirming that Israel’s actions meet the United Nations definition for the crime of Apartheid. A centerpiece of Presbyterian actions was the call to approve the report of the Middle East Study Committee. The MESC, commissioned by the 2008 General Assembly, had produced a 170 page report entitled “Breaking Down the Walls.”  The report documents the committee’s first-hand observation of the Israeli occupation’s impact on Palestinian society and includes specific recommendations, including urging the U.S. government to make military aid to Israel contingent on ending the occupation.

Predictably, the forces of opposition had gathered. As early as February of this year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center attacked the report, calling it a “poisonous document by the Presbyterian Church [that] will be nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel.” This broadside by the Los Angeles-based Jewish advocacy group went on to declare that the report “shakes the foundations of interfaith relations.” This is the tack that has been taken for years by the mainstream Jewish community – both secular organizations like Wiesenthal as well as the religious denominations — claiming that any questions about Israel’s policies or the Zionist project itself partakes of anti-Semitism. The charge of anti-Semitism and the prospect of a disruption in the “interfaith partnership” has been effective in stifling the discourse and in thwarting actions directed at Israel’s policies. Implicit and sometime explicit in these statements is the threat that such “unfriendly” behavior by Christians will result in the removal of Jewish friendship. This strategy has intensified in recent years in response to efforts by church denominations to take a principled stand on the Israel-Palestine issue. Most recently, the biweekly Christian Century published an article by Ted Smith and Amy-Jill Levine, professors at Vanderbilt Seminary. Appearing the week preceding the PC(USA) General Assembly, the article, entitled “Habits of Anti-Judaism,” strongly critiqued the MESC report. In the opening to a letter to the Christian Century I wrote the following:

“The intent of the Presbyterian Middle East Study Committee Report “Breaking Down the Walls” is clear: “to break down these walls that stand in the way of the realization of God’s peaceful and just kingdom.” But in their critique of the report published in your June 29 issue, Ted Smith and Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt Seminary strike at the heart of this message. They ask us to believe that the report advocates “a historical narrative that points indirectly to a single state—a new social body—in which a Palestinian majority displaces Jews.”  In a shocking distortion of the Study Group’s evocation of Ephesians 2:14, they claim that “’Breaking down the walls’ in order to form ‘one new humanity in the place of two’ evokes old echoes of theological supersessionism and transposes them into a political key.” “Old habits die hard,” lament Smith and Levine. But it is the habit of crying anti-Semitism whenever Jewish sensibilities are disturbed or the actions of the State of Israel are questioned that we must urgently confront.”  (Full text of the letter.)

The aim of the article was clear – to strengthen the hand of those who wanted to prevent passage of the report. And why not? This is a time-honored approach — it has always worked. I feared that it would prove just as effective in this case. I arrived in Minneapolis convinced that, except for the efforts of a courageous but small and embattled minority within the denomination, the natural commitment to social justice and support for the oppressed on the part of most Presbyterians would again be trumped by concern for preserving the relationship with the Jewish community. I was betting that the tactics of the Wiesenthal Center and the arguments of Smith and Levine would serve, as they always have, to muzzle the conversation and block actions that might offend Jewish sensibilities or be perceived as hostile to the Jewish state.

I was wrong.

Yes, the concerns about the feelings of Jews when Israel is “attacked” are still there, and they exert a powerful pull on Presbyterians’ decisions. But something wonderful happened last week in Minneapolis.

I watched as the committee charged with studying “Breaking Down the Walls,” and recommending action to the GA debated the matter. I listened to the arguments for and against approval of the report. Those in favor passionately talked about the suffering of the Palestinians under occupation. Those against spoke just as passionately about the report’s seeming “anti-Israel” bias, claiming that to approve the report would be to cut off dialogue with the Jewish community. I noted what seemed like a universe of disagreement between the two positions. I despaired that anyone who, unlike the study group itself, had not seen the occupation with his or her own eyes would understand that the report was not biased – that it was simply telling the truth and recommending that the church respond accordingly.

But something happened. The committee clearly wanted to find a way to have the report adopted. A group from the committee stayed up all night to craft a number of changes. Problems with perceived bias against Israel were fixed. The obligatory language about Israel’s right to exist was inserted.  None of these changes touched the faithful witness and prophetic heart of the report. While strongly asserting the church’s commitment to Israel’s security and wellbeing, the Study Committee’s report as presented to the General Assembly clearly presents the narrative of Palestinian dispossession and suffering.  It asserts that Israel’s actions, illegal and in violation of international law, are an “enduring threat to peace in the region.” It receives the Palestinian Kairos document, a courageous and heartfelt call of Palestinian Christians “from the heart of Palestinian suffering” to the churches of the world, and recommends it for study by Presbyterians. It calls on the U.S. government to end aid to Israel unless the country stops settlement expansion in Palestinian territories.

The report came before the 730+ commissioners on Friday July 9 and was approved by a vote of 82%. When the results were displayed on the screen, the assembled broke into applause – which is against the rules but in this case the moderator, smiling, allowed the spontaneous outburst to go on! The applause, breaking through these restraints, meant one thing:  this is where the denomination wants to go. Then something else unusual happened – the Moderator, Cindy Bolbach, offered a prayer, thanking God for guiding the assembled to this act, for breaking down the walls dividing people and standing in the way of peace.  The thousands of people in the hall bowed their heads in reverence.  They knew that something important had happened.

It is not always clear from down on the floor, in the thick of things. But looking back, I see that the PC(USA) General Assembly is a thing of beauty. This church is committed to tearing down walls. Watching the plenary, one witnessed a courageous and heartfelt struggle with things that matter:  gay and lesbian ordination and honoring of marriages;  benefits for civil union partners;  how to respond to state laws that violate the rights of immigrants. With respect to the Israel-Palestine question, the struggle will continue. Other overtures did not fare as well as the MESC report. Even though overtures to divest denomination pension funds — close to 10 million dollars — from Caterpillar (the company manufactures the bulldozers that destroy Palestinian homes and build the separation wall) have been proposed at every General Assembly since 2004 (actually it passed in 2004 and then withdrawn in the face of a juggernaut of institutional Jewish pressure, but that’s another story), the overture failed. In addition, Presbyterians could  not bring themselves to approve the overture naming Israel’s policies as Apartheid.

But here is the thing: it is clear to me that all but a small minority of the 36 who voted against that overture in committee (the vote was 16-36) agree that Israel’s actions meet the UN definition of the crime of Apartheid. What drove the vote was not the substance of the overture but rather the belief, as stated in a comment on the vote inserted by the committee, “that dialogue is hampered by words like ‘apartheid.’” It was also clear to me in listening to the debate that, despite the stubborn unwillingness to move to divestment, all but a fringe within the denomination agree that Caterpillar is building machines that illegally and criminally destroy Palestinian life and that the denomination must pressure the company to stop (the Assembly did pass an overture that “denounces” the corporation). The issues are not in question. What is in question for a steadily decreasing percentage — again, this is clear if you are paying attention — is the proper method for action.

To the Presbyterians: learning to love us

Sixty five years ago, Christians, confronted with the horror of the Nazi genocide, began a painful, faithful process of reconciling with the Jewish people. Presbyterians today didn’t choose to be in the difficult position of having to choose between their commitment to justice and preserving their hard-won friendship with the Jews. But the hard fact is that there has been no getting around this conflict. It has come about because of the policies of the State of Israel and the choice, so far, of the American Jewish establishment to adopt a bullying, defensive stance in response to Christian efforts to address the injustice. Under these challenging conditions, you have had to struggle to learn how to love us well and rightly. And that you are doing. The more you call us to account for our sins and challenge us to be true to the values of our tradition, the more you show your commitment to our friendship. The spirit and the specifics of the MESC report are fully in line with Jewish aspirations and beliefs. More than that – in its powerful plea to break down the walls, it takes my people where we urgently need to go today – to tear down the walls – both psychological and physical – that we have erected between ourselves and the people with whom we share a land and a common history. For thousands of years, our survival as Jews depended on building walls.  Now it depends on tearing them down.

In commissioning and producing this precious and faithful document of “Breaking Down the Walls” you have demonstrated your love for us.  It is love in the deepest, truest sense – love as Jesus and Paul teach us to love – love the way Amos and Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah taught us when they spoke truth to power and reminded us of our responsibility to our fellow creatures and to the earth itself.  In going back into the fray, year after year, to consider divestment from the companies that are participating in our sin, and to call us to account for building an apartheid state in full view of the world, you are loving us well. This year, the arguments marshaled against these faithful actions of the denomination, calling them biased and unbalanced, claiming that they will disrupt your “partnership” with us, simply sounded tired.

Minneapolis is the beginning of the end of all that.

Mark Braverman is the author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land. His website is markbraverman.org.

About Mark Braverman

Mark Braverman serves on the Advisory Board of Friends of Sabeel North America and is National Program Director for Kairos USA. He is the author of A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing, and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine, Jericho Books, 2013.

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65 Responses

  1. potsherd
    July 13, 2010, 7:51 pm

    A hopeful sign. Thanks for the report.

  2. Khawja
    July 13, 2010, 7:57 pm

    Those ‘anti-Semite’ Presbyterians………

    New York’s oldest Jewish daily, Forward, published an article by Donald Snyder, under the title “For Jews, Swedidh City is ‘place to move away from’, on July 7, 2010. In the article the writer says that with the incrase of Muslim population (local converts and immigrants), the cases of ‘anti-Semitism’ is on the rise in Sweden and the rest of European countries…….

    link to rehmat2.wordpress.com

    • potsherd
      July 13, 2010, 8:02 pm

      Does anyone think that the Swedish Jews have committed any crimes against Muslims? They are paying the price for Israel’s crimes and the perception, whether or not it is true, that they support them.

  3. Dan Kelly
    July 13, 2010, 8:48 pm

    I’m sorry, but this seems like nonsense. Read the language of the report. The most important objectives – things that could actually affect Israeli policy – have been nixed. The rest of the report basically calls for the Presbyterian Church to form committees to study things, and to “call” on various governments to change their behavior. Everything is a “recommendation” – no policies have been put in place. Israel buys more time to continue its wanton destruction.

    link to ga219.pcusa.org

    I’m not religious, but this is ridiculous. It’s just one more instance of Jewish groups coming in and dictating terms and telling others how to conduct their business.

    When is the last time a Christian group told a Jewish group how to go about its business?

    When are people going to wake up? Everything that is deemed to be “reconciliation” with Jewish groups actually ends up working in Israel’s favor.

    And the Palestinians continue to burn.

    • James
      July 14, 2010, 1:45 am

      dan kelly quote “I’m sorry, but this seems like nonsense. ”

      or worse a stupid propaganda piece put up as a distraction and nothing more… it reeks of emptiness… reminds me of de-fanging something so that it has no bite… is this all the pc – ( good 2 letter description their for a few things – presbe church and politically correct) is capable of doing? they have quickly relegated themselves to oblivion on this issue…

      • Mooser
        July 14, 2010, 11:08 am

        “Is this all the pc – ( good 2 letter description their for a few things – presbe church and politically correct) is capable of doing?”

        At this time, maybe yes, but, they did it! It wasn’t completely shut down. That’s what I get out of it.

  4. Dan Kelly
    July 13, 2010, 9:02 pm

    gone were calls for divestment in Caterpillar; references to Israeli “apartheid”; and the endorsement of a Palestinian Christian document that called for a boycott and international sanctions against Israel, and described the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as “a sin against God and humanity.”

    Why can’t the Presbyterian Church call the occupation a “sin against God” if that what’s they feel it is?

    Why don’t Presbyterian groups and other Christian delegations start monitoring Jewish religious groups and their activities and begin making public statements about the fanatical ideology that goes on amongst them?

    “To me, that’s tremendously exciting, and everything that the Jewish community could have wanted,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of interfaith affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

    The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying the church has “averted a rupture with the Jewish community.”

    link to latimes.com

    That should tell you all you need to know about the effectiveness this General Assembly resolution will have going forward. If it’s “everything the Jewish community could have wanted” (“Jewish community” as defined by the Simon Weaselenthal Center) and if it’s good enough for the ADL, then it’s no good.

    A “rupture with the Jewish community” is exactly what is needed at this point in time.

    Time to stop being led around by the nose by these apologists for supremacism and apartheid.

    • sherbrsi
      July 13, 2010, 9:26 pm

      Why can’t the Presbyterian Church call the occupation a “sin against God” if that what’s they feel it is?

      The Church was just reiterating words from the Kairos document which repeatedly calls the occupation as such.

      This is an insignificant and self-congratulatory move by the PC at best.

      The PC has not broken any walls, instead it has solidified them. It refuses to call the Israeli policies apartheid, for they ‘hamper dialogue,’ knowing full well that a mere study of the occupation was enough to have Jewish groups accusing the Church of issuing “a declaration of war against Israel.” The ones threatening the closure of dialogue are groups in the Jewish community, viewing any presentation of the reality of the Israeli occupation that is not their liking as a call for their destruction. That should be a good sign that these extremists are not be engaged, and that the PC should rather seek the advocacy out the anti-war and pro-rights Jewish groups in America.

      If any discussion of the conflict is conducted on the terms of preserving Jewish sentiments, then we can look forward to another 60 years of occupation and apartheid, because their dictations would prefer that no substantial debate takes place in first place.

      No wonder the Zionist groups of America are pleased with the move.

    • Psychopathic god
      July 13, 2010, 10:44 pm

      it saddens me that the Roman Catholic church has been marginalized in this very important situation. The Vatican is one of the few institutions in the world that could/should have the moral heft and international clout to confront Israel and back down the apartheid state, without military intervention.

      The mention of Robert Aumann in an earlier comment was not gratuitous; it seems much of what Israel does is calculated to disable this adversary at this juncture, and that opponent at that juncture, using whatever lie or underhanded tactic or malicious means is necessary.

      Jonathan Cook’s video interview was a real eye-opener. What is happening in Israel has no relationship to Jewishness (I HAVE DECREED!!) — really — Israel is a sick, rogue state that has stolen the history of an ancient religion. It’s frightening what it might do with it. To systematically educate its children to hate: that’s got to have a happy outcome.

      • VR
        July 14, 2010, 12:54 am

        Whether it is the Presbyterian Church or the Roman Catholic, each has proven to be (while empathetic) totally ineffective in presenting anything with teeth in this instance. While I am not very familiar with the Presbyterian history on the subject, I have noticed a decided change in the Roman Catholic body with the present pope.

        At one time the arm of liberation among the catholic theologians was strong and getting stronger, it is now suppressed by the Vatican. This is what happens when you elect a head that evolved from the Vatican institution that goes back to the Inquisition. Granted that earlier the spirit and actions of the inquisition persecuted both Jew and Gentile alike, but by far its main function was to fawn before and cling to power, becoming an instrument in the hands of the few. Unfortunately history not only repeats itself, it repeats itself because those in power seem to always revert back to their unspoken foundations.

        • Citizen
          July 14, 2010, 6:48 am

          Any way I look at it, the (non-Zionist, non-evangelical) Christian churches have not even reached square one, which is to recognize and tell their adherents that the state of Israel is not the same thing as All Jews, or the Jewish community as a whole. Failing that, the PC agonized over whether to stand for justice or maintain good “interfaith” relationship with “the Jewish community.” They still buy the smelly red herring stuck under their nose by the Israel-Firsters. The report does not indicate if the PC leaders even listened to any non or post Zionist Jewish organizational leaders. The PC is obviously afraid of being slyly called “anti-semitic.”

          Justice is hidden behind the walls, which remain intact, as hidden and unhelped as a Palestinian child in Gaza. What would Jesus say?

  5. munro
    July 13, 2010, 9:36 pm

    These Jewish groups support violently homophobic, misogynistic Christian Zionists while Israel markets itself as a gay-friendly oasis. Haim Saban bought the Spanish language network Univision with the sole idea of steering Catholic Hispanics toward Evangelical Christian Zionism because Catholics are too close to Presbyterians on Israel.

    Christian Zionists:
    The Las Vegas Church Working to Kill Gay People in Uganda
    link to gayrights.change.org

    Israel’s gay propaganda war
    link to guardian.co.uk

    • Schwartzman
      July 13, 2010, 10:00 pm

      Munro,

      Are you just assuming this LV church are pro Israel? There is absolutely nothing about Israel in the article. Your tactics are pretty amateur.

      That was one of the most dishonest posts I have seen on here in a long time(well today anyways).

      • Donald
        July 13, 2010, 10:07 pm

        By and large the Protestant churches which are theologically conservative about gay people (i.e., think homosexuality is a terrible sin) are also likely to be pro-Israel. But I don’t know that this is true of that particular church.

      • MRW
        July 13, 2010, 10:27 pm

        Schwartzman,

        Glad to see you took the time to research the site yourself before accusing Munro of amateur tactics and being dishonest. Nothing like that extra bit of effort to find out that canyonridge.org is an evangelical baptist church.

        And Munro, yesterday canyonridge denounced the Ugandan guy.

        • Schwartzman
          July 13, 2010, 11:06 pm

          LOL,

          So all evangelicals are zionists? i love you guys, you go the extra mile to defend the most ridiculous stuff on here. i guess when you gotta fit a mold, you’ll do anything to fit it huh sheeple?

        • Cliff
          July 13, 2010, 11:12 pm

          Stop making asinine ‘observations’ yonira. You guys should see him on the video game forum I frequent. He portrays himself so much differently. Here, he’s free to show his true colors and spew forth reactionary obtuse hysterics.

        • munro
          July 13, 2010, 11:21 pm

          Schwartzman,
          Why does Sarah Palin wear a US/Israel flag pin?
          check out Scofield Bible, Despensationalism, John Darby.

        • MRW
          July 13, 2010, 11:28 pm

          Then you dont know what you’re talking about, Schwartzie.

        • Donald
          July 13, 2010, 11:32 pm

          I don’t know about that particular church, but it’s well known that a great many evangelicals support Israel. Try googling and start reading.

          link to google.com

        • Donald
          July 13, 2010, 11:35 pm

          On that google list I provided there’s a link to this Pew poll from 2005–

          link to pewforum.org

          So not all evangelicals support Israel (and nobody said they did), but the majority do and very few sympathize more with Palestinians.

        • VR
          July 14, 2010, 1:01 am

          I hear the echo of Max Blumenthals voice again –

          RAPTURE READY

          Not all “Evangelicals” seem to have the dispensational theological and eschatological background, but all “Fundamentalists” certainly do. Crazy birds of a feather stick together.

        • VR
          July 14, 2010, 1:07 am

          One almost hopes they are correct about the rapture, because when it is supposed to occur they will disappear, and that is just fine, it almost makes me want to believe…lol

        • Mooser
          July 14, 2010, 11:15 am

          “You guys should see him on the video game forum I frequent.”

          How many times do I have to tell you? Ziocaine! Tell me, if he applied his ziocaine thoughts and methods to any other sphere of life, where would he end up? 3 choices, two of which are a psych ward and jail.

        • annie
          July 14, 2010, 1:14 pm

          not all presbyterian chuches are evangelical. the one on my neighborhood hosted the sabeel conference last year and travels to palestine twice a year to help palestinians harvest olives. he kairos document is pretty far out. still i am very disappointed they kowtowed to these demands and lifted the boycott from their investment portfolio, they essentially defanged it.

          bummer.

      • munro
        July 13, 2010, 10:52 pm

        The Uganda link as an example of Christian Zionist homophobia which is a core Christian Zionist belief – try to find an exception.

        John Hagee at AIPAC
        link to video.google.com

        Pastor Hagee: The Antichrist Is Gay, “Partially Jewish, As Was Adolph Hitler” (Paging Joe Lieberman!) Max Blumenthal
        link to huffingtonpost.com

        • MRW
          July 13, 2010, 11:38 pm

          Christian Zionist homophobia which is a core Christian Zionist belief. Dead on. It’s how Begin and Shamir approached Jerry Falwell and Pat aRobertson in the late 70s. Begin and Shamir knew about the CZ’s hatred of homosexuality and used that as the bridge between ‘our two religions’. Until that time the CZ’s were strongly in the Jews killed Jesus camp, which Begin acknowledged as a difference between them….but this scourge of homosexuality was worse and we have to band together to get rid of it. Yada.

          Begin wanted to get Carter the fuck out of dodge because Carter was going to force them to give back the post-1967 land after Camp David. so they knew the had to get to the biggest voting group in the country riled and active. He plumped Falwell up and made him a national figure and when Reagan got in, Begin wouldn’t talk to Reagan, he only talked to Falwell, and Falwell talked to the Prez. The chain of command went back the same way, too.

        • munro
          July 14, 2010, 1:31 am

          And yet Israel is promoted as a gay haven to the NPR audience – to demonize Israel’s neighbors as uncultured philistines – on one hand and extend the bond of homophobia with the other to Fundamentalists, people most Jews probably feel like Phil did about the “Christians” who relieved themselves in his mom’s barn.

          link to guardian.co.uk

        • munro
          July 14, 2010, 1:35 am

          god.. grammar.. late here.

          And yet they promote Israel as a gay haven to the NPR audience – to demonize Israel’s neighbors as uncultured philistines – on the one hand and offer the bond of homophobia with the other to Fundamentalists, people most Jews probably feel like Phil did about the “Christians” who relieved themselves in his mom’s barn.

          (better? maybe not but you get my point… the hypocrisy is beneath contempt)

        • Citizen
          July 14, 2010, 6:57 am

          Hagee boomed, “There’s a phrase in Scripture used solely to identify the Jewish people. It suggests that this man [the Antichrist] is at least going to be partially Jewish, as was Adolph Hitler, as was Karl Marx.”

          He’s still booming away on regular network TV, his followers packed under a roof as big as a football stadium, the giaganticUS & Israeli flags screened behind his sweaty fat self. So, they all don’t know Hitler was not Jewish at all and Marx was fully so? I guess one wouldn’t know if one only read the bible.

        • munro
          July 20, 2010, 11:50 am

          MRW – re your history of Begin-Falwell:
          link to andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com

  6. sherbrsi
    July 13, 2010, 9:36 pm

    Braverman, by what measure do you see this move as “breaking down the walls”?

    The PC has, according to your own article,

    - failed to articulate any plan of action regarding the occupation and Israeli apartheid
    - failed to divest from companies it is engaged in that directly contribute to the destruction and dispossession of the Palestinian people
    - predetermined that the PC will not make any comments on policy decisions on the conflict
    - predetermined that it will not call Israel’s policies apartheid, even when the study of the occupation which lead to this move heavily supports that assessment.

    Thus, the Church has effectively invalidated any positive role it could play in the conflict, or in supported the occupied Palestinian people, by setting up educational committees that have been precluded from inspiring any action that could result from its findings.

  7. Don
    July 13, 2010, 9:46 pm

    I think that the Presbyterians are at least trying to address the issue, “head on”, so to speak. It does not seem easy for any of the Christian churches. What Marc Ellis has described as “the ecumenical deal” has been very effective…
    link to crosscurrents.org

    And Ellis’ article also describes the price that “Jews of conscience” pay in their own community (exile).

    Given that reality (exile) I don’t think enough can be said for people like Phil Weiss and his friends, and Mark Braverman. These guys will some day be seen for the heroes they are.

    • Donald
      July 13, 2010, 10:03 pm

      I agree.

      What people in this thread are not taking into account is that in the past several decades Christians have been confronting and repenting of the long history of Christian anti-semitism. Books like “Constantine’s Sword” are best sellers, and there are people exploring the touchy subject of how certain New Testament passages (particularly in the Gospel of John) have been used to justify the persecution of Jews. Or that’s what the more liberal denominations have been doing (along with some Catholics–Carroll, the author of “Constantine’s Sword”, is Catholic). The conservative evangelicals, or some of them, have taken a different tack by identifying with Christian Zionism. But sticking to the liberals (which is what these Presbyterians are), criticism of Israel is a very touchy subject. A Christian might be personally outraged by Israel’s treatment of the Jews and still feel uneasy about his or her church taking an official stand critical of Israel because of so many centuries of Christian sins against Jews. So those are the feelings that the groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center are able to use.

      • Donald
        July 13, 2010, 10:04 pm

        My agreement was with my near namesake, Don.

      • Dan Kelly
        July 13, 2010, 10:43 pm

        But sticking to the liberals (which is what these Presbyterians are), criticism of Israel is a very touchy subject. A Christian might be personally outraged by Israel’s treatment of the Jews and still feel uneasy about his or her church taking an official stand critical of Israel because of so many centuries of Christian sins against Jews.

        I assume you meant to say “Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.”

        Frankly Donald, that’s ridiculous. There’s no need to speculate as to what might be going on inside the heads of these Presbyterians, and frankly I can’t help but think that you’re intentionally muddying the waters.

        Here are the facts: They were overwhelmingly in favor of all the initiatives that were originally in the resolution. These initiatives and the language came from the congregants themselves and were made into a resolution by the church’s leaders. The organized Jewish community got word of it and went ballistic as is their wont, and after meeting with the church leaders the language is toned down to standards that are acceptable to Abe Foxman et al, and any initiatives that would have been effective in reigning in Israel’s years of terror were nixed.

        A Christian might be personally outraged by Israel’s treatment of the Jews and still feel uneasy about his or her church taking an official stand critical of Israel because of so many centuries of Christian sins against Jews. </b.

        Do you have any evidence for this assertion, or this just speculative? I mean, I can answer that myself, being that it's written as speculation (A Christian might be…).

        Let’s just stick to facts and not try to speculate as to what might be on the minds of some people. I can tell you that not too many Christians, or anybody else for that matter, are walking around feeling guilty “because of so many centuries of Christian sins against Jews.” Maybe in a Zionist’s wet dream, but not in reality.

        So those are the feelings that the groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center are able to use.

        No, those feelings aren’t there, but the Jewish groups come in and attempt to engender those feelings. Often they only have to produce it in a select few who are at the top making decisions.

        • Donald
          July 13, 2010, 11:56 pm

          “frankly I can’t help but think that you’re intentionally muddying the waters.”

          So you can’t help wondering whether I’m deliberately muddying the waters? Oh please, Dan, give it a shot. Maybe if you try really, really hard, grit your teeth and shut down your paranoia for just one second or so, you might be able to do it.

          I’ve read Constantine’s Sword, I just finished reading Mary Gordon’s “Reading Jesus”, not surprised to see a chapter about the anti-semitic passages in the Gospel of John and my rector was just talking about the anti-semitic verses in the Gospels in a sermon a few weeks ago and that’s an utterly commonplace observation in churches I’ve been to. I’ve been to Sunday School series on this topic. I can’t remember how many times I’ve read about how after the Holocaust Christians have to be more sensitive to the issue of anti-semitism. And they damn well should be.

          That is not to say that they should allow groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Institute to guilt trip them into denying the crimes Israel is committing against Palestinians, which was part of my point, something you’d realize if you’d stop hyperventilating.

      • MRW
        July 13, 2010, 11:01 pm

        I couldn’t agree with you more, Donald. Well-meaning Christians have agonized for decades over what they were perceived to have done to the Jews. The imprint of director Billy Wilder’s newsreel right after the war — the first newsreel, which Wilder did for the German military psy-ops General who didn’t want the German people to feel any sympathy for Hitler — was the one that movie newsreels translated around the world. [It was the one where the Soviet or German general with his coat hung over his shoulders walked from table to table of dead naked bodies piled high; Wilder staged it with real typhoid victims that were on their way to the morgue.]

        That entire iconography was used to convince Christians that their bible, which blamed Jews for killing Jesus, was the root cause of the Holocaust. The various bibles went through an overhaul after that, over the next two decades, and the state of Israel, which had not existed in the previous bibles, was added in some denominations as an actual place after 1948; hence, the claimed biblical injunction that ‘God gave it to us’.

      • Citizen
        July 14, 2010, 7:05 am

        Time for them to get out of kindergarten and realize that AIPAC/ADL/Weisenthal et al do not speak for all Jews–how hard is it
        to reach this issue if one has a modest curiousity and an internet connection? Sheeple are sheeple, regardless if gentile or jewish Americans… it really will take a WW III for them to take a stand; I suggest they might have it soon in the grand scheme of things, that is, when Iran is attacked.

        • Mooser
          July 14, 2010, 11:21 am

          One of the benfits of an open conversation in America about this is that maybe we can establish that American Gentiles, by and large, don’t have a hell of a lot of anti-Semitism to repent of.
          In fact, if blacks and asians are included in the conversation, the anti-Semitic “offenses” against Jews would seem laughable.

        • Mooser
          July 14, 2010, 11:34 am

          “Time for them to get out of kindergarten and realize that AIPAC/ADL/Weisenthal et al do not speak for all Jews–how hard is it”

          Very hard, unless those other Jews, most of which treasure their ability to live as an individual American who happens to be (to whatever extent) Jewish as a religion (yes, with some culture) start speaking out, and I have a feeling that speaking out “as Jews” or organising “as Jews” would be distasteful or seem unprincipled to them.
          As far as anybody knows, the guy shouting the loudest that he is “the Jews” is the real thing. After all, who is going to tell him “no”?

        • Citizen
          July 14, 2010, 4:15 pm

          The question becomes, how come David Duke is sidelined, as goofy fringe and the Black Panther Party, but not, say (pick your favs). Instead, the goofballs rule the roost?

  8. azythos
    July 13, 2010, 10:13 pm

    As all here seem to agree, nothing much happened at this church do (and let’s please not call it PCUSA!)

    The most sickening in all this, though, is their constant talk of “relations with the Jews”, meaning that they still buy the basic Zionist nonsense of Zionism having something to do with the Jews hook line and sinker.

    • Citizen
      July 14, 2010, 4:17 pm

      They don’t want to be called anti-semites; to be fair, they’ve been well educated in how church leaders historically have been found to be so.

      • azythos
        July 14, 2010, 5:17 pm

        citizen – Of course that’s the situation. It also shows a total lack, as yet, of either logic or balls, while at the same time they want the credit that should go to people who don’t fear being tarred with the antisemitism brush whenm protesting a crime against humanity. But then, these guys’ position has always been –at least since before Prohibition– that of having their cake and eating it, too. Watch them crow after the Zionists fall, suggesting that they started it all.

        —–
        PS to Phil/Adam : make up your minds about censorship

        • Judy
          July 14, 2010, 9:27 pm

          … as opposed to those logical, ballsy individuals are working for change by commenting on a blog?

  9. Saleema
    July 13, 2010, 10:38 pm

    Looks like the Jews have the Christian churches by their balls. Is this anti-semitic to say this? :)

    • Dan Kelly
      July 13, 2010, 10:49 pm

      Who the hell cares what’s deemed “anti-semitic” anymore. The term should be relegated to the dustbin, being that Palestinians and Arabs are Semitic and the majority of people who identify as Jewish are not.

      This whole situation would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic. As it stands, it’s surely surreal.

      • Cliff
        July 13, 2010, 11:14 pm

        Don’t let the thought police parse everything you say. The people going around calling everyone they don’t like an antisemite, are haters themselves.

        hophmi or yonira are good examples. They both remind me of the Red Queen – ‘off with their heads!!’ at anyone who displeases them.

      • Mooser
        July 14, 2010, 12:40 pm

        Yup!

    • Mooser
      July 14, 2010, 12:51 pm

      “Looks like the Jews have the Christian churches by their balls. Is this anti-semitic to say this?”

      It would be more politic and more accurate to say “Looks like the Zionist organisations have the Christian churches by their balls”.

      You know, it just occurred to me, by their very nature and composition, these Protestant Churches are used to communicating and dealing in these situations on an organisation-to-organisation level. Okay, but when they go looking for (or get contacted by) organisations professing to represent “the Jews” what they get instead are Zionists, and they become “the Jews”
      As far as I know “the Jews” have no organisations which are comparable to the Presbyterian committee, except that they are heavily Zionist. Or completely so.

      • Citizen
        July 14, 2010, 4:22 pm

        You’re right Mooser. Yet the presbies (2 million of them)–at least their official leaders– have found it easy to take one side of the immigration issue. I guess we should be thankful the presbies have now called out to the US government to end aid to Israel until the quit settlement expansion? Or did they?

      • Psychopathic god
        July 24, 2010, 11:38 am

        that’s the genius of “the Jews” — by which I mean zionists, not unrepresented, Jewish persons or those who profess Jewish religion.

        Zionists can be nimble because they have no bureaucratic, democratic aircraft carrier to turn. Jewish organizations like UJF have the equivalent of Iranian speedboats that harry the aircraft carrier, impede its progress, frighten it into circumscribed waters, all the while retaining plausible deniability, no accountability, and opaque funding.

        In this, zionism has the advantage over, for example, highly structured, and hierarchically structured, Roman Catholicism. Catholics have no more real say over the actions of its leadership — it’s highly organized leadership — than do Jewish people have a say over the guerrilla tactics of zionism. Zionists practice asymmetric warfare; Roman Catholicism still relies on medieval models.

    • Psychopathic god
      July 24, 2010, 11:40 am

      depends on whether the grasped member is circumcised.

  10. sherbrsi
    July 14, 2010, 1:50 am

    Watching the plenary, one witnessed a courageous and heartfelt struggle with things that matter: gay and lesbian ordination and honoring of marriages; benefits for civil union partners; how to respond to state laws that violate the rights of immigrants. With respect to the Israel-Palestine question, the struggle will continue.

    So, the PC is yet another example of being progressive except on Palestine?

    How surreal that a church can lead on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage, yet denouncing the systematic destruction of the Palestinians by Israel remains the greatest taboo which the Church must tip-toe around to make any meaningful statement on. And even then it is hounded by the Jewish community and neutralized into submission.

  11. Colin Murray
    July 14, 2010, 2:49 am

    Implicit and sometime explicit in these statements is the threat that such “unfriendly” behavior by Christians will result in the removal of Jewish friendship.

    While I take Mr. Braverman’s point, I think this is misleading language. People are friends, and inter-institutional amicability and cooperation are built upon good relations between individuals within them.

    However, in keeping with the spirit of Zionist anthropomorphism of religious and political institutions …

    So what? When the relationship between AIPAC and Gentile America consists of using us to subsidize and facilitate Israeli ethnic cleansing and colonization, I can do without any such ‘friends’. Stomp off in a huff and go sulk in the corner until you are ready to behave in a civilized manner, then we’ll get a beer.

    • Mooser
      July 14, 2010, 12:58 pm

      “Implicit and sometime explicit in these statements is the threat that such “unfriendly” behavior by Christians will result in the removal of Jewish friendship.”

      And hundreds of thousands of divorces? Christian Jewish friendship in America is a fact, and any threats by Zionists to “remove it” can be laughed at. It goes, as you say, far beyond any institutional decrees. It’s an accepted way of life, and I’m not sure how many Jews in America would endanger it for the sake of preserving Israel’s intransigence.
      And the Israelis have miles, and miles of compromising and moderating steps they can take before they even get within sight of their “right-to-exist”.

  12. MHughes976
    July 14, 2010, 8:34 am

    I too think that Mr.Braverman exaggerates the greatness of the steps taken by the Presbyterians. If language referring to Israel’s right to exist, which is generally taken to mean that what happened in 1948 was right, was not only ‘inserted’ but regarded as ‘obligatory’ then sympathy for the Palestinians could in this context have amounted to little more than sentimentality. Is this better than sheer, screaming silence? Maybe, but not certainly.
    Screaming silence did seem to be the response of the Church of England, to which I belong – at least of our ludicrously craven leadership, nominally liberal but cowering before every reactionary shadow – to the Kairos Palestine Document, a thing to which Christians really should pay attention.

  13. Mooser
    July 14, 2010, 12:38 pm

    “He plumped Falwell up and made him a national figure and when Reagan got in….Prez”

    I’ve spent a lot of money and time making sure I forget those days, and you ruined it! And you had to mention Reagen and Falwell together! Shudder!

    • Citizen
      July 14, 2010, 4:26 pm

      Hey, that’s nothing! I turned on my TV last sunday morning and got a wide screen dose of Hagee preaching to his sheeple! Talk about disgusting!

  14. Judy
    July 14, 2010, 5:17 pm

    What a disappointing reaction from this crowd.

    Here’s a group of largely white, middle class/UMC American relgious leaders who spent a lot of time preparing, studying, learning and debating this important issue.

    PCUSA is a huge, democratic institution. This isn’t people around the table having dinner, or a couple of cyber typists. IT’S A HUGE INSTITUTION that has moved a long way on this issue, and will likely move further before the next General Assembly. (They’ve also begun a Christian-Muslim dialog push so that hopefully down the road, maintaining relations with Muslims will be as important to them as their Jewish relationships.)

    Bottom line is that PCUSA congregations will be speaking about these justice issues for years to come, and they’ll study it from a progressive persepctive. THere is the potential to impact millions of Presyberterian faithful.

    If every large institution in this country were engaged in this ongoing work, we’d see peace within a decade!

    I can be as snide and snarky as the rest of you, but I respectfully request that you take a moment and give the Presbyterians their due!

    • MHughes976
      July 15, 2010, 2:25 pm

      Perhaps I was being mean, and I can’t deny that the US are at least a little way ahead of us in the CofE. But it does seem hard to be really impressed by a decision to think about something, particularly if the conversation is straitened from the start by an admitted right for a race-based polity to exist. It’s not really morally courageous or in the true spirit of prophecy, I think. The CofE too is thinking about Kairos Palestine – the document came out at a rather inconvenient time, just not fitting in with the timetable of our Synod meetings, you know. But a committee is working on it and will definitely report.

  15. PilgrimSoul
    July 14, 2010, 5:36 pm

    You could write a few libraries of books on this subject of Christians and Jews, but most commentators here are painfully aware that the PC couldn’t come down on the side of BDS. Therefore, this report on the PC doesn’t mean a lot, in terms of building the movement. On the other hand, Christians are struggling with the emotional overload of centuries of church aggression, most of it against Jews, and a fair amount of it against Muslims. For centuries Christianity taught hate of Jews, Muslims, women and each other, and a lot of us are trying to figure out what the hell is left that we can believe in.

    Today’s mainstream Protestant churches are Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Lutheran. They are liberal theologically and progressive politically, but small in numbers. Evangelicals, who are usually Baptists or non-denominational, are by far the majority of Christians today in the US, consisting of about 75 to 80 percent of all American Christians. The evangelicals are mainly conservative, homophobic, and overwhelmingly vote Republican. In the post-Nazi holocaust 1950s, they basically made a deal with Jewish leaders that they could continue teaching some fundamentally anti-Semitic ideas–i.e., all Jews go to hell– and if they automatically supported Israel, the Jewish leaders wouldn’t hassle them.

    This deal continued through the creation of the Religious Right, during which the conservative Christian evangelicals made a strong pitch to become a state religion. Leaders such as Abraham Foxman didn’t say squat, for the reason given above: the Religious Right automatically supported Israel. Together the evangelicals and the Jewish leaders came up with the idiotic phrase “Judeo-Christian” to describe their common values. What this meant, stripped of all rhetoric, is that evangelicals can say that Jews go to hell, they can try to make conservative Christianity into a state religion, they can generalize publicly about Jews in the ACLU, Hollywood, or wherever, and A. Foxman will say nothing as long as long as the conservative evangelicals keep cheering for the IDF every time it kills an unarmed civilian.

    Both liberal Protestants and conservative evangelicals are basically terrified of the organized Jewish community, however, for reason which overlap. The first two are simple: The Nazi holocaust (guilt), protecting their jobs (fear). But they also fear the Jewish organizations because of philo-semitism, which comes in two flavors. The first kind of philo-Semitism is mainly evangelical, and means that conservative Protestants like to support Jews in everything they do, because they believe Jews in Israel are going to start a religious conflict that will usher in the Millennium, after an apocalyptic war. (What they don’t mention is that they believe that God will kill off all the Jews that don’t convert to Christianity, thereby finishing the job that Hitler started.)

    The second kind of philo-Semitism is harder to describe, because it’s an emotional orientation that Christians are not always completely conscious of. This second kind of philo-Semitism is a sense that many liberal Christians have that they can’t acknowledge–or don’t have the right to acknowledge–that Jews are capable of evil. I mean, these same very nice liberal Christians have just managed to get their heads around the idea that institutional Christianity was a violent, brutal hate organization for most of its existence, and that Christian anti-Semitism led up to and partly caused the Holocaust; that makes institutional Christians the bad guys, and since Jews were the victims, that must mean that they must be the good guys. (I mean, victims are always the good guys, are they not?–that’s why Zionists always try to posture themselves as victims, right?) Now, suddenly, a new form of systemic evil enters the world, and it arises directly from the Jewish state, Israel. Institutional Jews are just as capable of evil as institutional Christians are! Whoa!

    The implication is that evil predominates in both religions, and in the world. I personally believe that’s true, and will continue to be true until people learn how to deconstruct the effects of systemic evil. But it’s really hard for Christian liberals to get their heads around it, especially since they don’t believe in the redemptive effects of Jesus’ crucifixion anymore, as Christians of prior centuries did.

    So, a lot of Christians just have trouble processing the whole thing.
    What they don’t realize is that philo-Semitism is the last stage of Christian anti-Semitism. Christian anti-Semitism always saw “the Jews” as a collective that had meaning ONLY to the extent that Christians gave them a meaning. It took a long time for Christians to admit that Jews had the right to determine their own self-interests, and work on behalf of those interests–that Jews had the right and the duty to define their own meaning in the world, and work for their own projects. But once you acknowledge that much, you have to acknowledge that Jews, having freedom of choice, can also make mistakes.

    What we have is a world, in other words, in which SOME Jews, under the duress of terrible events, made the wrong decisions. They then created a form of systemic evil that is getting worse, and will never get better until a powerful movement forces change to happen. But it is simply very hard for many Christians to acknowledge that, because they’re still in the midst of dealing with the fact that their own religion was evil for so long. They don’t want to believe that the organized Jewish community could promote social entities that are also forms of systemic evil, and use tactics that are sometimes despicable.

    One big part of the answer lays with those Jews who have the courage to re-make Judaism for the 21st century, based on the thirst for universal justice, and renouncing the religious nationalism of Zionism. They are architects of something profound, in my opinion, although many of them do not see that yet. As for Christians, I see no such dramatic turn-around for us. We are still floundering, but if Christianity can stage a come-back that intelligent people can take seriously, I believe it may involve admitting that a secular theory for fighting systemic evil is more important than the old theological language.

    In the BDS movement, we are going to be called anti-Semites, prot0-Nazis, crypto-Communists, hydra-headed monsters, and so forth. But so what? People all over the world are being tortured, killed and ethnically cleansed for their belief in universal human rights. We have it easy in the US. It is a privilege to be part of this movement. Good people everywhere are trying to stop the permanent religious war that AIPAC, the ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Hagee and the neo-con foundations are all working for.

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