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The Mainline Protestant Churches and Israel

Posted By Joseph Puder On March 22, 2012 @ 12:01 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 36 Comments

During the upcoming General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) scheduled for April 25-May 4, 2012 in Tampa, FL, and the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), June 30-July 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh, PA, anti-Israel actions in the form of petitions and overtures calling for some form of boycott, divestment or sanctions against the Jewish State and those who do business with the state are expected to be brought to the floor for a vote.

Influential elements within the mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. and specifically the UMC and PCUSA, have, within the past few years, initiated divestment campaigns against the Jewish State, with some condemning Israel as an “apartheid state.”  These churches seek to emulate the campaigns against the “apartheid” regime of South Africa. The punitive measures against Israel, they explain, are in response to Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza. Some go as far as accusing Israel of racism against the Palestinian Arabs.

These “protectors” of human rights have ignored the endemic efforts by the Arabs/Palestinians to destroy the Jewish State through war, terrorism, and their anticipated success at demographic warfare based on their claims of right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.  And, they have ignored the pervasive teaching of hatred of Jews in Palestinian schools, mosques, and through the Palestinian media.

Sabeel, the Jerusalem based Ecumenical liberation Theology is an Arab Palestinian Christian institution, which has become a major source of the anti-Israel narrative employed by elements of the mainline Protestant churches.  This dhimmified Arab-Christian group habitually condemns, as human rights violations, Israel’s efforts to defend its people from Arab-Palestinian terrorist attacks (road blocks and the construction of the protection fence have eliminated attacks by more than 95%).  Sabeel also encourages anti-Semitism by employing deicide imagery; depicting the Palestinians as the crucified Jesus and the Israelis as the crucifers or, in simple terms, as the modern Christ killers.

Mainline Protestant churches have not sought to divest from Arab Muslim states such as Egypt and Iraq who routinely engage in the “ethnic cleansing” of Christians.  Nor do they organize boycott campaigns against Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey for the brutal persecution of their Kurdish minorities.  And, they have not considered labeling Saudi Arabia and Iran as “apartheid states” for discriminating against religious and ethnic minorities.  Additionally, in Saudi Arabia religious worship by Christians or Jews is outlawed and punishable.  The righteous indignation of these Mainline Christians churches finds expression only against Israel.

When Israel is irrationally singled out for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions for alleged human rights violations against the Palestinians, the only explanation seems to be a deep rooted bias against the Jewish state – which, as the collective, is more acceptable than being anti-Semitic/against individual Jews.

In the recent issue of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) – a bulletin published by the World Council of Churches (which represents the U.S. mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches), an article entitled “It’s Time for Palestine,” was featured along with an advertisement for “World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, May 28-June 3, 2012.  The article calls for member churches faith based communities and civil society organizations to join together in 2012 for a week of advocacy and action in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine.

What is offensive about the term “illegal occupation of Palestine” is that it ignores historical facts.  Israel won the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 defensive war in which the forces of Jordan, Egypt and Syria joined in order to “drive the Jews into the sea.” Prior to 1967, the West Bank and Gaza were illegally occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively. The UN Resolution 242 of 1967 called for “territory for peace.”  This meant that Israel, in exchange for peace, would give up territories – the resolution was specific in its wording and did not say all the territories. At Khartoum in September of 1967 the Arab response to this was No Peace, No Recognition, and No Negotiations with Israel.  This then was in keeping with actions previously taken by the Palestinian-Arabs when, in 1947, they rejected the UN Partition Plan that would have given them a state in the West Bank and Gaza.  This action was preceded by their rejection of the terms of the 1937 Peel Commission in which recommendation was made for a state that would have given the Palestinian Arabs 68% of Mandatory Palestine.

In the aftermath of war in 1967 Jordan refused to commit to peace, and the Palestinians re-committed themselves to an armed struggle that they hoped would eliminate the Jewish State and replace it with a so called “secular, democratic Palestine.”  Today, as then, there are no examples of a secular democracy in the Arab world – including the Palestinians in Gaza (under Hamas) and in the West Bank (under the Palestinian Authority) – all of which are undemocratic and call for Islamic law (Sharia) to govern in its territory.

In the March 29, 2011 issue of the UMC publication Faith in Action titled “It’s Time for Palestine” Rev. John Calhoun writes: “The winds of change are blowing.  For millions across the Middle East, the future will be radically different from the past…Unfortunately, one state’s undemocratic, militaristic rule over millions of civilians suffering under its administration looks likely to continue unchanged.  That state is Israel, and those living under its illegitimate control are the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

One mustn’t be surprised by the outrageous comments of Rev. Calhoun when using such phrases as “undemocratic and militaristic” with reference to Israel, as the UMC promotes the writings of Palestinian Rev. Mitri Raheb, a lead author of the unbalanced and anti-Israel Kairos Palestine Document of 2009, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, author of the highly inflammatory book Peace Not Apartheid as the basis for their study materials.

Rev. Calhoun has conveniently overlooked the fact that Gaza is governed by the Islamist terrorist regime of Hamas, which has attacked Israeli civilians with thousands of rockets, and which has vowed never to recognize the Jewish State.  He ignores the fact that it is the obligation of the Israeli government to defend its civilian population under attack from Gaza’s Hamas terrorists.   Moreover, most Arabs living in Eastern Jerusalem are the envy of the Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East because of the freedom, democracy, access to health services, and higher standard of living they have achieved under Israeli administration.

Mahmoud Abbas, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, has had ample opportunities to make a genuine peace with Israel.  Prime Minister Ehud Barak made far reaching concessions to Arafat in July 2000 at the Camp David Summit.  Arafat chose the path of war instead and launched an Intifada in September 2000. In 2008, Mahmoud Abbas rejected the most extensive concession made to date, by the former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert.

This mantra of “occupation” used by the Palestinians and their supporters in the Mainline Protestant churches is merely propaganda.  In reality, Palestinians have governed themselves since 1994, following the Oslo Accords. As historical facts bear out, they could have achieved complete sovereignty in 2000 and 2008, had they cared more for their independence than the destruction of the Jewish State.

For the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the PCUSA, however, historical facts and truth do not matter. The IPMN continues to push the anti-Israel Kairos Palestine document, and seek punitive measures against Israel, thus exposing their anti-Jewish bias.

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