Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein: Visiting Presbyterians, take note: Israel is not the root of evil

  • Article by: ABRAHAM COOPER and YITZCHOK ADLERSTEIN
  • Updated: July 2, 2010 - 5:37 PM
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A report prepared by a study committee for the Presbyterian Church USA recommends, for instance, removing the West Bank separation barrier that has saved thousands from death and injury at the hands of suicide bombers.

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For the vast majority of American Jews who love and support Israel, all eyes are upon the Presbyterian Church USA's general assembly in Minneapolis, beginning today, at which activists hope to win a crucial battle in a new war against the Jewish state.

Israel was better prepared for the old wars, in which her surrounding enemies threw intifadas, suicide bombers and rocket attacks at her. She survived and built a thriving democracy while absorbing waves of persecuted Jews from Europe, North Africa, the Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

In the new war, words supplement bombs and missiles -- with a multifaceted campaign demonizing Israel by rebranding her as an evil apartheid regime.

From the United Nations to college campuses, from the docks of Oakland to a teachers union in England, "peace activists" are seeking to punish Israel diplomatically and economically and isolate her culturally as a pariah state.

Church groups are key prizes in this new war, especially in the United States, including mainline Protestant denominations, whose global umbrella organization, the World Council of Churches, has an unbroken record of hostility to Israel.

General-assembly delegates coming to Minneapolis will be looking at resolutions, one of which was prepared by a special Middle East Study Committee tasked with reviewing church policy toward Israel in a fair and balanced manner. However, seven of nine appointees turned out to be openly pro-Palestinian, and the one pro-Israel member soon resigned.

The results were devastating. The report is a full-scale attack on the Jewish state. It rejects Jewish claims of connection to the land through millennia of continued presence. It disregards a century and a half of Zionist pioneers building up the Holy Land, lamenting modern Israel as a mistaken creation of Western guilt over the Holocaust. It insists that the Israeli presence on the West Bank and Gaza is the single cause of all that is wrong in the Middle East.

The report demands removal of the separation barrier that saved thousands of Christian, Muslim and Jewish casualties from the tsunami of Islamist suicide bombers that brought death and destruction to Passover Seders, restaurants and discos.

It speaks of the difficulties of Palestinians under Israeli occupation but omits the crucial context of wars, refusals to negotiate, terrorist and rocket attacks, and indoctrination of children in the ways of martyrdom and Jew-hatred.

Ominously, the report also commends the Kairos Document, which explicitly rejects a Jewish state. It promotes the big lie that Israel is an apartheid state, despite Arab representation on Israel's Supreme Court, in universities and the workplace, and the ability of Israeli Arab Parliamentarians to regularly excoriate the state in the Knesset and during visits to Libya and Syria. Such freedoms are unheard of in the Arab world.

For good measure, the report calls for the United States to withdraw foreign aid from Israel.

The report was rejected by leaders of three Presbyterian seminaries, by an impressive list of pastors of larger Presbyterian churches, by a group of Presbyterian members of Congress, by a host of interfaith groups, and by a wall-to-wall consortium of Jewish groups. Some critics, chief among them the Simon Wiesenthal Center, have expressed fears that if such a blatantly anti-Israel report is embraced, there could be a surge of anti-Semitism in this country. Ask any Jewish leader in Europe about the increase of violence against Jews -- where Israel has been serially demonized.

Don't be surprised, then, if you see, among the thousands of Presbyterians, some very non-Protestant looking men and women, some with beards and yarmulkes. For them, this assembly is about the survival of their loved ones and the continued respect of their core beliefs by their Christian neighbors. And they come with the knowledge that they will find support among many, if not the majority, of the rank and file of the Presbyterian Church USA and among many principled Presbyterians.

The decisions reached at the general assembly will have long-range implications for broader interfaith relations. Will Presbyterians set the clock back by denying the validity of Jewish history and aspirations, as a minority group of entrenched activists wishes? Or will the rank and file continue to build on years and mutual respect and friendship?

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights organization with headquarters in Los Angeles. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of interfaith affairs for the center.

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