The PCUSA’s Offices of Interfaith Relations and Theology and Worship have two reports that are supposed to be dealt with at the upcoming General Assembly. They are entitled: “Christians and Jews: People of God” and “Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations.” According to Viola Larson, he San Francisco Presbytery has sent in an overture that asks that consideration of them be postponed. Since I haven’t read them, I don’t know whether that’s a good idea or not. But at Viola’s urging I did have a look at a short paper that is attached to the overture. It comes from the Israel-Palestine Mission Network, an official PCUSA organization, and it is a doozy.
It starts off with affirmation–they reject “anti-Judaism” and accept the Old Testament as “Christian scripture” (how nice of them to declare without hesitation that they aren’t Marcionites!)–but they quickly get to what they call “fatal flaws” in the report. We can’t compare the two (I’m too cheap to buy the report, and can’t find it online), but just taken by themselves the IPMN objections tell you all you have to know. First, there’s this:
Separation of Theology and Ethics: …The origins and history of the conflict, the United Nations resolutions regarding the conflict, the U.S. vetoes of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and the ongoing breach of international law and human rights that has characterized the conflict are passed over in silence, as if this had nothing to do with Jewish-Christian relations in the contemporary world.
What is the omission to which the IPMN objects? The recent unpleasantness in Gaza and the 2009 Goldstone report. The 1948 invasion of newly-independent Israel, the planned 1967 invasion, the 1972 Olympic massacre, the Lod airport attack, hundreds if not thousands of terror attacks and attempts inside Israel since 1967, the 1973 Yom Kippur attack, the Hamas rejection of Israel’s right to exist, the daily Hamas rocketing of southern Israel, Hezbollah rocketing of northern Israel, the Palestinian rejection of a state-granting settlement on at least two occasion–apparently none of that is worth mentioning. Only Israeli transgressions are worthy of consideration. But it gets worse:
By neglecting the reality on the ground, this report would “make nice” with certain American Jewish organizations to avoid unwarranted charges of anti-Semitism. These are the organizations that have provided financial and political support for the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands since 1948, and used threat and intimidation to censor debate about Israel within and without the Jewish community.
Usually these people are more veiled in their goals. Referring to “the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands since 1948” is another way of saying that they agree with Hamas that Israel has no right to exist, that Israel itself is “occupied terrritory,” and that the PCUSA should support the liberation of the Holy Land from the Jews. And American Jews should be blamed for their racist support of their co-religionists:
A report that confesses Christian guilt for the past and calls for changes in our theology and practice but neglects to mention the contribution of American synagogues to the oppression of Palestinians over the past six decades appears to us as inauthentic interfaith dialogue.
Yeah, American Jews supporting the Jewish homeland against invasion, war, and terror for sixty years. What could they have been thinking? And note again that we have the reference to “six decades,” again all but stating that the mere presence of Israel in the Holy Land is oppressive of Palestinians.
“A worldwide increase in Anti-Jewish Rhetoric and Actions”: This statement needs to be contextualized. This “anti-Jewish rhetoric” does not arise out of a vacuum, or some inchoate reservoir of anti-Semitism. In fact, the case can be made that it is a reaction to the actions of the state of Israel. And that this is related to the American Middle East wars, which, combined with the U.S. defense of Israel internationally, fuels anti-Jewish stereotypes and some classic anti-Semitic beliefs.
A statement like this sends a genuine chill up my spine. Anti-Semites have been using this trope for centuries: “The only reason we burned your towns, locked you up in ghettos, put legal restrictions on you, expelled you from one country after another, sicced the Inquisition on you, instituted pogroms, looked for a “Final Solution”…is because you made us!” It fails to account for Arab massacres of Jews in the Levant before 1948, fails to account for the widespread support among Arabs for Nazi Germany (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was a Berlin favorite), it fails to account for the rejection of the UN resolutions establishing Israel and the subsequent invasion–all undertaken before there was an Israel to which to react. This repulsive kind of “blame the victim” mentality would never be tolerated in the PCUSA if it was directed at African-Americans, women, gays, American Indians, or any other minority. So why isn’t the IPMN recognized for what it is, and repudiated? Sorry, you only get one guess.
Jarring Metaphors: This report makes use of two New Testament metaphors to describe the theological relationship between Christians and Jews: “. . . to share the rich root of the olive tree . . .” [Romans 11:17] (p. 3) and “. . . and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.” [Ephesians 2:14] (p. 6) In the present context, the use of these metaphors is jarring—even offensive—unless reference is also made to the way in which actual relationships in the Holy Land deny this theological affirmation. Since 1967 Israel has uprooted over one and a quarter million Palestinian olive trees; since 2002 Israel has constructed a 25-foot high Separation Barrier which has been condemned by the International Court of Justice.
Wouldn’t you know that lousy Jew Saul would be anti-Palestinian, too? How dare he use expressions like those? How dare anyone ever cite those passages in the presence of Palestinians? Why, the churches on the West Bank (and the few that might remain in Gaza after Hamas drove most of the Christians out) have torn Romans and Ephesians right out of their Bibles, and refuse to acknowledge them until Victory Has Been Won!
Palestinian cruciform interpretation of their suffering and death: Christians and Jews states: “Some expressions of Christian liberation theology tend to describe the Palestinian experience as oppression by “Jews” or “Zionists” rather than by Israeli state authority….” (p. 14) We believe this statement is inaccurate.
Before the creation of the State [of Israel], the Old Testament was considered to be an essential part of Christian Scripture, pointing and witnessing to Jesus. Since the creation of the State, some Jewish and Christian interpreters have read the Old Testament largely as a Zionist text to such an extent that it has become almost repugnant to Palestinian Christians […] The fundamental question of many Christians, whether uttered or not, is: How can the Old Testament be the Word of God in light of the Palestinian Christians’ experience with its use to support Zionism?
–Rev. Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Justice, and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation
[E]spousing the nationalistic tradition of Zionism, [Jews] have relinquished the role of the servant that they have claimed for centuries, becoming oppressors and warmakers themselves. This has been a revolutionary change from the long-held belief that the Jews have a vocation for suffering.
–Rev. Naim Ateek in Justice, and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation
The narrative Israel tells of itself on its 50th anniversary suppresses, distorts and essentially tries to destroy the Palestinians’ narrative of their own history. The history of Zionism has demonstrated that in order for an Israeli narrative to continue in Palestine, the Palestinians’ narrative must end. If there is to be an Israel, there can’t be a Palestine….
–2006 Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, from Sabeel web site
You get the point.
Zionism: Christians and Jews rightly cautions against the portrayal of Zionism as “monolithic or univocal.” What the report fails to recognize is that expansionist forms of political and religious Zionism have been major ideological forces behind the confiscation of Palestinian land and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by every Israeli administration since 1948. The literature on this subject is vast and the reality undeniable. The push by the current government of Netanyahu for recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” is one example of this ideology.
And from the footnote that concludes this paragraph:
The common denominator of most forms of Zionism is the demand for a Jewish State. As the past six decades have demonstrated, this ideology, when put into practice, has resulted in on-going ethnic cleansing and legally sanctioned discrimination against non-Jews.
So much for the “inaccuracy” of the statement that “Some expressions of Christian liberation theology tend to describe the Palestinian experience as oppression by “Jews” or “Zionists” rather than by Israeli state authority,” eh?
I think at this point that it has become crystal clear what the IPMN stands for. Jews who are so foolish as to desire to live in the historic homeland of their people should be at the mercy of the Jew-haters who dominate most of the nations that surround them. The claims of the Jewish people on that homeland are to be rejected, Israel’s right to exist denied, and the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state advocated. In order to facilitate the achievement of the goal, Israel is to be accused of “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” “racism,” and anything else they can think of, no matter how ridiculous. The history of Arab aggression against Israel is to be ignored, and terrorism treated likewise if not explained away.
Until such time as the PCUSA disbands this disgraceful organization, it will continue to be accused of anti-Semitism and shunned not only by Jews, but people of decency no matter what their faith.