In the face of growing Jewish concern about anti-Israel activism in the PCUSA, the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) is apparently determined to do a bit more damage to Jewish-Presbyterian relations. Meeting in Louisville last week, GMAC added comments to two items that will come to this summer’s General Assembly that demonstrate that the anti-Israel mindset is well entrenched in the denomination’s leadership.
The first is a commendation to the denomination for study of the Palestinian “Kairos Document.” According to the Layman Online:
“The document reflects a theological, spiritual and missiological stance, and reaches out from their profound chronic pain and their tenacious affirmation of love,” the approved comment said. “It communicates the truth they live, the hope they breathe and the faith that sustains them.”
I haven’t done a full-out examination of the Kairos Document simply because it’s about what you’d expect–a completely one-sided litany of grievances baptized in convoluted pseudo-biblical quotation and supersessionist theology. But it’s getting enough support from American mainliners that I think I’ll do so as soon as I get some time. In the meantime, I’ll just say that recommending it for study without some countervailing resources is seriously irresponsible.
To me, the more disturbing item is the second. The San Francisco Presbytery, reflecting the loony left politics of the region, has submitted an overture that says the following:
Recognizing that Israel’s laws, policies, and practices constitute apartheid against the Palestinian people, the Presbytery of San Francisco overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to do the following:
1. Direct the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) to send this overture to the United Nations, encouraging them to find that the state of Israel is committing the crime of apartheid and to take the appropriate actions.
2. Direct the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) to communicate this information to the president and the Congress of the United States.
3. Urge its members, congregations, presbyteries, and national staff units, including the Office of Interfaith Relations, to study this matter and to seek appropriate ways to bring an end to Israeli apartheid.
4. Direct the General Assembly Mission Council to prepare study resources, and urge presbyteries to provide opportunities for study and discussion to further educate church members about the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
This is followed by a “rationale” that is full of falsehoods, Palestinian propaganda claims, half-truths, and errors of omission. In reply, the GAMC says this (along with an amendment indicating that some members were concerned with the word “apartheid”):
This overture accurately describes many of the current policies, actions and laws of the Israeli government and their impact on Palestinians.
No previous statements of the General Assembly relevant to Israel/Palestine use the term “apartheid.” Commissioners will have to judge whether this label in itself advances our church’s understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, or the search for its just resolution.
In any case, the situation itself cries out for deeper and more serious engagement (with both those who disagree with us and others), study, prayer and advocacy.
There’s a good reason why “no previous statements” of the GA have used that word: it isn’t applicable. Whatever mistakes Israel has made (and there have been plenty) in administering the Palestinian territories, those territories have never been part of Israel, and the Arab residents have never been citizens of Israel. In South Africa, apartheid was about separating the races of a single nation based on an abhorrent racial ideology. In the Holy Land, we’re talking about territory that used to belong to two other nations (Jordan and Egypt), that was occupied in response to hostile military action, and that is inhabited by people who think that the Jews of their sovereign neighbor have no right to a state of their own. Calling Israel an “apartheid state” is so ludicrous, so contrary to reality, that it has gained no traction in the U.S. outside of the anti-Semitic far left. I don’t know whether any of those who approved this overture in San Francisco Presbytery are anti-Semites, but they’ve drunk from the same poisoned well.
Needless to say, the response of the GAMC to this piece of dreck ought to have been, “You have got to be kidding!” (if, that is, they didn’t order an investigation to find out how International ANSWER infiltrated the presbytery). Instead, they put their stamp of approval on the content, and merely offer the suggestion that commissioners will have to decide for themselves whether indulging their inner bigot by using the word “apartheid” is worth enraging every Jew less self-loathing than Norman Finkelstein or Noam Chomsky.
I don’t actually think that will happen. I believe (maybe naively, though I hope not) that this overture will get laughed out of court at the General Assembly, by the plenary if not whatever committee to which it’s referred. But the reception it got at the highest level of the PCUSA is enough to make one wonder about the spirit that is animating the denomination’s leadership these days.
(Hat tip: Gary Green.)