An article in the latest issue of “Faith in Action,” the online newsletter of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, highlights the release of a new study guide on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was prepared for use by the “Palestine-Israel Justice Project” of the Minnesota Conference, and it is one of the most most appallings thing I’ve ever seen come out of the mainline on the subject.
In the foreword, Bishop Sally Dyck offers this justification for her annual conference developing such a guide:
The curriculum raises the voices and concerns of Palestinian Christians. Why wouldn’t we listen to the voices of our own Christian brothers and sisters, even if their perspectives might be different from ours or challenge us to see this part of the world from their eyes?
It is true that among the materials used is the Kairos Document, which was written by Palestinian Christians. But the primary voices that are heard in this guide aren’t those of Palestinian Christians, but of radical, far left-wing American Christians, anti-Israeli Muslims, and even known anti-Semites.
The introductory session (of eight) demonstrates where the authors are headed. It is an introduction to the Kairos Document, a theologically flawed, historically obtuse, an morally one-sided statement that lays the entire fault for the conflict at Israel’s feet, and offers no recognition of either the legitimacy of Israeli self-defense or the reality of terrorism and historic and continuing Arab hostility. The authors of the study guide state that their purpose in this first session is to “use this document as an overview of the issues and the foundation for this Palestine-Israel study,” which is practically a declaration that this guide is not being used for education nearly so much as for propaganda.
Session 2 has to do with internal United Methodist responses to the conflict (resolutions, agency statement, the Social Principles, etc.), so I’ll let Methodists (say, Mark Tooley at the IRD) deal with them. Session 3 has to do with the “application” of Scripture to the conflict, and puts a slew of verses into six groups without bothering to explain what the connections are.
It is Session 4 and Session 5 that have me really shaking my head. These two are on the “history” of the conflict, and they are extraordinarily bad. The first problem is a time-line that was put together by the National Council of Churches’ creature Churches for Middle East Peace. This time-line is written in a fashion that makes it sound objective, but in fact demonstrates a serious bias in both what is included and what isn’t, as well as simple inaccuracies. For example:
•1929: “Arab-Jewish riots in Hebron and elsewhere left nearly 250 Arabs and Jews dead and the Jewish community of Hebron ceased to exist.” Actually, the riots were by Arabs against Jews, 67 Jews were killed in Hebron, a total of 133 Jews were killed in Hebron, Safed and elsewhere, almost all by Arabs, while 116 Arabs were killed, most by British security forces trying to restore order.
•1949-1950: “Jews from Arab countries begin migration into Israel.” Why this happened is left mysterious. In fact, the vast majority of Jewish migration to Israel from Arab nations was the result of forced expulsions, what today would be called “ethnic cleansing” (except by those on the left who will not admit that Arabs bear any responsibility for today’s situation).
•1973: “Yom Kippur War – Egypt and Syria attack Israel. No territorial change.” No mention of the aim of the Arab nations, which was to destroy Israel.
•2002: “Reoccupation of Palestinian areas begins. Arafat placed under house arrest. Occupation of Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.” This makes it sound as if it was the Israelis who “occupied” the Church of the Nativity. In fact, it was members of Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the Tanzim (PLO militia) who held priests and nuns hostage and trashed the church before their evacuation was negotiated.
You get the idea. The time-line is flawed, but is hardly the worst thing about these sessions. That would be the use of the film “Occupation 101” as the primary source of information regarding the history.
To say there’s a bias in the point of view embodied by “Occupation 101” would be like saying that the iceberg made the Titanic list to starboard. Among the people who appear in the film:
•William Baker, an academic fraud and former chairman of the neo-Nazi Populist Party
•Noam Chomsky, MIT linguist and far left ideologue who for years has been an apologist for some of the world’s most thuggish regimes
•Ilan Pappe, Israeli revisionist historian who accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” (despite Israel’s population being 20% Arab)
•Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University professor who advocates replacing Israel with a single Palestinian state and claims that Israel is a “racist” state
•Richard Falk, former Princeton University professor who has likened Israel to Nazi Germany, Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust, and expressed sympathy for the views of 9/11 Truthers
•Alison Weir, founder of If Americans Knew, narrates the film; she has denied that Israel has a right to exist and suggested that Jews control the American media
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has reviewed this film, and summarizes its flaws this way:
Occupation 101’s worst offense is its twisting of the history and facts of the conflict in order to equate the Palestinian cause with celebrated civil rights struggles around the world. Viewers are led to see the situation of the Palestinians as parallel to black South Africans under apartheid or southern blacks during the civil rights era. To pull this off, a decade of unprecedented terrorism directed at Israelis in their homes, cafes, vehicles and religious festivals is made nearly invisible, severing the connection between Israeli measures — like house demolitions and sweeps through Palestinian villages — and the Palestinian attacks that precipitated them. This is essential to the film’s portrayal of Israeli actions as colonialist aggression rather than as a response to terrorism. The hate indoctrination that permeates Arab society and produces cadres of young Palestinian suicide bombers groomed in hatred, intolerance and rejection of peaceful coexistence is swept under the carpet.
CAMERA’s review also mentions some of the more egregious falsehoods of the film:
•The film makes the preposterous charge, that through the location of the “wall,” Israel has grabbed 42 percent of the West Bank. Like many “facts” presented in the film, it is easily disproved. Any map of the barrier’s location would confirm the real figure at approximately six to eight percent.
•William Baker, head of Christians and Muslims for Peace, asserts the “first converts to the teachings of Jesus were Palestinians.” The first converts to Christianity were, of course, Jews, just as Jesus himself was Jewish, along with most of his close associates and early followers. [Baker’s claim, by the way, is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to hear of someone spouting neo-Nazi or Christian Identity kinds of claims. That he was interviewed for this film, and included in the final cut, says volumes about the kind of people behind it.]
•Richard Falk, who makes appearances throughout the film, is an emeritus professor at Princeton University with a long record of backing the wrong causes….The factually-challenged professor bizarrely contends that Israel “receives as much foreign economic assistance as all the countries combined in the world” from the US.
•[Episcopal] Bishop [Allen] Bartlett implies that Israel flattens Palestinian towns to establish settlements on top of them, claiming that settlements are built on “Palestinian land that are selected — whatever is there, whether it’s roads, whether it’s villages or homes — they’re bulldozed and new town is built….” This is complete invention; Israeli settlements have never been built on top of Palestinian homes and villages.
•Jeff Halper, a fringe detractor of Israel, contends that Israeli policy is meant to ensure “most of the land is free for Israeli settlement” and “to make the Palestinians leave the territories… it’s a kind of ethnic cleansing.” In reality, Israeli communities comprise only a small percentage of West Bank land and the supposedly “ethnically cleansed” Palestinian population has increased from 947,000 in June, 1967 to over four million today.
You get the point. The use of “Occupation 101” as an important reference for the study guide doesn’t just suggest an appalling lack of judgment on the part of the authors; it demonstrates that their aim is to propagandize Methodists and demonize Israel in a fashion that can only be described as anti-Semitic. Using this film as a jumping off point, they offer discussion questions such as:
What is Zionism?
What have you learned about Zionism?
What are some of the reasons for the rise of Zionism at the end of the 19th Century?
What were some inherent injustices with the United Nations Partition Plan of Palestine?
What was the response of the Zionists after the United Nations approved the partition plan?
How does the Orthodox Jew (the Hasidim) explain the conflict?
Oh, about that last question. Just before introducing the last set of questions, the guide says this:
Return to the film, continuing just before 1967. You will show the film for about 7 minutes, 5 seconds (to 27:35 on Google) through the Hasidic Jew saying (with a sign) that “Zionism is the problem.”
The Jew in question isn’t Hasidic. In fact, he’s a member of Neturei Karta, the radical anti-Zionist cult that sent representatives to Iran’s Holocaust denial conference back in 2006. Those are the kind of people from whom Methodists are supposed to get their ideas about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Session 6 and session 7 focus on a selective reading of international law, including documents such as the Fourth Geneva Convention, only excerpts of which are included. Finally, in session 8, participants are encouraged to read more (including tripe such as Jimmy Carter’s Peace Not Apartheid, Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, and Stephen Walt and John Mersheimer’s The Israel Lobby) and to join activist groups (all of the ones mentioned coming from the same perspective, of course, including such stellar outfits as the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Friends of Sabeel-North America).
The study guide Web site has other information, including something that looks sort of like a blog. Here’s one post regarding an upcoming event:
Palestine:62 years…passing on the promise: holding onto the key. Featuring George Galloway, British parliamentarian and founder of Viva Palestina. Also Dr. Hatme Baian, UC Berkeley professor, AMP co-founder and chairman. Also, Osama Abu Irshaid, editor in chief of Al-Mezan newspaper. Crowne Plaza Minneapolis North- 2200 Freeway Boulevard, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430.
George Galloway is actually an ex-member of Parliament who is most notorious for his whitewashing support of Saddam Hussein and pretty much any other anti-Western dictator.
I think you’ve got the idea. What’s going on here is that the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has put together an anti-Israel propaganda piece that uses exclusively anti-Israeli and even anti-Semitic materials to try to indoctrinate participants in a far-left, anti-Zionist view of Middle East politics. That material has now received the imprimatur of a denominational agency, which seeks to make it sound reasonable and educational by advertising it this way:
Goal of the study is to promote understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on global stability. The study employs updates that Palestine/Israel Justice Project Team receives daily from its contacts in Palestine and Israel.
Any United Methodist who cares about Israel, about equity and justice, and about truth should let the General Board of Church and Society (James Winkler, General Secretary; you can find his email address here) and Bishop Sally Dyck of the Minnesota Conference (her’s is here) what you think of their propaganda efforts.