April 2012

Next week, the world-wide United Methodist Church will begin its quadrennial meeting in Tampa. When the delegates, bishops, denominational staff, and other support personnel gather, they will not be alone.

In June, the Presbyterian Church (USA) will hold its biennial meeting in Pittsburgh. When the commissioners and other Presbyterians gather, they will not be alone.

In both instances, they will be met by political activists with an agenda: the delegitimization, and ultimately destruction, of Israel as a national homeland for the Jewish people. Their immediate goal: to get these two mainline denominations to put their stamp of approval on that agenda.

Over the last three days, I have offered internal documents, links, analysis, and other evidence to demonstrate that this is what is about to happen in Tampa and soon to happen in Pittsburgh. In the process, I hope I have made clear that this is about the efforts of secular, political activists who otherwise have no interest in the beliefs, practices, or positions of either of these denominations to manipulate them for their own purposes. They are being helped by a small coterie of like-minded activists within the denominations, but make no mistake: this show is being orchestrated by, informed by, led by, directed by, organized by, and resourced by organizations of the political far left.

I want to make clear at this point two things that these articles have not been about:

1) They have not been about Israel. There is much about Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories that is debatable, and a legitimate case can be made against its settlement policy, for instance, or the route of the security fence. But those who want to make this about Israel have missed the point, which is that if Methodists or Presbyterians want to criticize Israel, they should make that decision without outside interference by people who don’t have either the witness or the good of the denominations at heart.

2) This has not been about divestment. It is an article of faith on the left that divestment from South Africa led to the fall of apartheid, and that divestment from Israel can bring about an end to the occupation. In fact, I think the effect of divestment on South Africa is vastly overstated, and that divestment will have no effect on Israel at all. The only part of the “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” (BDS) movement that is likely to effect Israel in any way is sanctions, and then only if they are undertaken by most or all of the world’s nations, which is never going to happen. The actions of a couple of mainline Protestant denominations selling their pension fund stock in three companies is almost more of a joke than a serious effort. It is, in truth, a leftist form of ritual cleansing, rather than a genuine effort to have an impact on the conflict.

What this is about, as the title of the posts has said, is the infiltration of the churches by outside forces that seek to use them for their own ends. Leftists have been doing this since at least the 1960s, the result being that the churches have been dragged into lending their names to an ever-increasing number of causes and positions that have no basis in either church teaching or ethics, but solely in political views that the left views as Holy Writ, but which are actually just prudential judgments about which the churches ought to be agnostic. What special expertise does the church have, for instance, that makes it proper for a General Conference to express itself on the various forms of health insurance reform? Why should anyone listen to a General Assembly when it opines about what constitutes “fair” tax rates? And why should either be deciding whether Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza constitute “apartheid,” a political judgment that has nothing to do with whether any particular actions of Israel are right or wrong?

None of this is to say that the churches should not speak out loudly and in accordance with their convictions on matters that touch the gospel and its moral implications. Rather, it is to suggest that the churches have no special competence (in fact, usually none at all) to weigh in on policy specifics. But that is just what the activists are after, and it is clear that they will do everything in their power–including interfering in the work of institutions to which they have no personal connection–in order to make it happen. Here’s praying that the delegates to General Conference, and the commissioners to General Assembly, are not swayed by the political noise that they hear directed their way.

This all needs to be done *quickly.* We are less than 3 weeks away from the Methodist Conference, so time is of the essence. Can you start this week? Yes, I know you’re busy, but how thrilling will it be to have been a part of history when we win?

With those words, left-wing Jewish political activists Anna Baltzer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace encouraged others to get in on their effort to influence decisions of the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. It’s part of the tactics encapsulated in the “Toolkit: Action for Church Divestment” that has gone out to their enablers in recent weeks.

Right at the start, they make clear that this is only part of a larger political campaign:

What’s going on? What are our goals? Between now and early July, after more than eight years of hard work, two large Christian denominations — the United Methodist Church (of the world!) and the Presbyterian Church USA — will vote on divestment from companies involved in Israel’s occupation and its oppression of the Palestinian people. These churches are under attack for the courageous decisions they are about to make. With your help, we can help strengthen their resolve.

What’s the significance/importance?

*These could become the largest divestment victories in the US to date.
*They will inspire divestment efforts in other institutions and they build on other campaigns like “Stop Caterpillar,” “Hang Up on Motorola,” and the “We Divest” TIAA-CREF Campaign.
*Divestment is the right thing to do. It is a moral, nonviolent response to the immoral daily violence of the Israeli occupation.

Stepping stones: that’s how the USCEIO and JVP see the churches.

Baltzer and Levy then go on to list five things that their allies can do, the first three of which are important:

1. Contact voting delegates/commissioners before the conferences.
***This is the most important thing that we need.*** We need to reach out to these delegates to support them in doing the right thing and answering questions/concerns they might have. Phone calls and in-person meetings (if you have time and happen to live near a delegate) are recommended.

More on this in a moment.

2. Come to Tampa and/or Pittsburgh! We need tons of help at the conferences themselves. There will be opportunities to interact with delegates during breaks and to participate in special events. Other needs include tracking legislation, media, tabling, hospitality, leafleting, and more. A strong presence in favor of divestment at these conferences is really important.

You’d think these people were lobbying Congress. The fact that they have no intrinsic connection to the institution, and that many, perhaps most of the people they have there won’t either, doesn’t make the slightest difference to them. All they care about is the politics.

3. Find allies who can help speak to delegates or come to the conferences. Methodist, Presbyterian, Palestinian (esp. Palestinian Christian), and Jewish supporters are especially important.

Three responses: 1) Why bring Presbyterians to the Methodist GC? Because the denominational and polity differences don’t matter to the political activists. 2) Any Palestinian Christian that are brought are likely represent a Sabeel-approved agenda. They also will do all they can to make life under Muslim rule sound idyllic. 3) Jewish supporters of the activists anti-Israel agenda are designed to give Gentile Christians cover. They figure, “hey, if there are Jews who support this, it can’t really be anti-Israel.” Would that it were so.

Now, back to item 1. The Baltzer/Levy Legion has been give some guidance in how to approach the Methodist delegates:

1. DON’T alienate. Keep history, acronyms, politics, and attitude in check.
2. DO engage. Stay positive and build on shared values. We support freedom and equality for all people.
3. DO focus on the narrative and story you are telling. If you are Jewish or Palestinian, say so. If you have traveled to Israel and Palestine, explain what you saw. Make it personal.
4. DO listen. Pay attention to what the other person is saying. Ask questions. Do not interrupt, even if the speaker says something you do not like. When speaking with delegates, pay double attention. We will want you to report back what you heard — what do they believe, what are the obstacles they may have (if any) for voting yes, and what kind of follow-up may be needed.

“Keep history in check.” Because an informed person will know that the USCEIO-JVP version of history will distort reality beyond recognition. “Keep politics in check.” Convince them that you aren’t motivated by politics, but by a touching concern for Methodism. “Make it personal.” Because personal experience trumps truth, history, and the bigger picture.

Oh, and for any delegates to the General Conference who may be reading this: note well that what you say will be passed on to the activists.

In making calls, the Legion is provided with a script, just in case they can’t keep the talking points straight. You can find the whole thing here, but let’s look at a sample:

Hi, this is _____________. I’m a (insert: member of ______, Palestinian Christian, Jewish American,
person who has traveled to Israel/Palestine, local teacher, etc). I hope you had a Happy Easter! Do you have a moment to chat?

So I’m a person who’s a delegate to the General Conference, and I get this call from someone who tells me first thing, “I’m a Jewish American” or “I’m a local teacher” (huh?) My first thought is going to be, “and you want to talk to me why?”

(If you’re from the same area geographically, mention it here.) I’m calling because I was so happy to learn about the resolution that is being considered at General Conference to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation. I’m a strong supporter of divestment. Do you know much about the resolution? Do you have any questions that I could answer?

“So, you’re a local teacher or you’re Jewish and you want to talk to me about General Conference business? Why exactly are you sticking your nose into my church’s business? What makes you such an expert on the United Methodist Church? And why do you think you know more about our business than I do?”

If they don’t know about the resolution:
Methodist peace-seekers are working to align the church’s investment policies with your stated positions on ending the Israeli occupation.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that it is so important to you that my denomination be consistent in its political stances, even to the point of advocating that we take a specific action that conforms to your ideas of consistency.”

There are over 3,000 people around the country who have signed a petition endorsing the resolution, including many Jews, Palestinian Christians, and others.

“So 3000 people, all of whom could be members of Code Pink, and many of whom are not Methodists, have endorsed this resolution. Why exactly do they think that they are entitled to weigh in on Methodist business?”

If there are questions you can’t answer:
I don’t know the answer to that question off the top of my head but I could definitely send you the answer.

I’d be willing to bet that if the question hints at anything that runs counter to the activists’ narrative, this will happen:

If they are clearly hostile:
Thanks very much. Have a good day… (and hang up!)

They also offer a sample voicemail message that callers could leave if no one is at home:

I’m calling because I was so inspired to learn about the resolution that is being considered at General Conference to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation. I’m a strong supporter of divestment, along with lots of Christian leaders like the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and many Jews and rabbis – there’s actually a new letter of support from rabbis at http://www.rabbisletter.org.

See what I mean about the way Jewish support for divestment is made front and center? It’s mentioned over and over, to give those who might otherwise have doubts cover.

That aspect of their lobbying comes up as well in a video chat that took place about ten days ago. You can find it here, if you have an hour to kill. If you don’t, consider these comments in the chat bar that goes with the video presentation:

Jeffrey Mendelman from SF: You said “I’m Jewish-American”
Felice Gelman from United States: Exactly. Should we say that we are part of a campaign rather than sounding like an individual?
Jeffrey Mendelman from SF: To counter anti-semitic claims against hte movement
Craig Hunter from Denton: My suggestion as a Presbyterian — if you are Jewish, I think it is very important to mention that.
Benjamin Douglas from Sacramento, CA: I would assume he was pandering, just to get someone whom he thinks is an angry Zionist off his back.
Rochelle Gause: not acting is an action.
Katharine Davies Samway from Oakland: Why don’t we mention the huge, unbalanced response of the US, our government

You can also take a look at the training video that United Methodist Kairos Response (the tools who are being used by the activists to gain access and cover to the General Conference) has put out.

So there you have it: a concerted, organized, detailed, and intrusive effort by left-wing anti-Israel activists to infiltrate the highest decision-making body of the United Methodist Church for the purpose of manipulating it in support of their political agenda.

Tomorrow: Final thoughts.

(Cross-posted at Stand Firm.)

The groups seeking to influence the mainline churches denominational meetings are a motley crew of left-wing political outfits and their allies inside those denominations. In case you aren’t familiar with them, I’d like to introduce them to you.

First, there’s the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO). It calls itself “the largest and most diverse coalition working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality.” That sounds nice, but it’s just verbiage. So is the Campaign’s claim not to support either a two-state or one-state solution to the Palestinian problem.

The reason is that the USCEIO supports, as a “human right,” the so-called “right of return” for Palestinians. This refers to the claim that hundreds of thousands of Arabs were forced at gunpoint by Israel to leave the country in 1948, and that those still alive and all of their descendants should have the freedom to return to Israel, reclaim any property they claim to have held at the time, and become citizens of the country. (In fact, most of the Arabs who left Israel at the time of the invasion of the new nation by five Arab armies did so simply to get out of the way of the fighting, or because they listened to Arab propaganda and thought they’d be returning home in a few weeks once their brethren had pushed the Jews into the sea. Check out the history as it was recorded at the time here. It should also be noted that almost a million Jews were expelled from various Arab nations in 1948 and years following, and the USCEIO has never uttered a word suggesting that they should be allowed to return to their former homes.)

This, of course, is a formula for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish national homeland. Adding what is now millions of Palestinians to the over one million Arabs who are already citizens of Israel (because they didn’t leave in 1948, and have therefore enjoyed greater freedom than any of their Arab brethren for over 60 years) would create an Arab majority. Assuming Israel remained a democracy, once the Palestinians were in charge of the country, things would change, to say the least. It is hardly beyond the ream of possibility that the new Arab-ruled Israel would expel the Jewish population, just as the Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians, and others before them. It’s also likely that, since the vast majority of Palestinians are Muslims, that Christians and any Jews allowed to remain would become dhimmis in short order. Finally, of course, there’s the dreadful human rights record of every other Arab nation to consider. Would a Palestinian-ruled Israel ape Syria or Saudi Arabia? Maybe not, but there’s little reason for Israel’s Jewish population to expect anything different, especially given the corruption and human rights violations of the Palestinian Authority, and the anti-Semitic ravings of Hamas.

The USCEIO is of the same mind as its leftist allies: Palestinians deserve the right of national self-determination, but Jews do not. It states as much in its FAQ:

The US Campaign does not endorse either a one-state or a two-state solution, but rather upholds the Palestinian right to self-determination. We believe the Palestinians must be empowered to exercise this right, and that the international community has a responsibility towards the right of the Palestinian to self-determination.

No mention of such a right for Israelis, or Israeli Jews, is mentioned anywhere on its web site.

That the USCEIO marches in lockstep with the far left is no surprise. Among the organizations that are members of this anti-Israel umbrella is a veritable Who’s Who of the American extreme left. Among the member groups are long-time Communist fronts like the US Peace Council and the National Lawyers Guild, the International Socialist Organization, Code Pink, Global Exchange, the Council for the National Interest, the International Solidarity Movement, the U.S. Green Party, the Institute for Policy Studies, We Are Wide Awake (a project of anti-Semitic web site Veterans Today‘s Eileen Fleming), the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the War Resisters League, If Americans Knew, the Rachel Corrie Foundation, and the U.S. Campaign fro Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Of course, the secular left is not alone in the USCEIO, which includes a wide range of church groups. Among these are the General Board of Global Ministries and General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship Israel Palestine Network, the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, the PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network, the American Friends Service Committee, United Methodist Kairos Response, Pax Christi, Friends of Sabeel-North America, Christian Peacemakers Teams, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Don’t think, however, that these Christian organizations (other than the Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, which I’ll return to in a moment) have a lot of say within the USCEIO. Of the five staff of the Campaign, the two most important and visible are Jewish, while the other three are of indeterminate religious background (though one has an Arabic name). The membership of the Steering Committee is especially interesting. For at least the last five years, one member has been Judith LeBlanc, a vice-chair of the Communist Party USA and national field organizer for Peace Action, which is also a USCEIO member organization. Another is Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Yet another is Felicia Eaves, whose connections to the far left include Black Voices for Justice and the Marxist-dominated United for Peace and Justice, and who has been a featured speaker at events sponsored by the likes of the neo-Stalinist International ANSWER. Also on the Steering Committee are members from the Muslim American Society, American Muslims for Palestine, and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. Left-wing Judaism has a representative in Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace (remember this name–it will come up again tomorrow). Bringing up the rear are a couple of leftist media types (Andrew Kadi of Adalah-NY and Bill Fletcher Jr. of Black Commentator.com) and two representatives of Christian organizations: David Wildman of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and Mike Merryman-Lotze of the American Friends Service Committee.

Merryman-Lotze is the Israel-Palestine Program Director for the AFSC, but has otherwise kept a low profile on the Internet. Wildman, the “Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Racial Justice in Mission Contexts and Relationships” at the UMGBGM, is another story. He has been talking about Israeli “apartheid” and “colonialism” for years, as well as advocating for divestment. He has said of Zionism, “It’s a theology that is deeply exclusivist and racist.” An article of his appeared at Electronic Intifada in which he wrote:

The New Testament was written in a context of Roman colonial rule, discrimination, and military occupation in Palestine. It also took place in the midst of an active armed resistance movement (the Zealots) against colonialism and occupation. So, if we want to understand fully the meaning of biblical texts for today, it is helpful to listen to Palestinians who are facing the same dynamics of military occupation, colonial control of their land and apartheid-like discrimination.

You decide just what that is supposed to mean, or justify.

The USCEIO is not alone in its efforts to infiltrate the churches. A close ally in this effort is Jewish Voice for Peace. Both the staff and board of directors of JVP are shot through with individuals with resumes full of left-wing activism:

*Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson: “Rebecca has over fifteen years of experience in community organizing, advocacy, program development and fundraising in the United States and Israel.”

*Director of Advocacy Sydney Levy: “Sydney has worked for over 15 years in nonprofits advocating for LGBT human rights organizing for media justice, and assisting in the preparation of death row appeals.”

*Administrative Director Jane Suskin: “Long active in justice, peace and feminist causes.”

*Board member and treasurer Jethro Eisenstein: “Since 1971 he has been involved in the longest-running civil rights case in New York, which established a right to sue the NY Police Department to restrict surveillance of peaceful political activity.”

Board member and secretary Jordan Ash: “He later dropped out of college to work as a union organizer for SEIU. After 12 years working at ACORN, where he played a leading role in the group’s campaign against predatory mortgage lending, he returned to the labor movement and now works for SEIU again.”

*Board member Noah Winer: “…was a founding campaign strategist at MoveOn.org from 2003 to 2010.”

You get the idea. JVP is a political organization, and needless to say not a Christian one. It has no interest whatsoever in Christian theology or ethics, and doesn’t care what the right stance would be for Christian denominations to take would be based on their own beliefs or interests, and yet is heavily involved in the effort to get the denominations meeting this summer to buy into its divestment/boycott/sanctions agenda.

Jewish Voice for Peace has put out a flyer in connection with the Methodist General Conference that you can see here. Among the anti-Israel voices quoted in it are Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who thinks that pretty much everything is related to apartheid), and a Holocaust survivor named Hajo Meyer, a favorite of the anti-Semite set who has expressed support for the bizarre theory that most Jews are not really Jews, but descendants of a Central Asian people called the Khazars; referred to Zionism as “racist and separatist”; and declared that the Jewish state is the modern equivalent of Nazi Germany. He’s also claimed that the definition of “anti-Semitism” has changed:

“Formerly an anti-Semite was somebody who hated Jews because they were Jews and had a Jewish soul. But nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.”

That’s the kind of person that Jewish Voice for Peace wants United Methodists to listen to next week.

Tomorrow: the tactics being used by the political left to infiltrate the churches.

(Cross-posted at Stand Firm.)

Yes, well. Between Holy Week stuff, finishing a D.Min class paper, and regular pastoral duties, I’ve fallen down on the whole biblical commentary thing. Sorry about that.

I will come back to it. But for anyone who is still checking this blog out, I have something I have to do this week that I’m also cross-posting at Stand Firm. It has to do with Israel.

As several large mainline denominations prepare to meet in the next several months, political leftists are planning on using them to attack Israel and advance their agendas.

At their denominational meetings, both the United Methodist Church (April 24-May 4) and the Presbyterian Church USA (June 30-July 7) will be dealing with resolutions calling for divestment from Israel, and labeling the Israeli occupation of the West Bank “apartheid.” But it is not only Methodist and Presbyterian activists who are pushing those actions.

The denominational activists that are serving as the fronts for the political left include United Methodist Kairos Response and the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA. Behind them is a collection of organizations of the far left, including:

In addition, there are organizations from other Christian denominations that are not content to allow fellow Christians to conduct their own business, but rather are sticking their nose in to support the anti-Israel agenda. Among these are the American Friends Service Committee, the United Church of Canada’s Israel Palestine Network, and the United Church of Canada Maritime Conference Working Group for Just Peace for Israel-Palestine. Friends of Sabeel-North America, an interfaith group that supports the work of the anti-Semitic Sabeel Center in Jerusalem, is also helping.

All of the above organizations, among others, will have a presence of some kind at the United Methodist General Conference that begins next week.

Leading and coordinating this effort is the “national organizer” for the USCEIO, Anna Baltzer. Her biography on the USCEIO site describes her this way:

Anna is an award-winning lecturer, author, and activist for Palestinian human rights. Baltzer has appeared on television more than 100 times (including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and lectured at more than 500 universities, schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, and policy institutes around the world with her acclaimed presentation, “Life in Occupied Palestine: Eyewitness Stories & Photos,” and her full-color book: Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. Both her DVD and her book are available in our store. She is co-founder of US Campaign member group, the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee.

Discover the Networks fills out the picture with stuff that the USCEIO would rather you not know:

Baltzer has worked with both the International Solidarity Movement and the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS). The West Bank-based IWPS, which supports “acts of nonviolent resistance to end [Israel’s] brutal and illegal military Occupation,” is a communist organization that grew out of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. [Note the prominence that the IWPS gives to Baltzer’s book on their home page–DF]

Adamantly opposed to Israel’s existence as an independent “Jewish state,” Baltzer favors a “one state solution” where Jews would be a minority surrounded by Arabs sympathetic to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In an article she penned in March 2007, Baltzer condemned “the so-called ‘Land of Israel’” for practicing “ethnic discrimination” in many forms. She added:

“I know what Israel will say: this is only self-defense. On some level this is correct: if Israel desires control the territory that it has for more than two-thirds of its history, and to remain the state exclusively of the Jewish people, and to be democratic as well, it must find a way to create a Jewish majority on a strip of land in which the majority of inhabitants are not Jewish. There are only so many possible solutions: there’s forced mass transfer … there’s mass imprisonment (10,000 plus Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails as I write), there’s genocide … or there is apartheid.”

“Apartheid and segregation,” Baltzer concluded, “failed in South Africa and the United States and they will fail in Israel and Palestine. Ethnocentric nationalism failed in Nazi Germany and it will fail in Zionist Israel. But … [w]e cannot wait for things to get worse. The ethnic cleansing and apartheid have gone on long enough.”

In August 2007, Baltzer was the featured speaker at a Sabeel-sponsored conference in Berkeley, California. Claiming that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was rooted in a dispute over land rather than religion, she explained that Muslim Arabs do not hate Jews per se, but only resent that the latter have stolen their real estate.

In May 2008 Baltzer spoke to the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine, where she again denounced the “Apartheid Wall” but never once mentioned the epidemic of suicide bombings that had necessitated its creation. When a student attendee asked Baltzer to comment on those suicide bombings, she replied that while such acts were certainly abominable, they needed to be understood in context; that is, one could hardly expect the Palestinians to act non-violently in the face of their suffering.

An apologist for suicide bombers, an opponent of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and Israeli self-defense, a denizen of the far left: this is who is leading the effort to infiltrate the highest decision-making bodies of the mainline churches in order to use them in the service of the anti-Israel agenda of the extreme left.

Tomorrow: the organizations behind the infiltration effort, and their mainline enablers.