Mainline Churches

It would have been easy to overlook amid the news about the Presbyterian Church (USA), but there was another cliff-jumping this weekend. The Northern Province of the Moravian Church, my former denomination and the oldest of all Protestant churches, also voted to take the plunge:

The 2014 Synod of the Moravian Church, Northern Province has approved a proposal to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian individuals, whether single, married or in covenanted relationships.

By a vote of 181-62, synod delegates approved the proposal, which also includes provisions to revise the Book of Order of the Moravian Church Northern Province to reflect this change, and a call to create a rite for solemnizing covenanted relationships for use in the Northern Province.

“Moravians understand that God’s call to us is to welcome all people, because God’s embrace is far larger than our capacity to imagine,” said the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth D. Miller, president of the Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Moravian Church Northern Province.  “The 2014 Synod responded to God’s leading to receive the gifts of gay and lesbian individuals who wish to serve as ordained servants in the Moravian Church Northern Province.”

“This decision came following much prayer and consideration and many differing opinions were expressed during debate,” said Miller. “We know that there are Moravians who deeply love God, who honor the authority of Scripture and love the Moravian Church who do not agree with this resolution. It is my prayer that as Moravians, in relationship with one another, we can continue to walk together in love, even as we acknowledge our differences.”

It’s amazing how similar the language is among gay advocates regardless of denomination. I’m sure (because I know the way Moravians think) that Dr. Miller thinks she is somehow being very “Moravian” in talking about “welcoming all people” and “acknowledging our differences” and “walking together in love.” In fact, she’s completely interchangeable with Gradye Parsons of the PCUSA, Katherine Jefforts-Schori of the Episcopal Church, Mark Hanson of the ELCA, or any other mainline leader.

There have already been some defections from the Moravian Church over The Issue, defections that the denomination can ill afford because it is so small (fewer than 50,000 members in North America). Moravians do, however, on the whole have an almost infinite capacity for papering over differences and ignoring heresy, the very concept of which is felt to be somehow “unMoravian,” because it suggests that there are some theological affirmations worth fighting about. I remember being gob-smacked twenty years ago when a writer asserted in the denominational magazine that Moravians (whose motto is “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love”) have only one essential, Christ–which meant, presumably, that an Ebionite Oneness Pentecostal would have been perfectly suited for ordination. I didn’t think that a widespread opinion then. Now, maybe so.

In any case, whether the Northern Province faces any clergy or membership losses, the pity is that a historically important Christian movement has now officially begun the process of forfeiting any claim on that name.


Their denomination is collapsing under the weight of apostasy, heresy, and a generalized disinterest in the gospel as opposed to politics. Therefore, the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ took the bull by the horns, and called on the church to make a stand for Christ.

Oh, who do I think I’m fooling? They did the usual pointless nonsense:

The governing body of United Church of Christ congregations in the Mid-Atlantic is proposing that its members boycott Washington Redskins games and shun products bearing the team’s logo until the team changes its name and mascot.

In a meeting Saturday in Catonsville [Maryland], the 25-member board of directors of the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC unanimously passed the boycott resolution, pointedly avoiding use of the word Redskins. The board, mostly laypeople, proposed that the 22,000 members of the liberal denomination “join a boycott of games played by the Washington National League Football team and not wear, display or purchase any items with the Washington National League Football team logo until the name changes.”

The 180 congregations in the conference, which stretches from Richmond to New Jersey, were asked to debate the resolution before a vote on whether to adopt it at the conference’s annual meeting in mid-June. The conference also asked the church’s national governing body to consider passing a similar boycott resolution.

Leave aside the fact that this is the ecclesiastical equivalent of vacuuming the carpet while the house is burning down. Leave aside the fact that even in the realm of social issues, this is like complaining to your waiter about the fly in your soup but overlooking the rat poison with which it is laced. In terms of impact on the decision of the Washington Redskins about whether to change their nickname, I imagine it will be just as effective as this:

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a lot of problems, from declining membership and attendance to fleeing congregations to heresy run rampant in its seminaries and pulpits and the internal warfare on its own members that has resulted from the spread of false teaching and the need to protect it. By and large, those are internal concerns. What the rest of the Christian world should be concerned about is its growing embrace of anti-Semitism, a phenomenon recently highlighted by the publication of a so-called “congregational study resource” called Zionism Unsettled by the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN).

The IPMN–“mandated,” according to a recent press release, by the PCUSA General Assembly in 2004–has had its share of controversy. It has a disturbing habit of relying on the scribblings of known anti-Semitic writers and web sites, even having to shut down its Facebook page so as to try to scrub away its dirty laundry (it keeps popping up, over and over again, on their Twitter feed, however). Now, however, they decided to do a “greatest hits” collection of sorts, combining all of their various tropes into one handy package.

Let’s just say that reading Zionism Unsettled was right up there with plunging steak knives into my eyeballs as a fun way to spend an afternoon. Here are a few examples of why.

•One of the chief techniques used by IPMN is to simply ignore anything that might inconvenience the narrative. For instance, when dealing with the events of the so-called Nakba (“catastrophe”) that was the founding of Israel, they tell us that things got ugly in May of 1948:

As expected, war broke out between Jewish and Arab forces when Israel declared independence in May 1948. (p. 13)

Actually, what happened was that on May 15, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and a token force from Saudi Arabia attacked Israel without provocation in an attempt to destroy the Jewish state in its cradle. The attack was accompanied by calls for the extermination, not just of the state, but of all Jews living in the Holy Land.

Another example is on the matter of refugees, where Zionism Unsettled says:

From December 1947 until the armistice between Israel and its Arab neighbors in 1949, this strategy of ethnic cleansing would force all the inhabitants from more than 500 Palestinian villages, totally and deliberately destroy the structures in 400 Palestinian villages, create 750,000 Palestinia refugees, kill most who resisted the dispossession of their lands, and homes, and prevent the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes after the cessation of hostilities. (p. 14)

How is this dishonest? Let us count the ways:

1) It fails to mention the Arab broadcasts that explicitly told Palestinians to leave or be treated as enemies. The Economist reported on October 2, “Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained. Various factors influenced their decision to seek safety in flight. There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab Executive, urging the Arabs to quit.. . . It was clearly intimated that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.”

2) At least some of the destruction that the IPMN attributes solely to Israel was the result of fighting in and around Arab villages, making the invading Arab armies as responsible for it as the Israeli Defense Force.

3) The number of refugees is exaggerated–the real figure is much closer to half a million than three quarters, and in any event it is impossible to know what percentage of those who left the country did so out of fear of the Jews, out of fear of their Arab brethren, or out of obedience to the repeated broadcasts that called on them to do so.

4) Even before the declaration of independence, Arabs were leaving the country. The Lebanese daily Al-Telegraph, on September 6, 1948, quoted the secretary of the Arab High Council, Emil Ghory, saying “The flight of Arabs from the territory allotted by the UN for the Jewish state began immediately after the General Assembly decision [on partition] at the end of November 1947. This wave of emigration, which lasted several weeks, comprised some thirty thousand people, chiefly well-to-do-families.”

Yet another piece of dishonesty by omission is found in p. 14, where Zionism Unsettled says:

In the first decade of the life of the new state, the Jewish population almost doubled….Hundreds of thousands of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries flooded Israel to escape the actual violent blowback or fear of blowback as the region became inflamed at the perceived injustice of the enforced partition of Palestine, the creation of a Jewish state, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1947-48, and the Sinai War of 1956.

In fact, violence against Jews in the countries mentioned started before Israel’s independence, and even the partition, much less the creation of the refugee problem or the Sinai war. For example, in Libya, “The 2,000 year-old Jewish community of Libya, which numbered almost 60,000 by the 1940s, was the target of mass anti-Jewish violence in November 1945. In Tripoli alone, 120 Jews were massacred, over 500 wounded, 2,000 were made homeless, and synagogues were torched. There were more pogroms in January 1946, with 75 Jews massacred in Zanzur, and more than 100 murdered in other towns.” In all, over 875,000 Jews were expelled from various Arab countries, and over $13 billion in property and possessions expropriated. While the Palestinian population of both Israel and the West Bank has grown tremendously in the years since the establishment of the Jewish state, here’s one estimate of the size of the Jewish populations of the Arab nations that denounce the “racism” and “exclusivity” of Israel:

Algeria: less than 100
Egypt: less than 100
Iraq: 60
Libya: less than 100
Morocco: 7,000
Syria: 100

None of this is mentioned in Zionism Unsettled, and those are significant omissions from just two pages of this propaganda.

Perhaps the most ludicrous form of the technique of omission is in the vignette page entitled “Extremism and Intolerance In Israel” (p. 36). There’s a picture of a sticker in a house window in Hebron that says “Kahane Was Right!” (referring to Meir Kahane, the infamous racist rabbi who advocated the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza). There’s another picture from Hebron, this one of graffiti that says “Gas the Arabs.” These are presented as if they are typical of Israeli attitudes:

Racism and intolerance are in no way confined to Israel’s religious extremists and settlers. Many observers who care deeply about Israel [who are neither named nor cited–DF] express grave concern that a rising tide of racial prejudice and extremism is becoming normalized not only among religious Jews but also among political figures and private citizens within Israel proper.

That there is racism, prejudice, and hate for Arabs in Israel is hardly a surprise. Jews are no more immune to the failings of human beings, including their worst impulses, than any other people. That such people are sometimes loud, obnoxious, and listened to by a segment of the population is also no surprise. Such instances, no matter who spews them, are deserving of nothing but contempt and condemnation. What is surprising is that, in a “study guide” that presumes to speak of the problems of Israel and Palestine, there is no mention whatsoever of the daily demonization, dehumanization, and hate that is directed at Israel and Jews by Arab media, education, and political and religious leadership. The New York Times, not noted as a friend of Israel, recently offered a few examples:

Adolf Hitler is quoted on the Facebook pages of Palestinian Authority schools. A young girl appears on Palestinian television, describing Jews as “barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs” and the “murderers of Muhammad,” the Islamic prophet. Maps on the Facebook page of the Palestinian presidential guards do not show Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas himself embraced as “heroes” released Palestinian prisoners who killed Israelis.

•One of the primary goals of the tract is to delegitimize the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. Supposedly this is a “new idea” introduced into the diplomatic lexicon by Colin Powell in a 2001 speech. Zionism Unsettled claims:

Since the Powell speech, this insistence on explicit Palestinian recognition of a “Jewish state” has become almost routine, but it is relatively new language for negotiations and for the international community….This demand presents a major obstacle to peace because, just as Jews want a “right of return” to the land, so too do the millions of Palestinians who have languished in refugee camps for three generations. Non-Zionists point out that a “Jewish state” is anethnocracy, not a democracy. [Emphasis in original.]

What’s wrong with this? To begin with, it ignores that the original intention of the U.N. partition was to create an “Arab state” and a “Jewish state.” The idea was that Arabs would live in Israel, and Jews in Palestine, with guaranteed rights of full citizenship for minorities in both countries. The Arabs rejected that, of course, and sought to create yet another Arab state while destroying the Jewish one. The demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” is nothing more than a demand for Palestinians to reject the exterminationist goals of terror groups like Hamas. For another thing, the reference to the Jewish state as an “ethnocracy” is laughable coming from people who have no apparent problem with the tribalism and political repression of the almost two dozen Arab states. The writers of this garbage should ask themselves, how many mosques are there in Israel, as opposed to synagogues in Saudi Arabia? How many Arabs sit in the Israel Knesset, as opposed to Jews in Iraq’s Parliament? How many Arab-language publications are there in Israel, as opposed to Hebrew-language publications in Libya? How many Arab voters are there in Israel as opposed to Jewish voters in Egypt? Oh, wait, I forgot–essentially all the Jews have been expelled from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, and were never allowed in Saudi Arabia, while 20% of Israel’s population is Arab.

The persistent drumbeat for the Palestinian “right of return” (a prominent feature of the advocacy in Zionism Unsettled) is nothing more than a bid to change the demographic reality in Israel. Regardless of the motives of the advocates (which I’m sure are pure as the driven snow), the effect of deconstructing the Jewish “ethnocracy” would be to create yet another Arab-dominated state in which Jews would be allowed to live until such time as the Arab majority decided they were tired of having them around. Oddly enough, Zionism Unsettled does recognize that one of the primary reasons for Israel’s founding was to provide a haven to Jews in the midst of a world that has marginalized, mistreated, ghettoized, and killed them with brutal regularity for centuries, and yet still calls for the dismantling of that haven. What was that about motives, again?

•Through the use of emotionally charged language and hysterical charges, the IPMN seeks to demonize Israel in a way that bears little if any relationship to reality. Foremost among the examples of this is the use of the term “apartheid” (comparison is also made with Jim Crow segregation in the American South on p. 18). It’s a word that conjures up images of oppression, violence, and racism, and has nothing whatsoever to do with what Israel is doing. Let’s look at one example of its use in Zionism Unsettled:

[T]here is a growing consensus–except, notably, in the US and Israel–that the existing de facto one-state situation/solution is irreversible and that the Israeli form of apartheid (segregation and separate development) is becoming increasingly entrenched. (p. 23)

This is nonsensical on several levels, but it’s the use of the word “apartheid” that is especially objectionable. As I wrote once on The Reformed Pastor:

[T]here is virtually no comparison between the two situations. In South Africa, blacks objected to being banished to “independent” Bantustans; the Palestinians are desperate for a state of their own (if anything, it’s Hamas and their desire for a single, Judenrein Palestinian state that most resemble the Afrikaaners). In South Africa, it was the state that beat up on its own people; in the Holy Land, the Palestinians aren’t citizens of Israel, but would-be invaders from outside. In South Africa, blacks had no rights to speak of; in Israel, Palestinian Arabs who are citizens–about one-sixth of the population–have all the rights of Jewish citizens, including the right to vote, to be elected to the Knesset, to sit in the government, even to speak out in support of their non-Israeli brethren. In South Africa, the courts facilitated the brutal treatment of blacks; in Israel, the courts protect the rights of Palestinians, even to the point of ordering the government to change many of its policies over the years (it is the Israeli Supreme Court, for instance, not the powerless International Court of Justice, that got the government to make changes in the route the security fence takes, ordering it to avoid as much as possible infringing on Palestinian-owned lands, orchards, and farms).

Using the word “apartheid” in reference to Israel is nothing more than name-calling designed to provoke an emotional response, rather than a serious attempt to understand the situation. Worse, it deliberately poisons the well, and stirs animosity toward the Jewish state that has little if anything to do with what the word actually means.

•Most egregiously, Zionism Unsettled is meant to delegitimize Judaism in the eyes of Christians as the IPMN arrogates to itself the right to separate “real” Judaism from its Zionist-infected counterfeit.

In the section entitled “A Jewish Theology of Liberation,” we read this:

In his important book Justice and Only Justice, Canon Ateek, a Palestinian Israeli and 1948 refugee from his ancestral home in Beisan, Palestine (now northern Israel), identifies three ideological streams within the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). First, the tribalist-nationalist-separatist tradition of the conquest of Canaan and and the establishment of Israelite kingship so that Israel could become a military power like surrounding nations; second, the Torah-oriented tradition of the Pharisees which evolved into Rabbinic Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.; and third, the prophetic tradition that rejected the idea of a tribal god in favor of Yahweh who not only ruled over the world but would eventually redeem all humanity. Ateek writes:

What is quite clear from a Palestinian Christian point of view…is that the emergence of the Zionist movement in the twentieth century is a retrogression of the Jewish community into the history of its very distant past, with its most elementary and primitive forms of the concept of God. Zionism has succeeded in re-animating the nationalist tradition within Judaism. Its inspiration has been drawn not from the profound thoughts of the Hebrew Scriptures, but from those portions that betray a narrow and exclusive concept of a tribal god.

Leave aside Ateek’s approach to the Old Testament, which is essentially Marcionite (he tosses the parts that morally offend him, and deride them as a “lower” form of revelation from a Demiurge or “tribal god”). What Ateek does here is dress up in theological language the old idea that the Jews, alone among the world’s multitude of peoples, have no legitimate claim to the safety, security, and dignity that goes along with sovereignty. Keep in mind, of course, that Ateek and his fanboys at the IPMN are positively passionate about what they see as the Palestinian claim to a sovereign state (preferably one that would include all of Israel as well). Such things just aren’t for Jews, apparently.

Oh, and let’s not miss this little head-fake: “Zionism has succeeded in re-animating the nationalist tradition within Judaism.” Really? Here I thought that the reason for the re-emergence of the desire for a national home for the Jewish people came about because Gentiles–Christians and Muslims, Europeans and Turks and Arabs–kicked them from pillar to post, expelled them, turned them into dhimmis, periodically persecuted and robbed them when they needed a political diversion, or systematically exterminated them. Turns out it was all just a political/ideological/racist ploy on the part of those evil Zionists to displace the Palestinians. Who’d a thunk it?

What’s all this got to do with anti-Semitism? Let me suggest these connections:

1) The source of this tract is the IPMN. As mentioned above, this hate group doesn’t hesitate to traffic with anti-Semites and use material off of their web sites. They are also fond of using materials from people and sites that are so far left, and so uniquely and disproportionately hostile to Israel that they might as well fall into the same category. Among those who feature in the text and endnotes are Ilan Pappe, Paul Findley, Rashid Khalidi, Max Blumenthal, I.F. Stone, Naim Ateek, Neve Gordon, Edward Said, Jonathan Cook, Jewish Voice for Peace,Mondoweiss.netElectronic IntifadaTruthout.orgAl Jazeera, and Occupied Palestine.

2) By failing to present anything that even remotely resembles a balanced picture, the IPMN has offered a Manichean view of the conflict that casts Israel as devil and Palestinians as saints. One would never know from this propaganda that Arabs had ever treated Jews as anything other than full and equal residents of the region, living side-by-side in harmony, until the evil Jews decided to get all nationalistic and start treating the Arabs as sub-human, at which point the latter naturally took offense and defended themselves. The history of dhimmitude under Muslim rule, the periodic outbreaks of official or mob violence, the invasion of Israel in 1948, the planned invasion of 1967, the surprise attack of 1973, the use of terrorism against Israel’s civilian population by terror organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah–most of these are entirely absent, and the rest make nothing more than cameo appearances in Zionism Unsettled.

3) Granted that the IPMN is a special interest group, there is never even the slightest hint that things in the rest of the Arab world are anything but peachy, while Israel is regularly compared with apartheid South Africa and even Nazi Germany (see the section entitled “A Palestinian Muslim Experience with Zionism,” which alludes to the analogy, and has an extended discussion of “ethnic cleansing,” something the Israel must be really bad at, given that there are so many Palestinian citizens of Israel, much less the West Bank or Gaza). One would think that in a catalog of Palestinian suffering, there might be some mention of the failures of their Arab brethren–for instance, their refusal to take in and naturalize any of the refugees from 1948 or their descendants, or their repeated military failures that have hardened Israel’s resolve to protect itself, or their treatment of Palestinians as second-class citizens (Kuwait, Jordan, and others have done this for years). But no. Once again, it is the Jewish state that is uniquely evil, uniquely violent, uniquely prejudiced, and that is practically the very definition of anti-Semitism.

Zionism Unsettled has been getting a lot of attention from both Jewish critics and Christian supporters of Israel. So far the PCUSA, however, has essentially turned a blind eye to the cancer in its midst. A search of the PCUSA web site got only two hits–one for press release from IPMN blowing its own horn, and another from PCUSA News Service in which the head of the denomination’s mission agency, in which the IPMN is housed, said this:

“Our church has a long history of engaging many points of view when it comes to dialogue on critical issues facing the world around us — it’s who we are, part of our DNA,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “There are likely as many differing opinions as there are Presbyterians — and, like many denominations, we don’t always agree.”

“There are myriad voices within congregations, and some would like to see the church go beyond that stance,” added Valentine. “But we remain guided by the policies of the General Assembly, seeking peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

The news item also propounds the fiction that the IPMN–a creation of the church’s General Assembly–is “independent,” and “speaks to the church and not for the church,” a meaningless distinction in terms of the message that it sends to the world. That message is this: the PCUSA is perfectly comfortable with one of its constituent groups making repeated forays into the swamps of falsehood, bigotry, and hate. It is a scandal for the denomination, and one that this summer’s General Assembly would be wise to address.

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

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 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 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.

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