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July 22, 2012

The Presbyterian Church Statement following the Massacre of Israelis-Jews in Bulgaria

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/The_presbyterian_church_statement_following_the_massacre_of_israe/

Once again, the leadership of the Presbyterian Church USA shows extraordinary insensitivity towards Israelis and Jews. This week the Church issued a statement that completely ignores the fact that those murdered in Bulgaria by a suicide bomber sponsored by Hezbollah (and probably Iran) were targeted specifically and only because they were Israelis/Jews.

Here is their complete statement on the massacre:
http://www.pcusa.org/news/2012/7/19/presbyterian-leaders-issue-statement-wake-suicide-/

It is important to judge this statement in context. At this year’s Presbyterian Church USA National Conference earlier this month several votes were taken in their General Assembly on resolutions supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel. See http://www.bdsmovement.net/2012/palestinian-civil-society-welcomes-presbyterian-church-usa-israel-boycott-resolution-9197

1. By a vote of 333-331 with two abstentions, the assembly rejected a proposal to divest from companies selling equipment to the Israeli military in the West Bank;

2. By a vote of 403-175, a resolution was defeated that would have likened Israel’s West Bank presence to apartheid;

3. By a vote of 457-180, a resolution passed targeting only products manufactured in the West Bank.

There is nothing wrong with criticism, but there is a difference between fair and unfair criticism of Israel.

Israel is not a perfect society. No democracy is. Thus, being a critic of Israeli policies does not mean one is automatically anti-Israel. Indeed, Israelis themselves are among the most self-critical citizens of any nation in the world.

However, when individuals and groups consistently criticize one nation and one nation alone, one has to question such people’s deeper motivations and agenda.

After watching for several years the Presbyterian Church USA’s efforts on behalf of the BDS movement, those advocating for it I believe are unfair criticizers and part of the “anti-Israel camp.”

By “anti-Israel camp” I refer to those individuals and organizations whose criticism of Israel goes far beyond what is factual, reasonable and fair. These people rarely if ever voice criticism against Hamas’ or Fatah’s documented human rights violations against their own populations. They rarely if ever criticize human rights violations in other countries against which Israeli policies vis a vis Palestinians in the West Bank (as bad as they can be) pale by comparison. And they ignore the history of this conflict which gives context for current events.

Let us not, however, over-estimate the significance of the Presbyterian Church USA. It is a small denomination of 2.3 million members in America and Puerto Rico among an estimated 230 million American Christians. Yet, despite their very small size their resolutions have grabbed the world’s attention.

As an American Zionist of the moderate-left, I believe that criticism from love is the highest form of patriotism. That is why I have found a natural Zionist home in J Street, an American pro-Israel pro-peace movement that advocates for American leadership in helping Israel and the Palestinians find a two-state resolution to their conflict. I believe, as well, that if criticism of Israel does not pass the “stink test” of J Street, then one should ask about the motivations and agenda of those critics.

Before the vote, J Street called upon the Presbyterian Church USA to defeat the BDS resolutions. See http://jstreet.org/blog/post/boycott-divestment-and-sanctions-put-allies-at-odds. There J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote:

I would say to the Church’s leaders as they again consider joining forces with the BDS Movement, that the Movement’s rhetoric and tactics are not only a distraction, but a genuine threat to conflict resolution. Even the limited divestment approach under consideration by PCUSA falls under the rubric of larger BDS efforts to place blame entirely on one side of the conflict. Such an approach encourages not reconciliation, but polarization. Further, too many in and around the BDS movement refuse to acknowledge either the legitimacy of Israel or the right of the Jewish people as well as the Palestinian people to a state.

Now - back to the Presbyterian Church USA statement of this week concerning the tragedy in Bulgaria. Why did it completely ignore that the victims of this attack were Israelis-Jews? This could not be an oversight. It had to be deliberate. And it does not pass the “stink-test!” 

I would hope that those fair-minded and decent members of the Presbyterian Church USA, of whom there are many, will protest the insensitivity and, yes, deeper animus of its own leadership towards the Jewish people and the state of Israel. 

In the meantime, the Jewish people mourn our dead: Maor Harush (24) and Elior Price (25) from Acre; Itzik Kolangi (28) and Amir Menashe (28) from Petah Tikva; and Kochava Shriki (42) from Rishon Letzion.

We send our prayers and love to their families and friends in their loss. Zichronam livracha – May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.

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