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Jewish Journal

Just One Voice

by Rob Eshman

October 21, 2004 | 8:00 pm

It's nice to honor Righteous Gentiles when they're dead. It's even nicer to acknowledge them while they're still alive.

Which brings me to the Rev. Doug Huneke, pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon, Calif.

Over the summer, the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a resolution calling for divesting from companies that do business in or with Israel. Despite outrage from Jewish groups, the 3-million-member organization stuck by its decision, which was passed by a lopsided 431-62 vote at the group's General Assembly.

Just in case you thought this action was a momentary lapse of good sense, be aware that last Sunday a 24-member U.S. Presbyterian Church delegation traveled to Lebanon and met with the south Lebanon commander of Hezbollah. After meeting with the terror group, the leader of the delegation came out with a strong condemnation -- of Israel. He reiterated his church's threat of divestment from Israel.

That's where Huneke comes in.

In the September issue of his church newsletter, a letter to his congregants in he excoriated his church leadership for its moral myopia. The letter is titled, "A Personal Reflection on General Assembly (GA) Actions on Israel, and the Practice of Conversion." Here's an excerpt you should read:

As [do] most of my friends in the rabbinic community, I struggle with many of the decisions of the Israeli government. Like most people in the world, I do not see an easy solution to the crisis that besets the Palestinians and the Israelis.... [But] the debate rhetoric at GA resounded with ignorantly dangerous and inflammatory comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa -- there is no truth in such rhetoric, but the damage was done even though the final resolutions did not use such language. This denomination carefully divested its portfolio during the crisis in South Africa, but it has done little else of such magnitude in this risky venue since. For instance, it has not called for divestment of firms doing business in China, one of the world's worst offenders of human and religious rights, and we've not taken divestment actions against nuclear N. Korea or Iran, and not against Sudan for Darfur (with one exception before Darfur reached the headlines). We have not divested ourselves of firms doing business in Saudi Arabia (remember where the 9/11 hijackers came from and where the bin Laden funding has found favor and laundering). The action against Israel is selectively discriminatory, provocative and harmful. One does not need to do more than scratch the surface to determine the animus of those who promoted this action. This denomination has consistently and mildly decried violence in the Middle East. It has not, to my knowledge, however, forcefully and publicly condemned Mr. Arafat, the arguable leader of the Palestinian Authority (arguable given the displeasure of the Palestinian population with his style of corrupt, violent and dishonest leadership) nor the heinous crimes of the various terrorist groups operating in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. What our leaders have done is offer weak support of Israel's right to exist and expressed concern for refugees but remained frail in its stand against the genocidal, anti-Israel, anti-United States terrorists.

Most of our leaders and our denomination, generally, are not anti-Semitic, however, the effect of these kinds of actions is anti-Semitic. Such actions encourage the evil terrorism of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and most certainly the likes of groups supported by bin Ladin that exist only to annihilate Jews and Israel....This GA has given aid and comfort to terrorism and encouraged it with gutless resolutions that satisfy the bureaucracy's need to appear to be politically correct.

At the end of his letter, Huneke put his dues where his heart is, and pledged to withhold his congregation's annual contribution to the various arms of the church.

The letter is a model of moral clarity from a man who has long been at the forefront of Christian-Jewish rapprochement, "a courageous Christian friend," in the words of Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.

We can only be thankful for such courage. In September, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Van Nuys) and 13 of his colleagues sent a bipartisan letter to the leader of the GA, deploring its divestment resolution and urging that it be rescinded. That is an important statement, but Huneke's letter, coming from within the movement, is an even more vital corrective. Last week, an internal Israeli security report forecast an increase in attempts, both in Europe and the U.S., to isolate and punish Israel in the coming years.

In walking away from the Oslo accords, Arafat gambled that the more he internationalized the issue, the better deal he could eventually get. Church leaders have fallen for his trick, casting their lot with a man whose own critics within the Palestinian movement credit him with untold bloodshed on both sides.

Huneke's voice is, to my astonishment, a dissident one. But it is the gospel truth.

See the entire text of Huneke's missive href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=13132" target="_blank">by clicking here where you can also send him a personal e-mail.

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