Bigotry and Ignorance Won the Day at the PCUSA General Assembly

cirseal-white-colorAt the 221st General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) in Detroit, MI, (June 14-21, 2014) the haters won the day. Rev. Dr. John Wimberly, co-convener of Presbyterians For Middle East Peace (PFMEP), warned at a breakfast meeting on Saturday, June 14, 2014, just prior to the plenary meeting, that if the vote on divestment from companies that do business with Israel should pass this year’s PCUSA GA, it would be hitching its train to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, a secular, non-church group that rejects the Two-State Solution.

The PCUSA General Assembly voted 310-303 to approve an overture calling for divestment from Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. The pro-BDS and anti-Israel elements within the PCUSA who won the vote alleged that these companies are engaged in “non-peaceful pursuits” in the region. While similar overtures failed in 2012 (333-331) as well as in 2006, 2008, and 2010, this time the haters of Israel had their way. Bigotry and ignorance won the day at the PCUSA General Assembly (GA). The ignorance of the voting delegates concerning issues pertaining to the Middle East, and the persistence of anti-Israel bigots, aided by the January, 2014 anti-Israel track “Zionism Unsettled,” contributed to the defeat of reason and moderation.

The 2014 PCUSA GA embraced the course of divestment and the radical, polarizing agenda of the international BDS movement. The international BDS movement’s stated goal is to create one non-Jewish state replacing Israel and Palestine, a position that is totally at odds with the PCUSA’s longtime commitment to a two state solution. It is also opposite to the bi-partisan U.S. government policy, which supports the two state solution.

Apparently the small and determined advocacy group within the PCUSA, representing the Israel-targeted international BDS movement, has lobbied the denomination since 2004 to divest from companies that supposedly support Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. It does not matter to these haters of Israel that the targeted companies work closely with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in an effort to build up the Palestinian economy. For the past decade, the BDS advocates have denied that they want to do the Jewish state of Israel any harm. But, no matter how much they try to cover up their anti-Israel agenda, the hypocrisy and malice of this group is transparent.

If human rights abuses were of real concern to these anti-Israel forces within the PCUSA, they would not target the only democratic state in the region that respects human rights and religious freedom of all its citizens, Arabs and Jews. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the years before the Intifada enjoyed employment and freedom in Israel, as well as profited from thousands of Israelis who shopped in the West Bank. Palestinian terrorism that came along with the Oslo Accords, (Palestinian terror and murder of Jews existed before Oslo, but the Oslo Accords provided easier access to Israel), and particularly the Second Intifada initiated by Yaser Arafat (chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and PA) that killed over 1,000 Israelis, compelled the Israeli governments to use defensive measures against suicide bombers. Check points and the defensive barrier was the Israeli response. No civilized society would tolerate indiscriminate terror against its citizens, not even the “progressives” of PCUSA.

The forces behind the 2014 divestment overture come from the same core of so-called “progressive” elements within PCUSA that authored the notorious track titled Zionism Unsettled – A Congregational Study Guide. The Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) 68-page guide accompanied by a DVD was meant to influence the GA delegates.

The IPMN was made up of “progressives,” who were influenced by “Liberation Theology” and a Marxist worldview. Many of the same people labored to connect the PCUSA to the BDS movement, and are behind the 2014 divestment resolution. They have mobilized on behalf of the Palestinians not for altruistic reasons but for hatred of the Jewish State. Consider the mass killings in Syria (and the destruction of churches and the beheading of priests), the persecution of Christian Copts in Egypt, the murder of Christians in Iraq, and the rest of the Muslim world. Notice the lack of initiatives for overtures to condemn the killing of innocent civilians (mostly Muslims) in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Muslim world. The IPMN did not author a study guide dealing with any of these issues. Nor is there mention of the human rights abuses and lack of religious freedom in the PA and Hamas controlled Gaza. They do however have a problem with Zionism. The IPMN and the pro-BDS party that initiated the divestment overtures see the very idea of a homeland in Israel for the Jewish People as illegitimate. Yet, they have no problem with 22 Arab-Muslim states which are governed by Sharia Islamic law, and where non-Muslims are perpetually discriminated against. The IPMN and the pro-divestment crowd hold the fundamental assumption that there is no room for particularistic claims that can be justified in a interconnected, pluralistic world. In other words, there is no right for Jewish self-determination, also known as Zionism.

James Owens, a PCUSA member, summarized the PCUSA GA Divestment vote best in his comments published on the PCUSA website on June 21, 2014. He wrote “To my Jewish friends: I am terribly sorry about the vote of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church – my church – to divest from companies performing work in the West Bank and Gaza. I believe this is an act of actual or symbolic anti-Semitism, for the church has not taken a similar stand on investments in other non-Jewish states whose sins against their own citizens, or the citizens of territories they have occupied, is far worse. The BDS movement has singled out Israel because it is the Jewish state, and I believe that the movement’s supporters (including those who glory in the murder of children) hope for the destruction of Israel no matter what they tell their Western enablers. I hope and believe that the well-meaning people who voted in favor of the measure did not understand what they were doing. But well-meaning people who support evil out of ignorance cannot be forgiven even if they were willfully blind to the natural consequences of their actions. I promise you this: I will work to rectify this sin.”

Professor Jonathan Marks, writing in the Wall Street Journal Opinion page (June 23, 2014) titled his piece Presbyterians Join the Anti-Israel Choir.” He pointed out that the PCUSA is “bleeding members.” Between 2000 and 2013, about 765,000 members left the church. The vote he said “Is a victory for anti-Israel forces within the church.” Marks concluded “With dwindling membership the PCUSA clearly needs new friends, but the church does itself no favors by courting Israel’s enemies.”

Speaking at the PFMEP Saturday, June 14, 2014 breakfast, Gaith al-Omari, a former advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, opined that “if you want to support Palestinians you invest in Palestine, and if you are for a two-state solution, you cannot be for divestment or BDS. If you want to be pro-Palestine, you don’t have to be anti-Israel.”

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the champion of the American civil rights movement, responding to a hostile question about Zionism from a student at Harvard University shortly before his assassination, said, “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.” The anti-Israel bigots who wrote “Zionism Unsettled,” and engineered the passing of the divestment resolution fit the description given by the late Rev. Dr. King.

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