While some of my colleagues on this blog (Yaakov Menken and Jeff Ballabon in particular) continue to hammer away at their keyboards in high dudgeon, they are oblivious to the real devils lurking out there.
PETA? Everyone knows they are crackpots. Leftist loonies? They may not be out, but they are down, after the reds trashed the blues. They will continue to do damage, but much of the wind has departed their sails. The majority of the country is just not paying all that much attention to their whining.
Relax, guys. We shouldn’t be expending so much energy on those problems. Israel will continue to be demonized by the radical left, especially on campus. The real power-brokers outgrow that stuff, and the majority of Americans ignore it. The real danger is when the rhetoric of the left wends its way into the heartland of America, when leftist rant is garbed in respectability.
The people who are doing that are in the so-called Mainline Protestant churches: Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists and Lutherans. The calls for divestment from Israel – implicitly equating Israel with apartheid South Africa, the only country to be the target of a sustained and successful divestment campaign in the past – are exporting the output of leftist fever swamps and their hatred of Israel to the pews of Establishment America. This is what we should really be worried about.
There is lots of good news associated with the bad. None of these churches are monoliths. There are large numbers of people in these denominations who disagree with their leadership. You are going to have to wait for Part Two of this series to read about them. Meanwhile, the bad news.
Presbyterians are as mainstream as you can get. Thirty-nine of them serve in Congress, many in high places. The official parent body of the Presbyterian Church is called PCUSA, and its General Assembly voted a few months ago to empower a committee to report on ways to divest from companies that contributed to the occupation by doing business with Israel.
That was worse than ominous, and predictably set off similar discussions in the other mainline denominations. It also set off a fire-storm of criticism from ministers and laypeople within PCUSA who were appalled by the decision, and evinced strong and unequivocal support for Israel. That got the leadership of PCUSA to show its real colors.
The worst offender is the person at the helm, Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick. Instead of trying some deft damage control, he has been digging himself in deeper.
Initially, he was quick to suggest that no one was implying that Israel was apartheid. No, sir! Didn’t say that. Somehow, he forgot to remove from his own website a letter he wrote years earlier to President Clinton doing just that. (“Surely you can understand the frustrations of Palestinian Christians and Muslims forced to live under a clear form of apartheid.”)
As criticism mounted, PCUSA added insult to injury. A delegation met with Hezbollah (an organization the US government calls a terrorist group, and directly responsible for the deaths of American soldiers and diplomats, besides Israelis) on a visit to Lebanon. Its leader opined that it was easier to talk to them than to those uppity Jews in America. (Two underlings who really had nothing to do with the trip were made to take the fall.)
Kirkpatrick, clearly on the ropes, sought help in unexpected quarters. To defend his policies, he began to circulate a position paper written within the context of liberation theology, which sees G-d as taking the side of the weak, and allowing even violence and armed struggle to achieve its ends. It is the kind of thinking that mainstream folks – like leaders of major denominations – are supposed to give a wide berth.
It gets worse. The publicity arm of PCUSA, Presbyterian News Service, has added a consistent spin to the blistering internal battle over demonizing Israel.
It’s the Jews, dummy.
PNS’s stories have virtually ignored the huge wave of resentment within the rank and file, and blamed it all on Jewish agitation. (As of this writing, four or five local presbyteries have sent resolutions off to the parent church protesting the divestment move. They hail from all over the country. One of them is in Mississippi, hardly a Jewish redoubt. They don’t even have a Chabad House!) They have been suffused with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish innuendo, including blaming “Jewish groups” for arson threats against Presbyterian churches. (There was, in fact, one threat from an unknown source, accompanied by swastikas, which are not usually the favorite symbols of Jewish groups.)
Under Kirkpatrick, PCUSA has moved ever more steadily from duplicity to treachery.
(To be continued)