In addition to anti-Israel resolutions, this year’s main gathering featured a verbal attack on a Palestinian human-rights activist who condemned the one-sided resolutions being considered against the Jewish state.
Members of the Presbyterian Church USA’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network showing solidarity with the Palestinians outside of the General Assembly in St. Louis. Credit: Facebook.
At its biennial General Assembly last week in St. Louis, the Presbyterian Church USA, one of the largest mainline churches in American Protestantism, continued to express support for the anti-Israel BDS movement by passing a number of resolutions condemning Israel.
This comes as the Presbyterians, like other mainline protestants churches, have faced rapidly declining memberships and an identity crisis that has allowed the more radical elements within the church to hijack the movement, observers say.
Subscribe to The JNS Daily Syndicate by email and never miss our top stories
Bottom of Form
In addition to the anti-Israel resolutions, this year’s General Assembly featured a verbal attack on Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human-rights activist who came out to condemn the one-sided resolutions being considered against the Jewish state.
In response to Eid’s speech during the Middle East Committee’s deliberations, Bassem Masri, who was also invited to the GA by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network followed Eid, verbally attack him.
Dexter Van Zile, a Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in American (CAMERA), told JNS, “Masri harassed Palestinian reformer Bassem Eid in the convention center and on the street outside the General Assembly, calling him a ‘spy’ and a ‘collaborator.’ And the denomination’s leaders couldn’t be bothered to bar Masri from the proceedings, even after Masri himself posted video of him calling Eid these things.”
Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, whose group was on the ground in St. Louis to act against the anti-Israel resolutions, also condemned the attack on Eid.
“Unfortunately, institutional bias continues to undermine PCUSA’s credibility as an agent of peacemaking and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians,” she said. “Most disturbingly, the PCUSA leadership did almost nothing in response to a reported death threat made by an anti-Israel activist at the GA.”
Battling against anti-Israel overtures
At the 2018 General Assembly, the Presbyterians considered several anti-Israel resolutions. Among those that passed included resolutionsopposing the federal and state anti-BDS laws, one calling for more debate on Israel “illegal” military occupation of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and another expressing “profound grief and sorrow” for Palestinians killed during the clashes along the Gaza border.
Additionally, the GA also urged the real estate company RE/MAXX, LLC to end the sale or rental of Jewish properties in Israeli settlements.
The passage of a number of anti-Israel resolutions continues a long trend for the Presbyterian Church in the last decade.
In 2014, the Presbyterian Church narrowly approved an Israel divestment measure. The anti-Israel measures continued at the 2016 General Assembly, where the leadership passed several resolutions aimed to pressure Israel to leave the disputed territories.
Much of the anti-Israel effort within the Presbyterian Church has been driven by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network.
Founded in 2004, the IPMN describes itself as committed to “advocate for Palestinian human rights and to deepen the involvement of Presbyterians with their struggle … and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians … .”
Van Zile said that the IPMN “has a long, sordid history of promoting hostility towards Israeli and American Jews who support Israel, but now they’ve graduated to facilitating the harassment of people who seek to reform Palestinian society.”
However, other groups within the Presbyterian Church—namely, the Presbyterians for Peace in the Middle East—did succeed in amending some of the strongest anti-Israel overtures. These include removing a call to end all economic and military aid to Israel, the rejection of an overture to respond positively to an anti-Israel letter and removing a call for the Presbyterians to cut off dialogue with Jews who are insufficiently critical of Israel.
“The folks from Presbyterians for Peace in the Middle East who tried to stop this train wreck had an impossible task: arouse the conscience of a dying church that has been hijacked by people who are simply obsessed with Israel,” said Van Zile.
The anti-Israel behavior within the Presbyterian Church has even driven away some American Jewish organizations that normally try to build relations with Christian denominations.
Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious affairs and intergroup relations who previously announced this week that he would not be attending the biennial due to the Presbyterians “obsessive and relentless anti-Israel demonization,” expressed dismay at the latest round of support for BDS.
“The church remains obsessively critical of Israel in its national utterances,” he said. “For many years and in myriad ways, the PCUSA has gone beyond legitimate criticism of Israel and embraced demonization of the Jewish state.”
However, Marans did express hope that there could be a change in behavior from the Presbyterians through the actions of the Presbyterians for Peace in the Middle East. As he stated, “there was a glimmer of hope for future Presbyterian-Jewish relations at this GA that could represent a tentative first step toward the church heading in a better direction.”
Read more at:
A dying church and movement
The continued push for anti-Israel measures comes at a time when mainline Protestantism, and especially the Presbyterian Church, has been losing members rapidly. In 1993, the Presbyterians counted 3.1 million members; in 2017, that number has dropped to 1.415 million members.
“As offensive as it is, it’s probably not a good idea to get too worked up about the church’s anti-Semitic tendencies, which have been taking root since the 1980s or 90s,” Van Zile said of the declining numbers and influence.
According to the Pew Research Center, much of the decline in membership on mainline churches can be attributed to generational change—older Americans belonged to these churches more than younger generations, who are either becoming more secular or are attracted to evangelical Christianity, which remains solidly pro-Israel.
At the same time, mainline Protestants have one of the lowest retention rates with many young adults unlikely to stay with the church in which they were raised, noted Pew.
As such, as membership has declined, it has opened up an opportunity for more radical voices in the church to promote specific agendas, such as anti-Israel activists like the Presbyterians Israel/Palestine Mission Network.
“The United Church of Christ and the PCUSA seem to have the biggest problem with Israel, while other mainline churches have backed away from BDS and anti-Zionism because they’ve seen what it’s done to the UCC and the PCUSA,” said Van Zile.
Last year, the United Church of Christ—one of the larger mainline Protestant churches in America with 915,000 members—overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning Israel for its alleged treatment of Palestinian children.
In 2015, the UCC also overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s “occupation” or control in the disputed territories, as well as a boycott of products from Israeli settlements.
Nevertheless, Van Zile said that other mainline churches have toned down the anti-Israel rhetoric in recent years.
“The mainline churches embraced the notion that if somebody appears to be weak, they must be innocent, and that if someone has power, they must be evil,” explained Van Zile. “They use that lens to interpret the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In recent years, however, that lens hasn’t worked so well. Some mainliners got the message, but not the UCC and the PCUSA.”
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration — is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab.
The waterfront in the Chilean city of Valdivia. Photo: Arvid Puschnig via Wikimedia Commons.
Top Jewish groups have welcomed a Chilean government decision made earlier this week to ban municipalities across the country from boycotting Israel.
The ruling — issued by the Comptroller General of Chile – stemmed from a complaint filed by the Chilean Jewish community over a move of the Valdivia municipality to ban the city from signing contracts with Israel-linked companies.
Spurred by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s resignation and the realization that elections will likely be moved to early 2019, the leaders of the Druze community are determined to fight against the Nationality Law.
Leaders from the Druze minority and others take part in a rally to protest the Jewish nation-state law in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 4, 2018
It certainly seems like Israel is headed toward early elections. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who resigned Nov. 14, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett were both part of the current right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, competing over which of them was its most right-wing member
Israel has started uncovering and destroying Hezbollah’s attack tunnels under the Lebanese border, but destroying the group’s ambitious precision missile project will be much more difficult.
The Israel Defense Forces placed a camera into Hezbollah’s secret cross-border attack tunnel before sunrise on Dec. 4. They pushed it into the Lebanese side, under the Blue Line that separates the two countries. At dawn, two Hezbollah operatives reached the spot on their morning rounds. In the video disseminated by the IDF on Tuesday evening, one of the operatives is seen approaching the camera with suspicion. He stuck his nose in its direction and started to sniff around until something exploded in his face and he ran back the way he’d comVisibilitye.
The timing of Operation Northern Shield, to destroy Hezbollah tunnels leading from Lebanon into Israel, suggests that considerations other than security were behind the decision to launch it.
An Israeli commando from Yahalom, an engineering unit, takes part in a tunnel-hunting drill near Tel Aviv, March 7, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to Likud activists on Dec. 2 that was both defensive and combative toward law enforcement authorities. He complained about the supposedly suspicious timing of the police announcement recommending his indictment for taking bribes in Case 4000, coming as it did one day before Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh concluded his term in office.
This week, for the first time, Israel made public its discovery of the tunnel constructed by Hezbollah and reaching into Israel’s sovereign territory. This brought to an end a long period during which a large number of Israelis living in communities adjacent to the Lebanese border reported hearing sounds of digging as well as feeling tremors in the walls of their homes.
Attack tunnels are intended to allow for significant numbers of armed infantry bearing weapons, artillery and supplies, to traverse them within a minimal time span, avoiding Israeli lookouts and thereby gaining the element of surprise.
Last Saturday, Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani called Israel “a cancerous tumor” in a speech at the regime’s annual Islamic Unity Conference.
Rouhani’s fellow speakers included deputy Hezbollah chief Naim Qassem and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. Both terror bosses called for the destruction of the “cancerous tumor.”
With the predictability of a Swiss clock, the Europeans rushed to condemn Rouhani. The EU in Brussels condemned Rouhani. The German Foreign Ministry condemned Rouhani. And so on and so forth.
We could have done without their statements.
It was clear that with the onset of Operation Northern Shield—meant to neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border—some would call it a public relations stunt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those who believe the timing of the police’s recommendations in Case 4000—announced on the last day of Roni Alsheikh’s tenure as the police commissioner—was reasonable, somehow complain about the timing of the operation.
On Sunday evening, December 2, the people of Sderot, Israel – a town located a mere kilometer from the Gaza border – gathered to light the first candle of the town’s menorah to commemorate the first day of Hanukkah. Jews around the world celebrate this holiday, which marks the time some two millennia ago when the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Second Temple.
What makes the candle lighting in Sderot worth mentioning is the fact that it is particularly symbolic of how the Jewish spirit looks for ways to turn tragedy into triumph.
This is obviously a short-lived honeymoon that will end the day after the UN General Assembly vote on the anti-Hamas resolution. The morning after the vote, Abbas will wake up to the realization that Hamas was a strange bedfellow indeed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hatred of Hamas is far from secret. But Abbas is now defending Hamas because he despises the Trump administration, which has sponsored a UN draft resolution that condemns Hamas. Pictured: Abbas (right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on May 30, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abu Askar/PPO via Getty Images)