Giving advice to other religious groups is always a tricky business. We Jews resent it when bodies representing other faiths lecture us about what we should or should not be doing, and it’s understandable that others get peevish when we do the same to them.
That said, someone needs to tell the Presbyterian Church (USA) that its meddlesome, one-sided approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only undermine the peace church activists say they want.
That was evident in past efforts to impose economic penalties like divestment on Israel, while ignoring or minimizing the Palestinian incitement and violence that led to the Israeli measures that church officials termed human rights violations. And it is evident in the current controversy over a report to be considered at the church’s General Assembly later this year.
That report, according to an analysis by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), “makes highly selective use of sacred texts, historical events, and current realities to build a narrative against the Jewish state.”
The report blames Israel for “Palestinian resistance,” ignoring the fact that Palestinian terrorism has undermined every major peace initiative. Just as disturbing, according to JCPA, is the report’s use of theological terms like “sin” and “evil” in referring to Israeli actions, and its criticism of Jewish groups in this country that work to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations.
It is important to note here that while the Presbyterian report is skewed and inflammatory, other mainline Protestant denominations have edged — timorously, to be sure — toward a more balanced Middle East stance. And there are strong and articulate voices of dissent in the Presbyterian Church that should be acknowledged.
But the preliminary report by the Presbyterian Middle East Study Committee reflects poorly on a church leadership that claims to seek Middle East peace but whose determination to label Israel the sole villain can only reward those who see violence, not negotiations, as the cure for the region’s woes.