Presbyterian report could not be more one-sided

Avraham Burg speaks at PCUSA General Assembly

Avraham Burg speaks at PCUSA General Assembly

The Middle East Study Committee of the Presbyterian Church of the US  (PCUSA) recently issued a report that was so one-sided that even J Street protested.

The 179 pages of the report positively reek with self-righteous pomposity, and include quotations from the Tanach and even the Talmud! It’s impossible to deal with this bizarre document systematically, but here are some random notes.

The authors’ historical vision comes entirely through the eyes of Arab and extreme left-wing commentators, like Ilan Pappé and Avraham Burg, as well as anti-Israel NGOs. For example, they portray the creation of the Arab refugees as entirely Israel’s fault:

One of these psycho-traumas is the Holocaust in which 6 million European Jews were annihilated at the hands of the Nazi party, its state apparatus and allies. The other trauma is the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 from their ancestral homeland by the Israel Haganah [the pre-state militant force that was the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces]. [p 30]

The report ignores the actions of the Palestinian and Arab leadership before, during and after the 1948 war, the repeated attempts at reconciliation by Israel, etc. The Nakba story is repeated over and over, and compared with the Holocaust several times.

There’s a creative take on the 1967 war, too:

In June 1967, Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. At the end of six days, Israel had taken the Gaza strip and the Sinai from Egypt, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan from Syria. The United Nations Security Council passed resolution 242 that requested the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 war and emphasized the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area could live in security. [p 64]

Interesting. “Israel attacked,” and Nasser’s closing the Strait of Tiran, massing troops on the border and threatening genocide had nothing to do with it! The interpretation of resolution 242 is funny, too, leaving out the “secure and recognized borders.”

They don’t do much better with more recent events. They actually wrote this sentence to describe the bloody 2007 coup in which Hamas overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza:

Violence erupted, thought by many to be aided and abetted by the United States and Israel, within the Palestinian territories with the end result that in 2007 Hamas controlled the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority and Fatah the West Bank. [pp 97-98]

Violence erupted! Shooting Fatah operatives in the knees and throwing them off tall buildings erupted! Setting people on fire erupted! And the US and Israel were responsible! I couldn’t make this stuff up.

And here’s their analysis of the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons:

While this growing fear [of the Iranian bomb] is a deep concern, an equal concern is the number of nuclear warheads that Israel currently stockpiles and thus the growing sense of Iranian vulnerability and insecurity. While Israel will not confirm its possession of nuclear weapons or the number held, it is generally agreed that Israel has stockpiled close to 100 nuclear weapons.

The only just and peaceful solution to this growing concern is to work for a nuclear-free Middle East in both Iran and Israel. [p 36]

Really? It’s “an equal concern?” The Israeli nuclear capability is the reason that it hasn’t already been attacked with chemical weapons, and may well be one of the main reasons that there still is a Jewish state. Israel has never, ever brandished its weapons offensively. Iran would have nothing to feel ‘insecure’ about if it were not developing nuclear weapons and threatening to destroy Israel every other day.

Should the Palestinians be criticized for resorting to terrorism?   The Presbyterians see it as a response to violence by Israel’s army and settlers, and  it’s presented as entirely understandable even if ultimately not “acceptable”:

Inexcusable acts of violence have been committed by both the powerful occupying forces of the Israeli military and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, as well as, the Palestinians, of whom a relatively small minority has resorted to violence as a means of resisting the occupation. Violence is not an acceptable means to peace, regardless of its rationale. [p 37]

There’s no distinction between terrorism and self-defense, either:

Distressingly, all too often violence is used as a means of reacting to injustice or as a means of inflicting a country’s will on another people. Violence, whether by tanks, attack helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, antipersonnel bombs, white phosphorous, rockets, bombs of any kind including suicide bombs, is reprehensible and is a crime against humanity. [p 70]

The writers choose their facts selectively:

Consider the case of Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian journalist, novelist, and short story writer, who was assassinated along with his young niece, Lamis, on July 12, 1972, by Israeli agents in a car bomb explosion in Beirut. By the time of his early death at the age of 36, he had published eighteen books and written numerous articles on the culture, politics, and the Palestinian people’s struggle. His works have been translated into seventeen languages. A collection of short stories about Palestine’s children was published in English in 1984 and was titled Palestine’s Children. Kanafani’s untimely death deprived the Palestinians of an eloquent voice. [p 71]

Oh, the humanity! But CAMERA points out that Kanafani was the right-hand man of George Habash, head of the ultra-violent PFLP, a group responsible for numerous murders and hijackings. Kanafani met with the Japanese Red Army who perpetrated a vicious attack at Lod airport, killing 26 and injuring 80. Who says that intellectuals can’t also be men of action?

So why is Israel so evil? According to the report, Israelis have been morally damaged by the trauma of the Holocaust:

This sense of historical victimization creates for some Israelis a compensatory reflex to choose power and armament; to reject the claims and critique of others; and the adoption of a philosophy that the “end justifies the means,” even if that means the loss of human rights, life, and the dignity of others.  [p 31]

Of course Israel’s choice to arm itself could not have anything to do with the fact that the country has been under continuous attack from both regular armies and terrorists since its inception, right? Nope, they just don’t care about anyone else.

In addition, despite dozens of references to Israeli policy as ‘immoral’, there doesn’t appear to be a single mention of the policy of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to educate their populations, especially children, to hate Israel and Jews in the crudest antisemitic terms.

Indeed, the report describes Hamas — an organization whose charter preaches the violent destruction of Israel and exhorts Muslims to murder Jews — as follows:

The United States, European Union, and Israel governments consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, while most Gazans see Hamas as an organization formed to resist the occupation by Israel and to recover their lost lands in Palestine. Hamas is an Arabic acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama alIslamiyya, or Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas is a militant organization; however over 90 percent of Hamas’ resources are spent on social services to the Palestinian refugees.

The implication seems to be that resisting the occupation and recovering lost lands applies to the occupation of 1967. But of course, for Hamas, the occupation started in 1948. So “most Gazans” and the Western governments don’t disagree about Hamas’ intentions! The statement about Hamas’ resources is ridiculous and is unsourced.

Overall, the report could not possibly be more one-sided. It is a sustained indictment of Israel. When it mentions Palestinian terrorism and violence (which it does only rarely), it’s always explained as springing from the trauma of the Nakba or the horrors of occupation.

This historically and morally upside-down, hateful document will be considered by the PCUSA’s General Assembly this week.

Update [6 Jul 2010 1341 PDT]: I changed the caption on the photo, which previously read “anti-Israel extremist Avraham Burg…” Burg is not exactly that. He annoys the hell out of me because, in essence, he blames Israel and the Jews for Arab antisemitism. But he doesn’t advocate a ‘secular democratic state of its citizens’, nor does he call for boycotts, divestments, etc.

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2 Responses to “Presbyterian report could not be more one-sided”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    It is to be hoped that the General Assembly of the PCUSA will be more sane than the makers of this report.

  2. Sarah Leah says:

    Let us not forget that Burg is the family into which Chelsea Clinton is marrying into – no?