To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.
Two years ago, American Jewish community relations groups were busy patting themselves on the back for achieving a signal victory in turning back the attempt by anti-Israel radicals to hijack the Presbyterian Church USA.
After the Presbyterians became the first Protestant church to embrace divestment from companies doing business in Israel in 2004, Jewish groups worked hard to overturn the decision. When the church voted to back away from this stand in 2006, it was rightly seen as a triumph not just for friends of Israel but also for the tactic of outreach itself as years of tenacious diplomacy paid off.
The celebrations seem to have been premature.
The release of a document by the church last month titled “Vigilance Against Anti-Jewish Bias in the Pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian Peace” was supposed to help its members guard against anti-Semitic rhetoric when discussing the Middle East.
Instead, it is a compendium of charges aimed at deligimitizing the Jewish state.
The document avoids discussing Arab support for terrorism and, rather than serve as a warning against bias, it serves as a justification for anti-Israel invective since it places blame for the conflict solely on Israel rather than on those attempting to destroy it.
In itself, this should justify the outrage and the feelings of betrayal that have been voiced by a wide spectrum of centrist and liberal Jewish denominations and organizations that worked to reverse the previous Presbyterian stand on Israel.
But also buried in the document is a strand of thought that is relevant not only to this battle for the soul of a powerful mainline liberal Protestant church but to the mindset of American Jews as well,
Amid a laundry list of anti-Israel measures in the Presbyterian statement — including opposition to the security fence that effectively ended the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign – is the assertion that “Christian faithfulness, as well as the policies of our church, demands that we maintain our commitments … to criticize forms of Christian Zionism.”
That means that in the same document in which they urge members to avoid couching attacks on Israel in ways that could be labeled anti-Semitic, the Presbyterians specifically attack fellow Christians who have lent their support to the idea that the Jewish people have a right to sovereignty over their historic homeland.
In particular, they singled out evangelicals such as Pastor John Hagee, who was flogged out of the camp of Republican presidential candidate John McCain for saying the Holocaust was caused by the Jewish sin of failing to make aliyah.
To support the contention that Christian Zionists are wrongheaded, the Presbyterian document cited Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the Union for Reform Judaism, who in a December 2007 speech warned Jews to avoid alliances with the pro-Israel Christian right.
Yoffie, whose Reform movement joined the coalition of Jewish groups that condemned the Presbyterian reversal, is not happy about this. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he is “infuriated” about the Presbyterians “embedding” his words in a “doctrine that is so hostile to Israel.”
While some of Yoffie’s criticisms of Hagee are not completely off-target — particularly his reaction to Hagee’s foolish talk about the Holocaust, for which the pastor has since apologized — the Reform leader is right to be embarrassed.
But rather than merely being annoyed by the church’s chutzpah, he ought to be rethinking his own bashing of right-wing Christian Zionists.
Indeed, the Presbyterians’ renewed flirtation with anti-Zionism should serve as a wake-up call for the vast number of American Jews who have clung to their prejudices about evangelicals, despite the sea change in the Protestant world that has occurred in the last generation.
In the past, Jews instinctively looked to mainline liberal Protestant churches, like the Presbyterians, the Methodists, Lutherans and Anglicans (all of whom been debating divestment measures against Israel in recent years) as allies. At the same time, Jews generally assumed that evangelicals, who generally lived outside the coastal urban enclaves where Jewish life has thrived in America, tended to be anti-Semitic.
But in the America of 2008, it is the evangelicals of the Christian right who are instinctively supportive of Israel, while our traditional allies on the Christian left are flirting with a theology that demonizes Israel and the Jews.
About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
My son is seventeen; he didn’t want to talk about what happened, or give any details of the Rosh Yeshiva’s words of chizuk.
All involved in the Ferguson debate should learn the laws pertinent to non-Jews: the Noahide Laws.
Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.
Hamas’s love for death tried to have as many Palestinian civilians killed as possible
Israel recognizes the fabrication called a Palestinian nation; So what do we want from the Swedes?
Arab attacking Jews in the land date back a century, long before Israel was created or in control.
Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.
Golden presents a compelling saga of poor but determined immigrants who fled pogroms and harsh conditions in their homelands for a better life in a land of opportunity.
It seems to us that while the Jewish entitlement to the land of Israel transcends the Holocaust, the Jewish experience during that tragic time is the most solid of foundations for these “national rights.”
Too many self-styled civil rights activists seemed determined to force, by their relentless pressure, an indictment regardless of what an investigation might turn up.
Unfortunately, at present, the rabbinate does not play a positive role in preventing abuse.
Anti-Semitism has returned to the mainstream of European society and Israel has become its focus.
One of the key talking points by apologists for Hamas in the current conflict is that it isn’t fair that Israelis under fire have bomb shelters while Palestinians in Gaza don’t have any. Among other factors, the lack of shelters accounts in part for the differences in casualty figures between the two peoples. But somehow […]
How will all this end? Hamas seems to think it will be Netanyahu who will blink first.
Nothing short of a stroke that will decapitate the leadership of this group will convince the Arabs that Hamas has made a mistake.
Z STREET will have the ability to compel IRS officials to testify as to their practices and produce all records.
“Death of Klinghoffer” opera frames the issue as Israel’s existence being the real crime.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/real-friends-and-real-enemies/2008/07/02/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: