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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
October 12, 2004
Friend of FLAME:
A conference of the Presbyterian Church recently recommended that the
church divest investments it owns in companies that do business with
Israel as punishment for Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. FLAME
has duly protested this one-sided action to the church's leadership.
Now we hear that some Episcopalians, Methodists and other religious
groups are discussing similar anti-Israel actions. Lest anyone believe
that this "movement" is a pure-hearted reaction to the extraordinarily
ignominious actions of Israel among all the world's culprits, the article
below provides valuable context. In it we learn that certain left-leaning
religious bodies have long ignored the transgressions of the world's
most brutal countries, choosing instead to condemn the U.S. and Israel.
"When Churches Head Left" was written by John Leo, a columnist
and contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, and
published by townhall.com. Anyone affiliated with the churches mentioned
below would do well to actively head off similar misplaced political
actions by church leaders . . . before more damage is done to
Israel, to America and to the churches themselves.
When Churches Head Left
townhall.com, October 11, 2004
By John Leo
America's mainline protestant churches are in trouble. One sign is shrinking
membership. Another is turning their political policymaking over to
fringe leftists whose deepest instinct is to blame America and pummel
Israel whenever possible. The latest disgrace is the Presbyterian Church's
plan for selective divestment in Israel--ending the church's investment
in multinational companies that the church believes bear particular
responsibility for the sufferings of the Palestinian people. For example,
the Presbyterians say they may divest themselves of Caterpillar stock,
because bulldozers made by that company are used to level Palestinian
homes in Israel's antiterrorism campaign. Of course, these bulldozers
can also be used to move debris after Palestinian suicide bombers have
finished blowing up another round of women, children, and other civilian
bystanders in Israel.
How do the Presbyterians go about adopting stances like this? Apparently
they cast a stern moral glance around the world, look for possible abuses
in China, North Korea, and Iran, and seeing nothing disturbing there,
decide to focus once again on Israel. The conservative Institute on
Religion and Democracy (IRD) released a measured and devastating report
on the human-rights efforts of mainline churches and groups--the United
Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church,
and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), plus the reliably leftist National
Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. The report, covering
the years 2000 to 2003, found that o/f 197 human-rights criticisms by
mainline churches and groups, 37 percent were aimed at Israel and 32
percent at the United States. Only 19 percent of these criticisms were
directed at nations listed as "unfree" in Freedom House's
respected annual listing of free, partly free, and unfree nations. So
Israel was twice as likely to be hammered by the mainliners as all the
unfree authoritarian nations put together. The fixation on Israel left
little time and inclination for these churches to notice the most dangerous
violations of human rights around the world.
Not one nation bordering Israel was criticized by a single mainline
church or group, the IRD report says. No criticisms at all were leveled
at China, Libya, Syria, or North Korea. Human-rights groups are normally
accorded great respect for the work they do. But the rights work of
the mainline churches is basically a one-sided expression of ideology--America
is essentially viewed as a malignant force in the world, while Israel
is seen as nothing more than a dangerous colonial implant of the West.
The IRD report says the mainliners' "pervasive anti-Americanism
is demonstrated time and again in their public-policy advocacy, and
one need not investigate far to find it." Later, the report says,
"When U.S. policy cannot be blamed, the mainline denominations
seem less interested in speaking up for the victims."
Anti-Americanism is an old story in the mainline church bureaucracies.
During the 1970s and 1980s, these churches generally ignored human-rights
abuses in the Soviet Union and focused instead on the United States
as the primary source of abuse. One result was to scorn dissident movements,
such as Solidarity in Poland, which were pressing Moscow for more freedom.
The persistent folly of the World Council of Churches on this issue
made news in July when its former president, Konrad Raiser, apologized
for not supporting freedom movements during the Cold War. At this rate,
a future president of the World Council might decide he's finally ready
to apologize for ignoring severe abuses in today's vicious dictatorships,
oh, sometime maybe around 2030.
The Presbyterian divestment plan seems to be an obvious effort to get
an anti-Israel bandwagon rolling among the churches. The Episcopalians
quickly obliged, letting it be known that divestment in companies doing
business with Israel is now up for discussion. A high-level group from
the church recently toured the Middle East, meeting with Yasser Arafat
but not with any Israeli officials. Par for the course. The divestment
movement is a pretty big issue on some college campuses, supported by
Muslim students and aging professors committed to blaming the West for
all the world's evils. As part of this effort, Israel is routinely equated
with the apartheid regime in South Africa and, by implication, with
the Nazi regime in Germany. Despite all the inflammatory and one-sided
rhetoric, no university has ever come close to supporting divestment.
Many Jews see the divestment movement as an instrument of anti-Semitism.
Maybe it is, but the efforts of the woeful mainline churches are better
seen as classic knee-jerk leftism, an expression of hard-core loathing
for the United States and the West, with Israel as a stand-in for America.
The mainline churches believe they still stand for high moral purpose
in politics. They don't. They can no longer be taken seriously on politics
or human rights.
©2004 Universal Press Syndicate
This article can be found at http://www.townhall.com/columnists/johnleo/jl20041011.shtml.
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