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Blessed are the peacemakers? Not PCUSA; its hypocrisy serves hate, not hope

Blessed are the peacemakers? Not PCUSA; its hypocrisy serves hate, not hope

Ultra Orthodox Jews and tourists gather next to signs pointing out distances to different cities on Mount Bental next to the Syrian border in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. | Getty/Lior Mizrahi

J. Herbert Nelson, the Stated Clerk of the small remnant that remains of the once-great Presbyterian Church (USA), would have warmed Voltaire’s heart. “Hypocrisy,” taught Voltaire, “is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.”

The great 18th century French philosopher had a soft spot for a form of duplicity that most people hate. That’s on full display in Nelson’s screed about the horrors perpetrated by the evil Israelis, now exacerbated by the peace plan of the evil occupant of the White House.

After solemnly parading a march of lies about the Jewish State, Nelson, in a recent statement about the Trump peace plan tells us that he really has Jewish interests in mind. He is fearful, he says of “the potential for feeding the growing antisemitism in Europe and the U.S. that we so abhor. More violence is the inevitable fruit of a ‘deal’ such as the one proposed.”

So, Jews around the world – not Israelis, mind you – are duly warned that if people don’t like Israel defending itself, Jews should expect the “inevitable” consequence of others trying to kill them. Forgive us ungrateful Jews about people like Nelson who are watching (or sharpening the knives for) our backs!  Smacks of Voltaire- the hypocrite calling out anti-Semitism, even as he justifies it as “inevitable.”

Actually, Nelson’s latest slam is in keeping with his serial anathematizing of Israel.

In moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing it as the unique, undivided capital of Israel (something that goes back to the times of King David!), Nelson claims that “the historic claim on the deep religious importance of this city to Christians and Muslims has been ignored, and damaged, if not destroyed.”

Really? Can he point to a single Christian who has been inconvenienced, let alone disenfranchised, by this recognition? And is it not the Waqf – not Israel - that controls the top of the Temple Mount? Is it not an active mosque that was the most recent building restored in the Old City – in the Jewish Quarter, at that! On the other hand, can he point to a single Jew who was allowed access to the Jewish holy spots during all the years of Arab control after 1948 until the Six Day War? Can he point to any occasion during those years that his church uttered a word of protest?

“[Palestinian] land has been stolen.” What does Nelson mean? Stolen in 1948, when Israel accepted far less land than it had hoped for, while the Arabs did not and instead dispatched five armies to invade the fledgling Jewish state? Does he believe that the State of Israel is illegal (because only Muslims are allowed on any land once possessed by the ummah, like Hamas and the PA both believe)? Or just that Jews aren’t supposed to defend themselves? Does he believe instead that it was winning the defensive war of June 1967 that constitutes the theft – even though UN resolutions called for a return of territory only to a state of peace – something that Hamas and Hezbollah will never agree to?

“We cry out in anguish and anger as a kind of social and religious ‘ethnic cleansing’ is occurring.” Here we have to agree with Nelson – except that he’s pointing in the wrong direction. No ethnic cleansing on Israel’s side. The number of Arab Israelis continues to grow. So, too, the number of Christians – the only place in the Middle East that this is true. But ethnic cleansing is taking place – as Christians flee Bethlehem and other places under PA control because of the violence and threats perpetrated upon them by Muslims.

Propounding a series of lies about the Jewish state before expressing his concern for anti-Semitism might bring a tear to the eye of Voltaire- for the sheer enormity of Nelson’s hypocrisy. 

At least it can be said that he is faithful to his church, which itself has a fraught relationship with Israel and with Jews. Part of what fuels the recent global explosion of anti-Semitism is the BDS movement, which demonizes Israel. It has been recognized as anti-Semitic in both the US and Europe. PCUSA has the dubious distinction of being the first mainline US church to vote to divest from Israel, which gave an important boost to BDS already in 2008. Members of PCUSA’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) met in 2008 with Hezbollah. Ronald Stone – a salaried official of PCUSA – was lavish in his praise of an organization that US government recognizes as a terrorist organization. 

"We treasure the precious words of Hezbollah...I'd like to say that according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders.”  

PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network was charged with providing a backgrounder for church members, and came up in 2014 with Zionism Unsettled, a viciously anti-Israel work of layers of hatred standing upon lies. One review: “The study guide’s project coordinator describes Zionism as an oppressive ideology comparable to Jim Crow segregation in the American South and apartheid in South Africa.”

This is not a church that cares about Israel or about Jews. There were many, many good people in the church, but they have bolted from its ranks more energetically than Boris Johnson from a pro-EU rally. 

Voltaire and Nelson have something else in common.

Voltaire hated Christianity. To his signature, he used to append “Ecraser l'infâme” – crush the loathsome thing, i.e, the Church. He made an exception in his exchange with Isaac de Pinto about the Jews. Voltaire regarded them as despicable, incapable of any achievement in the arts or sciences, and who could not contribute anything of value to the rest of the world. That he signed differently: “’très-chrétien Voltaire” – the very Christian Voltaire.

When it came to hating Jews, Voltaire found true religion.

He must have meant Nelson’s brand of Christianity.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean and Director Global Social Action, Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, is Director of Interfaith Relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center

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