US Jews cancel talks with Protestants over Israel | Churches ask government to rethink military aid to Jewish state

October 18, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Major American Jewish organizations said Wednesday they have cancelled talks with liberal Protestant leaders after the churches sought an investigation of US military aid to Israel.

The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Conservative and Reform Jewish movements are among those withdrawing from the national Christian-Jewish Roundtable. The dialogue group was founded in 2004 to ease tensions over escalating church protests against Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories.
The Jewish groups announced their decision in response to a request by several mainline Protestant leaders for Congress to re-evaluate US military aid to the Jewish state. The church leaders said in an Oct. 5 letter to Congress that Israel was guilty of widespread human rights violations against Palestinians that violated US legal standards for recipients of military aid.
Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism called the claims “repugnant, regrettable and morally misguided.” The American Jewish Committee, a co-founder of the dialogue group, has requested a meeting with senior church leaders to “determine a more positive path forward.”
The church leaders seeking the congressional hearings represent some of the largest mainline Protestant groups in the United States. They include Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Gradye Parsons, a top executive of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Rosemarie Wenner, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops; and Peg Birk, leader of the National Council of Churches.
In the letter to Congress, the Christian leaders said both Israelis and Palestinians share responsibility for the conflict in the region, and church leaders acknowledged the suffering of both groups. But the leaders said, “we have also witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinians.”
Arguing that US military aid to Israel was “sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians,” church leaders said Congress should investigate whether Israel has violated the human rights standards set by the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act.
The Christian-Jewish Roundtable was scheduled to meet next Monday. Tony Kireopoulos, an interfaith leader for the New York-based National Council of Churches, said Wednesday that the organizations were “disappointed that the meeting wasn’t going forward” and they hoped to restart the dialogue.
The US Episcopal Church, also a member of the interreligious dialogue, didn’t endorse the Protestant statement to Congress. Alexander Baumgarten, the Episcopal public policy director, said the request for congressional hearings was not in line with Episcopal policy.

Presbyterian Church still SUCKS

July 16, 2012
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(thejewishchronicle.net)What isn’t as well known is this: The church voted overwhelmingly, Friday, July 6, one day after the divestment debate, in favor of a resolution boycotting “all Israeli products coming from the occupied Palestinian Territories” and for “all nations” to prohibit settlement imports.
The resolution, which the G.A. passed by a 457-180 vote, singles out Ahava, a skin care company, and the Hadiklaim Israel Date Growers, which both have factories in West Bank settlements.(more)

I fail to understand why any Jews trust any church. It isn’t like as if the history of the church were showing us any love.


Palestinian Theologian" Trashes "Palestinian Theology

November 14, 2011

(Hudson) For over two decades, parts of the Christian world have been bemused by the writings of self-styled “Palestinian Christian theologians.” Since their brightest lights are Protestant pastors, they are minor figures among the overwhelmingly Orthodox and Catholic faithful of the Holy Land. But they are strangely popular in Liberal Protestant circles abroad and especially beloved of church bureaucrats.
Now one of them, Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb of Bethlehem, has trashed all the efforts of “Palestinian theology” to date as an irrelevant rehash of nineteenth century European theology. And what is his new starting point? Basically, nineteenth century race theory.
For decades, Raheb and his Anglican counterpart Naim Ateek have been touring Protestant churches in Europe and North America and conducting seminars in “Palestinian theology.” That is: purported theological underpinning for Palestinian political aims. Students in Protestant universities have been obliged to swallow down their books and regurgitate them in examinations. Those who questioned this new orthodoxy might face serious obstacles to their academic future.
Ateek in Jerusalem and Raheb in Bethlehem opened educational institutions to which theology students were sent from abroad. Recently, Raheb received authorization from the Palestinian Authority to grant BA and MA degrees. So for Raheb to denounce all that purported theologizing was to drop a big bomb.
Raheb was talking on “Contextual Palestinian Theology as It Deals with Realities on the Ground” at the March 2010 “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference in Bethlehem. He began by promising a “new way of thinking” because “we all, even as Palestinians theologians, we were dancing on the rhythm of European theology of the 19th Century, trying to react here, to react there, to change here and there, but the assumptions, the systems of thinking, was [sic] still 19th Century Europe.”
Thus far, in trashing all the previous work of himself and Ateek, together with the lesser luminaries of this genre, Raheb was correct. Both Raheb and Ateek hold doctorates from foreign universities, written under that kind of old-time European influence. But the continuation of Raheb’s talk is so academically frivolous that one wonders how he received a doctorate in the first place.
The “first assumption” of his new way of thinking, he announced, is that “the Bible could not have been written anywhere else but in Palestine.” Now, such books as Esther and Revelation explicitly state that they were composed outside the Land of Israel (in Persia and on a Greek island respectively). Is Raheb so ignorant of his Bible?
His second assumption is outrageous, echoing nineteenth century attempts to obscure the Jewish origins of Jesus, which peaked in the “Aryan Christianity” of Nazi Germany. It is that “the Palestinian people and part of the Jewish people are the continuation of the peoples of the land” whereas “Israel represents Rome of the Bible, not the people of the land.”
Why? Because “I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.”
Even if Raheb’s claims about the ancestry of himself and Binyamin Netanyahu were true, he would be putting them at the service of a shameless racism. But, of course, he also has not the slightest evidence to support those claims. He knows nothing of Netanyahu’s ancestry. And he himself, for all he knows, may be descended from Greek pilgrims or from Europeans who arrived with the Crusaders, as I have pointed out elsewhere. As for DNA, had he taken the trouble, Raheb could have found that genetic studies on Jews have shown that European Jews are genetically much more closely related to Jews in the Middle East, and even to some non-Jews there, than to non-Jewish Europeans.
Recall that the leitmotif of “Christ at the Checkpoint” was the claim that today Israeli checkpoints would prevent Joseph, Mary and Jesus from ever getting to Bethlehem. In fact, of course, if today a Jewish couple expecting their first child tried to set up house in Bethlehem, they would be denounced by the UN, the US State Department and all the world’s foreign ministries as illegal settlers. And Mary would be lucky to live long enough to give birth.
So here comes Raheb to the rescue. As Yasser Arafat liked to say, Jesus and Mary were not Jews but Palestinians; so no problem. “And being born just across the street from where Jesus was born,” adds Raheb, “I always loved to say that most probably one of my grand, grand, grand, grandmas used to babysit for Jesus.” Once again, Raheb displays ignorance of or contempt for his Bible. According to Matthew’s Gospel, the Holy Family fled Bethlehem for Egypt shortly after the birth of Jesus. If anyone babysat for Jesus, it was Copts.
We need not pursue further Raheb’s “new thinking” except to note its fundamental aim: to show that wherever the Bible talks about a Chosen People, it means today’s Palestinians and specifically the Palestinian Arab Christians. Yes, he really means to make that preposterous claim. Consider a few quotations, and note that his initial inclusion of “part of the Jewish people” has vanished: now it is just Palestinians.
“Actually, the Palestinian Christians are the only ones in the world that, when they speak about their forefathers, they mean their actual forefathers, and also the forefathers in the faith.” “So, that is the reality of the peoples of the land. Again, they aren’t Israel. This experience I’m talking about, it’s only the Palestinians who understand this, because Israel represents Rome.” “It was our forefathers to whom the revelation was given…”
If one reads attentively all the “Palestinian theology” produced by Raheb and Ateek and their like, one finds that this claim about Palestinian chosenness, with the concomitant disqualification of Israel, is the whole point of the exercise. All the rest is baseless rigmarole, churned out in the attempt to get to that conclusion. The significance of Raheb’s speech is his acknowledgement that all their previous rigmarole cannot survive serious examination. His puerile attempt to start a new rigmarole merely confirms this.
Not that this will diminish the adulation of Raheb and Ateek among their admirers. For they are admired not for their intellectual integrity, but for their services in the delegitimization of contemporary Israel and of the contemporary Jewish people. Despite his averred repudiation of nineteenth century theology, Raheb is repackaging the claim of old-time theologians that the Church is the “New Israel” that has replaced the Jewish people, that the Bible now belongs to Christians alone. In Raheb’s view – it belongs just to Palestinian Christians.
Thus Raheb habitually receives rapt attention in Germany. He was awarded the “International Aachen Peace Prize” in 2008. Frequently, he has been fêted at Kirchentage, the mass jamborees of German Christians. He was most recently featured at the joint Protestant-Catholic Kirchentag hosted by the Lutheran Church of Bavaria in May 2010, two months after his Bethlehem speech. No matter what he said.
Raheb was also the star witness at the session of the 2004 General Assembly at which the Presbyterian Church of the USA voted to divest from various firms that do business with Israel. Two years later, after much controversy, the next General Assembly of the PCUSA voted to replace that resolution and apologize for allowing itself to be misled in 2004.
Still, we have to be grateful for the spectacle of Raheb’s performance in Bethlehem. On the one hand, he threw all previous “Palestinian theology” into the rubbish bin. On the other, any decent university would grade his “new thinking” with a fail, if submitted by a non-Palestinian student. “Palestinian theology” may still have its admirers, but they are staring at a naked mini-monarch.


Presbyterian Church elders defame Israel

March 12, 2010

The U.S. Presbyterian Church is on the verge of a blunder that would severely damage interfaith harmony. Its 3 million lay members must call the hierarchy to its senses.

A nine-member special committee of the religious denomination is set to release a report on the Middle East that takes moral equivalence to dangerous new heights – and embraces parts of a manifesto by Christian Palestinians who call for an end to Israel as a Jewish state.
The document has yet to be published, but the church news service revealed it regurgitates the most specious anti-Israel canards. It even puts a footnote on the phrase “the right of Israel to exist.”
It reads: “The phrase ‘the right of Israel to exist’ is a source of pain for some members of our study committee who are in solidarity with Palestinians, who feel that the creation of the state of Israel has denied them their inalienable human rights.”
How to stop Israel’s sins, in the mind of the Presbyterian special committee?
The U.S. ought to employ “the strategic use of influence and the withholding of financial and military aid in order to enforce Israel’s compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts.” Meaning tighten the screws on an ally until it stops defending itself from terrorism.
No similar tactics are recommended against anyone else in the region. Not against Hamas, which fires rockets at Israeli homes and schools. Not against Iran, which pursues nukes and dreams of erasing Israel. Not against Hezbollah.
As for the manifesto by Christian Palestinians known as Kairos Palestine, the news service said the panel endorsed its “emphasis on hope, love, nonviolence and reconciliation.” Saying nothing of how the manifesto ridicules the notion of Palestinian terrorism by putting quotation marks on the word. For example: “The roots of ‘terrorism’ are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation. These must be removed if there be a sincere intention to remove ‘terrorism.'”
Most perniciously, Kairos Palestine asserts that Israel itself is an error on the map: “Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state … and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another.”
Those are the seeds of horrid divisiveness, not coexistence. Presbyterians – and everyone of sincere faith – should reject them.