generation after World War II, particularly given revelations of the
Holocaust, most American Protestant denominations embraced a more
tolerant attitude toward Jews. Since the 1980s, however, there has been
a marked shift, evident in the anti-Israeli positions adopted by more
liberal denominations like the United Methodist Church (UMC); the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA); and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA).
At its April meeting in Fort Worth, the
National Conference of the UMC will consider adopting a robust
divestment policy toward Israel. When the 218th General
Assembly of the PCUSA convenes in San Jose in June, it may adopt a
resolution calling for a “temporary end” to military and foreign aid to
Israel based largely on specious depictions of Israeli policy and
military actions. In general, the vast preponderance of criticisms
leveled against Israel by more liberal Protestant denominations betray
a blatant anti-Israeli imbalance which the religious left justifies
based on Israel’s military, financial, and political power.
From the perspective of the religious left,
those who have power obtain it at the expense of the powerless and
therefore are justifiably open to greater criticism. In the 1980s, the
American religious left cast the United States as a behemoth in
international affairs, devising a moral equivalency argument equating
the United States with the Soviet Union. Reverend William Sloan Coffin,
pastor of New York’s Riverside Church (where Nicaragua’s Sandinista
president Daniel Ortega spoke in 1986), once prayed, “Were we to repent
of our self-righteousness, the existence of Soviet missiles would
remind us of nothing so much as our own. … Afghanistan would suggest
Vietnam.” This same mindset, with doctrinal roots in liberation
theology, undergirds contentions maintaining that Israel, a powerful
nation, accord to a far higher standard of behavior than the
Palestinians. The argument is bogus.
Typical of such justifications are those below,
made by a PCUSA peacemaking activist to friends, which maintains that
an imbalance in power makes it acceptable to hold Israel to a higher
standard of behavior while excusing Palestinian terrorism as a
legitimate asymmetric response.
- Israel has nuclear weapons, the Palestinians have suicide bombers.
- Israel has tanks and fighter jets. The Palestinians have Molotov cocktails.
- Israel has all the land, money, and resources. The Palestinians have been kicked off their land and had their resources stolen.
- Israel is a nation, accountable on the world stage. The Palestinians have no nation or effective government to be accountable.
- Israel is powerful. The Palestinians are not.
The first two justifications specifying a
military imbalance, while technically correct, are irrelevant. Israel
has never threatened to use nuclear weapons on the Palestinians.
Indeed, Israel does not acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, nuking Gaza or the Palestinian territories would wreak
radiological havoc on Israel. Israel’s nukes deter its avowedly hostile
Certainly, Israel’s first-rate defense forces
employ technologically advanced weaponry while the Palestinians use
suicide bombers, mortars, rockets, and small arms. Although guerrilla
tactics constitute a legitimate asymmetrical alternative for
Palestinians, terrorism (violence directed against innocents) does not.
Israel uses its U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter-bombers and AH-64 Apache
helicopters in precision strikes against terrorist targets. Hamas and
other Palestinian groups purposely target Israeli innocents. Israelis
riding on buses, shopping in markets or eating in restaurants in Tel
Aviv and Jerusalem, or simply living in Sderot or Ashkelon, are
innocents; Hamas leaders and fighters are not.
The third charge is likewise specious. The
Palestinians were not “kicked off their land.” First, there never was a
Palestinian state or tribe. In 1948, when U.N. Resolution 181 created
Israel, Palestinians either fled or joined with six Arab armies
attempting to annihilate the newborn Jewish state. Second, while
Israeli forces occupy some of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, prior
to June 7, 1967, the Jordanian army occupied these areas. International
law specifies that treaties establish national boundaries and as yet no
treaty defines Palestinian boundaries. Furthermore, while Israel
occupied Gaza from June 1967 until 2005, Cairo declined offers to
return it to Egyptian jurisdiction. Israel also occupies the Golan
Heights, a military staging area seized from Syria in 1967. Giving up
Golan would constitute strategic folly.
The fourth contention maintains that Israel, a
viable nation, must be held to a higher level of accountability than
the Palestinian Authority. Approximately 100 nations maintain
diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority and around 150
recognize Israel. In the Middle East, however, only Egypt, Jordan and
Turkey recognize Israel. Hamas’ Charter calls for Israel’s annihilation.
The final charge maintaining that Israel is
powerful and the Palestinians are not is meaningless. Lack of power
does not excuse violence purposefully directed against innocents.
Ultimately, the Palestinians serve as pawns in a very real imbalance of
power pitting almost the entire Muslim world, from Algeria and Libya to
Iran, from Syria and Saudi Arabia to Sudan, against Israel. As for
resources, over the next 10 years Middle Eastern Muslim nations will
spend an estimated $330 billion on armaments. The United States will
provide Israel $30 billion in military and economic aid, about the same
amount specified for Egypt.
The fact remains: democratic Israel extends far
more rights to its Arab and non-Jewish population than any Muslim
nation accords Jews or Christians. Suffice it to say, such charges
simply reflect the absurd leftist view that power equates to corruption