Hezbollah official Nabil Qawuq is undoubtedly a busy man. As Hezbollah’s commander in Southern Lebanon, Qawuq is responsible for leading the bulk of the Shi’ite terrorist group’s combat forces, while frequently overseeing attacks on Israeli positions and attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers or civilians. A confidante of Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, Qawuq is also a fixture on Al-Jazeera and Lebanese television, his appearances generously mottled with calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Nevertheless, Qawuq recently found the time in his busy schedule to meet with -- of all things -- a church group. On October 20th, a delegation from the Presbyterian Church of the USA (PCUSA) met with Qawuq and other Hezbollah leaders for an hour in southern Lebanon as part of their three-week regional tour. Led by the head of the Chicago Presbytery Reverend Bob Reynolds, the meeting was convened for supposedly “educational” purposes, with Reverend Reynolds suggesting “I think one way people can learn from one another is to learn the way people talk about themselves and describe their own reality.”
Unfortunately, the conversations which took place between the two parties were anything but realistic. Quwaq opened the conference with a lengthy harangue against the “chaos” and “fear” created by President Bush and “American policy,” whose true purpose he defined roughly as enabling Ariel Sharon to “turn Lebanon into a bridge to harm Syria.” Eager to endear himself to the perturbed Hezbollah commander, PCUSA delegation spokesman Robert Worley, a retired seminary professor, assured Quwaq that all delegation members had voted for John Kerry. Furthermore, Worley promised his host to help disavow Americans of the notion -- impressed upon them by the Western media -- that Hezbollah was a terrorist group, stating:
“Americans hear in the Western media that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization, and they do not hear any other opinion. They know nothing about the party’s concern for the people of the south.”
Worley then pointed out that Hezbollah and his church share similar goals, along with comparable opponents:
“We have suffered much pressure on the part of Jewish organizations in the U.S. because [of our help in] divesting corporations working with Israel. We want Jerusalem to be a united city..”
The words of Worley and Quwaq (translated by MEMRI.org) were then broadcast on Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s televised conduit for frothing hate speech, which featured them prominently as part of their virulently anti-Israel programming. The visit gained little notice until last week, when it was reported on by both The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune. Even in the glare of hostile media attention, Worley and Reynolds remained unrepentant, with Worley declaring “Hezbollah got its reputation for resisting occupation…Hezbollah is part of rebuilding Lebanon.”
Instead of engaging in condemnation of the Bush administration, perhaps Worley and company could have better served the people of Lebanon by asking Qawuq to adhere to UN Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of radical groups within Lebanon. Or, as American citizens, the delegation could have queried their Hezbollah hosts on their role in the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut which killed 241 American servicemen -- including numerous Presbyterian adherents. Finally, as supposed proponents of inter-faith dialogue, Worley should have asked why Hezbollah carried out an attack on the Jewish community of Argentina in 1994, a bombing which led to the deaths of 86 people and destroyed a nearby church.
Such questions went unasked, of course, stemming from the fact that the PCUSA leadership cannot even bring itself to deem Hezbollah a terrorist organization. As Mr. Worley later asked the Times, “is ‘terrorists’ the right word? They [Hezbollah] are resistants.”
Inexplicably, the PCUSA’s recent “unofficial” Lebanese soirée represented the second such trip taken by high-ranking church officials. On October 17th, 2004, a PCUSA-led delegation -- including Robert Worley -- met with Mr. Qawuq. During the cordial discussion, Ronald Stone, a church elder and former professor of church ethics, stated the following to his gracious hosts:
"We treasure the precious words of Hizbullah and your expression of goodwill towards the American people. Also, we praise your initiative for dialogue and mutual understanding. We cherish these statements that bring us closer to you. As an elder of our church, 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..”
The conversation was aired with much fanfare on Al-Manar Television and Iranian state television. The resulting controversy led to the condemnation of the PCUSA leadership by several U.S. Congressman and the Anti-Defamation League, forcing Stone to offer a weak excuse, suggesting Al-Manar “edited” his comments. He did apologize, however, for publicly airing his “own personal frustration” with Jewish leaders. The uproar -- which led to the resignation of two PCUSA staffers -- was apparently insufficient in negating the PCUSA’s seemingly deeply-rooted desire to converse with Qawuq.
Americans unfamiliar with PCUSA’s current political machinations in the Middle East may be shocked to learn that a rudimentary Hezbollah-Presbyterian synthesis exists. To observers aware of PCUSA’s relentless attempts to divest money from the state of Israel, however, Worley’s and Stone’s willingness to meet with the “peace makers” of Hezbollah comes as little surprise.
In July 2004, the PCUSA synod passed the “Divestment Resolution,” which called for all church funds to be withdrawn from businesses based in, or involved with, the state of Israel. Since then, the PCUSA has vigorously expanded and nurtured the program, including the distribution of divestment literature to 11,000 churches and holding national expositions, where hundreds of local church leaders have been educated on divestment action tactics. Additionally, the PCUSA leadership has been thoroughly infiltrated by pro-Palestinian activists who hold dual-memberships in the church and political action organizations, such as the Middle East Council of Churches.
The PCUSA’s incessant crusade against the state of Israel now tinges almost every church initiative. A recent press released aimed at denouncing the ravings of Iranian President Ahmadinejad could not help but spend over 100 words denouncing the “illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”
Approximately 64,000 Presbyterians currently serve proudly in the armed forces of the United States. Their security -- along with that of their millions of civilian co-religionists -- is being severely undercut by the hierarchy of their own church, which, on two separate occasions, has seen fit to lend respectability to an organization which thinks nothing of murdering thousands in the name of God.
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