UPDATE: As of this writing (Feb. 22, 2016), the YWCA of Jerusalem is no longer providing in-bound links to the Lenten Reflection edited by Rev. McGrail, but the Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is still promoting the document.
SECOND UPDATE: As of this writing (Feb. 23, 2016), the Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is no longer promoting the document. CAMERA commends both the YWCA and Global Ministries for its decision to stop promoting the text, which is no longer available on the YWCA of Palestine's website.
For most Christians, Lent is a time of introspection, fasting and repentance. But for Rev. Loren McGrail, a pastor in the United Church of Christ working in Jerusalem, the forty days before Easter are an opportunity to use her position at the YWCA in Jerusalem to broadcast anti-Israel propaganda to fellow Christians in the United States.
McGrail, a UCC pastor whose work is supported by Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as well as the Church of Scotland, serves as a communications officer for the YWCA office that operates out of Jerusalem, which is part of a chapter that calls itself The National YWCA of Palestine.
This chapter of the YWCA works to promote the welfare of women in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (by, for example, educating Palestinians about the evils of honor killings, which are on the rise in Palestinian society).
It also broadcasts anti-Israel propaganda to Western audiences.
The most recent example of this tendency is Breaking Down the Wall: Lenten Reflections, a document posted on the website of the YWCA's office on February 9, 2016. This document is comprised of five chapters which can either be used to pray and meditate during the five weeks of Lent or during a particular day of the Holy Week leading up to the Resurrection (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter). Each chapter includes a poem, or reflection, an article on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Questions for Reflection.
This seems innocent enough, but every article in the booklet highlights an alleged wrongdoing by Israel, the Jewish state or by Israeli Jews. The booklet portrays the Israel-Palestinian conflict as if it is entirely the fault of Israel and as if the Palestinians bear no blame or guilt for the violence.
To make matters worse, some of the articles in the meditation booklet are marred by material omissions that result in a dishonest and hostile depiction of the Jewish state.
The fact that this Lenten meditation has been produced and disseminated during a time when Israeli Jews are being stabbed and run over in the streets outside their homes by Palestinians who have been exposed to hateful antisemtic incitement by their leaders for years is very troublesome.
Why would Christian organizations ostensibly committed to peacemaking produce and disseminate such a document during a time such as this?
Are they attempting to fuse antisemitic incitement that permeates Palestinian society with the Christian antisemitism that historically has manifested itself on Good Friday?
Apparently so.Rank Propaganda from Palestinian National News
Anti-Israel contempt is particularly evident in the booklet's second mediation dedicated to Maundy Thursday. This entry asks readers to meditate on an article published by Palestine National News on January 17, 2016.
The article, titled Settlers Spray Slaughter the Christians' on Walls of Jerusalem Monastery, reports that a group of right-wing settlers spray painted slogans that call for the murder of Christians on the walls of a monastery in Jerusalem. The article then states Israeli police have claimed to open an investigation in the case, but the Jewish extremists are expected not to be punished under Israeli law.
Oddly enough, the article which asserts Israel does not properly investigate and prosecute crimes against Palestinians and Christians highlights two crimes in which arrests were made, charges were filed, and in one instance, convictions were obtained and a life sentence imposed. But the article makes no mention of these facts, leaving the reader to believe that Israel did not act forcefully in response to these crimes. It is a classic example of lying by omission.Dawabsheh Attack
The first crime mentioned in the article the arson attack against the Dawabsheh family home perpetrated in July 2015. This attack killed an 11-month old baby and both of his parents. The article reports that Israel failed to hold anyone accountable for this attack because Israel said that the evidence against the Jewish suspects was not enough' to try them.
The PNN's assertion is contradicted, however, by a crucial bit of information that it omitted from its story: Israeli police arrested and indicted a 21-year-old Israeli Jew and an unnamed minor on Sunday, January, 3, 2016 two weeks before the PNN article was published and a few weeks before it was reprinted in the YWCA Jerusalem's Lenten meditation.
The times of Israel reported on the arrests the same day they happened. One of the suspects reportedly admitted to the firebombing, saying he did it to avenge the killing of Malachy Rosenfeld by a Palestinian terrorist in June.
The PNN article included in the YWCA's Lenten meditation gives leaders the false impression that Israel has not arrested anyone for the crime, when in fact, it did. Abu Khdeir Omission
By itself, the omission described above is bad enough to disqualify it for inclusion in McGrail's Lenten meditation, but it gets worse. The same article cites the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old who was set on fire by Israeli Jews in July 2014.
Readers who examine the article will discover that, in the sentence right after describing the gruesome attack, it states, Israeli Occupation Authorities claim to start an investigation, but often fail to hold the attackers accountable for their crimes
But in the Abu Khdeir case, alleged attackers were arrested on July 6, 2014, four days after the attack.
Three defendants were indicted on July 27, 2014.
Two of the three defendants were convicted on November 30, 2014. (The third defendant entered a last minute insanity defense, which is now being heard by the court.)
On Feb. 4, 2016, five days before McGrail's Lenten meditation was posted on the Internet, the two defendants were sentenced. One, a 17-year-old, was sentenced to life in prison (plus three years). The other, a minor, was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Palestinian National News falsely portrayed the Jewish state as if it let people responsible for two terrible heinous crimes, both of which generated international attention, off the hook without even trying to capture and punish them. Again, it lied by omission.
No honest or knowledgeable Christian peacemaker could include this article in a Lenten meditation a religious document but McGrail did.
Why?Denial of Right to Mourn Allegation
Another meditation, this one devoted to Good Friday (which commemorates the Crucifixion), includes a similarly dishonest and incendiary article titled Why Did Israel Withhold Bodies of Slain Palestinians, Denying the Right to Mourn?
This article, published by Truthout on January 5, 2016, reports that On New Year's Day here in Hebron, after months of painstaking waiting and deliberations, the parents of 17 slain Palestinians finally received the bodies of their children. The article continues:
Killed by US-backed Israeli-armed forces in and near Hebron over the course of the last three tumultuous months of 2015, and held by the Israeli government without explanation, the bodies of the Palestinians were finally brought to Hebron's al-Ahli Hospital in the early morning of January 1.
The article also includes the following propagandistic flourish:
Why did Israel refuse to restore the bodies of 17 slain Hebronites to their families for a period, not of days, not of weeks, but of months? It's a question that doesn't arise in conversations between Palestinians, however. When it comes to the Israeli occupation, after all, Palestinians know that the unanswerable is standard protocol.
This article is dishonest in a number of ways. First off, it offers no explanation as to why these people whose bodies were returned were killed in the first place.
The article only reports that they were killed over the course of the last three tumultuous months of 2015, obscuring the fact that the Palestinians whose bodies were being returned were killed after murdering, or attempting to murder, Israeli Jews by attacking them with knives and by running them over with automobiles.
And the article's assertion that the bodies were held without explanation by Israeli authorities is false. In October 2015, Israel's internal security minister warned that returning the bodies would allow extremists to organize funerals that would be used to incite further hostility and acts of violence against Israeli citizens. Newsweek reported on the issue as follows:
Mass funerals are routinely held in east Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip for Palestinians who have been killed as a result of their attack. The ceremonies can be politicized by Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
"The terrorist's family turns the funeral into a demonstration of support for terrorism and incitement to murder," Erdan said in a statement seen by the newspaper. "We cannot allow this. We must do everything so that the terrorist doesn't receive the honor and accolades after carrying out attacks."
The use of the dishonest article from Truthout in a Lenten Meditation is bad enough, but the manner in McGrail attempts to steer the meditation into an anti-Israel direction is remarkable in a question she poses to the reader after the article:
Each culture has rituals for burying their dead. Jesus was prepared for burial in linens and spices according to the burial custom of the Jews. The rituals for buying the dead in Islam are also specific to the culture. Why does Israel deny the Palestinians the right to mourn? Withholding the dead is a form of collective punishment and against international law.
This question falsely accuses Israel of engaging in collective punishment by withholding the bodies, when in fact it did so to prevent further incitement, which is a reasonable and proper thing to do under the circumstances. It ups the ante by repeating the article's assertion that Israel denied the Palestinians the right to mourn and by connecting that allegation to the burial Jesus on Good Friday. The overall effect (and intention) is to incite heightened feelings of anger and sadness and then direct them at Israel.
This is not peacemaking, but theological and liturgical incitement against the Jewish state.
The extent to which McGrail is committed to demonizing Israel is also evident in her use of the security barrier as a prop for mediation. In the reflection she produced, the barrier's impact on the Palestinian is highlighted and depicted in dramatic manner, but the suicide attacks it was built to prevent are not even mentioned. Israel's efforts to defend itself are portrayed as inherently evil, Palestinian violence is not even mentioned.
For example, McGrail included the following graphic in the fourth meditation dedicated to Holy Saturday:
This graphic is a modified version of an image that can be found on Facebook (and which is appended to the bottom of this article). It reportedly shows a mother and a daughter who are unable to see each other because of an Israeli-built barrier. It provides no details that can be used to verify whether or not it is an accurate depiction of reality. The goal of this graphic is not to convey information, but again to elicit sadness over the separation of a mother from her daughter and then direct this sadness (and the anger it generates) at Israel.
Nowhere does McGrail direct the reader's attention to the suffering endured by the Israelis prior to the wall's construction. Nor does she make any effort to draw attention to the suffering endured by Israelis who were stabbed and killed by the 17 Hebronites whose bodies were not immediately buried after their suicidal attacks.
Nor does she inform the readers of the conviction of Israeli violent extremists mentioned in the PNN article and she ignores the praise heaped upon Palestinian killers by their leaders.
During the last few months, a pregnant woman has been stabbed. Another woman, a mother, was murdered with her children nearby.
And yet another woman, whose husband was stabbed to death right in front of her, was spit upon by Arab shopkeepers as she pleaded to them for help, for she too, had been stabbed. I yelled please help me!' and they just spat at me, she said after the attack. The Times of Israel reported the following about the victim:
She said that one of them slapped her and another laughed in her face and told her to drop dead when she told him she'd give him a million shekels if he helped her get away with her two babies.
They saw that we were with two baby carriages, she said.
These attacks and the horror they engender are passed over in silence by this Lenten reflection. The document's silence about these attacks gives readers the impression that the Jewish victims of Palestinian violence are not worthy of Christian concern.
The publication and dissemination of this Lenten Meditation is no innocent act on the part of its editor, the YWCA of Palestine or the Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which has posted it on their website.
It is a malign act that comes after years of anti-Israel propagandizing by Global Ministries and the YWCA.
Instead of promoting a human longing for God, which is the goal of Lent, the document promotes contempt for the Jewish state and indifference for the safety of its citizens.
This is shameful.
The original Facebook image of the graphic shown above can be seen below: