Earlier this month, a committee created by a 2008 vote of the Presbyterian Church (USA)s General Assembly issued a report that asserts Israel is largely responsible for the continued existence of the Arab-Israeli conflict. One section of this report affirms Israels right to exist as a Jewish state, while another denigrates Jews who moved into pre-1948 Israel as a bunch of gun-toting marauders.
The contradictory messages about Jewish sovereignty given by this committee should not come as a surprise given that one of its members, Rev. Marthame Sanders, has expressed support for a one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In most organizations, such an opinion would disqualify someone as a member of a committee charged with providing a comprehensive report about the Middle East.
Not the PC(USA).
Sanders expressed support for a one state solution on the Salt Films website in 2001. The full text of the article is no longer available on the site itself, but it is available at archive.org here.
In what Sanders called an energetic dialogue with a correspondent who expressed anger over the corrupt incompetence of Arab and Palestinian leaders, Sanders wrote:
I believe, with all of my heart, that the only true, just, and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine will be achieved when there is a single, binational state. This nation will be bilingual. It will have one capital, Jerusalem. It will offer Right of Return for all people of Jewish and Palestinian ancestry. It will provide equal rights to its Palestinian citizens. Settlements will be called villages, and its civilian population will no longer be armed. Resources will be distributed equally. All shall serve in its military. It will necessarily set up a framework similar to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It will be constitutional, and it will be a democracy.
In 2001, Sanders made his preference clear. He was in favor of the dissolution of the Jewish state to be replaced by a binational state in which Jews, by definition, would be a minority.
Nine years later, the Middle East Study Committee on which Sanders served, sent a letter
to its American Jewish Friends, which stated the following:
We want to be sure to say to you in no uncertain terms: we support the existence of Israel as a sovereign nation within secure and recognized borders. No but, no let's get this out of the way so we can say what we really want to say. We support Israel's existence as granted by the U.N. General Assembly. We support Israel's existence as a home for the Jewish people. We have said this before, and we say this again. We say this because we believe it; we say it because we want it to be true.
If one looks again at Sanders' 2001 statement, it appears that his support for a binational state in place of Israel is rooted in his interpretation of Christian theology. He writes: "I believe this because of my faith, which teaches me that God shows no preference. It teaches me that all have erred, regardless of their race. It teaches me that past wrongs must be atoned for and forgiven."
Rev. Sanders does not make his reasoning explicit, but it appears that he is offended by the exclusivity of Israel as a Jewish state, so offended in fact, that he is willing to support the creation of another Arab/Muslim state in its place.
"What is the difference?"
Later, on the same page, Rev. Sanders acknowledges that indeed, Arafat was a corrupt leader. He writes: Is Arafat corrupt, undemocratic, violent, manipulative? Yes. Is Israel
? Yes. What is the difference?
Rev. Sanders attempt to posit a false equivalence between the Palestinian Authority under Arafat and the Israeli government demonstrates just how unable he is to discern the fundamental differences between Israel and its adversaries.
Rev. Sanders presence on a study committee about the Middle East helps explain why the committees report is so distorted.
How could the leaders of the PC(USA) appoint a partisan like Sanders to its Middle East Study Committee?
Did they honestly think the committee's recommendations would have credibility with Israelis in light of Rev. Sanders statements?
For more about Rev. Sanders' commentary about the Arab-Israeli conflict, please go here
Readers should also check out Rev. Sanders' website
about his time in the West Bank. Of particular interest is this video
of an photo exhibit organized by an english club at the school where Sanders taught. Sanders was an advisor to this club. The video documents the presence of propaganda related to the Mohammed Al Dura controversy in the classroom and of Palestinian claims to Jerusalem.