(This Op-Ed appeared in The Boston Jewish Advocate on May 9, 2014 and in the Christian Post, 5 Towns Jewish Times [New York City], The Jewish Star, [Long Island and Brooklyn] and the Algemeiner.)
Next month participants in the Presbyterian Churchs biennial assembly will meet in Detroit. Calls for divestment from Israel are likely to be considered, supported by the infamous Zionism Unsettled study guide.
Both Irans English-language propaganda arm, Press TV, and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke endorsed the guide when it appeared early this year. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, on the other hand, condemned the booklet as anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. David Borg, executive director of Christians United for Israel, called it a wicked work that tries to revive the Holocaust-discredited doctrine of teaching contempt for the Jews.
To understand what the authors, from the churchs Israel Palestine Mission Network, are up to, some history:
After World War II, open antisemitismpreviously widespreadhad been made disreputable by Nazism and the destruction of European Jewry. Those seeking a substituteespecially an alliance of convenience including far leftists, Islamic extremists and Christian activists influenced by neo-Marxist liberation theologyfound it in anti-Zionism. The U.N. General Assemblys 1975 approval of the Soviet-inspired, Arab League-promoted Zionism-is-racism resolution fueled a trend.
Overturned in 1991, the resolution survived in spirit. The Mission Networks guide adheres to that spirit, slandering Zionism as Jewish supremacism.
The document claims there is a pathology inherent in Zionism. It discerns all manner of sins in Israels occupation of the West Bank, an occupation as legitimate as that of the Allies in Germany after World War II. And it urges rejection of theologies that uphold Zionism.
Zionism is nothing more than the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, influenced by 19th century Greek and Italian national movements. The theology that upholds Zionism is Judaism. The movement took its name from Zion, which appears scores of times in the Hebrew Bible as a synonym for Jerusalem, the political and religious heart of Judaism.
Ultimately, Zionism Unsettled rejects Jews as a people. It does so as part of a bid to hijack the Holocaust. The guide urges an expanded, inclusive understanding of the Nazi genocide that would shift its lessons from persecution of Jews to Israels purported oppression of Palestinian Arabs.
The Mission Network means to subsume the Holocaust into an anodyne mans inhumanity to man while painting Israelis as new Nazis. If successful, one effect would be to distract from todays genocidal threats, like that against Israel from a nuclear-armed Iran.
Sanctimoniously, the guide renounces the morally hazardous claims of a hierarchy of victimhood. Oddly, when it comes to victimhood, Palestinian life expectancy, infant mortality, education and other standards improved markedly after Israel took the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. Even in the depths of second intifada fighting, Palestinian Arabs wereaccording to a 2003 U.N. reportbetter off than the Arabs of Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Yemen.
Collaboration then and now
Regarding moral hazard, the guide scrubs the role of Palestinian Arab leaders who indirectly collaborated in the Holocaust. Most prominent was the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. He and his colleagues led anti-Jewish riots and massacres in Mandatory Palestine.
This violence helped induce British officials to close the one place in the world ready to absorb large numbers of Jewish people in the 1930s. Palestinian Arabs thereby helped trap in Europe hundreds of thousands of Jews who otherwise might have escaped.
Zionism Unsettled also would reverse initiatives during the papacies of Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) and John Paul II (1978-2005), both recently elevated to sainthood, which acknowledged the enduring validity of Judaism. These changes affected not only Roman Catholicism but also major Protestant movements. Rather than being held in contempt, Jews were to be seen as religiously legitimate, older brothers of Christianity.
Its often noted that the Holocaust began not with death camps but with words. These words included Adolf Hitlers Mein Kampf, the czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Vienna Mayor Karl Luegers turn-of-the-century anti-Jewish incitement. Before them there had been centuries of teaching contempt for the Jews. The Israel Palestine Mission Networks guide echoes, in pseudo-academic jargon, such earlier demonization.
Delegates to the Presbyterian general assembly would be well advised, in the names of both Middle East peace and Christian-Jewish relations, to divest not from Israel but rather their Israel Palestine Mission Network and its study guide. The author is Washington director of CAMERA.