In 1505, a Moravian Jew named Joseph Pfefferkorn denounced his faith and undertook a campaign to get the Talmud banned by claiming it blasphemed Christianity. Pfefferkorn was unschooled and a criminal, but that didn't stop the Dominicans in Cologne, who at the time were eager to cast aspersions on the Jews, from employing him. They recognized the value of a Jew accusing other Jews.
The practice of finding Jews to bear false witness against other Jews has been repeated in many venues. Today, in America, some mainline Protestant churches have eagerly adopted this practice in an effort to demonize Israel. In November 2009, the Wyoming Presbyterian church in Milburn, New Jersey invited Jewish anti-Israel activist Anna Baltzer to speak and present her slide show alleging Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.
Baltzer is an acolyte of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group that recruits naive Westerners to interfere with Israeli anti-terror operations. Its founders have spoken approvingly of suicide bombings. Baltzer boasts a busy schedule of speaking engagements at churches, universities and even an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Her message consists mostly of rehashed accusations against Israel made by Palestinian speakers. But Baltzer uses her Jewish heritage to accrue credibility before predominantly non-Jewish audiences who often fail to see through her deception.
In her appearance at the Presbyterian church, Baltzer told the audience that they were responsible for alleged Israeli transgressions on the West Bank because "if the Israeli government does it, in fact its really U.S. taxpayers doing it." Settlers carry U.S-made weapons, she said. Her attempt to conflate the privately owned small arms of Israeli citizens with American support for Israel's national defense is typical of her deceptiveness.
Baltzer's core message is to delegitimize Israel. She foists upon her audience absurd claims, like her assertion that the Arab armies who invaded the Jewish state the day after its founding were merely reacting to Israel's expulsion of 350,000 Palestinians from their homes. Aside from sanitizing the stated Arab intention to eliminate Israel, she also misrepresents the impetus behind Palestinian flight. Noted historian Efraim Karsh demolished the myth of Palestinian expulsion. His book, Fabricating Israeli History documents how most Palestinian flight was stoked by their own leadership.
Baltzer analogizes Israel's treatment of the Palestinians with South African apartheid, contending that the reason there is no Palestinian Nelson Mandela is that Palestinians are not allowed to organize because Israel jails potential leaders. In reality, most Palestinians sitting in Israeli jails are tied to terrorist acts against Israelis. In her zeal, Baltzer can't even get Mandela's story right. In fact, the famed South African leader spent much of his adult life sitting in a South African jail.
Despite claiming to be a peace activist, Baltzer is an apologist for Hamas, whose founding charter invokes Islamic doctrine to sanctify killing Jews. The most Baltzer can admit to, though, is that Hamas is "more aggressive [than the secular Palestinian group, Fatah]." Proclaiming that it has agreed to a long-term ceasefire if Israel will withdraw to its recognized borders, Baltzer conceals Hamas's repeated affirmation it will never accept Israel's right to exist.
Baltzer mocks Israel's attempts to protect its population and displays a contempt for the lives of Palestinians too. She urges on the Palestinians to launch further intifadas, knowing all too well the bloodshed that would occur. She decries Israel's decision to build the "Wall," rhetorically asking, "does segregation bring peace?" The facts are clear. In the year prior to the decision to build the security barrier, 452 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, mostly in suicide bombings. Since the building of the barrier, that figure has gone down by more than 90 percent and in 2009 there were no successful suicide bombings in Israel.
Baltzer promotes blood libels against Israel. In her talk at the Wyoming Church an attendee challenged her as to why she published on her blog for months a false story spread by one of her colleagues accusing Israeli soldiers of shooting several Palestinian children in front of their mother. Baltzer retorted that she removed the story prior to her appearance on the Daily Show in October upon learning it was false. She added that although this case turned out not to be true, "I don't think its hateful to hold a nation accountable for targeting civilians." So while admitting one story was a lie, she continues to promote another unsubstantiated accusation.
The question is why, given such extreme and baseless attacks, churches, like the Wyoming Presbyterian church, invite her to speak. According to a community newspaper's account of the event, when an audience member questioned why the church repeatedly invited speakers with an anti-Israel message but none to present the other side a church member responded, "... any time you want to put together such a meeting, the minister reports to us." Interim Pastor, Lou Kilgore added, "I'll make the same offer."
This seemingly receptive response actually does not redress the real problem. When the church leadership provides a forum for biased, anti-Israel voices without regard for the validity of the allegations made and the misinformation spread, it hardly seems reasonable or practical to expect the Jewish community to bear the responsibility for monitoring the speakers who appear at the church and supplying alternatives. A better, possible route to follow would be for church leaders to communicate ahead of time with knowledgeable Jewish leaders and clergy about speakers who might be invited to comment on Israel but who are unknown to the church. If it's obvious a speaker has a record of inflammatory, false accusations against Israel, the church may choose to look elsewhere or, at least, balance the program with an additional speaker.
Any church seeking to enlighten its congregation and community about the contentious Arab-Israeli conflict will do precisely the opposite in sponsoring a presentation by Anna Baltzer but there are others who can shed light on the issues and with a bit of effort church leaders can enlist them.