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.
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.
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.