Fake Mandela Quote Gets Past Eight PC(USA) Forums

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is currently holding its biannual General Assembly (GA) in Pittsburgh, Penn. The GA committee charged with dealing with issues related to the Middle East is faced with 14 proposals, most of them dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Violence against Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria does not feature prominently in the resolutions before this committee. A list of the resolutions before this committee can be found here. (Click on “Committees” and then click on Committee 15 – “Middle East and Peacemaking Issues” and you will see links to all the overtures before the committee.)

One overture (15-01) before this committee accuses Israel of practicing apartheid. This resolution, introduced by the Presbytery of Muskingum Valley in Ohio includes a damning quote attributed to former President of South Africa, Nobel-prize winning Nelson Mandela. According to the resolution, Mandela said:

Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.

There’s just one problem. Mandela never said it. The quote was in fact written by Arjan El Fassed, an activist affiliated with Al Awda, which the ADL describes as a “grass roots organization that opposes Israel’s right to exist.” The original article in which the quote appears can be seen here. For more background about how this quote falsely attributed to Mandela, has been used by anti-Israel activists, see this brief report by Richard Landes.

Despite the inclusion of a fake quote in the text of the overture, the resolution was approved by four other PC(USA) presbyteries in the run up to the General Assembly.

It was also approved by the PC(USA)’s Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns. Two other committees commented on, but did not explicitly endorse the resolution. Neither of these two committees – the General Assembly Mission Council nor the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy– warned the GA about the presence of a fake quote in the overture.

In other words, the fake quote made it past a total of eight PC(USA) voting bodies (five presbyteries and three committees) before it appeared on the agenda of the denomination’s General Assembly.

The overture will presented to the General Assembly’s Committee on Middle East issues on Tuesday, July 3, 2012.

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