Presbyterian Peacemakers Omit Relevant Facts About Ghassan Kanafani

As stated in other CAMERA reports, the Presbyterian Church will be voting on a number of issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict at its upcoming General Assembly scheduled to take place in early July. In addition to an overture accusing Israel of the crime of apartheid, and another calling on the PC(USA) to rebuke Caterpillar for selling products to Israel, delegates at the assembly will also decide whether or not to endorse a report about the Arab-Israeli conflict written by a partisan Middle East Study Committee established by the denomination’s 2008 General Assembly.

The report, issued in early March, has been criticized by a number of groups, including J Street, which stated, among other things, that the report downplays Israel’s legitimate security concerns. This is remarkable in that many Jews in the U.S. regard J Street as being guilty of the same sin.

When J Street says there’s a problem, there’s a problem.

One of the ugliest parts of the document is a “historical analysis” authored by Frederic Bush and Nahida H. Gordon, two members of the committee. The narrative offered in this historical analysis, ironically titled “A Plea For Justice,” is not an attempt to help the average Presbyterian or the American people understand the conflict, but a one-sided recitation of Israel’s alleged misdeeds that serves to nourish and sustain a pre-existing animus toward the Jewish state amongst anti-Israel activists in the PC(USA) and elsewhere in the U.S.

One example of the manner in which Gordon and Nahida demonize Israel is in their discussion of Israel’s assassination of Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani. The authors describe Kanafani as a non-violent writer despite the fact that he was a high-ranking member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and met with the perpetrators of of the Lod Airport Massacre during which Japanese terrorists hired by the PFLP killed 26 people and injured 80 others.

On page 10 of their “analysis” the authors write:

… Israel has carried out targeted assassinations overseas for more than thirty years. These assassinations were not always against militants who use armed resistance to Israel but also against those who used nonviolent resistance. Consider the case of Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian journalist, novelist, and short story writer, who was assassinated along with his young niece, Lamis, on July 12, 1972, by Israeli agents in a car bomb explosion in Beirut. By the time of his early death at the age of 36, he had published eighteen books and written numerous articles on the culture, politics, and the Palestinian people’s struggle. His works have been translated into seventeen languages. A collection of short stories about Palestine’s children was published in English in 1984 and was titled Palestine’s Children. Kanafani’s untimely death deprived the Palestinians of an eloquent voice. (Emphasis added.)

The text goes on to quote a long passage of his writings, which the authors state “perhaps explains why he was deemed to be so dangerous.”

An article published on April 15, 2005 in Haaretz provides some background that Gordon and Nahida conveniently omit:

In 1972 he [Kanafani] paid with his life for his membership in George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In pictures published in Beirut newspapers, Kanafani – who was the PFLP spokesman, editor of the organization’s weekly newsletter Al-Hadaf (The Target) and Habash’s right-hand man – is seen photographed in his office with the participants in the massacre carried out by the Japanese Red Army organization at Lod airport in Israel in May 1972.

The author of an article in Haaretz about Kanafani’s literary career included information about Kanafani that the authors of a Presbyterian “historical analysis” did not.

It reveals that Kanafani was a member of the PFLP, an organization responsible for a number of hijackings and terror attacks in the years before Kanafani’s assassination.

It reveals that Kanafani was the right hand man to PFLP’s leader George Habash.

It reveals that Kanafani met with members of the Japanese Red Army who murdered 26 people and injured 80 others in the Lod Airport Massacre in May 1972.

In light of these facts, it is clear that Israel did not kill Kanafani because of his eloquent writings, as Gordon and Nahida suggest, but because he was a high-ranking member of a terrorist organization responsible for multiple hijackings and a terrible airport massacre that resulted in the death of Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico. Kanafani met with the perpetrators before the attack and according to Stewart Stephen, author of Spymasters of Israel (Scribner, 1981), “had helped plan the killings.”

Gordon and Nahida’s deceptive omission of well known and relevant facts about Kanafani’s ties to the PFLP, and their effort to portray Kanafani as a non-violent writer is a sophisticated and devious act of incitement against Israel that should set off alarm bells within the PC(USA). It serves to portray Israel as a nation that would kill a journalist for his writings, not his involvement with a terrorist organization.

Gordon and Nahida were appointed to serve on a committee charged with providing the PC(USA) and by extension, the American people, a comprehensive report about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The historical analysis they have written demonstrates that they were unable to meet the obligations of this charge.

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