‘The Christian Century’ Must Remove Anti-Semite from Masthead

Note: The following commentary was published by The Algemeiner on July 9, 2013.
It is time for The Christian Century, the house organ for mainline Protestantism in the United States, to remove the name of James M. Wall from its masthead, where he is listed as contributing editor.

The presence of Wall’s name on Christian Century‘s masthead is a disgrace that can no longer be countenanced by the magazine’s editors.

It is a disgrace that can no longer be tolerated by the board of directors that governs the magazine’s charitable foundation.

Wall’s name must be removed from the masthead of Christian Century for one simple reason: He has fallen in with people who have taken up the banner of anti-Jewish hostility that, in a previous era, was waved by the likes of Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and Father Coughlin. He not only associates with this crowd; he gives it ideological ammunition. And he gives this crowd unwarranted credibility by virtue of his presence on Christian Century‘s masthead.

In July 2012, Wall, an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, began serving as associate editor for Veterans News Now, an online magazine that traffics in ugly anti-Semitic tropes and imagery that depict Israel and its Jewish (and non-Jewish) supporters as the enemy within the American body politic and as perpetrators of a global conspiracy to imprison humanity.

A graphic accompanying one article on this site shows a red (bloodied?) octopus, decorated with the Star of David and a “Z,” attacking the White House. Another article is titled “Earth’s Alpha Predator: Zionist Mafia.” The article calls for readers to imagine “Humanity free of Zionism.” The full text of the cutline reads as follows:

“Humanity free of Zionism . . . try to imagine the horizon, the potential for positive growth and decency—the sheer humanity of disarming the elite. Imagine the elite global war/genocide machine dead in its tracks.”

Don’t think for a second that by using the word Zionism, the author of this passage isn’t demonizing Jews. By depicting Israel as the center of an “elite global war/genocide machine,” VNN portrays Jews – the people who claim Israel as their homeland – as a monstrous people.

And don’t think that this is merely guilty by association. As a member of Veterans News Now‘s editorial board, Wall shares responsibility for the articles published and graphics that appear on the magazine’s website.

Wall is also a regular contributor to My Catbird Seat,whose mission statement reads as follows:

“Our mission is to inform and educate the public on issues of the US/Middle East conflicts that are unreported, underreported, or distorted in the Zionist owned American Media.”

My Catbird Seat also proclaims its solidarity with “the occupied and oppressed Palestinians, who are now facing the prospect of a final round of ethnic cleansing” – despite the fact that the Palestinian population has quadrupled since 1948.

Wall’s biography appears prominently on both of these fringe websites, invoking the credibility of Christian Century to buttress their own credibility.

Sadly, David Heim, Christian Century‘s executive editor has made it perfectly clear that he will not address the issue.“ James Wall did a lot for our magazine,” he said. “He deserves to be on our masthead.”

No he doesn’t.

Wall has finally placed himself beyond the pale. He didn’t do it all at once (the process took decades) but he did it.

Downward Arc

There is a discernible downward arc to Wall’s career as a commentator about the Arab-Israeli conflict. For a while after taking over as editor of the Christian Centuryin 1972, Wall acknowledged, at least to some degree, the threats Israel faced from its Arab adversaries. But as the years progressed, he started to show signs of frustration at the intransigence of the Arab-Israeli conflict and vented this frustration at Israel.

As Wall became more obsessed with the Arab-Israeli conflict, he emphasized Palestinian suffering (and Israeli responsibility for that suffering) while giving short shrift to Israeli suffering and to the role that Palestinian leaders played in prolonging the conflict.

Wall’s obsession with the Arab-Israeli conflict became especially evident when he became a regular columnist for the magazine after retiring as editor in 1999. Apparently, retiring from the top slot at the magazine freed Wall to target Israel with harsher and harsher polemics in his regular columns. Between May 2003 and mid-June 2004, a period in which more than 100 Israeli civilians were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, Wall wrote 15 commentaries, eight of which dealt with or mentioned the Arab-Israeli conflict. All of these commentaries were critical of Israel.

Wall’s bias against Israel became particularly evident during his last three years as a columnist atChristian Century. In late 2005, Wall stated falsely that “Israel’s security wall … completely surrounds Bethlehem.” (The magazine never corrected this error.)

Also that year, Wall described Hamas and Hezbollah as “two Muslim nongovernmental groups.” These two groups are fascist, anti-semitic organizations that seek Israel’s destruction. Hezbollah has killed hundreds of Americans. No one can honestly describe these groups merely as Muslim NGOs. They are terror organizations.

In September 2006, Wall falsely stated that Israel struck first in its summer war with Hezbollah, describing retaliatory Israeli air strikes in Lebanon as a pre-emptive strike. (The magazine never corrected this error, either.)

In November 2006, Wall defended Hamas. He condemned the Bush Administration, Israel, and the international community for isolating Hamas after it won control of the Palestinian Authority in January of that
year. He wrote, “Like a bunch of bankers foreclosing on farms during the Great Depression, the quartet and Israel cut off funds to the new government. This is not the way a democracy is supposed to work.”

Here Wall depicts Hamas as if were like the innocent and hapless refugees from the Dust Bowl, not a group that has proudly admitted to murdering Israeli civilians in the pursuit of Israel’s destruction.

Wall also promoted alleged offers of peace from Hamas officials such as Assam Tamimi, who said the following on Al-Jazeera Television in October 2003:

“Don’t forget, in the long-term the outcome of this conflict isn’t about how many Palestinians die, it is about how many Israelis die. The Israelis can’t fight or match the willingness of the Palestinian people to sacrifice their lives.”

That year, Wall also came to the defense of former President Jimmy Carter’s book,Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, without acknowledging the factual errors of the text. He also failed to acknowledge the financial support Carter received from anti-Zionist funders in the Arab-world, which is ironic given his obsession with the “Israel lobby.”

One reason why Wall may have given Carter’s book such light treatment is that he worked as Illinois chairman of Carter’s presidential campaign in 1976 and 1980 – a fact he did not disclose in his review.

It doesn’t stop there. In April 2008, Wall portrayed U.S. President Harry Truman as denying the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state when in fact he did no such thing. It was not Truman who denied the legitimacy of the Jewish state, it is Wall who has done this, almost 60 years after its founding.

Wall’s repeated errors were so bad that in 2007, CAMERA sent a letter to the magazine’s publisher, John Buchanan, asking that his columns be subjected to more rigorous editing and fact-checking and that the magazine correct his previous errors.

The errors were never corrected but the magazine did stop running his columns in 2008, prompting him to start a blog titled “Wall Writings.” Here, Wall was even freer to engage against Israel and its supporters than he was as a columnist forChristian Century.

In June 2010, Wall wrote a piece describing pro-Israel Presbyterians as “Israeli agents” who had “infiltrated” their denomination’s General Assembly. And in December 2011, he wrote a piece titled “GOP Candidates Wear the Jewish Kippah.” (This piece has been republished in at least one dark corner of the Internet.)

Also that year, Wall lionized two terrorists – Ahlam and Nezar Tamimi, released from Israeli prison on Oct. 18, 2011. In his piece about the couple, Wall lamented how a bias against the Palestinian people rendered them, in the words of Noam Chomsky, an “unpeople.” For Wall, it was time to “tell their stories, and to do so without apology.”

And that he did, expressing an ardent admiration for Ahlam, a woman who pleaded guilty to the deaths of 15 Israeli civilians who died as a result of the Sbarro bomb attack that took place on August 9, 2001. (According to one victim’s mother, Ahlam Tamimi “personally transported the 10 kg bomb concealed in a guitar case in a taxi from Ramallah to Jerusalem, met up with Al Masri, the suicide bomber, and handed him the case.”) Wall did not report, however, that after her release from Israeli prison, Ahlam said she did not regret what she did because she had “dedicated [herself] to Jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success.”

At one point in this entry, Wall used scare quotes around the word crimes when describing why Ahlam and her husband (whom she married in jail) were sent to prison by the Israeli government. He also chided Israel for releasing the couple to different locations, as if they owe Ahlam – a woman who is glad to have helped murder more than a dozen Israeli civilians – a honeymoon with her new husband. It evoked an ugly response from one commenter, who left a message on Wall’s blog describing the Israelis as “sadistic.”

Earlier this year, Wall wrote a post that made a preposterous comparison between the Israel and the Belgian colonization of the Congo in the late 19thand early 20thcenturies. Between 1880 and 1920, more than 10 million Congolese died as a result of Belgian violence and relocation policies in central Africa.

By way of comparison, the Arab-Israeli conflict has cost a total of approximately 60,000 people – both Israeli and Arab – their lives. The Belgians stripped the Congo of its resources. Jews from Europe and the Middle East needed a place to live and returned to their homeland. There is simply no comparison between Israel and Belgium’s behavior, except of course in the ideological fever swamps that Wall and his newfound allies inhabit.

Sometime after Wall stopped writing for Christian Century, his writings started to show up on other websites such as Veterans News Nowand My Catbird Seat. In 2009, he wrote a piece for The Link, a magazine published by Americans for Middle East Understanding. In this article, he described Israel’s supporters in the United States as having an “iron grip on American life” and as having extended their “tentacles into media decision makers, owners, and public faces.” Four years later, Veterans News Nowpublished a graphic of an Israeli/Zionist octopus attacking the White House.

During all of this, Wall’s name has remained on the masthead atChristian Centurydespite objections from writers such as Viola Larson, who has done yeoman’s work detailing the problems with Wall’s newfound allies. Wall’s status as former editor of a mainstream magazine is a real feather in the cap for fringe publications such asVeterans News Todayand My Catbird Seat. (David Fischler is another blogger who has followed this story.)

The existence of websites like Veterans News Today and My Catbird Seat is not news.

That people are willing to write for sites like this is not news. Cranks have been churning stuff like this out for a long, long time. Such writings are perennial as the grass.

What is shocking is that Christian Century, a putatively respectable and mainstream Christi
an publication, allows one of its contributing editors to serve as a contributor and associate editor for websites that demonize Israel and its Jewish supporters.

As long as Wall’s name stays on Christian Century‘s masthead, the magazine will share in his sin.

Dexter Van Zile (@dextervanzile) is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (@cameraorg).

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