Is PC-USA Burning the Judeo-Christian Bridge Further?

When we look at the relations between Jews and Christians in the last 2,000 years it is not very difficult to see that the bridge between the two has been progressively burned. Whenever a yard of it was rebuilt, two yards were further destroyed. When Jewish people are approached by Christians, the Christians are almost always unaware of the baggage they bring into the conversation. My people's history has been punctuated by acts of hatred, xenophobia and demonization, too often by people who claimed Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
 
The Christian baggage is filled with events such as the Crusades, the Blood Libel, the Inquisition, the Pogroms, Martin Luther and the Holocaust. It should not surprise believers in Yeshua (Jesus), that Jewish people are very reluctant to consider Him as the Messiah. Why would we want to believe in, follow the teaching of and serve the one whom Christians claim as Christ (Messiah) when so much harm was done to us in His name?

I am encouraged when I see Christians who love Israel and the Jewish people. It warms my heart to see how they are trying so hard to rebuild the bridge. I personally know quite a few pastors and Christian leaders who have tremendous love and burden for the Jewish people, and yet, today, they constitute a minority. The bridge is in dire need of solid rebuilding, so anything that weakens it weakens our chances to reach the Jewish people with the saving message of the Gospel of Yeshua.

Several denominations within Christendom have shown their true colors regarding Israel in the last few decades, but none as abrasively and as boldly as the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA.) My intentions are never to commit character assassination out of frustration or anger, but I still feel the need to expose their anti-Semitism for the benefit of other Christians and Jews. Keep in mind that the corporate decision of an entire denomination never includes all its members, so let us refrain from painting with broad strokes.

During their 225th General Assembly, the PC-USA passed Resolution INT-02 (28-3) stating that PC-USA must "Recognize that Israel’s laws, policies, and practices regarding the Palestinian people fulfill the international legal definition of apartheid. Apartheid is legally defined as inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them This occurs in Israel/Palestine through:

• Establishing two sets of laws, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians, which give preferential treatment to Israeli Jews and oppressive treatment to Palestinians.
• Expropriating Palestinian land and water for Jewish-only settlements.
• Denying the right to freedom of residence to Palestinians.
• Dividing the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the Palestinians.
• Denying Palestinians the right to a nationality.
• Urge members, congregations, presbyteries, and national staff units, including the Office of Interfaith Relations, to seek appropriate ways to bring an end to Israeli apartheid.
• Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action to all other PC(USA) councils."

So, here we go again with the accusation of apartheid as a foundation for acting against Israel and boycotting the Jewish State. The Committee declared that they were hoping that recognition of the problem would lead to peaceful reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. No mention of terrorism was made. Only mentions of "occupation", "apartheid" and " the punishment of innocent Palestinians."

PC-USA also recognized May 15 as the official date of the Nakba (catastrophe) for the Palestinians. It was picked as the day after Israel's Independence date of May 14, 1948. This makes the strong statement that PC-USA recognizes that May 14, 1948, as the start of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, without recognizing the biblical right of Israel to her ancestral homeland and ignoring the international weight of the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1920 San Remo Conference and without mentioning the November 1947 United Nations vote to partition British mandate Palestine.

Many Christians have left the PC-USA denomination over the last few decades and many of their churches have closed. The denomination seems like it is struggling to survive, but it still hangs on to its anti-Semitic approach to Israel, all the while claiming that they have nothing against Jewish people.

Unfortunately, even if their moves are political and not theological–something I sincerely doubt–the damage is done and the encouragement for anti-Semites becomes stronger.
We live at a time when anti-Semitism is rising exponentially all over the world. There is no doubt in my mind that Jewish people are in great need of a friendly and loving Christian Church. Paul's statement in Romans 11:11, "I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous." becomes a sober reminder of the Church's failure in making the Jewish people jealous of their personal relationship with the Jewish Messiah. The last 2,000 years have made my people angry and eager to distance themselves from anything "Christian". When PC-USA digs in its heels as a denomination and continues to delegitimize and demonize Israel, it is Christian anti-Semitism.

If PC-USA wants to throw Israel under the bus, let them; but somebody, please tell the denomination that their choice is not just anti-Semitic, it is also anti-biblical. As a result, the mistakes of a few who are under the banner of Christendom are affecting the many Christians who think otherwise. I would beg my Jewish people to consider the fact that the Christians who read the Bible and understand it properly absolutely cannot reject, ignore or replace Israel. Anything of the sort is a slap in the face of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There is this thing called "accountability", and when it comes to taking God seriously, PC-USA is not exempt.

For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.”  
And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.”  
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  
(Hebrews 10:30-31) 

 

BDS and the Great Evangelical Divide!

There are several ways to look at Israel's right to exist. Historically, Israel was reborn as a modern nation on May 14, 1948 when Ben Gurion declared statehood at Tel Aviv Independence Hall. This was the result of a November 1947 vote by the United Nations. But there is also the biblical context that cannot be ignored. Israel and the Jewish people are mentioned on almost every page of the Bible. Israel's boundaries are drawn out by G-d Himself and given to Abraham and his descendants as an eternal and unconditional covenantal promise (Genesis 12:1-3, 7, 17:7-8; 25:5-6, 26:3; 28:3-4; 35:9-15.) Yet, the very existence of Israel–while it depends exclusively on G-d's promise–is at times put in question by various Evangelical groups. When the BDS movement was started by Mahmoud Abbas about a decade ago, it created a platform for various groups to express their opposition to Israel's current "occupation" of "Palestinian Land." The trend continues as BDS still finds supporters across the very wide Evangelical spectrum.

On one hand, there are plenty of Evangelical denominations supporting and loving Israel such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the Calvary Chapel movement, the Assemblies of God and many more. On the other hand, Israel has been treated as a pariah by several mainline Evangelical groups for years. The Presbyterian Church USA (PC(USA)) voted to divest from Motorola, HP and Caterpillar at their last General Assembly in 2014 and they are about to vote further into BDS at their 222nd General Assembly in Portland, OR this June. A resolution has been written that is so biased in favor of the Palestinian narrative that is is hard not to see traces of antisemitism through it all. Statements such as "Hamas has arguably offered long-term truces to Israel in the past, but it also promotes an antagonistic ideology, which mirrors the extremist Israeli settler parties" comparing Hamas' terrorist violence to Israeli settlers are simply outrageous. Further down in the document, it said that "In solidarity with those who suffer, the General Assembly encourages Presbyterians to read and reflect on documents like Kairos-Palestine that come from our Palestinian brothers and sisters and to support programs like Christ at the Checkpoint (CaTC). Again, the bias for the Palestinian narrative and demonization of Israel in both the Kairos Palestine document and the biennial CaTC conferences is evident. Here we have antisemitism parading as Christian justice in the Middle East. Amongst many contributors from various fields, people like Omar Barghouti and Munther Isaac also contributed to the drafting of this new resolution, adding their bias to the pool.

But even within the PC(USA) denomination, the disdain for Israel isn't unanimous. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace recently put out a document in defense of Israel. The document titled "Two States for Two People" offers a more balanced hope for peace in the Middle East, even though it is lacking historical accuracy at times. And in all fairness to PC(USA) we must note that the BDS resolution of 2014 was passed by a very narrow margin. It remains to be seen if the 2016 General Assembly will pick up more momentum.

Another denomination that isn't necessarily known for its support of Israel is the United Methodist Church. Quite possibly the largest mainline Protestant denomination, the United Methodists have been struggling with their support for Israel in an age of social justice and political correctness. They already turned down two divestment proposals in 2012. Like the PC(USA) members, United Methodists are far from unanimous on their support for Israel. Many would rather see BDS being enforced. Yet, they recently suffered a major setback when all four proposed BDS resolutions were turned down at their May 2016 General Conference. It is interesting to note that the vote came just a few days after Hilary Clinton, who belongs to the Methodist denomination, wrote a letter strongly denouncing BDS. But before I get too excited I need to remind myself that we are in an election year!

It is clear that the BDS movement, while still a force to be reckoned with within Evangelicalism, isn't equally embraced across the whole spectrum of all Christian denominations. A full list of BDS advocates and/or opponents would take too much space here. Suffice it to say that the recent move by the United Methodist Church proves that BDS isn't a clearly defined victory. It might even be experiencing an early demise as people within Evangelical denominations and even outside of Christian circles are starting to see its one-sidedness towards the Palestinian narrative. This recent vote against BDS by United Methodists and the attempt at a more balanced approach to the Middle East crisis by some within PC(USA) is a breath of fresh air. But for all this to continue from the momentum created by some, more people need to voice their outrage at BDS. As a matter of fact, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's decision to "Boycott BDS" might become a game changer. For those who fight BDS like Cuomo and myself, we realize that the movement is not only bad for Israel and the Jewish people but in most cases it also hurts the very people it claims to be helping like in the recent case of the closing of SodaStream.

People need to grab hold of the biblical truth about Israel's place in G-d's plan (without turning a blind eye on any possible injustice committed by Israel towards her neighbors.). But we must also seek factual truth about the Middle East crisis, something that conferences like Christ at the Checkpoint and documents such as Kairos Palestine are not interested in. Unfortunately, since most contemporary Christians do not spend enough time in their Bible, they do not always have the proper arguments to debunk BDS lies. I am convinced that in due time all BDS proponents will suffer the curse of Genesis 12:3. BDS often shows signs of disdain or even hatred for Israel and the Jewish people. It could even be argued that BDS is simply another branch on the tree of antisemitism. I wonder how those who promote BDS and call themselves believers reconcile their actions with Psalm 83?
Psalm 83:3-5 They make shrewd plans against Your people, And conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, That the name of Israel be remembered no more.” For they have conspired together with one mind; Against You they make a covenant.

BDS really stands for Bullying, Delegitimizing and Slandering!

In my travels, I meet a lot of people from the Evangelical Christian community. Many of them have never heard of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and frankly, this frightens me. This movement has picked up a lot of momentum in the past few months and has become quite pervasive.

I find it ironic that most of the people taking such a political stand have very little knowledge of how it got started and by whom. This decade old movement was started in 2005 by the Palestinian civil society. They claim that Israel must meet three obligations for BDS to stop:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Too often, there is an unspoken expectation from the Palestinian side. There is a great effort made to misinform or simply not inform the people they are trying to influence. I think there is a word for it; it is "propaganda!" The hope is that most people would accept the lies and historical revisionism simply as facts, and too often they do! UN Resolution 194 contains one short paragraph out of 15 on compensation to refugees, not even Palestinian refugees in particular, but refugees in general. I wish people would take the time to verify statements before they buy them and then sell them back as facts. It was Abraham Lincoln who once wisely said:" Do not believe everything you read on the Internet." Get my point?

BDS was borne out of a Palestinian desire to enroll otherwise unengaged and apathetic people in their fight against Israel. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas' goal might be the total destruction of Israel, at the end of the day you can only bomb and kill so many people before the more reasonable people in the world turn on you–although it seems that lately the "killing limit" might have been increased.

But what if you could get support from different groups of people, this would greatly help your cause, wouldn't it? BDS does just that and it does it well, in the government, the universities (here and here) and even some Christian denominations such as PC USA (the same PC USA  that unsuccessfully tried to blot out "Israel" from their prayer and hymn books in 2014).

Anybody can feel good refraining from buying Israeli products. This seems like a peaceful and worthy protest that could make a difference and force Israel away from occupation and apartheid. Of course, the current BDS supporters are plagued with decisions to Boycott that forces them to be very inconsistent at best. Divestment is usually a matter of reinvesting your funds elsewhere, and there are plenty of opportunities for such a move. When it comes to boycott, it is a bit trickier. They will gladly stop buying Jaffa® oranges or Osem® cookies from Israel but don't ask them to stop using the Intel® chip in their personal computers or their mobile phones all together (both originated from Israeli ingenuity).

It is often the same people who choose to boycott Israel who also completely ignore the blatant abuses of human rights by countries like Russia, China, Yemen, Syria, Qatar and many more. The same people also irrationally ignore Hamas' abuse and murder of their very own people like in the case of the 2014 Gaza War.

BDS is most rampant on US university campuses. As a matter of fact BDS is the main weapon used on US campuses to delegitimize Zionism and demonize Israel. Anti-Israel proponents are organized, eloquent and very resourceful. After visiting several US campuses, Haaretz reporter Ari Shavit recently concluded: " Zionism has failed to provide “a reliable, relevant and inspirational narrative” to counter the “near-overt anti-Semitism” of the BDS offensive. “And when they arrive on campus and are exposed to anti-Israel venom, the Jewish and pro-Israel identity of many of them collapses.”

They often nip the pro-Israel narrative in the bud, even though their own narrative is flawed and biased.

• BDS uses a false premise of Israeli occupation and apartheid policies. It is our responsibility to expose their lies and educate those who don't know BDS or who believe that it is a cause worth fighting for.
• BDS proponents are inconsistent in their boycott and need to be made aware of their hypocrisy and/or ignorance about Israel's contribution to the modern world (and the list keeps growing everyday), not to mention everyday products used by millions.
• BDS sends the wrong message to a lot of people thinking that they are helping to make the world a better place when in fact they are supporting terrorists.
• BDS counts on people's ignorance but desire for justice to sell their falsified agenda of Palestinian victimhood.

Yet in spite of all the efforts made by BDS and its proponents across the globe, their true colors are starting to show. AIPAC very recently backed an amendment to a trade bill that would make BDS' destructive progress more difficult within Congress. Additionally, the Illinois State House of Representative unanimously (49-0) passed an anti-BDS bill recently. The bill would stop pension funds from investing in companies that participate in the BDS movement. Bravo to both!

Laurie Cardozo-Moore of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN) is also very vocal and active in exposing and fighting BDS. Cardozo-Moore calls BDS anti-Semitism and I fully concur. Looking at the unbelievable one-sidedness and hypocrisy of BDS, we can only deduce that it is more than a political attempt at bringing justice and equality. BDS is proving to be the politically correct way to hate Israel!

A great resource to fight BDS can be found at stopbds.com. Even though it is meant to equip students, most of it is very helpful to equip people eager to learn the truth and apply real fairness and justice.

Another thing we can do is to make sure that buy Israeli products in the USA to beat the BDS proponents at their own game. Here is a partial list of what BDS wants you to boycott. While my mentioning of this list doesn't mean that I endorse all of it, you will undoubtedly find plenty of brands that you already support, just review them, keep at it and tell others. This is the least we can do.

What BDS proponents and victims too often have in common is a lack of a biblical approach to Israel and the Jewish people. Biblical truth provides a solid foundation for Israel. It describes a people created by God through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel as well as precise land boundaries starting early in Genesis 12:1-3 and continuing through chapters 15, 17 and following. Zionism isn't this evil colonialism feeding on Arab blood, but without a biblical backbone, Zionism lacks the strength to fight the hypocrisy, hatred, and double-standard of the BDS campaigns around the world.

BDS relies on the Bullying, Delegitimizing and Slandering of Israel and does it on a foundation of lies that can be debunked.  If truth matters to you as much as it does to me, join me and speak up!