On June 14th a doughty band of Israel divestment protesters organized by StandWithUs and the American Jewish Congress stood outside the Northern Trust building in Chicago, rebutting another group of Israel divestment advocates at the annual shareholder meeting of The Caterpillar Company. One of the signs the opponents of Israel divestment waved said 'Divest Hate.'
The Israel divestment advocates were using the emotional 'victim' message of the late Rachel Corrie, an anti—American anarchist and International Solidarity Movement icon in their war on Israel, the Jewish state. The Israel divestment advocates arranged to have the late Ms. Corrie's parents speak at a news conference and delivered thousands of post cards supporting their position to the annual shareholder meeting. But to no avail. Any motions will go down to defeat as they have at past annual shareholder sessions.
The Israel Divestment movement is also active in the Presbyterian Church USA. And now, so are their opponents. Members of the Caterpillar Company in Peoria, Illinois who are congregants at a local Presbyterian church will show up in significant numbers along with their Pastor Douglas Hucke at the 217th Presbyterian general assembly now underway in Birmingham, AL. They will lobby to rescind the PCUSA resolution supporting divestment of securities from the Church's endowment for companies doing business with Israel.
They are not alone, because grass roots opinion has been building among both pastors and their flocks against the leadership of the PCUSA on the divestment resolution. They want to eliminate hate and most importantly protect the religious freedoms of minority Christians in the Middle East from the real threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Their allies in this battle include leading grass roots Presbyterian groups like End Divestment Now!, founded by Jim Roberts, and independents such as Elder William Spott, Pastors Jan Armstrong, John Cushman, Noel Anderson and Douglas Hucke. Former CIA director, Jim Woolsey, a Presbyterian, will also speak at the Birmingham general assembly in opposition to Israel divestment.
These opponents of divestment will have a difficult task because the PCUSA leaders have pulled out all the stops in opposing them. They have invited Salam al—Mayarati, co—founder and executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Lutheran Bishop of Jordan and the Holyland Munib Younan.
Al—Mayarati accused the Israelis of being responsible for 9/11 on a California talk radio program back in 2002. He also talked up Israel 'divestment' on the Stanford University Campus in the same year. Bishop Younan, like his Anglican counterpart Canon Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, is a proponent of hate against the Jewish State of Israel — the real core of the divestment argument.
Younan, like other prominent Christians beholden to the Palestinian Authority, demonstrates his value to the cause of Arab nationalism by distorting Christian theology to buttress Palestinian territorial claims.
Witness this comment from a Christmas speech on December 25, 2001, translated from an Arabic website by a trusted analyst:
'We have to depend on God no matter how oppressive the occupation is, God will help us accomplish our legitimate rights by establishing our independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.'
In English, Younan has argued for a vision of Jerusalem as a shared city, but here he sounds like a Christian version of Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas.
These are the 'special speakers' scheduled by the PCUSA to debate the issue of Israel divestment. Virtually all mainstream Jewish organizations and many Presbyterian Pastors and lay leaders are pushing for rescission of the divestment resolutions.
If these 'special speakers' aren't enough there is the former PCUSA moderator, Dr. Fahed Abu—Akel, pastor of an Atlanta church, born in Galillee and an ardent Palestinian supporter. As a former PCUSA moderator Abu Akel has rights to speak at the Birmingham general assembly on issues like divestment.
Here are some of Abu—Akel's remarks during a review in the East Jerusalem Arab publication 'Al Quds.'
Divestment as a weapon against Israel
'This type of decision carries moral weight in addition to its important economic effects; And if you would have heard the screams of the Zionist lobby in Washington, you would have known the importance of this decision.'
'The world has announced tons of reports and resolutions from the United Nations, but the Zionist lobby didn't even bother itself in answering it. But the divestment decision created fear in the circles supportive of the occupation and imposed the subject on the work schedule of the whole American public opinion.'
Support for a Palestinian state
'If George Bush doesn't succeed in establishing a Palestinian state, which enables the Palestinian people to begin building their independent state during his current presidency, which extends another two years only, the suffering journey of the Palestinians will continue another 25 years. From here I see the urgent need to speed up our work and to arrive to the end of the suffering journey.'
The activities against rescission of the PCUSA divestment resolution started in mid—May in the run up to the Presbyterian general assembly. Professor Norman Finklestein of De Paul University sent each of the more than 500 'commissioners' or delegates to the convention a copy of his anti—Israel tract 'Beyond Chutzpah' along with letter supporting the Israel divestment resolution. But then Finklestein is the son of deceased holocaust survivors who has made a career of supporting the Palestinian cause. One measure of Finklestein's probity is his castigation of revered Nobel Laureate and holocaust survivor and author Elie Weisel, as a 'clown.'
What should be talked about during the rescission debate at the Presbyterian general assembly is the treatment of Christians in the Palestinian territories by their Islamist counterparts. There has been a significant flight of the Christians from Palestine into their diaspora around the world. As a result their presence is greatly diminished. In 1988, Christians accounted for nearly 20% of the Palestinian population. Now they account for less than 3 percent.
Please click on this link to view a news clip produced by my colleague at American Congress for Truth —see — Brigitte Gabriel, former news anchor for Middle East Television's 'World News.'
Ms. Gabriel, who worked as a Journalist in Israel between 1984 and 1989, has documented the fear, intimidation, threats and assaults on Christians in the Holy Land by their Muslim Palestinian neighbors. You can view for yourself, changes to Palestine during the First Intifada in 1988 and interviews with Palestinian Christian pastors and priests. There are graphic scenes of vandalism of Christian cemeteries, attacks against Christian women, graffiti on churches, and Christians in disguise, for fear of their lives, talking about what is happening to them, along with remarks of experts about 'first the Saturday people and then the Sunday people.'
In the voice—over commentary there is the eerie prediction that Palestine would become a radical Islamist state — something that became a reality with a Hamas government elected in January of this year. This quickly dissolved into the chaos of pogroms and land taking by Islamist thugs as testified by independent Palestinian Christian leaders like Samir Qumsiyeh, whose Christian TV station was trashed in March.
Among the benighted Presbyterian pastors in the forefront of the divestment movement is Marthame Sanders. In his Salt films weblog Marthame Sanders noted the threatened position of the predominately Christian village of Zababdeh in the northern West Bank.
'Islamic fundamentalism, represented by the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is distressing for those seeking the modernization of Palestinian society. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (run by the Fatah Party) is beset with deep—seated corruption and independent militias.'
Despite this cogent analysis, Pastor Marthame believes in supporting Israel divestment.
What I find most disturbing about Anglican Canon Sabeel, Lutheran Bishop Younans, former Presbyterian moderator, Fahed Abu—Akel is that they hate Israel. They all favor divestment. They are unwilling to face the final judgment that the days of the minority Christian presence in Palestine and throughout the Middle East are numbered. The hot breath of Islamist Jihad is hard upon them.
Instead of pushing the hate inherent in Israel divestment, Presbyterians at their general assembly in Birmingham ought to push for resolutions and missions that protect their dwindling flocks in the Middle East and seek rapprochement with Israel.
As the sign read at the Caterpillar annual meeting in Chicago: 'divest hate.' End divestment and protect your brethren.
Jerry Gordon is a Member of the Board of American Congress for Truth and its Middle East Affairs analyst.