Sunday, December 12, 2010

Joshua Stanton And Jewish/Presbyterian Relations

The other day Huffington Post blogger Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Marvin Hier wrote an article about a troubling development among US Christian churches:

"In 2009, on the first day of Chanukah (which Jews again celebrate this week), a group of Christian Palestinians issued the Kairos Palestine Document, which was immediately published on the World Council of Churches website. The document calls for a general boycott of Israel and argues that Christians' faith requires them to side with the "oppressed," meaning the Palestinians. It speaks of the evils of the Israeli "occupation," yet is silent on any evils committed by Palestinians, including the Hamas terrorists who now govern the Gaza Strip.
"The Kairos document also describes the Jewish connection to Israel only in terms of the Holocaust, denying 3,000 years of Jewish domicile. "Our presence in this land, as Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land," it states. "The West sought to make amends for what Jews had endured in the countries of Europe, but it made amends on our account and in our land."
"Most importantly, these Palestinian church leaders declared that there must not be a Jewish state because any religious state is inherently racist. They mentioned in this regard only Israel, of course, ignoring all Muslim states and others with an official state religion."
 You probably haven't read this article because the Huffington Post didn't publish it, even though Rabbi Cooper is on their blogger stable. What the Huffington Post did publish, however, was a response to it by Joshua Stanton, who is a rabbinical student who is very shocked that the two authors would jeopardize Jewish-Presbyterian relations like this.

Mr. Stanton is upset not by the incredibly offensive document endorsed by the World Council of Churches, but merely that the authors of the WSJ article wrote about it and had the temerity to label it "anti-Israel." Perhaps because it is anti-Israel? But what upsets Mr. Stanton the most is that the Presbyterian church is being "labeled." Let's let him speak:
"The Presbyterian Church has over 2.3 million members in the United States. Its members are diverse, as are its leaders. To claim that "Presbyterians" -- and all the more so "liberal Protestants" more broadly -- are "against Israel" is provocative, unconvincing, and even ironic."
Now, the Presbyterians have been mentioned only twice: The first was in the title, "Presbyterians Against Israel," and the second was when Hier and Cooper pointed out that the Presbyterian Church not only praised the Kairos document but were the first Christian group to call for divestment from Israel in 2006. Yes, maybe that doesn't mean every single member of the Church agrees with that. But the leaders are put in power to represent the Church, and the leaders made that decision. And Cooper and Heir are more than within their rights to point out those facts and let their readership make up their own minds.

Stanton say that for people like Cooper and Heir to criticize a whole movement like this (rather than just the anti-Israel denominations within it) could damage "the future of Presbyterian-Jewish relations in America." But the authors did not say that the Presbyterians a whole were anti-Israel, all that they did was merely report the facts: The Presbyterian leadership called for divestment from Israel (though according to Stanton they rescinded it) and then accepted this Kairos document. Those are simply facts, not criticisms. I find it a little bit odd that Mr. Stanton has less of a problem with the deeply offensive (to Jews) actions of the Presbyterian Church than he does with the fact that Cooper and Heir spotlighted it.

But it is actually one of Mr. Stanton's middle paragraphs that is most nonsensical and you can read it below the cut:


"One of the worst dichotomies propagated by Israel's critics (and an unfortunate number of its supporters) is the very idea that you can be "anti-Israel." Besides undermining any hope for nuanced discussion, it suggests that you can be against the very existence of a country, rewrite history, and should devote time to counterfactuals rather than peace-building."
Um, what? Yeah, I hate to break it to you Mr. Stanton but there are quite many people who are proud to be "anti-Israel," proud to be against its existence, proud to rewrite history, etc. Just look at the people who wrote the Kairos Document, endorsed by your buddies in the Presbyterian Church (not every single member, of course). Or what did you think they meant when they said that there should not be a Jewish state? As I said above, Mr. Stanton didn't even seem to understand just what Cooper and Hier were criticizing the Presbyterians about, except that he had already made up his mind that it wasn't deserved.
"If there is a lesson to be derived from problematic and disproportionate criticism of Israel, it is not to oversimplify. It is appropriate to criticize the policies of a given country and support alternatives; it is unacceptable to tarnish the image of an entire country based on policies that only some support."
So yeah, again, Presbyterians do exactly what Mr. Stanton is talking about and he gives them a free pass but goes after their critics. I don't know exactly what Mr. Stanton's motivations are but it seems like he wants Rabbi Cooper and Mr. Hier to just shut up and go away because they are jeopardizing the goodwill between American Jews and the Presbyterians, even while the Presbyterians do their level best to sever relations with Israel. Mr. Stanton seems to be endorsing a "just ignore it and it will go away" approach the problem, and one gets the impression that he is apologizing for the pushiness of his fellow Jews.  I can't say that I am surprised that this article made it to the Huffington Post while Rabbi Cooper's did not.

1 comment:

  1. It goes to show the Anti-Zios' don't like to hear inconvenient truths. Silencing the messengers won't change the reality those truths exist. They are there for honest people to accept and acknowledge.

    ReplyDelete

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