Presbyterian Church sign with logo. (Credit: James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com)
In the context of multiple anti-Israel resolutions and threats made during the Presbyterian ChurchUSA General Assembly (PCUSA GA) in St. Louis Missouri from June 16-23, a Palestinian-Muslim human rights pioneer and a coalition of pro-Israel activists from StandWithUs, JFNA/JCPA, Israel Action Network (IAN), the Philos Project and Presbyterians for Middle East Peace stood up against the institutional bias and threats within the 223rd General Assembly.
Nearly all of the 13 resolutions considered by the Middle East committee were anti-Israel in nature and none held the Palestinian Authority accountable for harming Israelis and Palestinians alike. In the same vein, a resolution condemning the Hamas terrorist group for inciting children to violence was turned down.
A grassroots group of Presbyterian lay and clergy volunteers, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace – a group committed to a two state solution that opposes the BDS movement and is steered by Rev. Dr. Bill Harter, Rev. Dr. John Wimberly and Ruling Elder George Douglas – pushed back against anti-Israel extremists within the General Assembly.
Their efforts resulted in a call to local congregations to support grassroots reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as multiple anti-Israel resolutions being significantly amended, including resolutions that called to end all economic and military aid to Israel and a call for Presbyterians to cut off dialogue with Jews who are insufficiently critical of Israel.
“American Jews can’t ensure future support for Israel and a just peace in the Middle East on their own,” Max Samarov, executive director of research and campus strategy for StandWithUs, told Breaking Israel News.
“We need allies of all faiths and backgrounds to educate their communities about why this is an important issue. PFMEP does just that, supporting reconciliation and opposing extremism under often difficult circumstances within their church.”
Samarov attended the PCUSA GA along with other representatives from StandWithUs and in partnership with JFNA/JCPA, Israel Action Network (IAN) and the Philos Project.
Other Israel supporters at the GA stood up against the bias, including the guest of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid, a Jerusalem-based political analyst and expert on Arab and Palestinian affairs.
Eid gave testimony on June 18 opposing an anti-Israel resolution and following his presentation, a Palestinian Arab living in St. Louis who was at the GA with the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and the Israel-Palestine Mission Network – a pro-BDS group – threatened him in Arabic and accused him of being a “Zionist collaborator.” But instead of reprimanding the individual who threatened Eid, PCUSA leadership took no meaningful action.
Dr. Michael Gizzi, an elder in the Presbyterian Church and member of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, spoke out against the death threat and victim blaming by the Church, which he called “not only inadequate, but disgusting.”
For him, interfaith work and exposing the “deeply biased and flawed approaches of the BDS movement in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” are deeply personal.
“I believe that seeing beyond ‘the other’ is profoundly important. It is in the face of the other, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells us, in his book The Dignity of Difference, that we see “a human trace of the divine other.”
Members of the Presbyterian General Assembly seen wearing t-shirts with the slogan “Another Jew Supporting Divestment.” (Credit: YouTube screenshot)
Gizzi first got involved in interfaith work when he was studying the historical Jesus and he wanted to learn more about what and how Jesus, as a Jew, would have experienced God.
“Through attending a Passover seder, I began what has been a rewarding journey, developing close ties with the Jewish community – and understanding not only how Jews experience God differently (yet, in many ways the same as many Christians), but was able to grow in appreciation for different faith traditions,” he said, adding “as someone who grew up Roman Catholic and then became a protestant (Presbyterian), I was already sensitive to “intra-faith” differences. Seeking to understand Judaism, and Islam too, was a natural extension.”
Through building strong relationships with Jewish friends, Gizzi became passionate about exposing BDS and authored a resolution seeking to distance the Presbyterian Church from a hateful anti-Israel booklet called Zionism Unsettled in 2014 and found himself in the BDS battles.
“After that experience I learned of a co-existence program that brought teens, Jewish and Arab, to my community, and I immediately realized how much more effective an approach this was than divestment,” he maintained.
Gizzi, who returned home from his most recent trip just two weeks ago, said, “That led to my first study trip to Israel in 2015. Since then I have returned four times, developing a research agenda on shared society efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs. I have spent more than two months in Israel, and in the West Bank, meeting people, and learning.”
He continued, “I believe deeply in the idea of two states for two peoples, and am convinced that the bulk of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples are capable of getting along, and living in peace. I strongly support the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and to their homeland — while I also support the same right of Palestinians to self-determination.”
Gizzi lamented, “Each trip to Israel further convinces me of how misguided the PCUSA activists are in their approaches and biases.”
“The PCUSA General Assembly is always a frustrating experience, as the strong anti-Israel and anti-Zionist positions of powerful voices in the church dominate a process that is fundamentally unbalanced, and is intentionally structured by the denomination’s leadership to reach a desired result.”
But even amidst the many anti-Israel resolutions and threats, Gizzi noted in a Times of Israel article, there may be a shift happening in the Presbyterian church towards calling for “co-existence” before “co-resistance,” which has not been their approach until now.
“This unexpected shift towards reconciliation was not only a #BDSFail, it was a change in tenor of the entire proceeding,” he wrote, adding “the anti-Israel advocates within the Church still had victories, but this resolution alone demonstrated that the commissioners representing churches across the nation were not willing to go along with the extremism that IPMN and its supporters actively encouraged and promoted.”
“The Presbyterian Church has plenty of issues when it comes to Israel, and there are a dedicated group of anti-Israel activists who will continue to cause great harm to Presbyterian-Jewish relationships, but this unexpected shift towards reconciliation alone offers a glimmer of hope.”
Jeremy Corbyn leads a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London in 2014, one year before becoming Labour Party leader. Photo: File.
This marked a massive rise from the previous such survey, in which only 39% of Jews believed Corbyn was antisemitic.
British Jews also expressed an extremely low opinion of the Labour Party in general. The poll showed that 85.6% believed Labour suffered from “very high” levels of antisemitism.
Corbyn and his party have been beset with a series of high-profile antisemitism scandals for several years, which has resulted in the resignation and suspension of several prominent officials. Corbyn himself was recently caught on video saying that “Zionists” did not understand “English irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
Makuya in Jerusalem 201 (YouTube)
Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth. (Song of Songs 2:3)
For ten days in late August, Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau and his wife, Rabbanit Noah Lau, traveled from Jerusalem to Japan to lead Bible study for groups of Makuya Japanese Christians. The Laus traveled to five Japanese towns and spent three days together at a weekend conference with 3,400 members of the Makuya group.
Makuya is Japanese for the Hebrew word Mishkan, the tent of meeting, where human beings come into contact with God. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that the Israelites used in the desert, before entering Israel and building the First Holy Temple.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. (Credit: Agencia O Globo)
Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil, was stabbed during a campaign rally Thursday and was undergoing surgery.
The far-right politician, whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others – -who accuse him of racism and homophobia – in a deeply polarized electorate, was attacked amid a crowd in the south-east state of Minas Gerais. Bolsonaro has performed strongly in recent opinion polls.
Those same polls suggested that he will likely receive the most votes in next month’s presidential elections, especially if the country’s former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) remains blocked from standing. He is currently in prison, but is appealing against his candidacy ban – imposed after his conviction for corruption.
Republican lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of repealing Obamacare in the current Congress.
Republicans in the nation’s top lawmaking body have never really wanted to get rid of Obamacare. They would prefer to present the program, which David Horowitz correctly describes as “the greatest assault on individual freedom and individual choice in our lifetimes,” as a villain and whip up sentiment against it and run against it every election. They view Obamacare as good for the business of politics. They may chip away at it from time to time or tinker with it at the margins, but make no mistake: these creatures of Washington want to keep it in place. This is the Republicans’ dirty secret.
The Trump administration has decided to reopen a case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, previously closed by the Obama administration in 2014, alleging that the university had allowed Jewish students to be subjected to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The issue, ignored by the Obama administration, was whether the students were discriminated against based on their actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnicity. Kenneth L. Marcus, the new assistant secretary of education for civil rights, decided that the case deserved another look.
Nestled in the Han River in the middle of South Korea’s bustling capital of Seoul, Yeoui Island is hardly where one would expect to find the largest mega-church in the world. Home to the city’s business and financial district, its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the island boasts some of the country’s most powerful institutions, such as the Korean stock exchange and the headquarters of LG, the international conglomerate.
The AfD’s opponents, who often brand the party as “far right” or “extremist,” claim that the party’s alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany’s constitutional order. The AfD’s supporters counter that Germany’s politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Israel’s Palestinian foes regard “martyrdom” as the supremely highest expression of Islamic sacredness. Nonetheless, there are certain conspicuously prominent disjunctions between the relevant obligations of faith and expectations of international law. Unambiguously, only the latter set of obligations can offer a suitably authoritative source for assessing Palestinian resorts to armed force.
This is the case even when the stated objective of such resorts would be “self-determination” and/or “national liberation.”
“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.
In the mind-set of Trump and his team, the time has come for the United States to move quickly to reverse decades of foreign policy norms, ending the status quo, and ripping up what the previous administrations did.
The jihadi assault on and massacre of Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word. According to one report titled, “Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria,” several Islamic terrorists “stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion…. Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.
Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.
One conflagration is the war Iran is waging against those – headed by Israel – who stand in the way of its plans to take over the entire Middle East.
Another is the Assad regime’s war to take back control of the entire country, and a third is the PLO’s battle for survival.
Much has been written about the first of these wars, and reports have claimed that from early 2017 on, Israel has launched over 200 attacks in Syria, mainly at targets connected to Iran.