Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), could be regarded as a master of public relations – if you would call someone who routinely stomps on landmines a master of defusing bombs.
Parsons stepped on a landmine on Oct. 5, 2012, when he signed onto a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to investigate Israel for violating federal law regarding foreign aid. The letter does not ask Congress to conduct the same investigation on countries like Egypt, where government officials have murdered Christians both before and after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 and where Coptic Christians have been murdered in the streets of Cairo by military personnel.
That letter, which will have little if any impact on Congress, did stir up a hornet’s nest of anger from mainstream Jewish leaders who have pulled the plug on an interfaith dialogue meeting between Jewish groups and mainline Protestant churches that was scheduled to take place on Oct. 22.
The repercussions could continue as Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs told the Jewish week that the “JCPA is considering as a response asking Congress to investigate delegitimizers of Israel and to issue a resolution against their efforts.”
Almost two weeks later, Parsons issued another letter of his own calling on the leaders from Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority which controls the West Bank to reconcile with each other. The PA and Hamas have been at odds since June 2007 when Hamas perpetrated a violent take over of the Gaza Strip. Hamas threw its opponents off of rooftops handcuffed. In some instances, Hamas forced family members watch men fall to their deaths.
The human rights violations that took place during this fighting didn’t elicit much complaint from mainline churches when it took place, but now, five years later, Parsons is encouraging the rival factions to make peace in a letter in which he writes:
It is obvious that as long as this struggle for power and authority persists, the Israeli’s accusation that they have no “partner” with whom to negotiate a peace agreement remains true.
After reading Parsons’ letter, casual observers of the Arab-Israeli conflict would have an obvious question: What about the rockets, Gradye? What about the rockets? Could not the PC(USA)’s stated clerk not tell Hamas to bring an end to the ongoing rocket attacks that have been plaguing Israel – for years – and which have escalated in recent weeks?
For goodness sake, Gradye, the subject has its own page on Wikipedia! Not a month goes by in which Israelis are not subject to attacks. According to the Israeli government, Palestinians launched 13 rockets and five mortar shells into Israel from Gaza during the month of September. The previous month yielded 12 rocket attacks and 3 mortar shell attacks from the Gaza Strip. The day before the PC(USA) released Parsons’ letter, AFP reported:
According to the Israeli military, Gaza militants have fired more than 505 rockets or mortar rounds at southern Israel since the beginning of the year, including upwards of 45 this month alone.
Clearly, there has been an increase in rocket attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip, which helps explain why Israel has started fighting back with air strikes, which we can be sure mainline Protestants will condemn in the weeks ahead. And in their condemnation, they will make a pro-forma reference to the ongoing rocket attacks, which they will lament.
Parsons’ letter is emblematic of the moral and intellectual stupidity that has afflicted mainline Protestant leaders for close to a decade. Even as he calls for Hamas and the PA to reconcile with one another so they can be a “peace partner” with Israel, Parsons can’t even bring himself to point out deadly rocket attacks that Hamas has been launching for years.
If Parsons’ thought he was going to somehow make good on his blunder of signing the letter to Congress that singled Israel out for scrutiny with this letter, he is wrong.
Instead, the letter to Hamas and the PA demonstrates the man just does not “get it.”
He simply does not get it.
Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).