What Do Other Presbyterians Think About One Group’s Anti-Israel Hate?
Israel is a slave state, and American Jews need to fight against it.
That’s the message the highest elected official in the largest Presbyterian church in the United States offered two days after a radical Muslim took four hostages at a synagogue in Texas, in an attempt to get a convicted terrorist freed from Federal prison.
It happened on Martin Luther King Day, when J. Herbert Nelson, II, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) — PCUSA — declared, “The continued occupation in Palestine/Israel is 21st century slavery, and should be abolished immediately.”
After falsely accusing Israel of modern-day slavery, Nelson went on to declare, “Given the history of Jewish humble beginnings and persecution, there should be no ambiguity as to the ethical, moral, and dehumanizing marginalization and enslavement of other human beings. The United States of America must be a major influencer of calling this injustice both immoral and intolerable.”
But Nelson didn’t stop there. He then called on American Jewish leaders, who were still reeling from the hostage-taking in Texas, to join his mendacious attack on the Jewish state, proclaiming: “I would also hope that the Jewish community in the United States would influence the call to join the US government in ending the immoral enslavement.”
Slavery — real slavery — exists in Mauritania, despite having been outlawed years ago. And in 2017, CNN aired video of open-air slave markets in Libya, where refugees were bought and sold, prompting little outrage from commentators in the West.
But which country has Nelson declared guilty of slavery? Israel, the Jewish state.
Never mind that Israel has been fighting a war against Palestinian terrorists and regimes whose leaders have regularly called for the destruction of the Jewish state. Those leaders have also incited or applauded terror attacks against Israeli civilians from every bit of territory — and they continued to attack Jews after Israeli completely left the Gaza Strip and other Palestinian population centers. By portraying Israeli security measures as a crime against humanity, Nelson has given license to more Palestinian violence in the Holy Land, and rendered Jewish self-defense taboo.
The allegation that Israel is a slave state and that American Jews need to fight against it, is simply an antisemitic lie coming from the leader of a dying church that has a long history of demonizing Israel.
As a result of the PCUSA’s witness about the Arab-Israeli conflict, the word “Presbyterian” has become synonymous with Jew-hatred, so much so that the word Presbyterian was a punchline in an episode of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” a few years back.
This raises a question: What do the other Presbyterian denominations in the US think of the PCUSA’s enmity towards Israel, and the mendacity that it fuels? What do they think of how the PCUSA has besmirched the Presbyterian identity, due to its malicious and unrelenting commentary about the Jewish state?
Are they OK with the PCUSA hijacking the Presbyterian brand to lend credence to a dishonest anti-Israel agenda during a time of rising antisemitism?
Aside from the PCUSA, there are four other Presbyterian denominations in the United States — the Evangelical Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (with approximately 400 churches and 130,000 members), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (with more than 600 local congregations and 145,000 members), the Presbyterian Church in America (with 600 churches and 400,000 members), and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), with just under 300 local churches and 30,000 members.
By way of comparison, these churches are significantly smaller than the PCUSA, which has approximately 8,900 churches and 1.2 million members — but they can play a significant role in countering the damage done to Presbyterianism’s reputation by their anti-Israel counterpart.
These churches and individuals can stand up and be counted, declaring unequivocally that they do not support the PCUSA’s mendacious “witness” about the Jewish state. If they do, they will be setting a powerful example for the folks in the PCUSA who know that Nelson is lying about Israel in their name — and, in so doing, defaming the name of God.
Will these churches stand up for the truth? Or will they remain silent?
Dexter Van Zile is Shillman Research Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA.org).