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July 4, 2022 10:34 am

Presbyterian Church, USA Demonizes Israel While Ignoring the Plight of Christians in Gaza

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi


Members of the Presbyterian Church USA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network pose in front of Israel’s security barrier during one of their trips to the Holy Land. The graffiti on the barrier readers “PC (USA) stands with Palestine.” Photo: Twitter.

The Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA) — which is reportedly the largest American Presbyterian denomination — voted on June 28 to declare Israel an “apartheid” state, and establish a Nakba Remembrance Day. The church organization also passed two other resolutions lambasting the Jewish state.

But in stark contrast to its decidedly anti-Israel stance, PCUSA remains silent on the issue of Christian persecution in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

One PCUSA resolution, titled “On Recognition That Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People,” tacitly compares the existence of the world’s only Jewish state to the horrors of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of six million Jews:

After World War II when the horror of the Nazi Holocaust was revealed, Jews around the world said “never again.” Christians too vowed that never again would they be silent if a government passed laws establishing and maintaining the domination by one ethnic group over another ethnic group through systematic separation, oppression, and denial of basic human rights. Silence in the face of evil was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism has been adopted or endorsed by 865 entities worldwide, including 37 countries, as well as the US Departments of Education and State. According to the IHRA, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, calling the Jewish state racist, or applying to it double standards are clear examples of when legitimate criticism of Israel crosses the line into antisemitism.

Moreover, the apartheid accusation is utterly baseless. Israel is a country where Arabs serve as Supreme Court Justices, fighter pilots, members of parliament, artists, and athletes. Everything that Israelis do, Arab Israelis do as well. The legal, state-sanctioned discrimination that is the very definition of apartheid is not only absent from Israel, but it is combated by Israel’s laws and court system.

Another church item, “Jerusalem 3, 2, 1: Three Faiths, Two Peoples, and One Human Family,” states:

The face of Jerusalem has been changing rapidly in the direction of a heightened Zionist-Jewish identity, with intensified restrictions on the movement, residency and human rights of Muslim and Christian Palestinians…The State of Israel’s policies steadily increase inter-religious tension with their disregard for the historic claims and freedom of worship of Muslims and Christians.

Yet the accusation of religious persecution in Jerusalem is belied by the facts. The Arab population stands at approximately 341,500, compared to 536,600 thousand Jews who live in the holy city. In 1948, a mere 65,000 Muslim and Christian Arabs resided in Jerusalem, along with approximately 100,000 Jews.

PCUSA also gets it wrong as to who was actually responsible for the banning of freedom of worship in Jerusalem. In the holy city today, everyone may worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. However, it was during the 19-year Jordanian occupation of eastern Jerusalem that Jews were banned from their holiest places. When it gained control over this part of Jerusalem, the Israeli government introduced the freedom to worship for everyone.

And even though Palestinians chanted slogans in support of Hamas terrorism in April, Israeli police allowed some 80,000 people to pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits atop Judaism’s holiest site.

The largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States also passed a resolution designating May 15 as “Palestinian Nakba Remembrance Day.”

The item expresses solidarity with the Palestinian people who were allegedly expelled “by terrorism and force…”

What PCUSA fails to mention is that Israel was created following a fight for survival necessitated by the Arab world’s violent rejection of the UN Partition Plan that would have led to the creation of separate Jewish and Arab states. Jewish leaders had accepted the plan. Every Arab nation decided to destroy Israel rather than live in peace with it.

This resolution also leaves out crucial context as to what Nakba Day really is: a byword for violence against Jews. Last year, Nakba Day coincided with the Hamas-initiated war against Israel that led to a spike in antisemitism around the world.

A fourth item passed by PCUSA calls for ending the “siege of Gaza” and “collective punishment of innocent Palestinian and Israeli citizens.”

What’s striking about this resolution is that the iron-fisted ruler of Gaza, the Hamas terrorist group, isn’t mentioned once. Israel is thus portrayed as the primary cause of the misery experienced by Gazans.

Moreover, PCUSA blithely ignores why the “siege” occurred in the first place. The naval blockade on Gaza was initially imposed following the interception of two arms shipments allegedly originating in Iran. That is, the theocracy whose supreme leader regularly calls for the eradication of the “cancerous tumor” (i.e. Israel).

Neither does PCUSA reference Israel’s 2005 decision to uproot 8,000 citizens — men, women and children — from their homes in Gaza and withdraw militarily from the territory. The move was intended to give the Palestinians an opportunity to begin building the prerequisite institutions and infrastructure for independence.

Instead, the Jewish state has received only rocket fire.

Simultaneously, PCUSA turns a blind eye to the very real plight of Gaza’s Christian population. There were approximately 5,000 Christians living in the Gaza Strip in 2005, the year Israel pulled its army from inside the enclave.

In 2007, Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip, which it has ruled as the de facto Islamist authority ever since. For Hamas, Islam is not only a religion that guides its organizational aims, but also a source of law (Sharia) to be imposed on all Gazans. Hamas-affiliated groups like Swords of Righteousness and the Army of Islam have targeted Gazan Christians with forced conversions, discrimination in schools, attacks on businesses, and martyrdom.

Today, there are only 1,000 Christians in Gaza.

By refusing to call out who is responsible for the plight of Gaza’s Christian minority, the Presbyterian Church, USA is doing a great disservice to those it should be protecting.

By perpetuating debunked myths about Israel, PCUSA is helping to normalize antisemitism, as the number of hate crimes targeting Jewish people around the globe soars.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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