The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) convening in Minneapolis will debate this week whether to endorse an official church study committee report that compares Israel to the worst regimes of the 20th century, including Nazi Germany. The report, which also mentions ultra-liberal Jewish lobby group J Street as a sign of “hope,” seems to have embarrassed that group.
J Street Vice President Rachel Lerner called out to the Presbyterians to reject the 'study.' She said that the report’s authors never consulted her group before choosing to mention it.
She added that “with the passage of this study, the Church will alienate us and as a result our activists will not want to work with you and this will damage completely the possibility of a future relationship.” She said she was “saddened” and “angered” by the report. However, Lerner clarified that even if the study is adopted, J-Street will not be issuing a directive to its local branches to cease partnering with local Presbyterian churches.
Presbyterian Alan Wisdom also asked his fellow church members to reject the report. In his testimony in Minneapolis, he said that the report likens Israel to a “Nazi state,” to South Africa under apartheid, and to the former Soviet Union.
Wisdom was quoted by Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in an article in FrontPage Magazine.
The report mentioned Hamas as being “militant” but fails to note that its charter calls for Israel’s annihilation. It also claims that Iran poses no danger even if it acquires nuclear weapons because it “has not invaded any other country for centuries.” The study further urges that the U.S. cut off aid to the Jewish state in order to “bring Israel to compliance.”
New York Times religion reporter Gus Niebuhr, grand nephew of pro-Zionist Christian ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr, warned fellow Presbyterians that the “terribly imbalanced” report would “obscure” Presbyterian influence in America.
Niebuhr was joined by Presbyterian pastor and Christian Century magazine publisher John Buchanan.
“Early reports suggest Presbyterians will tone down the report somewhat,” Tooley wrote, “more explicitly affirming Israel’s right to existence and deleting some of the harsher anti-Israel rhetoric.”
In June 2004, the U.S. Presbyterian Church's General Assembly adopted a resolution that called on the church "to initiate a process of phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel."