Presbyterian BDS and the Attack on Common Sense

23 Jun

Occasionally, a critic will show up in the comments section of this site questioning my claims of sympathy with civic groups suffering from having had the Middle East conflict dragged into their organization by boycott and divestment advocates.

It’s a reasonable challenge, given that I never had anything to do with groups like the food co-op movement or the Presbyterian Church until I became engaged with them over my particular political issue.  But such an accusation assumes that engagement can’t involve learning and growth, especially as it provides access to people with whom I can empathize (given that my own journey began when divestment reared its ugly head in my home town a decade ago).

Since emotional attachment and empathy are both psychological constructs difficult to “prove” through the written word, let me instead provide an argument over why the PCUSA’s recent decision to return to the BDS fold is such a tragedy (for the Presbyterians, not for Israel), after which you can decide how much such an analysis reflects sympathy vs. sour grapes.

Any discussion of American Mainline Protestantism (of which Presbyterianism is a part) must begin by pointing out that the United States was founded and built by Mainliners and entirely led by them until the election of the Catholic John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Now their decline in both numbers and influence in the second half of the 20th century has created some anomalous behaviors (best summarized in Rabbi Poupko’s mini-masterpiece Looking at Them Looking at Us), notably a critique of US foreign policy driven by church members who often resemble a retired CEO lecturing successors from the sidelines about everything they’re doing wrong.

Such contemporary oddities should not, however, blind us to the remarkable role Presbyterians and other Protestant churches played in creating the founding principles of the nation, including religious tolerance and pluralism.  This is not to say that Protestantism is inherently more tolerant than other faiths (as testified by centuries of post-Reformation religious wars in Europe).  But in the United States (unlike Europe), no denomination had the numbers to establish themselves as the official state church, which meant that pluralism and tolerance were matters of self-interest to groups that might be a majority in one part of the country, but a minority in another.

As Joseph Bottum describes in his book An Anxious Age, this peculiar dynamic allowed churches to foster patriotism based on a shared American identity while also giving institutions with no official role running the country a platform to critique the society in which they lived.  And as Mainline Protestantism has declined to the point of potential extinction, no other institution – secular or religious – has been able to provide an alternative moral language to replace the one originally provided by Protestant Christianity.

Getting back to matters specifically related to the Presbyterians, Will Spotts (author of Pride and Prejudice - which describes how the original 2004 PCUSA divestment policy came about) has justifiably criticized the process used by the organization to come to conclusions about weighty matters – including international politics – a process where (among other problems) “time limits and workload has the effect of precluding competence.”

While I can’t argue with any of the particulars Will describes, I would urge people to consider the driving force behind such a process as not hubris but the Common Sense philosophy I talked about a few weeks back.

Just as a reminder, Common Sense – like Presbyterianism – originated in Scotland (not a coincidence, by the way) and laid out a means for knowledge creation and societal organization that assumed every question could be answered or problem solved by small groups of committed individuals working together cooperatively.  The Church’s decentralized political structure as well as the devolution of powers to the small, local community envisioned by America’s founders all derive from Common Sense principles which many of us still long for (even if we no longer understand what they are or where they originated).

But Common Sense ran into challenges the moment society became too complex to allow every decision to be made like a jury trial.  Modernity, industrialization, transportation that allowed national and international travel, all led to the rise of a new political order: technocracy, where trained and skilled experts would make a bulk of the decisions on the behalf of the citizenry.

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with this new type of power relationship.  We all benefit, after all, by having our electrical grids designed by engineers rather than a group of citizens chosen by lot.  At the same time, much of contemporary political debate that is force-fit into categories such as Left vs. Right make a lot more sense once you realize that nostalgia for living in a Common Sense community in an era when that is no longer possible drives much of our political thinking (at least at the subconscious level).

Unfortunately, if the PCUSA’s committee-based decision making reflects a desire to hold onto Common Sense principles within an institution (or sub-culture), it has yet to come to grips with how much technocrats within the organization have inevitably come to run the show.  And unlike the electric grid example I just used, in the case of PCUSA those technocrats are not experts but authorities (the full-time PCUSA professionals working out of Louisville Kentucky) whose decision making is not driven by unique knowledge and expertise but by a political agenda.

As we have seen over the last ten years of debate over divestment, such agenda-driven authority-crats are more than willing to subvert Common Sense principles in order to get their way.  For example, no genuine Common Sense community would be asked to vote in divestment at the last minute of a conference with minimal input from the membership (as happened in 2004).  And if Common Sense still reigned within the organization, a huge majority of members rejecting divestment in 2006 would have been the last word on the matter.

These new authorities, however, have tools at their disposal that allow them to portray their choices as something other than their own dictates.  There is a reason why PCUSA has chartered multiple committees to bring a certain point of view into discussions on the Middle East while Presbyterians who have alternative viewpoints must fend for themselves.  And is it reasonable to assume these committees could have become so packed and lopsided without the ascent of the church’s professional leadership?

Even the notion of divestment welling up from the grassroots through the Overture process is subject to manipulation since it’s been made apparent to all that Overtures on certain matters (such as criticism of Israel) will be put into action whenever a GA rolls around (thus encouraging activists who hold this position to submit multiple Overtures on the matter) while other issues will, at best, be filed under “Miscellaneous.”

What this all adds up to is a system whereby an elite drives their political agenda within the church while creating the illusion (through a corrupted GA process) that decisions are still being made by the men and women of the pews.  In other words, what we saw in Detroit last week was an attack not just on Israel and its supporters, but on the very decentralized, citizen-based, Common Sense principles upon which the Presbyterian Church was founded.

I suppose I could channel the spirit of Chicago Presbytery (the one that proposed new church liturgy to make a distinction between the Jews in the Old Testament and the ones living in the Holy Land today) and try to come up with language that would clarify the distinction between the Presbyterian Church which made so much difference in the world during its first four centuries and the mutant entity that traveled under that name in Detroit last week.  But feeling more generous than Chicago, I simply wish that those hoping to reform PCUSA back to sanity or, more likely, follow the time-tested American tradition of leaving to found their own alternative, will rediscover those things which led them to Presbyterianism in the first place, including the Common Sense principles that Louisville has worked so relentlessly to eradicate from PCUSA.

Presbyterian BDS – What to Do?

21 Jun

I was watching my youngest son perform in one of my least favorite musicals while the Presbyterians were debating whether or not to hand their reputation over to Omar Barghouti and his friends for another two years. And given that my kid’s shows (and associated ice-cream based socializing) can go well into the night, it wasn’t until this morning that I had time to digest yesterday’s decision-making at the 221 Presbyterian General Assembly.

I’ve actually had two years to prepare for a PCUSA divestment squeaker that went the boycotters’ way, given that I had fully expected the strategy chosen by the BDSers and their enablers in 2012 (and repeated this year) to work for them the last time around.

Just as a reminder, that strategy started with ensuring that every committee that would in any way touch the issue of Middle East politics was completely and utterly under the domination of pro-divestment forces, ensuring that the uncommitted would be subject to a barrage of anti-Israel sentiment with alternative views relegated to the margins and facts that might confound a black-and-white storyline already dumped down the memory hole.  And that was exactly how things played out in Detroit as Committee 4 made decisions after an egregious (and fully intentional) lopsided “debate” on the subject.

As in 2012, the foreordained outcome of such a fixed process was a pro-divestment measure sent to the floor that was characterized as having arisen from thoughtful input and careful discussion (rather than a process marinated in bias) in hope that General Assembly members unfamiliar with the issues (and unwilling to believe that the church they loved could behave as corruptly as it has) would not reject divestment yet again.  When this hardball set of tactics was rolled out in 2012, there were still enough Presbyterians in the room able to see through the stink to defeat divestment one more time.  But in a church losing between 50-100,000 members between every GA, it was inevitable that the remaining rump would eventually concentrate the power of radicals enough to drag BDS past the finish line (in this case, by less than ten votes).

The only thing I found interesting about this year’s debate was the portion I did watch yesterday afternoon when amendment after amendment was proposed (and many accepted) meant to blunt the impact of what the Presbyterians seemed about to do.  One of those amendments even tried to put distance between the church and BDS, despite the fact the only reason they were having this debate was at the behest of that very movement.

The boycotters did very little to sabotage such amendments since they fully understood that once news went out regarding any pro-divestment vote, all such subtlety would be lost (just as it would be ignored in the BDSers own press releases) in favor of the only thing they were ever truly after: newspaper headlines that simply state: “Presbyterian Church divestment from Israel.”

For Presbyterians who have not yet realized that they were only ever means to the boycotters ends, those little caveats are supposed to help when they visit their Jewish interfaith partners to insist that what they did was small, qualified, and well-intentioned (even as other interfaith BDS partners blanket the planet with the very Israel = Apartheid message PCUSA allegedly rejected).  But chances that Jews outside the JVP fringe will be interested in the kind of dialog I experience recently – in which all our legitimate concerns are ignored in favor of being told that we are still loved (presumably in spite of our support for a murderous, racist state) – would likely have been higher in the 12th century than the 21st.

So for reasons of self-respect alone, it’s time to follow the Wiesenthal Center and say goodbye to this abusive partner, ideally in a public manner that makes it crystal clear that while individual Jews and Presbyterians and even synagogues and churches can continue to work together on issues of concern that this does not mean (and should not be presented as meaning) a continuing interfaith relationship between the Jewish community and the everything Presbyterians mean when they refer to “Louisville.”

As for the rest of us, I think our choice of how to treat this recent decision by the church is also pretty clear: we should ignore it the same way 99.99% of the rest of the world ignores everything else that comes out of PCUSA General Assemblies year after year.  If you doubt my statistic, keep in mind that divestment was just one of dozens (if not hundreds) of political matters the church voted on over the last decade. Yet can anyone think of a single one of these decisions that made news (outside, perhaps, of those related to gay marriage where PCUSA might have been part of a story regarding much larger trends)?

Of the 1.6 million+ Presbyterians who were not in Detroit this week, many will wake up today appalled that their church has decided to accept a divestment policy they rejected four times, while others will just roll their eyes and tell us that this is just more nonsense originating from Louisville.  So given how little many Presbyterians care about their leadership’s choice of priorities, should Jews take those choices any more seriously?

Finally, the BDSers have given us the clearest lesson in how we should treat this matter having ignored vote after vote by previous GAs calling for balance, fairness and an end to divisive divestment battles within the church.  And if they are free to ignore Presbyterian No votes on divestment, it’s not clear why we should treat Yes votes any differently – even if people are screaming in our faces insisting that we must.

Why Presbyterian BDS Doesn’t Matter

20 Jun

Some people will look at that headline as the pre-positioning of sour grapes in case this afternoon’s vote does not go well, while others might suspect that I’m trying to find any means to avoid spending the afternoon watching a political debate wrapped in religious clothing whose jarring style is so wonderfully described by my old friend Will Spotts.

Both accusations (particularly the second one) probably have a grain of truth to them.  But let me try to outline why a Presbyterian vote to re-instate their divestment policy from 2004 will have far less impact than it did when divestment was first passed ten years ago.

First, when that original divestment vote took place in 2004 it was a bolt from the blue.  Only those in the Jewish community who had been following the degeneration of discourse on the Middle East that had been going on in the Presbyterian Church over the previous decade knew that it might be coming.  And even the leadership of PCUSA didn’t think much about the passage of a resolution to begin a process of “phased, selective divestment” from the Jewish state (to the point where that year’s GA moderator didn’t even mention the vote as one of the important items to come out of that year’s General Assembly).

This element of surprise meant no one really understood how that vote came about and, absent such information, they took as given statements coming from church leaders and external divestment advocates that this vote represented the will of a 2.2 million member church, a decision supposedly representing the moral condemnation of an established and still-respected institution.

But that was before analysts like Will Spotts’ provided the kind of detailed analysis needed to understand the politics behind this decision, politics that we have seen play out in public in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012.  And if sausage making and legislation are two procedures one never wants to get too close to out of fear of triggering violent nausea, watching the hardball tactics, dishonest and manipulative campaigning, and nasty innuendo blanketed in a religious vocabulary that has constituted church debate over this subject for the last decade has made it clear to all that any decision to re-participate in the BDS “movement” represents, at best, the success of a fringe minority to force its accusations into the mouth of another civic organization.

That aforementioned surprise in 2004 also meant the Israel’s supporters within the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds (including many Presbyterians) needed time to figure out what was going on and how to respond.  But after ten years of being kicked in the teeth, ten years of having promises broken, ten years of lies about Israel as a nation of racist murderers treated as gospel fact and preached from the alter, these communities know what they need to say if the boycotters manage to find the right combination of backroom politics and front-room deception and moral blackmail to drag their sordid divestment measures over the finish line.

No speculation is required to understand what will happen next if divestment does pass this afternoon since we saw this exact same story play out ten years ago.  Jewish organizations will decry yet another betrayal by alleged interfaith partners (although this time likely calling that abusive relationship off for good).  Thousands of Presbyterians will wake up this weekend to discover what is being said in their name (yet again) on an issue many of them chose (and even voted) to stay neutral on again and again.  Condemnations will rain down on PCUSA from across America’s civic landscape.  And as church leaders turn to those they thought would become their alternative ecumenical partners (i.e., groups like Jewish Voice for Peace), they will find their new friends have fled the room (after a brief chest-thumping victory parade on the Assembly floor) in order to spread the word that “Israel is an Apartheid State – See the Presbyterians say so!” to the world, leaving behind others to deal with the wreckage.

And even as defenders of such a decision (presuming it takes place) point to those tiny clauses inserted into their divestment measures to earn them the checkered flag (such as a clause which claims that the church is not participating in the BDS movement, despite voting to take part in an activity that is BDS’s middle name), don’t expect them to expend much effort telling the boycotters to stop shouting otherwise through bullhorns across the planet.

So this afternoon’s divestment vote is taking place within an organization whose biases and behavior on all things Middle East are now well known by Jews, Presbyterians and civilians alike.  So while Presbyterian BDS might create a brief media bump for the boycotters, it won’t take long before those stories are replaced by ones talking about a denomination that has lost all moral bearings, if not become totally senile, during its declining years.

Speaking of decline, I did a little spreadsheet work on the numbers appearing in this piece and calculated that the year in which the membership of the church will decline to 0 is 2040 (i.e., within the lifetime of most people reading this, although not within the lifetime of most current Presbyterians whose average age is 62).

Well before then, however, numbers will fall below a million (meaning they will be outnumbered by affiliated Jews in the US), but the nature of such an institution means that a final implosion will happen well before the last PCUSA member kicks the bucket.  For a church that maintains over 10,000 congregations will probably start running into serious trouble once the average number of members per congregation falls below 100 (which, according to my calculation might happen as soon as 2020).  And, as numbers continue to decline, there may come a point where PCUSA remains nothing more than a real-estate holding company and retirement home, best remembered for a long glorious history they abandoned to become a bullet point on the boycotter’s next PowerPoint slide.

I should point out that, as someone familiar with American religious and intellectual history, I take no joy at the decline of a Mainline Protestant movement that has defined so much of what this country means.  But watching how the attack on Israel has played out in the church over a decade, my thoughts turn to those brave people in the pews who have kept this monster at bay for so long.  And for those kindly ones, I pray that they can again act as a brake on the schemes of their corrupted leaders or, failing that, can find a safe lifeboat before the ship finally goes down.

PCUSA BDS – Will Dialog Solve All?

19 Jun

For reasons having to do with work, family and a desire for tranquility, I’ve kept some mental distance during this year’s PCUSA divestment vote compared to previous General Assemblies.  That said, I have participated in a couple of online discussions with religious bloggers over the last few days, one of whom has decided that the Presbyterians should vote to divest (even if the situation in the Middle East is more complicated than often described), and another who – after careful personal deliberation – decided that “Apartheid” might actually be a perfectly apt term to describe the Jewish state.

What fascinated me most about each of these conversations was the way the authors have determined that, if PCUSA chooses to divest (which will necessarily be followed by the BDS movement blanketing the world to insist that “The Presbyterians agree with us that Israel is an Apartheid State, which is why everyone should follow their lead and boycott Israel too!”), all that will be required to calm Jewish concerns over the matter is patient interfaith dialog facilitated by thoughtful Christians like themselves.

The problem with such a perspective is that it does not take into account the important dialog that has been going on between Presbyterians and Jews for the last ten years, dialog that has included a clear set of messages (which seem to have been forgotten) that succeeded in straining interfaith relations to the breaking point.

For example, in 2006 the General Assembly not only rescinded their 2004 divestment motion by a margin of 95%-5%, but coupled that rejection with a statement apologizing for the anguish that 2004 decision caused to interfaith partners in the Jewish community.  But apparently, that apology was not heartfelt enough to prevent more toxic accusations of racism and Apartheid to fill the agenda of the organizations 2008, 2010 and 2012 Assemblies, coupled with new votes forced on the church by divestment advocates who refused to take No for an answer.

If my interlocutors in this week’s discussion are looking for a reason why Jews might be distrustful of remaining in the kind of dialog they envision, they need look no further than the 2008 controversy over Vigilance Against Anti-Jewish Ideas and Bias.  This was a document created (and publically posted) by PCUSA that, for the first time, took on the issue of how church debates over the Middle East might represent a lack of balance (if not overt bias), potentially sliding into anti-Jewish bigotry.  The document was frank, honest, reflective, and went a long way towards assuring the church’s Jewish friends that PCUSA was ready to keep the promises it had made two years earlier when divestment was rescinded.

But only for a few weeks.  For even as those Jewish partners were penning letters of thanks to the church for acknowledging dangerous biases and welcoming the chance for reconciliation, people within that church quietly removed the original version of “Vigilance,” replacing it with a new document “infused with the very bias that the original statement condemned.”

Understandably, this switcheroo led to condemnations by a Jewish community that realized it was playing Charlie Brown to the PCUSA’s football-pulling Lucy yet again.  And, to this day, no one has provided an adequate (i.e., honest) explanation as to who vetoed and replaced the original version of “Vigilance” and who decided it was appropriate to make this swap without telling anyone it was happening.  As one Presbyterian put it so aptly: “Who will trust our words in the future? Why should they?”

Re-reading claims by my recent discussants that interfaith dialog will somehow salve wounds related to this year’s PCUSA debate, the sense I get is that calm, forgiving words from kind and thoughtful Christians will clarify that the activity we’ve seen going on in Detroit should be seen as the fight for justice for the oppressed coupled with expressions of love towards the oppressor.

But what if the Jewish state currently searching for kidnapped teens and fending off rocket attacks from the Palestinian government’s new-found Hamas partners does not accept the role of “oppressor” being assigned to them by Presbyterians who, as far as I can tell, have chosen to ignore both those kidnappings and rocket attacks as they take it upon themselves to officially assign blame (and suggest punishments) to one side and one side only for the lack of peace in the region?

Should we be grateful that the same committee (#4) that just voted for divestment yet again (ignoring what previous GAs decided in ’06, ’08, ’10 and ’12) have distanced themselves from a document that claims the very notion of a Jewish state is racist and illegitimate (even as they struck passages that would require the church to stop distributing those PCUSA-imprinted calumnies to churches across the country)?

Should we be pleased that a different General Assembly committee decided not to modify their liturgy to ensure church members know Biblical reference to Jews in the Holy Land are not applicable to Jews living there today?  Or should we be appalled that such topics are considered worthy of debate by an organization claiming to stand for modern, rather than Medieval, values?

And what should we say to the choice of Committee 4 to open up discussion of whether or not the church should be supporting a Two State solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, given that the obvious alternative advocates for this position want as church policy is a One State solution that – as specified in Zionism Unsettled (the very document this same committee distanced themselves from) – has no room for Jewish self-determination.

Finally, if issues like the right of Jews to self-determination and self-defense, the role the Palestinians and the wider Arab world have played in their own suffering (and the suffering of Israelis), or the dishonest behavior of PCUSA over the last decade are worked into the conversation, will our friendly dialog partners be ready to talk about them or will they instead go out and find new interfaith partners (like the fringe Jewish Voice for Peace) to ensure “dialog” only takes place with Jews who are already in full agreement with them?

More than a decade of being accused of murderous racism (the essence of the Apartheid slur) followed by smiles and calls for reconciling dialog has led Jews (understandably) to come to the conclusion that they their relationship with the Presbyterian Church is equivalent to that of an abused spouse.  And if the only thing those claiming to be dialog partners are looking for is a way to have their cake (i.e., bi-annual denunciation of the Jewish state and its supporters) and eat it to (i.e., pretend they still have warm relations with the very people they keep denouncing), then perhaps we need to remove ourselves from such abuse, even if the punches are delivered by those convinced they are on the side of the angels.

The PCUSA BDS Kabuki Dance of Death

18 Jun

Well the PCUSA drama is pretty much playing out as predicated.

The General Assembly’s Committee 4 was tasked to look at Middle East issues.  Actually, that’s not quite right since, as far as I can tell, all of the dozen or so Overtures the committee discussed have to do with just one country in the region (guess which one), which I suppose makes sense given that the rest of the Middle East has become such a sea of tranquility in the two years since the last Presbyterian conclave.

As usual, the BDSers began the work of packing all relevant committees the day they lost the last General Assembly vote in 2012 and – as expected – divestment is now back on the organization’s agenda, ready to be voted on by the wider Assembly later this week.

I suppose we should be thankful that Committee 4 also voted No on a measure to declare Israel an Apartheid State and Yes on an Overture that would distance the church from the odious Zionism Unsettled (ZU) document that PCUSA has been happily distributing to congregations for months.  (Will Spotts wonders if it was David Duke’s endorsement of this document that caused this move, rather than the contents of Zionism Unsettled and the outrage it caused among Jews and Presbyterians alike.  Personally, I’m guessing that the BDSers driving this week’s agenda within the church simply needed to create some space between themselves and embarrassment over ZU for another 24 hours in order to get divestment through the General Assembly.)

And while I’m still gathering data, apparently there has also been a decision to begin a re-evaluation of the church’s historic commitment to a Two-State solution, opening the door for the One-State/No-Israel policy envisioned in the Zionism Unsettled document the church is supposed to be distancing itself from.   Oh, and I’m unsure of the status of another set of measures that would call on the church to change its liturgy to make it clear that the Jews mentioned in the Old Testament have nothing to do with Jews dwelling in the Holy Land today.

If all of this strikes you confusing (if not barking mad), you might sympathize with my growing inability to monitor what’s been going on in Detroit on an hour-by-hour basis.  I spent a little time checking out the Twitter feed of #GA221 and #churchdivest when votes were being taken by Committee 4 and, as expected, the BDSers who dominate those hastags have stayed on message, endlessly repeating their endorsement by Desmond Tutu, throwing up photos of broken children with associated accusations and never – under any circumstances – addressing or replying to questions that challenge their world view.  In fact, the only thing novel about yesterday’s hearings was that the Overture they used to hang divestment on this year started out as an anti-divestment measure which the BDSers reconfigured to meet their needs (no doubt to present their foregone conclusion as the result of a compromise).

All along, the BDS strategy has been to circumscribe the choices the General Assembly would be allowed to vote on since straight up-or-down votes on divestment taken in the light of day always go badly for divestment champions.  And so the GA will be presented with the majority report of the committee that supposedly has the expertise most General Assembly delegates lack and has done the preparation delegates not on the committee have not had time to do.

The fact that such a majority report is the result of a thoroughly corrupt process and does not reflect the will of church members who have voted divestment down time and time again is the reason delegates rejected a similar majority statement in 2012, voting to replace it with a minority report that did not include divestment.  Which is why, this time around, the boycotters have thrown everything they’ve got into working the floor at the General Assembly in hope that their intense lobbying can swing just enough voters to return the Presbyterian Church to the dark days of 2004 when divestment was briefly church policy before members rescinded that decision in 2006 (a choice the Israel haters have ignored ever since).

If this kind of hardball politics were playing out in Chicago City Hall, it would probably deserve some grudging respect.  But what are we to make of a process this dirty and this manipulative, one designed to subvert the political process in order to allow a group of single-issue partisans to speak in the name of millions of people who have been deliberately kept in the dark about what is being decided for them?  Say what you like about big city politics, but at least they don’t wrap their ugly behavior in the language of love and sanctimony you’ll be seeing if you tune into the General Assembly debate later today.

Regarding watching that debate, I’ll do what I can in between a funeral (for a man who quietly embodied all of the virtues that will be lovingly praised at the General Assembly, even as those pushing the church over the divestment cliff work to subvert each and every one of them) and driving my kids from place to place (an activity I’ve never looked forward to more than I do today).

If we win, that’s great and I’ll be happy to not think about this matter again for another couple of years (not a great strategy, given that the boycotters will start work on the 2016 assembly this weekend, but necessary for my mental health).  And even if we lose, who can possibly look at such an outcome as anything other than the result of the corrupt politics of a dying organization whose leadership has decided to grasp tight to their Israel hatred as the world burns and the church moves ever closer to oblivion.

PCUSA and the Return of the BDS Hoax

15 Jun

OK, I know I promised (at least to myself) that I wouldn’t provide blow-by-blow on the current PCUSA divestment debate.  But a couple of stories that have emerged in the last few days need some dissemination (and contextualization) which I’d like to provide (hopefully briefly).

First, believe it or not, the BDSers have decided to get back into the divestment hoax game by declaring that simple business decisions or investment choices based on non-financial issues having nothing to do with Israel are actually successes for their “movement.”

This was a favorite technique the boycotters used years ago which was dropped once people caught onto them, leading to fraudulent stories related to organizations like TIAA-CREF, Blackrock and other financial firms being exposed within hours.

But recent claims that Bill Gates has turned on Israel by divesting from the security company G4S at the behest of the BDSers seems at odds with the massive investments he and Microsoft continue to make in the Israeli economy.  And the existence of a perfectly reasonable explanation for Gates’ sale of G4S stock (that he bought it when the price was low and sold it soon afterwards when the price rose) means it is the boycotters’ responsibility to prove that a politically motivated divestment decision took place (by following the same guidelines used for every other divestment project in history, save theirs, described here), rather than our job to prove that it did not.

G4S was involved in a second recent hoax, this one involving the Methodist Church selling off shares in the company due to their general involvement in the management of prisons.  And, once again, the BDSers were firing off their press releases declaring the Methodists to now be in their camp, despite the fact that the church has explicitly said their decision had nothing to do with Israel.

While I’ve come to believe that many BDS hoaxes are designed to fuel the Israel haters delusions of potency and effectiveness (even at the cost of being exposed as liars to those who do not share their fantasies), the obvious political motivation for pushing fraudulent stories about the Methodists onto the front pages now is to influence upcoming PCUSA votes via lies that say “The Methodists have joined our movement and so should you!”

Given the sheer number of lies that are being fed to members of the Presbyterian General Assembly: lies about who has divested and who has not, lies about previous church decisions on the matter, and lies about the Middle East itself, it’s clear that the BDSers are going into battle assuming that the people they plan to convince are a bunch of ignoramuses.  And while I expect many Presbyterians are unaware of how much pap they are being fed by church leaders working in collusion with internal and external groups like the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) committee and Sabeel, I’m hoping GA voters maintain enough awareness (and self-respect) to realize the degree to which others are taking advantage of their good nature.

In a second story, here’s a taste of what the church can expect if they decide to undo decisions made by previous General Assemblies in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 and return the church to bad old days of 2004 when divestment was official church policy.

That 2004 decision nearly shattered interfaith relations between Jews and Presbyterians, relations that continue to be strained by the church’s incessant attacks on the Jewish state, culminating this year in their ghastly Zionism Unsettled document produced by the aforementioned IPMN and happily distributed by the church itself (to the cheers of David Duke).

Well one Jewish group – The Wiesenthal Center – has finally had it, declaring that relations with PCUSA to be at an end. And if the church decides in the coming days that its true constituency is the BDS movement, they can expect the rest of the Jewish world to deliver a similar message, demonstrating that even the Jewish community is not ready to be slapped in the face for one more decade.

Now in a normal political debate, those pushing for a decision that will unquestionably have such long-term negative results for the church should at least be explaining why those consequences are worth it to participate in the glorious divestment project.  But, sadly, those who are BDS activists first and Presbyterians second (working in collusion with a thoroughly corrupted church leadership) are doing all they can to ensure that the voters they hope will rubber stamp their propaganda campaign remain in the dark about where such a move will unquestionably lead.