PCUSA and BDS: Noushin Framke

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Presbyterian Church 2014


While it’s easy to trace BDS-related Presbyterian excesses to acronymed organizations: IPMN (the Israel Palestine Mission Network), the church’s MRTI (Mission Responsibility Through Investment) committee and, of course, the leadership of PCUSA, we need to keep in mind that these entities and groups are made up of people.  And as we saw with the American Studies Association (ASA) academic boycott, much of the misery the organization is going through can be traced back to responsible individuals such as their new President Lisa Duggan whose behavior continues to demonstrate a readiness to prioritize the BDS agenda over the needs of the organization she has been elected to lead.

You’ve already met the exemplar of PCUSA BDexceSS I’d like to focus on today: Noushin Framke, spokesperson and Steering Committee member of the Church’s Israel Palestine Mission Network.

Framke was implicated in many of the excesses noted earlier regarding the IPMN’s notorious (and now deleted) Facebook page, including Likes of that delightful Obama cartoon and a comment that claimed Hamas should continue holding Gilad Shalit as a hostage with “Right of Return” as the ransom.  And if you (like me) prefer to judge people by something other than their behavior in the quick-and-dirty world of social media, then her call for a One State Solution on IPMN’s Facebook site should be judged alongside this article she wrote on the subject in 2010.

Now I linked that Framke piece in my discussion of IPMN, as well as to this detailed rebuttal.  And I should pause to note that while Framke (unlike other One Staters) is open and enthusiastic about the fact that a “One State Solution” must inevitably lead to an end to the Jewish homeland, her goals (which are reflected in virtually everything IPMN does) directly contradicts the two-state policy of the PCUSA which IPMN has allegedly been chartered to serve.

Whenever they are confronted by this or that IPMN outrage, PCUSA leaders break out the “IPMN speaks to rather than for the church” distinction.  But in this case, the organization is not just telling the church to abandon the policy it claims to hold, but actively working to undermine that policy by (among other things) publicly releasing and distributing anti-Zionist propaganda designed to drive home the message that a Jewish state is the result of a debased and bigoted ideology, which makes the elimination of such a state a thing all good people should strive for.

So like other single-issue partisans within the Church, Fromke is a BDSer first and a Presbyterian second.  Which is why both she and the organization she represents have no problem trying to force the Church as a whole to bend to IPMN’s will, regardless of the fact that Church members (who allegedly set policy) have rejected divestment every time Fromke and her allies have forced it onto the organization’s agenda.

You can get a further sense of this single-issue mindset in this article she has written on why progressives do not instinctively agree with her on all matters related to the Middle East.  As another commenter pointed out, her argument that those who see themselves as politically liberal but who also support Israel (or at least don’t condemn it) are “Progressives Except for Palestine” or “PEPs,” implies that the only possible position for someone who holds to a liberal world view would mirror that of Fromke and her allies.  And if they don’t, the only possible explanation is that they secretly do loath the Jewish state as much as does Fromke and IPMN but will never admit that out of fear.

If this sounds a bit like the behavior pattern of Nixon’s “Silent Majority,” you can begin to how Fromke, like her BDS allies, lay claim not just to the Middle East policies of the Presbyterian Church (the opinion of everyone else in the church be damned), but also insist that they and they alone own one half of the political spectrum. And it is from this sense of entitlement that their thoughtless, reckless and endlessly divisive behavior flows.

One would think that an organization that spends so much time working against church policy would eventually find itself marginalized within the wider organization. But when it came time to debate divestment at the 2012 General Assembly, who was on stage invoking people like Peter Beinart to insist that hostility to BDS (which characterizes virtually the entire Jewish community) is just one Jewish opinion among many?  I’m guessing you know the answer to that question.

So why would a church that spends so much effort to ensure critics of divestment efforts (such as Will Spotts who had to personally mail his remarkable work Pride and Prejudice to PCUSA delegates in 2006) don’t get a hearing let Noushin Framke take center stage at a critical debate on the subject?  I suppose this might be the case of money talking. She is, after all, the wife of Greg Framke, a former exec at eTrade.  And whether or not some of that executive salary underwrites things like expensive Mission Trips to the Middle East, it is certainly subsidizing Noushin’s full-time activist lifestyle.

But I suspect the real driver of success for Fromke and other BDS fanatics is our old friend ruthlessness.  For in a world where others are struggling to find compromise and build understanding, the ruthless are free to drive their agenda unburdened by the need to take anyone else’s needs into account.  With a self-righteousness that justifies any sort of behavior, and a world view that allows for no legitimate disagreement, the ruthless are liberated from that which binds the rest of us: actual empathy for other human beings.