Methodists Reject Divestment, But Tolerate Anti-Semitic Rant

CAMERA reports:

For the past several days, the United Methodist Church has been meeting in Tampa, Florida for its General Convention that is held every four years. At this convention, the delegates approved a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli products made in the West Bank.

The assembly also rejected a resolution that would require the denomination’s Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to sell its stock in three companies that do business with Israel — Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola.

Yesterday’s video of processeds regarding these two resolutions:

The defeat of the divestment proposal was a bitter pill to swallow for many of the activists that descended on the UMC’s General Convention. Jewish Voice for Peace was out in force at the assembly, as were a number of anti-Israel activists from inside the denomination.

As is to be expected at the national assembly of any mainline church in the United States, the proceedings bespoke of a monomaniacal obsession on the alleged sins of the Jewish state and absolute silence about the misdeeds of other countries in the region.

Search the legislation before the assembly for resolutions regarding Coptic Christians in Egypt or Assyrians in Iraq and you will find nothing.

One of the more outrageous moments of the assembly took place after it became apparent that the proposal to demand that the UMC sell stock in the three companies mentioned above was not going to pass. A woman who introduced herself as Margaret Novak said the following to the gathered assembly:

I would just ask us all to imagine we were United Methodists in the 1930s and 40s [and] that our Board of Pensions held stock in the very successful manufacturing firms in Germany that bid and received the bids to manufacture the ovens for the concentration camps. At what point would we decide it was time to divest? How much evidence would we ask for before it was time to stop the wholesale destruction of people?

Source: Video of 2nd Session +0:05:47 to +0:06:37

The moderator did not call her out of order, but merely asked if her speech was for or against the non-divestment resolution then before the assembly. (She was against.)

Margaret Novak compared Israeli policies in the West Bank to the destruction of Jews in Europe. She made this statement in front of several hundred people and the moderator of the assembly let her statement pass unchallenged.

More after the jump.
Novak’s comparison between current Israeli policies and that of the Nazi regime falls under the working definition of antisemitism issued by the European Forum on Antisemitism. This definition warns against “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Novak’s suggestion that the Israelis are perpetrating a genocide (“wholesale destruction of people”) is defamatory. The population of the Palestinians has grown fourfold in the decades since the 1948 War.

Will someone from the UMC’s leadership condemn Novak’s remarks before the General Convention comes to an end on Friday May 4, 2012 or will they pass unnoticed?

This is a reasonable question to ask. The UMC has been the source of some ugly rhetoric in the past. For more information about this problem go here and here.

James E. Winkler, General Secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), can make it right. He can issue an unequivocal apology for the ugly anti-Semitism that was allowed to pass unchallenged at the UMC’s General Assembly on May 2, 2012.

It is also reasonable to ask if Jewish Voice for Peace [no relation to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice!] is going to condemn Novak’s rant. As stated above, JVP was out in force at the assembly.

And will the Methodist activists, operating under the banner of UM Kairos Response condemn Novak’s statement?

Such rhetoric simply cannot pass unnoticed at the UMC General Convention.

Will Winkler act? Will Jewish Voice for Peace respond? Will UM Kairos Response?

Presbyterian Church (USA) Divests From Israel

— Benjamin Suarato

In advance of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s biennial General Assembly this summer, church leaders made the disappointing decision to approve a report that calls for divestment from three companies for their sales to Israel. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, together with the Israel Action Network, an initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the JCPA, called on Presbyterians to return to their commitment to positive outcomes and abandon the path to divestment which will not foster reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians will poison the well for positive interfaith relations between the Jewish and Presbyterian communities.

More after the jump.
“We are profoundly disappointed by the General Assembly Mission Council’s decision to recommend this report,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “Neither peace nor the long friendship between our two communities is served by this action.  It is tragic that national Presbyterian leaders are making the delegitimization of Israel a public witness of their church. Once again, we turn to our friends who will gather in the church’s General Assembly this summer to find a path towards peace rather than dissension.  The proposed resolution drives a wedge between our two communities, frustrates interfaith cooperation and undermines our joint efforts to pursue social justice.”  

Rabbi Gutow continued, “The JCPA and the IAN encourage communities to work together to foster peace through efforts of reconciliation.  The parties know enough conflict.  Why add to the division?”

“The Presbyterian and Jewish communities should work together to build support for goals everyone should share – a two-state solution with peace and security as the only means to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said JCPA Chair Dr. Conrad Giles. “Divestment does not achieve this goal. It ignores the complexity of the conflict by singling out one party.  It weakens relationships that are already fragile.   It misuses American companies as a proxy for parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The JCPA has worked closely with the Israel Action Network, which is chaired by David Sherman of Chicago, key JCPA national member agencies, Jewish Community Relations Councils throughout the country, and local rabbis to build relationships with local church leaders to foster dialogue and programs that support peace and reconciliation and reject delegitimization and divestment.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz Makes Philadelphia’s Case for Israel

— by Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Professor Alan Dershowitz came to the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday evening, February 2, 2012, to accomplish two goals: one, to continue in his role as American’s most outspoken, knowledgeable “celebrity” to “Make the Case for Israel” (the title of his 2003 book); and to tell Penn pro-Israel students, the Penn administration and the larger Philadelphia pro-Israel community, that they are model Israel advocates.  He accomplished both.

Last semester a few students conspired to create an organization on Penn’s campus with the goal of hosting a conference there to promote the boycotting of, divesting from and sanctioning of Israel (“BDS“).   Rather than create panic, however, their efforts forged an otherwise virtual impossibility: a community acting in almost complete unison to showcase Israel and educate those willing to be educated so they too would join the ranks of supporters, rather than vilifiers.  

More after the jump.
There were those in the Philadelphia community who wanted Penn not to support such a conference by granting it use of its facilities, but the school administration refused to go that route, while still very clearly disassociating itself from the BDS message and goals.   A virtual community-wide response was to support the efforts of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia which led the response off-campus, working with Penn Hillel on-campus, which created a myriad of events and initiatives to showcase Israel.  Together the Federation and Penn Hillel brought in Dershowitz as the event unifying the university and the community at large in solidarity with Israel.  It all came together exactly as the planners hoped.

In addition to the Dershowitz event, “We Are One With Israel: An Evening of Unity and Community Solidarity,” before a sold-out crowd of 900 at Penn’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday evening, there were several student-only initiatives, including raising money for an Israeli charity and promoting investment in Israel.  For one massive initiative, “Israel Across Penn,” Penn students hosted a series of Shabbat dinners for more than 800 other students.  The only requirement for attendance was to agree that the dinner conversation would center around Israel.

Students Josh Cooper and Shlomo Klapper were the organizers of the dinners.  Both from New Jersey, each steadfastly refused to say that the dinners or the Dershowitz event were to counter the BDS conference.  They insisted that the BDS supporters had a right to have a conference, but they both agreed the BDS event created a terrific opportunity by galvanizing the Jewish and pro-Israel community.  

“Their goal is to discredit the state of Israel, we have revealed a deep and strong connection to Israel,” Klapper said.

Cooper added, “There is a strong positive energy for Israel on this campus, but sometimes it’s dormant, so this really mobilized us.”

As student and community leaders gathered for a meal in Steinhardt Hall, the Penn Hillel building, and waited for a private chat with Dershowitz, Eric Schorr, a Columbia University student, rose and read an Ivy League Solidarity Statement, which was signed by pro-Israel leaders at all the other Ivy League schools.  “Boycotts are an obstacle to peace,” the statement reads, “BDS fails to recognize Israel’s prior offerings of peace that have been categorically rejected by Palestinian leadership, and merely seeks to vilify Israel.”  

Samara Gordon, a leader in the bi-partisan Penn Israel Political Action Committee said that more than sixty students from organizations across the Penn campus, including the Penn Democrats, the College Republicans, the National Society for Black Engineers, and the Japan Students Association, signed a statement of solidarity with the pro-Israel Penn leadership.  Gordon introduced Dershowitz to the dinner crowd, thanking him for consistently being the “go-to” person in support of Israel, and for being “awesome.”

In a short but upbeat pep talk to the select group Dershowitz made several points he reiterated to the larger crowd later: support for Israel is and must be a bi-partisan issue, all of the Penn community has presented a model of pro-Israel advocacy, the school was right not to prevent the BDS conference from taking place on the campus – so long as there is a single policy, it must be consistently applied – and just as important as it was to allow the conference on campus,  was it for the supporters to respond vigorously with the truth, by making their case for Israel.  

One student lamented the dearth of pro-Israel academics who speak out,  in contrast to the many anti-Israel professors who do.  Acknowledging the imbalance, Dershowitz explained that so many on the hard left have made it seem “politically incorrect” to support Israel.  But, as Dershowitz repeated several times, “I’m a liberal Democrat and I support Israel because of my liberal values.  I support Israel because I am a feminist, I support Israel because I am pro-gay rights, I support Israel because I steadfastly believe in human rights.”  

The dinner crowd joined the hundreds of others who filed into the Zellerbach auditorium at the Annenberg Center.  As the auditorium filled to capacity, the speeches and introduction of the introducers began.  Rabbi Mike Uram, the director of Penn Hillel, set the tone by sharing a little Torah learning with the audience.  

Uram remarked that one of the things Jews thank G-d for in the morning blessings, is for the understanding to discern day from night.  And, he said, that was exactly why everyone was gathered together, to have Professor Dershowitz as a role model helping everyone to “distinguish between those who seek a real, lasting peace and those who simply want to demonize the Israeli people,” he continued, “and between those who search for facts and those who search only for accusations.” 

David L. Cohen, Chairman of the Penn Board of Trustees, as well as a former trustee of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Federation, read a statement from Penn President Amy Gutmann.  Gutmann had been subject to heated criticism for allowing the conference to go forward, and for being insufficiently forceful in distancing the university from the conference.  Gutmann’s statement again included a rejection of the message and the goals of BDS, and insisted that, “truth and reason will win the day,” and with a closer the crowd was eager to hear:  “thanks for doing it the right way, Shalom, Amy Gutmann.”

The President of the Philadelphia Federation, Sherrie Savett, welcomed everyone, and introduced the star of the evening, Professor Alan Dershowitz.

True to form, Dershowitz presented a potpourri of articulately delivered bombshells, many that were welcome to most, others that were anathema to some, but most with such aplomb and unassailable logic as to calm down, if not convince, even those who disagreed.

Consistent with his theme of supporting Israel because of his liberal values, Dershowitz stated that he abhors those supporting BDS against Israel because if they really cared about human rights, they would be employing “BDS against Syria, against Cuba, against Iran, against China, against Russia, against Hamas and Hezbollah.”  Because the BDS supporters are ignoring the true violators of human rights across the globe, it makes a mockery of their criticisms of Israel, “the one country in the Middle East with the highest respect for human rights.”  

Going further, Dershowitz slammed the professors who support BDS generally, and those supporting Penn BDS specifically. “Those professors who are supporting BDS in the name of human rights? Shame on you! Iran is murdering dissidents and you are complaining about Israel?  Shame on you – you are abusing the concept of human rights,” Dershowitz thundered, ” You are complicit with evil when you ignore other violators of human rights and focus on Israel – you have to justify yourselves!”  Dershowitz went further: “this anti-Israel campaign is one of the greatest human rights issues of this century, supplying a justification for the oldest hatred.”

Continuing his theme of support for liberal values and human rights dictating support for Israel, Dershowitz invoked one of the greatest icons of liberalism in American history, Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., who visited Israel during the first violent uprising, in 1988.  Upon his return, Justice Brennan remarked that, “Israel was the only country in the world that could teach the United States how to fight against terrorism with the same concern for human liberties.”  

Although there were several adults who asked questions during the Q and A following the talk, students asked the questions which elicited the most informative responses.

In a nod to current global concerns, Dershowitz was asked about recent news reports that Israel may soon respond to the nuclear threat from Iran.  For the second time that evening Dershowitz carefully explained that if Israel were to strike, it would be a reactive and not a pre-emptive strike.  

“Iran,” he explained, “has already committed acts of war against Israel,” citing the arming of Hamas and Hezbollah, and the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina.  “Israel is within its legal rights to respond with force to the Iranian threat.”

The final question was one that, while hostile, Dershowitz might have paid someone to ask.  Echoing the November 22, 2011 “Pinkwashing” New York Times op-ed  written by professor Sarah Schulman, a young woman asked “if a ‘Palestinian’ tells me Israel stole her land, what good is it for me to say that ‘Israel is good on gay rights’?”

Warming to the fight, Dershowitz unequivocally rejected the notion of ‘Palestinian’ land having been stolen.   He launched into a brief history lesson on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, absentee Arab ownership, purchases of the land by Jews, and concluded with by quoting an Arab leader who responded to the Peel Commission in 1937 which attempted to create a Jewish and another Arab State, “There is no such country as Palestine! Palestine is a term the Zionists invented!  We live in Southern Syria.”

The author of the “Pinkwashing” op-ed was one of the presenters at the Penn BDS conference.  And just as Dershowitz exposed her hypocrisy for ruing instead of praising Israel’s openness and freedom for gays by pretending it was merely a front for stealing land from the Arabs, a further irony was made apparent by actions taken by the Penn BDS organizers.  

According to the online agenda of the BDS conference, one of the sessions was devoted to Academic Freedom and addressed freedom of speech.  A reporter for the Philadelphia Jewish Voice was immediately rejected when she applied for a press pass to the conference, and a reporter from the other Philadelphia Jewish media outlet had his press credentials revoked because the organizers disliked an article he had written.

While Professor Dershowitz could not have known about it when he gave his talk here, the refusal to operate openly, and the denial of access to those with potentially opposing viewpoints by the conference organizers were entirely consistent with his point, that the BDS advocates were hypocrites masking their hatred of Israel with a thin veneer of concern for civil rights and freedoms.

The Anti-Israel Movement: BDS On Campus

This weekend, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, a conference will be held. The gathering, which the University is hosting, has been arranged by a group which is identified by the acronym BDS. BDS refers to the movement dedicated to punishing, vilifying and delegitimizing the State of Israel in three ways.

  • First, this group encourages “B”, boycotting Israeli products.
  • Second, the group advocates “D”, divesting from companies which do business in and with Israel.
  • And third is “S”, the efforts to convince governments around the world to impose sanctions against Israel.

[Read more…]

The Immorality of Moral Equivalency

— Rabbi Mark S. Golub

On Friday night, March 11, Hamas terrorists crossed into the West Bank to the Jewish community of Itamar where they murdered a Jewish family as they slept in their beds. The victims included a mother and father, Udi Fogel (36) and Ruth Fogel (35), and their three children, Yoav (11), Elad (4), and Hadas (3 months).

The sheer brutality of the Hamas act takes one’s breath away. In highly uncharacteristic fashion, the Israeli government made the decision to display graphic photos of the death scene–photos which are visible though a link at the bottom of this editorial.

More after the jump.
Sadly, there are many Jews who, wittingly or unwittingly, facilitate Palestinian violence by failing to make a moral distinction between wanton murder on the one hand and occupation and military actions on the other.

A chilling example of this loss of perspective among ideologues in the Jewish community is revealed in a press release published by Americans For Peace Now. Although APN characterized the attack as “horrifying,” and praised the Palestinian Authority for condemning the attack, APN then went on to urge leaders of Israel and the Palestinians “to fight violent extremists on both sides.”

To suggest that Jewish extremists engage in acts similar to those of Arab extremists such as Hamas is to distort Jewish and Israeli reality beyond measure.

Have Jewish extremists ever snuck into an Arab home and murdered a family sleeping in their beds?

Any death in war is a cosmic tragedy of divine proportion. The loss of life and the pain inflicted on any family is beyond limits, whether the life lost is that an Israeli or an Arab.

This does not mean, however, that all reasons for taking a life are morally equivalent.

Only hard-line ideologues would argue in the shadow of this outrageous brutality that there is an equivalency of Israeli and Palestinian policy. Yet, this has become more and more commonplace in some circles.

An Israeli group of soldiers visiting North American college campuses [Our Soldiers Speak] reports how from the University of Western Ontario to Wilfrid Laurier, from Hampshire College to the University of Pittsburgh, from Oberlin to Oklahoma, students–even some Jewish students–not only accuse Israel of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, but also justify terror attacks against the Israeli People.

The Nazi propaganda machine of Adolph Hitler proved that when a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as fact–especially by people who have no access to the truth.

The Jewish world will never relinquish its sacred obligation of self-criticism, and Israelis have well demonstrated from the moment of the birth of the Jewish State that Israeli policies will come under the fiercest of internal moral scrutiny. No serious Jew ever suggests that Israel be given a pass on the way it treats Arab Israelis or Palestinians on the West Bank. There will always be Jews pushing Israel toward its highest goals.

But there is no way to overstate the degree of damage done to the State of Israel and, ironically, to the possibilities for ever finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict that tears at both Israeli and Palestinian families, by arguments of moral equivalency. In fact, such arguments are without moral grounding themselves.

A fitting response of tribute to the slain Fogel family would be for Jews everywhere to decry the outrageous brutality that took their lives and to condemn murder without needing to soften that condemnation by suggesting Israel is somehow also at fault.


Copyright Rabbi Mark S. Golub, President of Shalom TV.

Apartheid Week

— Daniel Loeb

This week is Apartheid Week, when anti-Israel demonstrators draw false analogies between the Arab-Israel conflict and the Apartheid government which systematically deprived Blacks in South Africa of the rights accorded to Whites. Dry Bones and
Elders of Ziyon, have used their artistic talent to illustrate how ludicrous this analogy is.

Today’s news contains an obituary which drives this point quite clearly. Yesterday, Tawfik Toubi passed away. An Arab born in Palestine in 1922, he was elected to Israel’s first parliament in 1949 and founded Israel’s communist party Maki. He was reelected 11 more times and served continuously from 1949 to 1990.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said on Saturday that Toubi was a “valued and impressive parliamentarian” that “left his mark on the Israeli parliament,” adding that he was a member of a confronting movement but “nevertheless insisted on respecting the rules of the game and knew how to apply them to himself in practice.”

Tawfik Toubi was living proof that Arabs in Israel can aspire to the same positions of power as Jews can.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice supports Brandeis Hillel for denouncing the Jewish Voice of Peace.

In related news, Brandeis University’s Hillel voted to reject the membership of Jewish Voice of Peace. This group is unrelated to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice and has been listed by the ADL as one of the top ten anti-Israel groups.