Simon Wiesenthal Center Tactics Are Shameless
Once again, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has waged another shameless attack on concerned Christians who work ceaselessly towards peace and justice in Israel Palestine. This time it comes in response to the release of the Kairos Palestine Document Study Guide that was recently published by a special committee of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
The document known as Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth is the cry of Palestinian Christians who live and worship in a land in which the official state theology of Israel delegitimizes their rights as children of God in the land of their ancestors. The irony of the stance by the Simon Wiesenthal Center is that by rejecting the Kairos Palestine Document, it has now placed itself in the untenable position of rejecting both violent and nonviolent responses to oppression. Kairos Palestine embraces the nonviolent approach towards oppression that has been modeled by such important historical and global figures as Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. The leaders of virtually all Christian communions in Palestine, in sharing “a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” have made it clear once and for all that the violence they have always rejected on the basis of their faith will continue to be rejected as an answer to their struggle. It is shameless that the Simon Wiesenthal Center now equates Christian nonviolent response to oppression with fanatical, extremist violence. This is no surprise given the organization’s own tolerance of the same in regard to extremist Jewish groups that have settled illegally in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Center’s refusal to back down on building their “Museum of Tolerance” on top of an 800 year old Muslim cemetery.
Let there be no mistake: this is a struggle of monumental proportions as Israel continues to impose collective punishment on all Palestinians. The Palestinian people live within 30-foot concrete walls with barbed wire and watch towers, functioning as the largest open-air prison in the world. Palestinians who seek to pass through checkpoints in this wall in order to simply go to work, visit family or receive medical care are subject to long delays and many times are not permitted to pass through no matter how dire the emergency. Since Palestinian farmers are often prevented from getting to their fields for harvest, the Israeli government eventually declares the land “unattended” and under an old Ottoman law, takes the land to build new illegal settlements, create buffer and separation zones, and steal natural resources. Bulldozers routinely demolish Palestinian homes, putting entire Palestinian families on the street without notice, as part of the Israeli government’s campaign to disenfranchise them from their ancestral land and homes. These home demolitions have nothing to do with security and Israeli has never claimed that they do.
More and more the rank and file of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is coming to understand the injustice of occupation and how that makes the use of words like “peace” by the Israeli government and such Zionist organizations as the Simon Wiesenthal Center a cruel and cynical joke being perpetrated on all peace seeking Palestinians and Israelis. The Center’s credibility in regard to its claims about the actions of the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been undermined by the fact that prior to the convening of the G.A., it condemned a Middle East Study Committee report that it could not possibly have read because it had not been published or released. It is now using the same tactics in regard to the work of the PC(USA) Middle East Monitoring Group and its just-released Kairos Palestine Study Guide.
The Study Guide gives all Presbyterians the opportunity to honestly reflect on the reality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and how Christian believers maintain their faith and respond to their calling by Jesus Christ in the face of oppression. As stated in the introduction to the document itself, the authors of Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth have been “inspired by the mystery of God’s love for all, the mystery of God’s divine presence in history of all peoples and, in a particular way, in the history of our country, we proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging—a word of faith, hope and love.” In light of this confession of faith, the Study Guide responsibly places the important emphases of “hope for liberation, nonviolence, love of enemy, and reconciliation” from the document in the context of the Biblical values of faith, hope and love.
The Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) stands behind every effort to foster healthy and open debate about the conflict in Israel and Palestine in a way that sheds light on truth rather than perpetuate the darkness of falsehoods and propaganda. In this way, the new study document of the PC(USA) Middle East Monitoring Group continues the historic Presbyterian tradition of honest dialogue regarding faith and the most difficult issues with which the people of God contend. As the 219th General Assembly did, the IPMN also commends for study, the Kairos Palestine document. If not now, when will it be time to hear the cry of the Christians from the cradle of our faith?