IRD Report Inspires Columnists

A couple columnists are having an easy time of this week, uncritically re-hashing the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s report that accuses mainstream churches of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism for criticising Israel and the USA (I critiqued the report’s failings and biases here). Rod Dreher, in the Dallas Morning News:

Last month, the Institute released the disturbing results of a four-year study of human rights criticism issued by four mainline churches…This period of time also took in the Palestinian “second intifada,” in which Palestinian groups, some with the support of the Palestinian Authority, undertook suicide bombing and other terrorist actions against innocent Israelis. The teaching of bloodthirsty anti-Jewish hatred by Palestinian schools to children has been well documented. How often did these mainliners express dismay over Palestinian human rights abuses? Never.

Do the mainliners think Jews are exceptionally wicked? Absent latent anti-Semitism, it’s hard to figure why these churches heap such wildly disproportionate opprobrium upon the Jewish state, while giving much worse offenders – including Israel’s very neighbors – a pass.

How about, a) because mainline American Christians do not feel as responsible for the behaviour of the Arab dictatorships as they do for the US’s ally Israel? b) because they have to counter Christian Zionists telling everyone that Israeli expansionism is the will of God? and c) because they actually listen to some other, dissenting, voices in Israeli Jewish society, as well as to Palestinian Christians?

Plus, actually, the “teaching of bloodthirsty anti-Jewish hatred by Palestinian schools to children” has in fact been found to be greatly exaggerated, as Nathan Brown’s study Democracy, History, and the Contest over the Palestinian Curriculum has shown. But I suppose expecting Dreher to look at something which hasn’t been shoved under his nose by ideological bedfellows is a bit much, what with him being a professional journalist…

Next up, John Leo, writing in U.S. News and World Report, and syndicated across the conservative web world:

The latest disgrace is the Presbyterian Church’s plan for selective divestment in Israel–ending the church’s investment in multinational companies that the church believes bear particular responsibility for the sufferings of the Palestinian people. For example, the Presbyterians say they may divest themselves of Caterpillar stock, because bulldozers made by that company are used to level Palestinian homes in Israel’s antiterrorism campaign. Of course, these bulldozers can also be used to move debris after Palestinian suicide bombers have finished blowing up another round of women, children, and other civilian bystanders in Israel.

Or they can be used to kill an unarmed protestor.

UPDATE (16 Oct): The National Council of Churches has responded to Leo’s article:

No one at the National Council of Churches was asked, in advance of publication or since, to confirm, clarify or refute any of the statements or statistics quoted as fact,” [National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob] Edgar said, adding that the column “employs the smear tactics of McCarthy-era propaganda, and contributes to the abuse of religious belief as a tool of partisan politics.

…The column had claimed that 37 per cent of the churches’ human rights resolutions (and 80 percent of the NCC’s) were aimed at Israel. Yet, Edgar noted, in the entire 54-year history of the National Council of Churches, only two policy statements have referred to Israel and Palestine. And out of 650 resolutions adopted during that time, fewer than 40 have dealt with the Middle East, many of those concerned such matters as Christians in Egypt, hostages in Iran and Lebanon, and war in Kuwait and Iraq. Only five NCC statements about Israel were issued during the period of the IRD’s survey, and several of those also criticized Palestinian leaders.

The NCC News Service also links to a news release from the Episcopal Church, which I missed at the time it came out:

In order to make a fair study of the church’s resolutions, one would have to look at the full body of resolutions based by the church…Resolutions passed at General Convention or in Executive Council continue to be in effect unless subsequently overturned. There is no record of a human rights resolution being overturned. In addition, by ignoring statements and letters from the Presiding Bishop and other church officials, as well as the advocacy work of Peace and Justice Ministries and the Government Relations Office, the so-called study examines only one part…

A General Convention Resolution from 1991 notes that a distinction exists between the propriety of legitimate criticism of Israeli governmental policy and action and the impropriety of anti-Jewish prejudice…The church has also criticized violence on the part of both Palestinians and Israelis. It is unconscionable for IRD to suggest that these concerns constitute “anti-Jewish animus.”

Unconscionable, I would say, but not surprising.

3 Responses

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  3. […] report last year denouncing mainline Christian criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, Dreher was the chief cheerleader for this obnoxious attempt to silence any support for the […]

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