Wed. Aug 22, 2007
In 2004, the
Within the church there are various bodies that address specific subjects of concern to the whole denomination. One of these, the General Board of Global Ministries, embarked on a yearlong, church-wide "mission study" program on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To date the perspective presented by the program has been so predominantly Palestinian, and the effort to vilify
The centerpiece of the mission study is a slick 220-page volume written by Reverend Stephen Goldstein. The book, which is published by the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, is available for purchase on the
The pattern of presenting biased opinions against
Take, for example, the mission study's bibliography, which is available for downloading from the board's Web site. The first item listed is an article titled "Remember the
Indeed, in his book Goldstein describes the incident as having been "covered up for 30 years." To get what he calls the "full story," Goldstein directs readers to none other than the Web site of Americans for Middle East Understanding.
In both the bibliography and the book itself, some of
One section of the bibliography is titled "Jewish Religious Fundamentalism and the Place of Religion in Judaism and Israeli Society." No comparable section addressing Islamic religious fundamentalism in Arab societies - let alone the role of radical Islamists in fomenting terrorism - is to be found.
Study mission participants are directed to download photos from the
Absent from the Web site are photos showing the effects of Palestinian terrorist bombings on Israeli civilians. The message is clear.
Meanwhile, Goldstein's narrative is plagued by severe factual errors. For instance, it describes Baruch Goldstein's assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in February 1994.-Rabin was shot by Yigal Amir in November 1995.
The mission study takes the view that
One example: "To this day there is a latent hysteria in Israeli life that springs directly from [the Holocaust]. It explains the paranoiac sense of isolation that has been a main characteristic of the Israeli temper since 1948. And it has been the single most significant factor in
Or another: "The viewpoint of the early settlers was that of Western European colonialists. Today we would surely judge that outlook as basically racist, and it still is." As proof of this assertion, Goldstein quotes at length the infamous "Zionism is Racism" 1975 resolution passed by the United Nations in 1975 and rescinded in 1991.
The study guide's overall effect is to demonize
For example, Goldstein distorts a quote by David Ben-Gurion to supposedly prove that expelling Palestinians was always part of a Zionist master plan. In 1937 Gurion wrote a letter to his son Amos. Goldstein describes the letter as follows: "[Ben-Gurion] had written that if the Palestinians could not be removed from the country by negotiations, then 'we will expel the Arabs and take their place.'"
In fact, Ben-Gurion wrote exactly the opposite: "We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their place." Had Goldstein done his homework, he would also have read in the same Ben-Gurion letter, "All our aspiration is built on the assumption - proven throughout all our activity in the Land - that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs."
Goldstein gives scant attention to Palestinian terrorism, while condemning the security barrier that has reduced Israeli deaths by terrorism from dozens each month to practically none. He takes Yasser Arafat's side in the failure of
For Goldstein, it seems,
What can explain such deliberate distortion? Perhaps Goldstein's own words give a strong clue.
In the study guide's opening pages he includes an in-depth personal history, in which he shares his story of alienation from Judaism and conversion to Christianity. Raised a Jew in Brooklyn and
That an important mainline Protestant denomination such as the
With divestment resolutions already emerging from several regional Methodist conferences, it is difficult not to view this study mission as an effort to ensure that if, as expected, divestment is voted on at the church's national conference next May, delegates will have been prepared to cast their votes correctly.
Under these circumstances, the Methodist leadership should now engage seriously with the Jewish community, which overwhelmingly opposes divestment from left to right. Such engagement, if it leads to a truly fair presentation of the issues, could prevent a major setback in interfaith relations.
But talk is not enough. It would be an appropriate first step for the
Yitzhak Santis is director of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council's