Last year, Heath Rada, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a liberal Protestant church in the United States, did the right thing and prevailed upon the denomination’s staffers in Louisville, Kentucky to stop selling a hateful and dishonest booklet called “Zionism Unsettled.”
The booklet was produced by the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a group of obsessive anti-Zionists who have been given license to promote hate by the denomination’s staffers in Louisville. It was sold through the church’s website despite ongoing complaints from Jewish organizations in the United States. Denominational officials stated they wanted good relations with Jews and supported Israel, but they just couldn’t bring themselves to stop selling a book that defamed both American Jews and their homeland and got consequently, got an endorsement from inveterate Jew-hater, David Duke.
The text broadcast a number of lies about Israel and American Jews. For example, it stated that American Jews were able to stifle debate about Israeli policies in mainline churches in America when in fact, mainline Protestants have been arguing about Zionism and Israel for decades, even before Israel was founded in 1948. The text also stated that debate had been stifled in the Jewish community—even as it cited Jews who criticized Israel.
The booklet also broadcast a fairy-tale about Muslim-Jewish relations in the Middle East, going so far as to assert that Jews are treated pretty well in Iran. The State Department reports otherwise: “The [Iranian] government’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, as well as the perception among radical Muslims that all Jewish citizens of the country supported Zionism and the state of Israel, continued to create a hostile atmosphere for Jews.”
It took ongoing complaints and finally an embarrassing interview on CNN during which Rada was grilled about the church’s decision to sell the text for the PC(USA) to stop selling the booklet.
But as it turns out, there is yet another booklet produced by the obsessive (and energetic) Israel-haters at the IPMN that is being sold through the PC(USA)’s website. The booklet in question is “The Cradle of Our Faith: The Enduring Witness of the Christians in the Middle East.” The second edition of this text, released in 2008, is filled with some howlers that somehow must have got passed the fact checkers at the PC(USA).
One page one, the text states “The Christian communities of Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palestine, Jordan and Syria have all experienced a dramatic decrease in numbers, shrinking in some countries to a mere ten percent of their former size over the last century.”
Wrong. Yes, Christian communities have been declining in absolute numbers in the Middle East, but not in Israel as the document states.
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reports that in 1949, there were 34,000 Christians living in Israel. In 2008, when the booklet was published, there were 152,000 Christians. There is simply no way one can state that Israel has “experienced a dramatic decrease in numbers” of its Christian population. If the folks at the IPMN want to restrict the discussion to Arab or indigenous Christians living Israel, fine. In 1999 there were approximately 107,000 Arab Christians living in Israel; in 2008, there were more than 122,000.
The document does not even get it right when dealing talking about the population of Christians in “Palestine,” which depending on how you delineate the boundaries of this non-existent territory has actually increased under Israeli control.
In 1961, the Jordanian Census reported that there was a total of 45,000 Christians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israeli Census taken in 1967 indicates that there were 40,000 Christians in these areas, yielding a decline of 5,000. This decline was reversed under Israeli control. In 2008, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, an anti-Israel organization, pegged the Christian Population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at 48,000—an increase of approximately 8,000 people from the low in 1967. This increase more than offsets the decrease that has taken place in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which has never had many Christians and where forced conversions have been reported.
By fudging the numbers in its document, the IPMN tried to connect the story of Christians in Israel and the West Bank to the story of Christian decline in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, where Christians have been oppressed for centuries. To make matters worse, the document, produced in 2008, reports that “Today, [in Egypt] Christian-Muslim relations are generally good.”
“Generally good?” Compared to what? Coptic Christians had been victims oppression of terrible acts of violence for decades prior to the publication of “The Cralde of Our Faith.” In the 1990s, Copts were forced to pay the jizya by radical Muslims. And when Copts complained about the violence they endured, local police oftentimes refused to arrest the perpetrators. If actions like this had taken place in Israel, the IPMN would have highlighted them and used them to delegitimize Israel, but because they took place in Muslim-majority Egypt, the organization downplayed them. It’s all part of an ugly and deceptive game played by the IPMN, with the acquiescence of the denomination it “serves.” The goal is to tarnish Israel’s reputation and protect its enemies from criticism.
But it does not stop there. “The Cradle of Our Faith,” also falsely reports that “Most Arab citizens of Israel—Christian and Muslim—cannot serve in the military,” and therefore cannot obtain educational and social services based on military service. In fact, Arabs are not required to serve in Israel’s military, but they may enlist and a small number of them do.
So, what will Heath Rada do now? Will he call up the folks in Louisville and tell them to take yet another IPMN-produced document off the shelves of the PC(USA)’s online store?
Or will he let it stand?