Dr. J Herbert Nelson II, the highest official in the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA), should resign. Not just because he is morally blind. Not just because he is hypocritical. But because his raging indifference to violent acts of Jew-hatred are legitimized by his own radical politics thinly wrapped in theological tinder.
In his statement of only 500 words to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Nelson devoted a full two paragraphs to what he called the “immoral enslavement” of Palestinians by Israel. Not a single word about 1 million Uyghurs in Chinese government’s concentration camps, or a word of solidarity for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians braving yet another winter in tents who’ve been crushed by Assad’s brutalities against his own nation; stoic silence about the public executions and repression of women and gays in Iran by its terror-exporting mullahs; nothing about shoving an entire population back to the Middle Ages by the Taliban in Afghanistan; no mention of his own Christian brethren, whose churches are destroyed in China, or his co-religionists regularly slaughtered in Nigeria by ISIS and allies.
“Enslavement?” The charge is an obscenity on top of a lie. It belittles the pain of the ancestors of black Americans who suffered from genuine slavery. Only a person with cataracts of hatred against Jews could use such a term to describe Palestinians. Fact-checking quickly shows that West Bank Palestinians enjoy a lower unemployment rate (18%) than neighbors Lebanon (27.4%) Syria (82.5%) Iraq (23%) and Egypt (32.5%) (Source: CIA World Factbook). Life expectancy is better than all its neighbors and comes close to Saudi Arabia. Both infant and maternal mortality rates show West Bank Palestinians to be better off than all, or most, of their neighbors. (We presume that by “Palestine/Israel,” Nelson meant the West Bank. If we include Arabs within Israel, the overall figures are far better.)
Palestinians do suffer — but their real masters are the kleptomaniacs of the Palestinian Authority who line their own pockets with foreign aid money, pay tens of millions to the families of terrorists in its pay-to-slay program, and enslave (not too strong a word to use here) small children by teaching them that their highest calling is to become martyrs. If the Palestinians are slaves, then what about the rest of the Middle East, where conditions are worse? Is Israel the slave master there as well?
When Nelson asked that “the Jewish community in the United States would influence … the U.S. government in ending the immoral enslavement,” he gave a shout-out to the ugly conspiracy theory that is feeding so much of the recent explosion of anti-Semitism around the world, and in the U.S.: Jews have too much power, especially over the American government.
Nelson and his word-meisters must be too busy concocting their verbal attack to notice terrorist Malik Faisal Akram screaming at Jewish hostages in a small synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. He was explicit about his plan. Jews have power. They control the U.S. government. They can order the release of convicted terrorist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, AKA Lady Al-Qaeda, who is held in a U.S. military installation near the synagogue he attacked. While convicted “only” of attempted murder of U.S. servicemen, she had major plans for mass-casualty events on American soil – which her training in neuroscience from an American university would help pull off. And Lady al Qaeda used her trial to make sure the world would know she was a raving anti-Semite.
Akram predicted that his death would not be in vain since it would open the doors and inspire Muslim youth to gain her release, by violence if necessary.
“Dr. King,” wrote Nelson, “continuously preached a Gospel of justice, so that all people could live in dignity.” Nelson remembered to omit what Martin Luther King actually did say about Israel, two weeks before his tragic death as recalled by future Congressman John Lewis: “I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.” And Lewis remembered these words by King, “I solemnly pledge to do my utmost to uphold the fair name of the Jews — because bigotry in any form is an affront to us all.”
We witnessed when PCUSA was the first mainline denomination to vote for sanctions against Israel — a move opposed by many, if not most, of the rank and file at the time. We recall our wonderful partnership with some true servants of justice for all in PCUSA. In the decades that followed, PCUSA has gone off the rails, and lost hundreds of thousands of members, including most of our friends.
Some brave souls continue the struggle from within as Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. It’s time for other Christian leaders to help the faithful who refuse to use Zionism as a dirty word. Sadly, Nelson and others like him are so blinded by their bigotry that neither a terrorist attack on a synagogue nor raging violent anti-Semitic acts will stop their unholy crusade.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.