Thursday, June 26, 2008

Why is Methodist Church so bad on Israel?

I bet "Rev. Goldstein" really hates Jews. --Ken

CAMERA alert

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In Brief

While the United Methodist Church did not approve resolutions calling for the denomination to divest from Israel at its General Convention earlier this spring, the denomination is still distributing materials that offer a distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The materials, published by the denomination's women's division, include a ferociously one-sided and distorted "mission study" that portrays the Jewish people as too psychologically damaged to be trusted with a sovereign state and a children's story book that portrays Israeli security checkpoints as the cause, not the result, of Palestinian violence. This message is underscored by the teacher's guide marketed along with the storybook.

By continuing to distribute these materials, the United Methodist Church is encouraging its members to embrace a distorted and dishonest view of the Arab-Israeli conflict which will affect how the denomination deals with Israel-related resolutions at its next General Convention in 2012. It is time for the UMC to set the record straight, issue corrected versions of these materials and commit to offering fair and accurate materials about the conflict in the future. [ A Detailed Analysis Follows the Action Items ]

Action Items

Please contact the following two officials within the United Methodist Church, informing them of the problems with the texts (described below). Ask them to make the necessary corrections and emendations to the texts before distributing any more copies to UMC members or to the general public.

Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary
Women’s Division
General Board of Global Ministries
United Methodist Church

Bishop Felton E. May
Interim General Secretary
General Board of Global Ministries
United Methodist Church

In Detail

The Women's Division of the United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Ministries has produced three publications that offer a distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The publications, which were available for sale at the UMC's General Convention held in San Antonio earlier this spring, offer a distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict and need to be rewritten or at least amended and reissued.

Mission Study

"Israel - Palestine: A Mission Study for 2007 - 2008" was written by Rev. Stephen Goldstein, an ordained Methodist Minister who serves as Assistant General Secretary for the Mission Personnel Program Unit of the General Board of Global Ministries.

Rev. Goldstein portrays the Jewish people as too paranoid and psychologically scarred to be trusted with self-determination. The main thesis of this one-sided treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that Israelis are too obsessed with the Holocaust to affirm the humanity of the Palestinians and too crippled by their history of suffering to take the risks needed to make peace.

The Mission Study also systematically suppresses and omits any information that would undercut his unstintingly negative portrayal of Israel. In particular, he downplays the 60-year history of Arab violence against Israel, fails to credit Israeli efforts to negotiate an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, downplays the violent aftermaths of the Camp David and Taba negotiations of 2000-2001 and Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. He also ignores persistent expressions of hostility toward Jews and Israel in state-controlled mass media throughout the Middle East. All these failings serve to buttress Rev. Goldstein's efforts to portray Israel's use of force as a belated, psychotic and hysterical response to the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany in the 20th Century rather than a response to the relentless Arab attacks Israel currently faces.

This thesis is outlined on pages 100-103 of the mission study, in which Goldstein writes:

The early Zionists had intended Israel to be a safe haven for persecuted Jews, yet ironically Israel had come into existence without being able to save the dead millions. To this day there is a latent hysteria in Israel life that springs directly from this source. It explains the paranoiac sense of isolation that has been a main characteristic of the Israeli temper since 1948. Generations of Israelis have been brought up on this grim tenet: Jews were singled out to die not because of their religion or because of what they did; but simply because they were there, they existed. The message has been instilled in them for years and with far-reaching political, cultural and religious consequences.

And it has been the single most significant factor in Israel's unwillingness to trust their Arab neighbors or the Palestinians, whose land they have colonized, and who are being victimized on a daily basis.

Since 1948, the Holocaust and the fear of anti-Semitism have also created a consciousness that has contributed significantly to preventing Israel from making peace with its Arab neighbors.

And on page 102, Rev. Goldstein writes, "Standing behind each Arab or Palestinian, Israelis tend to see SS men determined to push them once again into gas chambers or crematoria." In his discussion of the Six Day War, Rev. Goldstein portrays Israelis as suffering from a "psychosis" and as "hysterical."

Ultimately, Rev. Goldstein portrays Israel as congenitally incapable of completing one of the most basic tasks required of any sovereign state - maintaining peaceful relations with its neighbors. He does not, however, fairly or accurately describe the obstacles Israel has faced in the pursuit of peace. He mischaracterizes the Camp David offer of 2000 by asserting Ehud Barak "was not really prepared to close a deal" and suggests that Israel could make peace with Hezbollah - located in Lebanon - by returning territory Israel gained from Syria in the Six Day War.

For an extensive analysis of the mission study, please see the CAMERA report, "Methodist Manual Maligns Israel, Stereotypes Jews."

Children's Book and Teacher's Manual

The UMC has also published, "From Palestine to Seattle: Becoming Neighbors and Friends" billed as a "storybook on Israel and Palestine" for children six through 12. This book, written by Mary Davies, a retired Methodist missionary, is no benign Sunday school text, however. It is a well-crafted bit of propaganda that portrays Israeli security checkpoints as the cause, not the result, of Palestinian violence. This message is underscored by the teacher's guide marketed along with the storybook, written by former UMC staffer Faye Wilson.

The storybook describes the adventures of two children from Seattle - Allison and Matthew - whose father, a Protestant minister, has just returned from a visit to Bethlehem. The book describes the children's email correspondence with Tarek, a young Palestinian boy whose family's life has been disrupted by checkpoints on the West Bank and Miriam, a Jewish Israeli girl, who participates in a program that brings nine- to 12-year old Israelis and Palestinians together to play and learn about each other's religion and culture. Miriam's cousin, an Israeli soldier, has been put in prison for refusing to man checkpoints "because he thought they were wrong and were hurting people."

When Allison and Matthew see a checkpoint for themselves as they travel to Bethlehem, they are "shocked to see a barricade across the road, with sandbags and barrels lining the street. Looking up they saw a soldier with a gun sitting in a watchtower!" The image accompanying this part of the story shows five menacing soldiers standing around the van in which Allison and Matt ride and a sixth soldier standing in a guard tower nearby.

The story continues with the children participating in a peace rally in Bethlehem. Before the rally they are greeted by the Mayor of Bethlehem, who in real life is a U.S. citizen named Victor Batarseh, who according to a May 20, 2005 report by Agence France Presse is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group responsible for the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in October 2001, a December 2003 suicide attack that killed three Israelis, and the murders of several Americans including wheel-chair bound Leon Klinghoffer, who was pushed off a cruise ship in the Mediterranean in 1985. The mayor's connection to PFLP is left unmentioned in the Methodist storybook.

Teacher's manual

The teacher's manual offers other distortions. For example, it encourages instructors to have their classes play a game of "Stop and Go" after reading the section in the storybook on the checkpoints. In the game, some children are given "STOP" passes and others are given "GO" passes.

The children are then directed to form a single line and approach a refreshment table and attempt to get a cup of orange juice. Those with "GO" passes are given a drink, but those with "STOP" passes "must either wait in line or go back to their seats." Then the process is repeated with grapes. Children with "GO" passes are allowed to eat; those with "STOP" passes are not.

The teacher's guide then tells instructors to ask how the children with the "STOP" and "GO" passes feel about the situation. The lesson then ends with this coda: "Remind the children that when people are denied things that they believe everyone should have, they feel bad and sometimes become angry, too. Invite the remaining children to get juice and grapes from the refreshment table."

The implication is undeniable. Suicide bombings - which are not described anywhere in either the storybook or the teacher's manual - are the consequence of Israeli checkpoints, which deny the Palestinians "the things that they believe everyone should have" and in turn make "people feel bad and sometimes become angry." The impression the children are left with is that if the Israelis took down the checkpoints, Miriam, the young Israeli would no longer be frightened of bombs going off in her neighborhood.

History demonstrates otherwise. From 2000-2004, Israel was attacked by suicide bombers from the West Bank with many of the attacks originating from towns from which Israel withdrew its soldiers in the 1990s. In 2006, Israel was attacked by Hamas from the Gaza Strip from which it withdrew in 2005. Also that year, Israel was attacked by Hezbollah from Lebanon from which it withdrew in 2000.

For more information about the children's book and the accompanying teacher's guide, please read CAMERA's analysis "Methodists Invite Children Into Alternate Universe."

CAMERA is not alone in condemning these books. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) also condemned the materials. In March, Ethan Felson, JCPA's Associate Executive Director, said that "when taken together, the Methodist materials paint a very troubling picture. The implicit and explicit thrust is that Israel is not only wrong, but evil."

It is time for the UMC to stop disseminating distorted, inaccurate and inflammatory anti-Israel propaganda. With thanks,

Dexter Van Zile
Christian Media Analyst

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