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December 19, 2018

American Lutheran In Jerusalem Affirms that IDF Soldiers Are “Stormtroopers,” Backtracks

Rev. Carrie Ballenger Smith is a pastor at the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. She ministers to the English-speaking congregation that meets at the Lutheran church, which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. She is also listed as “special assistant to the Bishop” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Her husband is Rev. Dr. Robert O. Smith who used to work for the University of Notre Dame’s Jerusalem Global Gateway before he stepped down from this position in June. (More about him below.)

In a recent discussion on Facebook, one of Ballenger Smith’s friends referred to Israeli soldiers standing guard near Damascus gate in the Old City of Jerusalem as “stormtroopers.” Ballenger Smith’s friend declared, “nothing about Zionist stormtroopers is ‘normal’.”

In response, Ballenger Smith declared “exactly!”

Upon being challenged by an Israeli expert in Christian-Jewish relations, Ballenger Smith backtracked a bit, declaring, “I didn’t use that word but am affirming that nothing about the situation is normal. Should have clarified.”

Here is a screenshot of the Facebook conversation:

Carrie Ballenger Smith.jpg

It is laudable that Rev. Smith “clarified” her apparent affirmation of a description of Israeli soldiers as “stormtroopers.” It is regrettable that it took a challenge from an expert on Christian-Jewish relations to make it happen. Israeli police officers should be able to protect Jews in their homeland without being called Nazis. But that's what happened.

"Stormtroopers" has a very specific meaning, and its’s not rooted in Star Wars but in German history.

“Stormtroopers” is a word used to describe members of the SS who engaged in acts of genocide against Jews in Eastern Europe. There is simply no comparison between Israeli soldiers and the genocidal killers who murdered huge numbers of Jews (and other civilians) during the Holocaust.

The description of Israeli soldiers standing guard near Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem (where numerous stabbing attacks have taken place) as Nazi-like killers is a defamatory lie that Ballenger Smith should have challenged immediately. Portraying Israeli police officers and soldiers as Nazis is an immediately recognizable anti-Semitic trope.

Ballenger Smith's misstep prompts a pressing question: What is going on at the Church of the Redeemer?

If the belief that Israelis are the new Nazis is present in the membership of the Church of the Redeemer, it should be challenged and combated, not encouraged.

This is not the first time an American Lutheran working in Jerusalem has engaged in irresponsible rhetoric. In 2012, Ballenger Smith's husband, Robert O. Smith, appeared at a pro-BDS anti-Israel event in South Africa during which he asserted there was no connection between the contemporary state of Israel and the Israelites described in the Old Testament.

It is essential that all of us understand that the Israel of the bible, the ancient Israelites are not linked in any substantive or material way to the contemporary modern state of Israel. The biblical narrative of Israel has almost nothing to do with contemporary Israel other than the intentional manipulation of sacred texts to justify a political project.

Here, Robert O. Smith, a Lutheran scholar, denigrates the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and accuses Israeli Jews of manipulating the Hebrew Scriptures to justify their actions in the Holy Land. These two accusations indicate a fundamental contempt for the Jews in Israel and troubling indifference to the dilemmas faced by the leaders of the Jewish state.

These two missteps, taken together, raise another troubling question: What exactly is the attitude of the American Lutheran expat community in Jerusalem toward Israel?

Posted by dvz at 05:36 PM |  Comments (0)

December 11, 2018

LA Times, Places Not Banned, and Inaccurate Terminology

Trump travel ban.jpg

Not on Trump's travel ban list: Egypt, Afghanistan, 'Palestine'

At least eight times in the last 14 years, The Los Angeles Times has corrected the inaccurate use of the term "Palestine," but that fact did not stop the paper from again misusing the term.

Most recently, the Calendar article Friday (Dec. 7, page E4) by Mark Swed (online here), the article states:

With the house lights down, it was not possible to read the program and thus keep track of what came from Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine or elsewhere ("Kronos Quartet aims to transcend borders; The string group lines up pieces from 'banned' nations. The result: universal").

On at least half a dozen occasions, The Los Angeles Times has corrected references to Palestine relating to Israel, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, post 1948. Considering that the article last week is referring to the contemporary Palestinian music group Ramallah Underground (located in the West Bank), the reference to Palestine is inaccurate. The most recent correction, June 28, 2018 (also concerning a calendar article), stated:

German art exhibition: An article in the June 24 Arts & Books section about a German exhibition called “Unbuilding Walls” at the 2019 Venice (Italy) Architecture Biennale said it features video testimonials gathered by architects at border walls around the world, including Israel and Palestine. It should have said Palestinian territories.

Earlier corrections of the same error were:

"Roger Waters: An article in the June 22 Calendar section about Roger Waters' new album said Waters supports Palestinians' rights but incorrectly referred to tensions between Israel and Palestine. It should have said tensions between the Israeli government and the Palestinians" (June 28, 2017)

"Gerald A. Larue: In the Sept. 22 LATExtra section, the obituary of USC religious scholar Gerald A. Larue referred to archaeological digs in Palestine. The digs occurred in Israel and the West Bank." (Sept. 22, 2014)

"Carter speech: An article in Friday's California section included a subhead saying former President Carter urged students to travel to Palestine. The area referred to is the Palestinian territories." (May 5, 2007)

"Istanbul Biennial -- An article in the Dec. 11 Calendar section about an international art exhibition included Palestine in a list of nations from which artists had contributed works. It should have said the Palestinian territories." (Dec. 23, 2005)

"Bail bonds investigation–An article in the California section Sunday about the arrest of American Liberty Bail Bonds owner Adnan 'Dan' Yousef and members of his family reported that they had ties to Palestine. The reference should have been to the Palestinians territories." (Sept. 29, 2004)

"Palestinian film–Articles about Palm Springs International Film Festival that ran in Calendar on Dec. 20 and Jan. 8 referred to the movie 'Divine Intervention' as coming from Palestine. They should have said the Palestinian territories." (Jan. 13, 2004)

Accurate language would have been to refer to music which came from "the Palestinian territories," or "the Palestinian West Bank."

Moreover, in a separate error in the Dec. 7 piece, the subheadline claims that "The string group lines up pieces from 'banned' nations," and then goes on to discuss music from Egypt, Afghanistan and "Palestine" [sic], none of which was on the travel ban list. As The Los Angeles Times reported June 27, 2018 ("Justice vote to uphold president's travel ban"):

The current ban covers five Muslim-majority nations -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen -- as well as North Korea and some government officials from Venezuela.

lat bannedcountries.jpg

The digital headline of the online article likewise misleads: "Review: In defiance of Trump, Kronos Quartet plays music from banned countries." An accurate headline would read: "Review: In defiance of Trump, Kronos Quarter plays music from Muslim-majority countries."

CAMERA has contacted The Los Angeles Times about corrections. Stay tuned for an update.

Posted by TS at 02:36 AM |  Comments (0)