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February 27, 2007

This is Peacemaking?

Anyone who doubts that the leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are still using their church's institutional credibility to broadcast a distorted narrative about the Arab-Israeli conflict to its members and to the general public should watch the first minute or so of the propagandistic video church leader and staffers have recommended to Sunday school teachers and youth group leaders as part of a "peacemaking" curriculum.

Already in its first minute, the video errs. It opens with a the following text on the screen:

In 1967, following a war between Israel and the countries of Syria, Jordan and Egypt, Israel Militarily occupied the West Bank, Gaza, Strip, and East Jerusalem.

That year, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 242 calling on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories.

Israel has yet to comply.

A couple of issues:

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and more than a year later, the PC(USA) is endorsing a video that fails to take this into account? The Israelis offered a concession that the Palestinians had been demanding for years, and responded with increased rocket attacks and elected Hamas into power. Is inserting a few more lines of text detailing these facts into the video that difficult?

Moreover, UN Resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from territory after a negotiated settlement, a fact not included in the video's opening text. And it specifically doesn't require a withdrawal from "the Occupied Territories." As the drafters of the resolution have repeatedly explained, 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from territory, but it doesn't specify how much territory, because the country was not expected to return to its precarious pre-1967 lines.

The text is also conveniently vague about how the "war between Israel and the countries of Syria, Jordan and Egypt" was started, and silent about Arab and Palestinian behavior since the end of the Six Day War.

Before Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Egyptian leaders shut down the Straits of Tiran, called for Israel's destruction, and massed troops on the border with Israel. It also expelled a UN peacekeeping force from the Sinai. From 1964 through the first four months of 1967, Egypt launched more than 100 cross border attacks.

Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser made his intentions perfectly clear: "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight."

Syria had repeatedly shelled Israeli villages from the Golan Heights before the 1967 War and on May 20, 1967, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad stated that his country's forces were "ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united.... I as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation."

And Israel did not take the West Bank from Jordan until after the Jordanians started shelling Jerusalem.

After the 1967 War, the Arab League issued the Three Nos of Khartoum:

1. No peace with Israel.
2. No recognition of Israel.
3. No negotiations with Israel.

The text does not include any discussion of the role Yasir Arafat played in the collapse of talks at Camp David, or the role of the Palestinian Authority in encouraging violence during the Second Intifada.

For some reason the video's producers did not feel compelled to include all these relevant facts. The opening text provides the frame that its producers expect the audience to use to interpret the rest of the information in video.

What PC(USA) leaders and staffers are doing is broadcasting a moral interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict that is based on a distorted, biased and one-sided historical narrative.

Fortunately, the laity in the PC(USA) does not seem to accept either the moral assessment or the distorted narrative offered by their leaders.

Posted by CameraBlog at February 27, 2007 10:20 AM

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