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June 22, 2018

Former PCUSA Moderator Advocates for "Activist" Who Harassed Palestinian Reformer

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This is a screenshot of a video of a June 18, 2018 meeting in an office of the America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, Missouri. The meeting took place after the person recording the video, Bassem Masri, posted video of himself harassing Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid in the convention center. The man on the far right is Fahed Abu Akel, past moderator of the PCUSA. (Screenshot from www.pscp.tv.)

By now Snapshots readers are familiar with Bassem Masri’s ugly harassment of Palestinian reformer Bassem Eid at the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) currently taking place at the America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, Missouri. (The GA, which will ratify a number of overtures condemning Israel while remaining silent about the misdeeds of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, ends tomorrow.)*

What they don’t know is how a prominent Presbyterian leader, former moderator Fahed Abu Akel, defended Masri’s “right” to stay in the convention center even after abusing Eid, who was an invited guest of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. Nor do they know that Akel said that the victim of Masri’s abuse, had “lied” to the General Assembly’s Middle East Committee.

Here’s the rundown:

After Eid criticized the PCUSA’s failure to hold Palestinian elites accountable for their misdeeds while testifying before commissioners at the PCUSA’s General Assembly on Monday, June 18, 2018, Masri followed him out of the convention center and onto the street.

As he followed Eid, Masri called the Palestinian reformer a number of ugly epithets including “traitor,” “collaborator” and “spy.” He did this in the convention center itself and also out on the street outside the building. It is all caught on video that Masri himself posted on the internet. A previous blog post about this can be seen here.

It was a shocking display of hostility that the PCUSA failed to address in a responsible manner.

Masri should have been barred from the convention center and from the proceedings of the General Assembly.

Eid and the other people attending the meetings of the GA’s Middle East Committee should have been protected from Masri’s abusive behavior.

Unfortunately, he was allowed to remain in meeting room where he sat with anti-Israel activists including people from the denomination’s very own Israel-Palestine Mission Network (IPMN).

Interestingly enough, the security staff at America’s Center Convention Complex seemed intent on taking a harder line with Masri than the PCUSA itself.

This can be discerned from a video posted by Masri himself on Twitter. In this video, which can be seen here, a woman, presumably from the PCUSA, makes a heartfelt plea for Christian hospitality “to make sure that everyone here is safe and taken care of — everyone.”

It’s hard to know exactly what the woman wanted security officials at the convention center to do, but her request would seem to militate in favor of Masri’s expulsion from the convention center.

If that’s the case, her message was undermined by Fahed Abu Akel, a past moderator of the PCUSA’s General Assembly (and one of the people who helped turn the denomination into a strong hold of anti-Zionism).

Akel, amazingly enough, defended Masri’s right to attend the proceedings at the convention center, despite the awful behavior on the video. This is what he said:

My request would be as a past moderator, I’ve known him since he was a teenager, I think. He is a guest of our group. He ate lunch with us and I don’t see in the video any threatening and I don’t think he’s a threat.

At this point a security official from the convention center says, reasonably enough, “But what I do see is him disturbing the peace of someone else, so…”

Masri then interrupts the official and states that he has a first amendment right to do what he did. He adds that he was one of “the voices of the Ferguson Movement” and that “I’ve done this all the time to people, to police officers and stuff and I never get arrested for disturbing the peace.”

This prompts Fahed Abu Akel to chide Masri. “But right now if I invite you to my Presbyterian Church and [you] speak without my permission … You don’t have the right.”

Masri declares, “I was outside,” prompting Ahed to speak. “He knows the law. OK,” he said before chuckling.

“I know the law,” Masri declares. “I am a candidate for State Representative.”

At this point the participants of the discussion talk over each other, but the security officer can be heard to say, “I hear all that, but actually you were in the building when the video started.”

Then Fahed Abu Akel speaks to Masri. “For the sake of reconciliation. I heard the man [Eid] and he lied like hell. I’m not going to say anything else but still I’d like for you to feel welcome and there’s no need for us to do this stuff in public.”

Later, after Masri reaffirms his right to behave the way he did (and in passing calls Eid “a collaborator with Israel”) Abu Akel states “I’d like for you not to do it. After we leave town, do anything you want.”

This is what the video reveals:

First, for all his bluster, Masri has only lived in Jerusalem for two years while the man he insulted and harassed has lived in Jerusalem and the West Bank all his life. This raises a question: Who is more qualified to speak about what is happening in Palestinian society? Masri who lived there for two years as a teenager? Or Eid who has lived there all his life? Who has more at stake, really?

Second, we learned that Fahed Abu Akel, a former PCUSA moderator, and well-known partisan in the debate over Israel, lobbied security officials to allow Bassem Masri to continue to attend the proceedings of the PCUSA’s General Assembly. He offered this defense despite the terrible abuse Masri heaped upon someone who had been invited to speak by a group opposed to the denomination’s anti-Israel agenda.

This same moderator said that Bassem Eid, the man who Masri abused, had "lied" even after declaring he was speaking in the “spirit of reconciliation.” And he still told Masri he wanted him to “feel welcome” despite his abusive behavior.

Apparently, the offer of “safe spaces” is not extended to people who criticize Palestinian leaders at the PCUSA’s General Assembly.

*(Clarification: An overture which deals with the violence in the Gaza Strip declares that the church does not "condone" the misdeeds of Hamas. It doesn't flat-out condemn Hamas, but it doesn't condone its actions.)

Posted by dvz at June 22, 2018 11:09 AM

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