A church in Jerusalem 150.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
In the next few days, the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA
(PCUSA), will convene in Pittsburgh. If delegates pass any one of several
resolutions calling for punitive economic measures against Israel, the Church
will have capitulated to one of the worst assaults on Jewish integrity coming
from any church group since the Holocaust. That blow to Jewish history,
belief and aspiration is contained in the Kairos Palestine Document (KPD),
ironically, a document unknown to most Presbyterians.
two-and-a-half years ago, KPD was penned by a group of Palestinian Christians.
Redolent with Scriptural references, it is a powerful appeal for Christian
sympathy for the plight of Palestinians.
KPD is also, however, a frontal
assault on the very legitimacy of Israel, and an attack on Judaism
itself. The Kairos Palestine Document justifies (but does not recommend)
terrorism. It assigns all the blame to Israel for the Middle East’s problems. It
acknowledges nothing about Palestinian terror, rocket attacks, or the teaching
of virulent anti-Semitism in schools, on Palestinian Authority television, and
It denies any Biblical link between the Jewish people and the
Holy Land. It rewrites modern history as well, by promoting the canard that
Israel was created in sin, an imposition of Western colonialists, driven by
guilt for the Nazi Holocaust, on the backs of the true owners of the land. It
conveniently ignores 3,500 years of a Jewish presence in the Holy Land, and
erases a 150 years of peaceful up-building of the land by Jews before the
establishment of the state.
It gets even worse. Kairos’ appeals to
Scripture take the classic form of Replacement Theology, in which all references
to the Jews in the Bible, all covenants with them, are replaced, as Christians
become the New Jews. The old Jews, thereby, become the discards of history.
(Christians invoked Replacement Theology, together with the charge of deicide,
for centuries to justify persecuting Jews). Finally, this document culminates in
a core political demand of Israel’s enemies: the cessation of all US military
aid to Israel, and for economic boycott, divestment and sanctions against the
Jewish leaders voiced their dismay and outrage when a PCUSA
recommended adoption of Kairos at the 2010 General Assembly. KPD made a mockery
of the 1987 Presbyterian document, “A Theological Understanding of the
Relationship Between Christians and Jews.” The 1987 document contained seven
theological affirmations, among them that the identity of the Church “is
intimately related to the continuing identity of the Jewish people”; that both
“Christians that Jews are in covenant relationship with G-d”; and a pledge that
they would “put an end to the teaching of contempt for the Jews.”
devalued the identity of the Jewish people, denied any continuing covenant, and
was contemptuous of the way Jews looked at themselves, their beliefs and the
centrality of their Land.
While Kairos was not formally adopted, it was
“lifted up for study,” “along with a pledge to Jewish groups that a new spirit
of fairness to all sides would soon prevail.”
It never happened. A new
study guide on the Middle East that was just released betrayed that
While it was supposed to provide two perspectives on the Middle
East, it did nothing of the sort.
At the General Assembly that begins
this week, PCUSA will vote on a number of resolutions incorporating the worst
influences of Kairos. A call for divestment has the backing of a prestigious
standing committee of the Church. Passing any one of the anti-Israel resolutions
will mean that Presbyterians have responded to the call of Palestinians with
nothing less than a repudiation of the principles that governed dialogue with
Church leadership for decades.
Their votes will not help a single
Palestinian but will leave Jews little choice but to end all ties with
Presbyterian leadership, and ignore their unfair and unfaithful pronouncements
on Israel in the future.
The Jewish community has some difficult lessons
to absorb from this fiasco masquerading as dialogue.
We have to clearly
articulate that any group’s inability to come to terms with Israel as a Jewish
state is not only a deal-breaker, but also a signal of contempt for Jews and
It is almost beyond belief that as the ground literally burns
beneath the Christian faithful in Egypt, Nigeria and Iraq that PCUSA stays
fixated in aiding and abetting the de-legitimizing of Israel. All other mainline
Christian denominations have either rejected or shelved divestment measures. If
Presbyterians go it alone, they will have made an unnecessary but clear choice
between the narratives of two people.
A huge number of ordinary
Presbyterians reject the actions of their church leadership. They enjoy a
mutually warm and respectful relationship with Jewish friends. Those valued
friendships will continue.
But as far as PCUSA denominational leadership,
the upcoming vote may bring us to the end of the road.Rabbi Abraham
Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Yitzchok
Adlerstein is the director of interfaith affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal