If God is in the details, then sometimes the devil is found in the footnotes.
The Presbyterian Church USA will meet next month to consider a report by its Middle East Study Committee that is stunning for its one-sidedness in condemning Israel. A flavor of the report is found in a footnote, which asserts that “the phrase ‘the right of Israel to exist’ is a source of pain” for authors of the report “who are in solidarity with Palestinians.”
You’d imagine that authors who are “pained” to acknowledge Israel’s very reality might have a somewhat distorted view of history as well. Indeed, the report glosses over the past half-century in the Middle East, saying Israel alone is responsible for the impasse between Arab and Jew. “If there were no occupation, there would be no Palestinian resistance,” according to the report. “If there was no Palestinian resistance, Israelis could live in peace and security.”
The passage ignores the “resistance” (an interesting euphemism for “terrorism”) that came before and greeted Israel’s very birth and continued apace decades before a single settlement was built. It also ignores Israel’s efforts to move toward a two-state solution — efforts that were strangled by Palestinian “resistance” (and good friends like the PCUSA, which sends the Palestinians the unmistakable message that the onus for peace-making falls entirely on the Israelis).
Unchecked settlement building stands in the way of a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but so does the anti-Israel incitement taught in Palestinian schools, a woefully divided Palestinian leadership, and an Islamist movement dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Israelis are also literally shell-shocked, remembering that after their forces pulled out of Lebanon and Gaza, rockets rained down on their border cities. If the PCUSA has some reason to believe that no similar backlash will accompany a pullback from the West Bank, they ought to share it with the Israelis.
A number of Jewish groups have condemned the report, and groups like the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the American Jewish Committee are quietly working with their local Presbyterian allies to help thwart the report’s passage or blunt its impact. Their message is this: There is no shortage of “pain” between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, but it will not be relieved so long as outsiders refuse to acknowledge it is a pain felt by Israelis and Palestinians.