June 2006 Archives

An Israeli Attack Could Spark end to Palestinian Authority’s Grip by Karby Leggett, WSJ, Wednesday, 28 June 2006, p A4.

As I write this it appears Hamas is already backing down, and in my opinion, showing signs of weakness. Leggett points out that some sources indicate a re-invasion of Gaza in the next year is likely because Hamas is moving weapons into the area that are capable of reaching major Israeli cities. I agree.

The problem in Palestine, and with Hamas, is that they are still a disorganized government. Hamas could do some things, such as act like guerillas, before the election because that is exactly what they were. Their tactics, their methods, and even their strategy was exactly what you would expect from a group of terrorists. However, when they were elected as a “real” government, all of that changed. They now have to live by the rule-set that all governments live by. The problem is they can’t.

The reason the Hamas government can’t live by the international rule-set all other nations have to live by is the same reason we are not doing more, faster in Iraq. Hamas, like the insurgents in Iraq, are at best a quasi-government. There is no real control of them, they have now formal strategy, they have no formal structure. They are individuals and cells seemingly acting independently of each other and often at odds.

The Hamas government, as Leggett points out, can not pay government salaries. How then can they maintain control and credibility? The answer is, they can’t. How much longer will the government last? Who knows, but they seem to be killing any chance they have being a respectable, recognized government. And while some in the media will discuss the “brutality” of the Israelis, I remain amazed at their restraint.

Dateline: Ambassador Hotel, Chicago

What a day! I attended some good sessions and heard some good ideas that I want incorporate into the Engineering and Public Policy class next year. Some we may even discus for the Introduction to Engineering class. I was especially impressed with the students who were here and co-presenting with their professors. It gives me some ideas for next year.

I had a great dinner with two leaders of the field and in the Engineering and Public Policy Division of ASEE. We only have about 150 members in the division but we had a little over 300 attend the distinguished lecture this morning. That is a good sign.

I am also happy that the number of schools that appear to be integrating public policy into the engineering curricula is growing. A couple of thoughts did cross my mind to day in some of the meetings.

First, there seems to be an us/them argument that is often cited. "Us" are the engineers who develop the technology and "them" are those who regulate the technology. For example, in nanotechnology, "we" have made some advancements, recognize some concerns, but "they" have not proposed any regulations. Should we wait for regulations or should we propose them? I fall firmly in the camp that "us", or at least some of us, should become "them". Why should engineers sit around and wait for the lawyers (no offense meant) to develop the regulations.

Fortunately, this week I have some students who seem to be well on their way to becoming them.

Dateline: Ambassador East, Chicago, IL

I left early this morning for the ASEE conference in Chicago. Delta got it right with all flights pretty much on time and limited frustration. I still get a little ticked at the escalator riders...come on, walk up and down those puppies and get a little exercise!

Arrive at the Hyatt Regency well in advance of my presentation, meet some colleagues, ate a bite of lunch, and then went on at 1415. I thought the presentation was pretty good, certainly a little different. Other presentations in the session were also excellent and I picked up some good information. I’ll attend some more sessions tomorrow and I moderate one session.

The Division chair pointed out that the division has been idle since about 2000 and this was the first meeting since then. Since I was first up I can say I was the first presenter of the newly revised Engineering and Public Policy Division. He also mentioned that he wasn't sure if this was a sign of renewed interest in the area or if there was just a backlog of papers that were ready to be published. I agree, I don't know.

Had a nice dinner at the Grand Lux.

A Camp Divided by Greg Jaffe, WSJ Weekend Edition, 17 June 2006, Page A1.

A good story this weekend about two different types of Colonels in Iraq and the conflicts they have. On one side we have Col. Charles Payne, on the other side we have Col. James Pasquarette. Both are well-educated, both have the best interests of their troops, their country, and Iraq at heart, both have radically different ides on how to achieve their goals.

Col. Payne wants to shoot 'em up. He favors kicking butt and taking names and using Iraqi troops to help in the process. Col. Pasquarette favors a slower, more deliberate, kinder, friendlier way. Col. Pasquarette wants to build relationships and raport with the locals and win their hearts and minds with kindness. Col. Payne wants to win their hearts and minds too, but using different tactics.

As Tom Barnett mentions in his blog, this is a clash of Leviathan and Sysadmin forces. Sysadmn may rule the day but the Leviathan also has a role to play and will not simply disappear. I think the real solution lies in getting the two to work together.

Dateline: Home Study

Turn Left at the Presbyterian Church by Jim Roberts, WSJ, Thursday 15 June 2006, p. A14

Jim Roberts is the chairman of the Committee to End Divestment Now, which means the liberal, elite leadership of the PCUSA will automatically dismiss his column without ever reading it. That would be a shame because he makes some good points.

First, the divestment plan that passed in 2004 was done with little to no discussion. Now that there is a strong movement to rescind that decision, there is a call from the liberals to "study" the issue. I hate to say it, but why it is so important to study the issue now but it wasn't two years ago? But, if they want to study then study the issue; let's rescind the decision, return to status quo ante, and then decide whether it needs to be implemented.

Second, it seems clear the call for divestment is clearly not what the majority of those in the pews want. I have not counted but a quick perusal of overtures before the General Assembly shows the number against divestment far outnumber those that call for divestment. That may, just may, have something to do with the ridiculously large loss of members. It may just be me (certainly the PCUSA leadership does not agree with me) but I think people tend join organizations, including organized religion, they share common views and beliefs with, and they leave those where their personal beliefs become out of sync with those of the organization.

Third, divestment is just wrong. It harms everyone, good and bad. Apartheid collapsed but how many people suffered from boycotts before that happened? Did the boycotts truly bring about change or was it simply time for a change that was brought about by international pressure?

I hope the GA will end this divestment debate and perhaps save the church in the process. But I have zero faith in the leadership to do what is right.


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Dateline: Home Study

Will the PCUSA be a bunch of lemmings and be used by the Palestinians? Most likely yes. Interesting post at IsraPundit today. I wish had more faith in the PCUSA but, honestly, right now, I fear the church is hopelessly lost and based on some of the mail I have exchanged with the "leaders" of the church, they have no idea they are lost.


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Dateline: Home Study

In going through a drawer looking for something today I ran across a wallet card I picked up somewhere on Integrity. It had some interesting quoates that I put here.

The first step in greatness in to be honest. -Samuel Johnson

Do not try to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly. --St. Frances De Sales

Always do right. This surprise some people and astonish the rest. -Mark Twain

So live that you wouldn't be ashemaed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip. -Will Rogers

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. -Martin Luther King

For when the Onew Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks not what you won or lost--but how you played the game. -Granland Rice

I do the very best I know -- the very best I can; and mean to keep so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference. -Abraham Lincoln

And some more of my favorites:

What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can no longer believe you. -Friedrich Nietzsche

Remember: On lie does not cost you one truth but the truth. -Christian Hebbel

No man of honor ecer quite lives up to his code, any more than a moral man manages to avoid sin. -H. L. Mencken

I received the following email the other day and post it here perusing. The General Assembly meets in 2 days and will decide on this issue. The decisions seems pretty simple for me...if Al Jazeerah thinks it is ia good idea then we should do the opposite.

Ted Belman at Israpundit aptly summarizes the situation in the Presbyterian Church USA as they approach their General Assembly to debate again the Israel Divestment Resolution. I will be in Birmingham for the debates that begin Friday June 16 and to the extent possible I will attempt to report my observations.

Larry Rued

Presbyterian Church USA


PCUSA is counting the days

Filed under: Front Page, USA, Israel, Palestinians, peace process
As Presbyterians count the days until their General Assembly meets in Birmingham, Israpundit provides this insight of the Israel Divestment Movement within the Presbyterian Church USA. (PCUSA)

Two years ago PCUSA leaders caught the world by surprise when they overwhelming voted to start a process of divesting from corporations doing business with Israel.

Israpundit, along with hundreds of others in the blogosphere, have shown through extensive analysis the inherent bias and misinformation used by PCUSA leaders to promote and afterwards defend its divestment action. They also showed the genesis of the resolution.

For example, Seraphic Secret Reveals Secret Divestment Tactics

This important note, with some shocking revelations, just came in from a concerned Christian reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

Perhaps the most stunning revelation here is that someone who is working towards divestment, has been mailing out Norman Finkelstein’s most recent book to hundreds of Commissioners of the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly. Finkelstein, for those who might not be aware, is a notorious antiSemite who camouflages his pathological hatred under the guise of a benign academic antiZionism. He and Noam Chomsky are twin Kapos.

Whomever is mailing out this loathsome creature’s book is indeed making use of the most diabolical of antiSemitic tactics: using a Jewish traitor against his own people.

Also, Israpundit posted Deception at the root of Israel’s de-legitimation

Stop the ISM reports in The ISM is a cult and not to be tolerated that

“The ISM was originally set up by leadership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the primarily Christian Arab and communist wing of the PLO, with Yasser Arafat’s blessing in 2002. It was designed to ally with foreign anarchist and anti-capitalist groups in the West in a common goal of making worldwide revolution that would include the dismantling of the Jewish state of Israel as a top priority.”

The handiwork of that endeavour can be witnessed in the recent anti-Israel resolutions the following groups have adopted; World Council of Churches, CUPE, NATFHE, PCUSA

Here is how the pro and anti divestment forces in the PCUSA seem to line up going into the General Assembly beginning June 15.

PCUSA leaders want to continue the divestment process and create a working group to study the Middle East issues for another two years. In contrast, PCUSA churches sent 34 overtures to the General Assembly with two thirds calling for divestment to be rescinded or suspended now!

Supporters on each side of the divestment issue

Let’s first look at the organizations and individuals supporting the PCUSA leaders. They include Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun, Global Exchange, End the Occupation, Norm Finkelstein, International Solidarity Movement, Palestinian Solidarity Movement, Sabeel and Friends of Sabeel NA, and the Socialists. These organizations are on the fringes of society.

The PCUSA churches demanding an end to divestment now have the following organizations and individuals in their camp. The Democratic National Committee opposes divestment from Israel. Members of the US Senate and US House of Representatives have stated their opposition to divestment. (No Congressperson supports divestment.) The mainstream Jewish groups include the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Hadassah, American Jewish Congress, Jewish Labor Committee, B’nai B’rith International, National Council of Jewish Women, and Union for Reform Judaism. Alan Dershowitz and Dennis Prager are two of many nationally known commentators opposing divestment.

It could not be clearer.

PCUSA leaders are aligned with radical fringe groups in their quest to demonize Israel through a divestment movement. Many of these radical organizations giving moral support to the PCUSA leaders not only demonize Israel, but also call for Israel’s demise.

PCUSA churches demanding an end to divestment are aligned with mainstream organizations and individuals.

Past actions by each side of the divestment issue.

Actions speak louder than words and for the PCUSA leaders we know: In October 2004 the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) met with Hezbollah terrorist leaders and one committee member had this to say: “I’d like to say that, according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders.”

In February 2004, before the PCUSA approved its Israel Divestment Resolution, top PCUSA leaders Clifton Kirkpatrick and John Detterick were on a fact finding tour of the Middle East. In a subsequent speech by Detterick he told his audience. “The delegation visited Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Egypt. They met with fellow Christians and government officials, including, among others, the President in Lebanon and the Prime Minister of Syria (no Israeli officials were available).”

PCUSA leaders find it difficult to talk with or to even locate Jewish and Israeli leaders.

PCUSA churches seem to have no difficulty meeting with all parties in the Middle East as reflected in a recent trip report by a group of Presbyterians from churches across the USA.

“Completing a five-day fact finding mission throughout Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, a group of eleven Presbyterians announced divestment is flawed and called on the PCUSA’s voting commissioners to rescind the policy. The eleven member fact finding mission met with a broad cross section of religious, government, business and NGO leaders including: Pro-divestment Palestinian activist Naim Ateek, Director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center; Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Archishop Anba Abraham; Former Israel Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau; Beit Hagefen Arab-Jewish Center Director General Dr. Moti Peri; Former Israel Housing Minister Natan Sharansky; Jerusalem Post journalist Khaled Abu Toameh; Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav; Uzi Dayan, Israel General and Former National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; Shfaram Mayor Ziad Yassin; Jaffa Institute Executive Director Dr. David J. Portowicz; Israel National Security Council Deputy Director for Foreign Policy Eran Etzion Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs Scholar in Residence Justice Reid Weiner; Municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo Deputy Mayor Yael Dayan, Director of International Relations Eliav Blizowsky; and Israel commentator Ehud Yaari.”

Money is an issue in the divestment debate
The Middle East resolutions passed by the 216th and prior General Assemblies have created a network run amuck of headquarters staff, GA committees, and outside organizations receiving PCUSA funding. The amount of money spent by PCUSA leaders to organize and now defend Israeli divestment is in the millions of dollars. As the estimates show, PCUSA leaders have directed 4% of the national budget to staff, committees, and outside organizations dedicated to promoting a propaganda attack on Israel.

PCUSA leaders seem to have no conscience spending the church’s money in promoting their flawed and biased attack against Israel.

Israpundit commends the work by volunteer Presbyterians who have created websites and networks to inform their fellow members about the Israel Divestment Movement being promoted by the leadership in their church.

Those Presbyterians are:
Bearing Witness

Committee to End Divestment Now
Concerned Presbyterians
divestment, Israel, Palestinians, PCUSA, peace process, PRESBYTERIANS, USA
Posted by Ted Belman @ 6:58 am |

Dateline: Home Study

This was, by large, a pretty good weekend. My wife and I started off by going to the movies to see Cars Friday night and loved it. It is one we will have to get on DVD and watch several more times to catch all of the stuff we missed. We both love Pixar movies because the animation is great and the little things in the background are especially entertaining. With all of their previous movies, every time we watch them again, we find something we’ve missed.

The only bad part of the movie was having to go to the theater to see it. What has happened to common courtesy and decency? There were too many people on their frapping cell phones for one thing. All through the movie I kept seeing those blue lights illuminating the side of some heads. At least there were not any obnoxious ringtones going off. Secondly, what happened to parents taking responsibility for their children? I don't expect a 2 year to have perfect behavior but I do expect the mother to take her crying child out of the theater after a couple of minutes of incessant crying. But that is expecting too much--finally an usher made her leave with her many other children in tow. And thirdly, I really don’t want to hear all of your conversations. When in public keep in mind that other people are around and we generally don’t care about what you have to say. So, keep it quiet. Go ahead and talk to your friends and family, but don’t shout it out for all to hear.

Saturday began with some work. We had freshmen Orientation but it was kind of fun. I always enjoy meeting the new students and their parents. I also had a lot of help from our current engineering students and they are simply a great bunch of people. After it was over I went to the Command Center to see how things were going there and then I came home. At home I actually watched two movies on TV guilt-free. With no classes this summer, I had no papers due so I could enjoy some downtime and it was nice.

Today began with church, and it was a pretty nice service. I was able to get in a short nap (always nice), wash the car, and catch another movie! Now, if I could only add another day to the weekend.

I also received this email on the divestment issue.

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) General Assembly (GA) will be meeting June 15-22, 2006. One of the many contentious issues that will be debated at this General Assembly is the Israel Divestment Resolution approved at the 2004 GA. As a PCUSA elder, I would like to commend some excellent websites on the Presbyterian Divestment topic. 1. In 2004/2005 I managed a petition calling upon the PCUSA GA to return in a special session to rescind the divestment resolution. More than 2,200 PCUSA members, elders, and ministers signed the petition. You may find the comments left by these Presbyterians helpful in any commentary you may write.

2. Presbyterian elder, Will Spotts, has created the Bearing Witness website. I particularly commend his compelling and comprehensive analysis, Pride and Prejudice: The Presbyterian Divestment Story. Elder Spotts also wrote an insightful commentary on anti-semitism, If it Walks Like a Duck...

3. A coalition of Presbyterian elders and ministers created “The Committee to End Divestment Now” I commend their in depth and complete analysis of PCUSA divestment issues.

4. The American Interfaith Institute’s Faiths for Fairness project provides additional information. I particularly commend your attention to the letter listing the biased actions of the PCUSA church leaders.

In the ensuing days I will forward relevant news regarding the Presbyterian’s Divestment from Israel Resolution.

Larry Rued

I've not really seen much from the official PCUSA sources on this issue but I am not really surprised. The elite in Louisville is, by and large, out of touch with the church and reality. Although Presbyterians are historically well-educated, questioning individuals, I get the feeling the Louisvillians do not much care for hearing other points of view.

I received the following email several weeks ago but did not get it posted. It appears that there is some significant support for divestment so here is another opinion.

As an elder in the Presbyterian Church USA, I wholeheartedly agree with James Rudin's comment: “It was the culmination of decades - not years, but decades - of hostility toward Israel and Zionism, not by the rank-and-file members of these churches, but by some of the leadership,” said Rabbi A. James Rudin, senior interreligious adviser for the American Jewish Committee, where he staffed the interfaith department for 38 years." The extensive research done by myself and other laity in the PCUSA confirms our leadership has spent millions of dollars in nuturing networks hostile to Israel. Unfortunately, most Members in the Pews of the mainline protestant churches, even today, remain unaware of what their leadership has been doing. Can I ask for your help in getting the word out to these uninformed? My fellow PCUSA elder, Will Spotts, has prepared an analysis of the 34 overtures that will be debated at the upcoming General Assembly. The vast majority of those overtures oppose divestment. Larry Rued http://floridajewishnews.com/articles/content/view/424/52/ Divestment roils Jewish-Presbyterian ties

Written by Rachel Pomerance - JTA News Service

Friday, 19 May 2006

ATLANTA, May 11 (JTA) - As Presbyterians across America gear up for their biennial assembly next month, the legacy of the last such meeting is still roiling the Jewish community and the church’s own members.

Two years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA passed a resolution calling for “phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.”

Those who long have followed Jewish-Protestant relations weren’t surprised.

“It was the culmination of decades - not years, but decades - of hostility toward Israel and Zionism, not by the rank-and-file members of these churches, but by some of the leadership,” said Rabbi A. James Rudin, senior interreligious adviser for the American Jewish Committee, where he staffed the interfaith department for 38 years.

The passion ignited by the divestment resolution at the last General Assembly is likely to erupt again at the June 15-22 meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

What happens there will have a lasting impact on the already strained relationship between Jews and the entire Protestant community. The estimated 3 million Presbyterians in the United States influence the other white mainline Protestant churches in this country, whose members number more than 20 million.

Presbyterians are considered the “conscience” and reason of the Protestant community, serving as something of a “swing vote,” Rudin said.

Indeed, after the Presbyterians’ 2004 resolution on divestment, several other Protestant communities took up the issue. The Methodists decided to study their options; the United Church of Christ, also known as the Congregationalists, endorsed divestment but did not create a process to enact it; the Episcopalians considered but rejected divestment; and the Lutherans rejected a divestment resolution, and instead passed a resolution to invest in cooperative ventures between Israelis and Palestinians.

What will happen in Birmingham is anyone’s guess, though both Presbyterian and Jewish officials predict that no immediate action on divestment will be taken.

According to Ethan Felson, associate executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, “the prevailing wisdom” is that a recommendation proposed by the General Assembly committee to appoint a committee for continued debate on divestment, without halting the divestment process, will pass.

Soon after the resolution was passed, the group’s committee charged with assessing the church’s stock portfolio for potential divestment expanded the criteria of companies to include companies that support Israel’s presence in the West Bank; its separation barrier; settlement building and violence to either party in the conflict.

The committee is still in its investigative stages. It has already begun initial talks with three of the five companies in question. The Presbyterian Church says it has targeted the following companies for these reasons:

* Caterpillar, because the Israeli military uses its equipment to demolish Palestinian homes and construct roads for Israeli settlers in “the occupied territories”;

* Citigroup, due to charges that it has transferred funds to Palestinian terrorist groups;

* ITT Industries, for supplying communication devices to the Israeli military used in “the occupied territories”;

* Motorola, because it also supplies the Israeli military with communication devices, and takes “advantage of the Israeli government policy of delaying or prohibiting the importation of modern equipment into Palestine”; and

* United Technologies, for providing helicopters to the Israeli military that have been used in attacks against suspected Palestinian terrorists.

More than $65 million is at stake - the combined shares of Presbyterian Church stock in the aforementioned companies. The MRTI committee has made no requests for action by the companies, said a church press officer. The meetings were about “fact finding” and “information sharing,” she said.

The more immediate question is whether the church will continue to go down the divestment path or reverse course.

To some extent, the issue can be viewed as a struggle between the denomination’s ministers and laity. According to an internal Presbyterian USA poll taken in November 2004, more laity - some 42 percent of members and 46 percent of elders - oppose divestment, compared with 28 percent of members and 30 percent of elders which favor it. Meanwhile, pastors favor divestment by 48 percent to 43 percent and specialized clergy favor it by 64 percent to 24 percent.

Furthermore, the church said that the poll showed that “despite widespread media attention,” most Presbyterian laity were not even aware of the decision of the 216th General Assembly to “begin a process of phased, selective divestment” of companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

But it would be hard to imagine that anyone heading to Birmingham could miss the subject, given the sheer number of overtures, or proposals, on divestment submitted to the church by regional presbyteries for the upcoming assembly.

Nearly one-fifth of the 137 proposals to be considered at the assembly address divestment. Some want to press forward with the divestment process, many others aim to rescind the original resolution and express serious concern about the damage the issue has done to Jewish-Presbyterian relations and the church’s reputation.

The overtures come before a committee, which will condense them into a single resolution or propose an alternative to present to the assembly.

Some 3,000 clergy and lay people are expected at the assembly. Of these, 534 individuals - half clergy, half laity, are eligible to vote on the overtures.

Given the wave of overtures to reject divestment, “one would hope they would see that as the will of the people,” said the Rev. John Wimberly, pastor of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington.

Wimberly is on the steering committee of Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish and Christian Relations, a group that has pushed hard to further overtures against divestment.

However, “this issue has become the ‘in’ issue,” Wimberly said. “It’s the issue of the left today in the Presbyterian Church and it gains a kind of life of its own.”

Asked about the issue by JTA, Clifton Kirkpatrick, chief ecclesiastical officer of the Presbyterian Church, said it has been “very painful that in our effort to secure peace and justice for all,” the church has hurt members of the Jewish community, for which the church has “deep respect.” The Presbyterian Church is committed to both good interfaith relations with Jews and Muslims while pursuing “peace and justice in the Middle East.”

Some devoted to Jewish-Christian relations have made overturning divestment a priority. They include the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, a network that long has worked with Jewish and Christian supporters to promote Israel’s cause.

The group is hosting a May 18 conference on divestment at the Central Presbyterian Church in New York City and coordinating a Presbyterian mission to Israel later this month.

There’s “a real groundswell of opposition that’s occurred within the church, and it’s very widespread,” said Jim Roberts, a Presbyterian from San Diego, who heads a committee of volunteers and a Web site called “End Divestment Now.”

Roberts’ group argues that divestment is rooted in bias and flawed theology, and considers the divestment push a breach of the church’s principles of fairness and bottom-up governance.

Insiders say several sources gave rise to the 2004 divestment resolution and the pro-Palestinian feelings among many Presbyterians.

For one, Palestinian Christians have deeply influenced the church by framing the Israeli-Palestinian issue in terms of “liberation theology,” portraying the Palestinians as powerless victims who must be freed from their ostensible oppressors, the Israelis.

The most influential group espousing this platform is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, which sponsors conferences around the world and speakers at Christian gatherings, and advocates divestment from Israel.

Jewish groups, and many Christians, call Sabeel a corrupting influence.

Christians for Fair Witness in the Middle East holds news conferences about Sabeel nearly every time the group holds a meeting in America, said the Rev. Roy W. Howard, an executive committee member who is pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Md.

According to Howard, Sabeel is ambiguous about Israel’s very right to exist: Its devotees speak about a “Greater Palestine” in which there is no Jewish state, he said.

The Rev. Richard Toll, chairman of Friends of Sabeel North America, calls these charges a distortion.

“There has never been a call for the destruction of Israel or anything like that at all,” he said. Leaders of mainstream Jewish groups are often invited, but don’t respond, he said.

San Francisco, a presbytery that has presented an overture affirming divestment, was influenced less by Sabeel than by Presbyterians who visited Palestinian areas, said the Rev. Will McGarvey, pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church, who will present San Francisco’s proposal at the assembly.

Divestment is a last resort in a process that encourages corporations first to act more justly, McGarvey said. Though it may seem one-sided, “there’s only one side that has power right now, and that is the” Israel Defense Forces, he said.

Jewish officials in San Francisco felt insulted that the local presbytery never informed them of its overture.

“That’s awful hurtful,” said Jonathan Bernstein, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Central Pacific Region. “I feel like they didn’t really learn a lesson” from the uproar over the 2004 resolution about the need to inform Jewish colleagues about their actions.

It also hasn’t been easy for Jay Tcath, vice president of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and director of its Jewish Community Relations Council.

He has limited his interaction with the local presbytery since the fall of 2004 because the group delayed addressing the divestment resolution. Instead, he turned his attention to individual churches in the area, which he said are more open to dialogue on the issue.

“Friends don’t allow slanders to stand against other friends,” he said.

Matters worsened when the Chicago presbytery’s Middle East task force met with leaders of the radical fundamentalist group Hezbollah in Lebanon last fall.

It was smoother in Atlanta, where Jewish officials got early word of an overture for divestment because of their strong interfaith relationships. They successfully called for its withdrawal in favor of broadened dialogue.

Jewish-Presbyterian dialogue on the grass-roots level has intensified since the divestment resolution passed in 2004.

Shari Dollinger, a former interreligious affairs officer for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, launched the Coalition for Responsible Peace in the Middle East after witnessing the heavily pro-Palestinian current at the United Church of Christ’s July 2005 General Synod in Atlanta.

The coalition, whose founding members include The David Project, American Jewish Congress and Stand with Us, is using a grass-roots approach, disseminating information to Jewish and non-Jewish groups at pro-divestment gatherings and on its Web site, http://www.c4rpme.org.

But some say Presbyterian leaders have sidelined Jewish voices on divestment.

It’s “downright embarrassing that the Presbyterians have not made certain that they have multiple points of views and interpretations of what’s going on,” said Christopher Leighton, director of the Baltimore-based Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies.

Leighton cited a conference on divestment last year in Louisville, Ky., site of the church’s national headquarters. The Baltimore delegation walked out because of the lopsided pro-Palestinian representation.

“It was an appalling example of having a foregone conclusion that you want to trumpet and so you know where you want people to end up before they even start out,” he said. “It seems to me that that’s symptomatic of how our leadership has handled this.”

Some Jewish officials suggest the church is again stacking the deck. The day before this year’s General Assembly, for example, the church has scheduled a Middle East forum with three representatives - a Palestinian Christian, an American Muslim and an American Jew, Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Why, anti-divestment forces wonder, is there no Israeli represented?

Many Presbyterians “have been listening to the message that they have heard from their Jewish brothers and sisters, but there are still very powerful, intransigent leaders who believe that they are serving their community by lifting up Palestinians and beating up on Israel, and that’s sad,” said Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, the ADL’s director of interfaith affairs.

“In the last two years, what has also shocked many people involved in this ongoing dialogue is that all too often when the phrase ‘occupation’ is used, many believe that they are not referring to 1967 but 1948” - in other words, a rejection of Israel’s existence.

Kirkpatrick, the Presbyterian chief ecclesiastical officer, rejects that charge.

“It has been the core commitment of every Presbyterian leader I know” to ensure “peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis,” he said.

For now, there is plenty of debate on all sides of the issue. And many are just plain confused.

Presbyterians may need to “wait for the dust to settle before we can make any real determination of the appropriate way to enhance relations between Israelis and Palestinians,” Leighton said.

We'll see how General Assembly decides shortly.

It looks like Al-Jazeerah is supporting the PCUSA now. How much longer can I remain in such an organization? General Assembly this year will, I think, be the beginning of a new PCUSA or the beginning of the end of the current PCUSA.

I had actually forgotten I had written the letter but it was published in the latest issue of Presbyterians Today. I fired off an email after reading a letter to the editor in a previous issue calling for the closing of the Washington Office of the PC(USA). The editor's response to the letter was technically correct but I thought it missed the point that some of us think the office should be closed and the money spent elsewhere.

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