The United Methodist Church has never been a big fan of Israel. Take for example last July, Rev. Randy R. Day, chief executive of the General Board of Global Ministries for the United Methodist Church, issued a statement that said: “Neither the attacks of Hezbollah on Israel or the Israeli military actions in Gaza and Lebanon can be justified from the perspective of international law or sound political policy.” Then there is their nasty habit of publishing books that can be construed as anti-Israel propaganda:
In 2004, the United Methodist Church passed a resolution calling for “members of each congregation to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from all perspectives.” The call for impartiality by the largest mainline Protestant church in the United States was a laudable one, but it has since become clear that for some Methodists fair-mindedness is not on the agenda. Within the church there are various bodies that address specific subjects of concern to the whole denomination. One of these, the General Board of Global Ministries, embarked on a yearlong, church-wide “mission study” program on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To date the perspective presented by the program has been so predominantly Palestinian, and the effort to vilify Israel so transparent, that one can only conclude there is a campaign underway to persuade Methodists to support divestment at the denomination’s quadrennial General Conference next year. The centerpiece of the mission study is a slick 220-page volume written by Reverend Stephen Goldstein. The book, which is published by the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, is available for purchase on the United Methodist Church’s official Web site. In both the bibliography and the book itself, some of Israel’s harshest critics — including Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, George Ball, Robert Fisk and Ilan Pappé — are given overwhelming representation. And the bibliography’s list of recommended videos, available from Americans for Middle East Understanding, feature titles like “Children of the Nakba,” “Palestine is Still the Issue” and “Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land.”(Source)
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Methodist minister Rev. James M. Wall, a former editor of Christian Century and long time columnist for the magazine, has demonstrated yet again that he cannot be trusted to get it right when it comes to issues related to the Jewish State. In his Dec. 25, 2007 column, Rev. Wall offered his readers a column that denied Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish State. The article prompted Jewish leaders from Chicago (where Christian Century is published) to write a response (which is not online). When this response was published in the April 4, 2008 issue of Christian Century, Rev. James Wall invoked the privilege of immediate reply, which he abused by offering up a distorted interpretation of a historical document, which thankfully, is available online for inspection.
The Original Article In the original article, titled “Peace Brokers,” Rev. Wall stated that Pres. Bush is not an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians because he regards Israel as a Jewish State. Rev. Wall wrote:
At Annapolis this became obvious when he declared that Israel has to be a Jewish state, a position that Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat immediately rejected. Erekat knows that officially declaring Israel a Jewish state when 1.5 million Arab Israelis are within its borders is a contradiction in terms.The Jewish Federation’s ResponseRev. Wall’s column elicited a response over the signatures of Michael C. Kotzin, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation in Chicago, and Rabbi Yeheil Poupko, Judaic scholar for the federation.Their letter, printed in the April 8, 2008 issue of the magazine, expressed the “hope and trust” that Rev. Wall’s refusal to accept Jewish sovereignty is not the majority view of Christian Century’s readers and editors. The letter states that the denial of the Jewish People to a sovereign state in their homeland “undermines Israel’s legitimacy and reinforces the rejectionist tendencies of Israel’s hardline adversaries, thereby in fact weakening the prospects for peace.”Rev. Wall’s Reply
Taking advantage of the privilege of immediate reply (a privilege Christian Century’s editors often grant to Rev. Wall when he is subjected to criticism for his distorted columns regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict), the columnist wrote the following:
I am in accord with President Harry Truman, who in 1948 was handed a statement from his staff which said that the U.S. government recognized and endorsed the creation of “the Jewish State.” He crossed out the words “Jewish State” and wrote, “State of Israel.” Only then did he sign his name. To say that Israel is a “homeland” for the Jews is to ignore the reality that within its borders there are 1.4 million Arabs with (second class) citizenship papers. These citizens are not Jewish by ethnicity or religion. Israel has existed as the state of Israel since 1948 when it received its endorsement through the United Nations and from President Truman.
The Actual Document Fortunately, the document to which Rev. Wall refers is available online. It is only two sentences long, and does include some textual emendations made by Pres. Harry Truman. Pres. Truman, did in fact, cross out the words “Jewish State” in the sentence which originally read, “The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new Jewish State.” After Pres. Truman’s changes, the sentence reads: “The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.” The document in question, however, begins with the following sentence:
This government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the [provisional] Government thereof.” (Emphasis added. Pres. Truman inserted by hand the word “provisional.”)
The upshot is this: Pres. Harry Truman reported that the provisional government of Israel asserted Israel’s status as the Jewish State and then recognized the legitimacy of this provisional government. To suggest, as Rev. Wall does, that Pres. Truman denied Israel’s founding as a “Jewish State” is unsupportable. The document (which Rev. Wall invokes) makes it perfectly clear that Israel’s provisional government, which Pres. Truman recognized, declared Israel a Jewish State. Rev. Wall’s assertion that Israel was acknowledged merely as “Israel” and not as a “Jewish State” is contradicted by other historical documents – including UN Resolution 181 passed on Nov. 29, 1947 (with the support of the U.S., led by Pres. Truman). This resolution explicitly calls for the creation of “a Jewish State.” (There are well over a dozen references to a “Jewish State” in this document.) Another relevant document is Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which reads in part: This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable. This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State. Pres. Truman did not deny Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state at its creation. The United Nations did not deny Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state at its creation. It is Rev. James Wall who does this, almost sixty years after its founding. What does it mean? While Rev. Wall’s distortion is problematic, it confirms that the longtime columnist for the house organ of mainline Protestantism in the U.S. is an explicit anti-Zionist. In a world in which the Arab League of States has 22 members and in which the Organization of the Islamic Conference has 56 members, Rev. Wall denies the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state because it has 1.5 million Arabs living in it. Apparently, for Rev. Wall, Muslim states with sizeable Christian minorities are tolerable, as are Arab states with sizeable non-Arab minorities. But according to Rev. Wall, one Jewish state with Arab, Muslim and Christian minorities is not tolerable because ostensibly this is “a contradiction in terms.” Rev. Wall’s objection is to Jewish sovereignty, even as he insists on sovereignty for Palestinians.