"Is the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s endorsement of possible divestment from certain companies doing business in Israel an act of anti-Semitism?
"This is a fight that's straining relations between two American pillars that are historical allies on basic social and humanitarian causes and political issues: the national bodies of mainline Protestant churches and key Jewish groups.
"The fissure became more apparent last week when Paul Miller, president of the American Jewish Congress, wrote in a letter to The New York Times that 'these 'divestment' efforts must be seen for what they are – anti-Semitism.' That label, once applied, is hard to remove.
"Should it stick to the Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal Church USA, the United Church of Christ, and the Virginia and New England conferences of the United Methodist Church? They are among the congregations weighing questions related to their investments in companies involved in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. One denomination, the 150-year-old Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has gone so far as to adopt a resolution that called for Israel to stop construction of the barrier fence, tear down the walls already erected, and compensate Palestinians who have lost property and homes.
"Israel's supporters maintain that it's wrong to single out the sovereign state for blame in the Middle East – that besides being one-sided, casting Israel as a tyrannical occupier without acknowledging the reign of Palestinian terrorism that has taken more than 1,000 Israeli lives is as absurd as it is unfair. I agree.
"When it comes to Israel, the milk of human kindness does not flow freely through the bosoms of her Arab neighbors. Israel-bashing is a cottage industry among Islamic nations, some of which would just as soon see the Jewish state pushed into the sea. To pretend otherwise is foolish.
"Here's a taste of what all of us are really up against: According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, on the day after the death of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government-controlled channel Saudi 1 aired an interview with Abd Al-Sabour Shahin, an Egyptian professor and head of the sharia faculty at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. In it, he referred to the September 11, 2001 attacks and declared: 'There is no doubt that not a single Arab or Muslim had anything to do with these events. I believe a dirty Zionist hand carried out this act. Zionism has taken the opportunity to escalate the war in Palestine, killing hundreds of thousands.'
"Now, warring parties, that ought to concentrate the mind wonderfully."
Hold the Hot-Button Issues: They're Too Laden for Casual Talk
Columnist Suzzane Fields writes in the Washington Times (www.washingtontimes.com) on Aug. 15 about the misuse of Holocaust images:
"What do Woody Allen, Dick Gregory and Harry Belafonte have in common with James Dobson? They all blur distinctions of the evil of the Third Reich.
"Harry Belafonte was asked the other day whether Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice had raised black opinion of the Bush administration. He opened his mouth and let nonsense out: 'Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Color does not necessarily denote quality, content or value.' This was both inaccurate – there were no Jews in the hierarchy of Nazi Germany – and it smacked of more than a little ethnic bigotry.
"Dick Gregory, being a stand-up comic, was even more perverse. He observed at an Atlanta civil-rights rally that black conservatives 'have a right to exist, but why would I want to walk around with a swastika on my shirt after the way Hitler done messed it up?' Blacks in brown shirts?
"Woody Allen made a reach, too, in an interview with der Spiegel, the German news magazine, trying to level the killing field in the name of moral equivalence. 'So in 2001 some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis,' he said. 'And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other. History is the same thing over and over again.'
"Rafael Medoff of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies rightly observes that 'such analogies pollute public discourse by trivializing the brutal horrors committed by the Nazis,' but that doesn't take us very far. Such remarks are less about the Holocaust than about the way the Holocaust has seeped into the vernacular as a pop comparison of no redeeming value.
"James Dobson, the director of Focus on the Family, belongs to another category altogether. He compared embryonic cell research to Nazi death-camp experiments: 'Ultimately, one life will be sacrificed to benefit another. That's evil.' It's fair enough to think federal funding of such research is wrong; millions of Americans do. But the motives behind the research are not evil. Josef Mengele was evil.
"James Dobson is a decent and thoughtful man, but his exaggerated comparison is neither decent nor thoughtful, and merely demonstrates how difficult it is to argue hot-button issues in a reasonable and thoughtful way."
The Jews Tell It Like It Is – Terror Must Always Be Condemned
Columnist Jeff Jacobywrites in The Boston Globe (www.boston.com) on Aug. 11 that Israelis are not reluctant to tell the truth about a Jewish terrorist:
"When Muslim extremists murder innocents in cold blood, there is often a politically correct reluctance to call the killers terrorists, or to denounce them unequivocally. But there was no such reluctance last week when an Israeli Jew, Eden Natan Zada, opened fire inside the bus he was riding through the Arab town of Shfaram in northern Israel.
"Zada, 19, was active in the outlawed extremist Kach movement, and had deserted his army unit to protest Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. His rampage left four Arabs dead and another 12 wounded. Zada was immediately labeled a terrorist and widely condemned.
"Israel and its supporters complain with reason that Arab terror against Jews is too often shrugged off or excused by Arab and Muslim leaders, or that a murderous attack will be condemned in English for international consumption while the government-run local media extols the killers in Arabic. But when the terrorists themselves are Jews – admittedly, a rare event – do Israel's defenders live up to the standard they expect of others?
"Without being prompted, without making excuses, Jewish communities instinctively reacted to Zada's monstrous deed with disgust and outrage, all the more angrily because the perpetrator was a fellow Jew. When that is the way every community responds to terrorism, terrorism will come to an end." u