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Op-Ed: Divest from the World Council of Churches
By Dexter Van Zile

Jews in the United States have every reason to express shock over the World Council of Churches' Feb. 21 decision to encourage its members to follow the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s lead in divesting from Israel. The dominoes are indeed falling against Israel. First colleges in the U.S. embrace the cause of divestment, next the Anglican Church announces it is studying the issue, then the PC(USA) adopts the policy and now the WCC encourages denominations to do the same. It looks bad, but Jews need to understand that the lay members of Christian churches in the U.S. remain firm in their support for the Jewish state. Jews need to reach out to the Protestants in the pews of the churches that fund the WCC and tell them what they already know - the group is not worthy of their support and that it is time to start a campaign of divestment of their own - against the WCC.

Jews might be surprised at the response they get. Christians in the U.S. stopped listening to the WCC long ago. Many have still not forgiven the WCC for giving $85,000 to the Patriotic Front of Zimbabwe in 1978, the same year the group shot down an airliner, killing 38 of the 56 passengers on board. Terrorists killed 10 survivors.

Christians in the U.S. know the WCC has a history of supporting violent "liberation" movements in Central America, Africa and East Asia.

They know the WCC ignored the plight of dissidents behind the Iron Curtain and "built bridges" with killers and tyrants, just as leaders from the PC(USA) recently extended offers of friendship to Hezbollah, a group which killed 241 U.S. Marines in 1983. The reaction of lay members in the PC(USA) was so strong, two church employees were fired for meeting with Hezbollah, demonstrating where the denomination's true power and conscience rest - in the pews, not in the minds of its theologians.

Protestants in the U.S. know the WCC turned a blind eye to the violence perpetrated by the Muslim regime in Sudan for many years, focusing instead its criticism on Israel. They know this without having to read the study by the Institute on Religion and Democracy that reports between 2000 and 2003, the WCC issued 36 complaints about human rights against Israel and two regarding Sudan, where close to 2 million black Africans, many of them Christian, were killed and tens of thousands were enslaved by a self-declared jihad waged by the Taliban-like Islamist regime in Khartoum.

They know WCC is foolish to praise the leaders of the PC(USA) for embracing divestment, even after the denomination released a survey that showed 42 percent of the church's members oppose the decision and only 28 percent support it. Knowing all this, lay Protestants in the U.S. have long regarded WCC as irrelevant.

This is a mixed blessing. Because they have grown used to ignoring pronouncements from the WCC, Protestants in the U.S. do not understand the lethality of its one-sided condemnations of Israel. They do not understand that the WCC's soft-pedaling of terrorism against Israel only encourages more terrorism against Jews.

Because Christians in the U.S. spend more time listening to the pastors in their pulpits than their denominational leaders, they do know not that some of their theologians harbor an ill-will toward Israel, and an obsession with its misdeeds that border on the pathological.

Because Christians in the U.S. have always enjoyed religious freedom in America, they do not understand the oppression suffered by Christians in the Middle East and the threat faced by the Jews in Israel.

Once Christians in the U.S. understand these things - and groups like ours are making a full-court press to educate them - they will know which organizations are the true, legitimate targets of divestment. They just have to be told. Their own leaders will not tell them, so their Jewish friends and neighbors - and their Christian allies - will have to step into the breach, for the sake of Israel, the U.S. and for the sake of all our children.

Dexter Van Zile is a member of the Judeo-Christian Alliance, an initiative of the David Project that promotes a fair and honest discussion of the Middle East Conflict in Protestant churches. He is also a member of the United Church of Christ, which will consider divestment at its General Synod in July.
© 2005 Divestment Watch