Will Presbyterians Be Duped by Anti-BDS Hasbara Warriors?

by James M. Wall

Before delegates to the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church meet in Minneapolis, July 3-10, they must ask themselves:

Will we be duped by Israel’s Anti-BDS Hasbara Warriors or do we listen to our Presbyterian Commissioners who have studied, prayed about, and witnessed the gross injustice of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people?

A posting that appeared on this blog in February, 2010, examines the Hebrew term, Hasbara, as it is used by Yuli Edelstein, the Israeli government official who directs the  Israeli Public Diplomacy Forces (IMPD).

Edelstein explains that the IMPD calls its outreach to the non-Israeli public, Tzva Hasbara LeYisrael, which he says is a play on the Hebrew name of the IDF (Israel Defense Force) and the concept of “hasbara” or public information.

Israel is in the difficult position of explaining to the outside world that it must continue its military occupation of the Palestinian people because it is the only way it can assure the secure existence of the modern state of Israel.

To build that case, Israel must rely on its Hasbara campaign and claim that such recent an outrageous act of violence as the attack on the Turkish relief ship, the Mavi Marmara, was provoked by the passenger themselves.

The evidence was against Israel, which is why they had to improvise a duplicitous scenario.

Even the New York Times, one of Israel’s best friends in the whole wide world, had to admit that the first reports from the Israeli navy commandos were “bogus”.

Israel now promises its own full and honest examination of what happened on the Mavi Marmara, when nine Turkish passengers were killed by Israeli commandos.

Israel has even promised a transparency to the commission by inviting two outside neutral “observers” to guarantee the openness of the process.

The London Times identified the two “neutrals” as Lord William David Trimble and Ken Watkin:

Lord William David Trimble, the former first minister of Northern Ireland who was named as one of two international observers on the Israeli commission of inquiry into the raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, started a Friends of Israel Initiative on the day of the deadly incident, the Times reported on Tuesday.

Lord Trimble, 65, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, will observe the proceedings along with former Canadian judge advocate general Ken Watkin.

What should be especially disturbing to American citizens is the frantic and increasingly desperate effort by members of Congress who are trying to match the militancy of the current Israeli right-wing government, a militancy demonstrated by an Israeli official statement to CNN on the raid by declaring Israel would never apologize for its military attack.

Writing on Mondoweiss, Joel Kovel describes the sad scene of five New York members of the US Congress speaking to a rowdy crowd of no more than 25 people in Times Square, arguing a position that is increasingly hard to defend.

The Times Square “rally” by the fearsome five: Rangel, Maloney, Engel, Nadler and Quinn, made for grim watching, but had its farcical side as well.

Watching them on Youtube reminded me of some of the lonelier moments I, and I’m sure, most of us have had on the political hustings in odd spots speaking to tiny and indifferent audiences–except this was in the middle of Times Square and the speakers were the Manhattan Bigs.

Yet there didn’t seem to be more than 25 people present and they were mostly dull-eyed and apathetic except for a few comrades hooting and casting heavy aspersions on the veracity of the speakers. Rangel in particular looked uncomfortable; and I suppose he was mainly there out of fear for his tuchus given the recent downturn in political fortunes.

It’s plain that these people are deeply worried, in the immediate moment, about the prospect of having members of the Flotilla showing up in the US and taking apart Israel’s fakery, and more basically, because events are slipping away from them at a precipitous pace.

Kovel identifies a term which is gaining currency in the Hasbara arsenal, “existential,” a  term bandied about loosely when Israel and its defense are involved.

It is a term we should heed. Your hard-core Zionist–and there are many along with the opportunists in Congress who toe the AIPAC line–really do think in life and death terms about the Jewish State.

When this is combined with deeply inquisitorial instincts, as in the case of Senator Schumer and Representative Brad Sherman, among others, it’s a certainty that the repressive apparatus is going to be mobilized, domestically as well as against those who live elsewhere.

Note Koval’s reference to the mobilization, here and abroad, of the “repressive” apparatus available to the government of the US and Israel.

Will Presbyterian delegates meeting in their General Assembly meeting in July feel comfortable voting to support the current government of Israel which has yet to apologize for, or at least repudiate, a video currently circulating on the internet among Hasbara American sites that claims to shows the unloading of cargo from the Turkish flotilla at Ashdod, Israel?

Or will they at least listen to Jonathan Turley, an American legal scholar, who often appears on MSNBC talk shows, who says the Israeli video is a “fraud”. It does show weapons unloaded and it does show they are hidden behind sacks of flour.

But, Turley says, the video is from 2009, and is unrelated to the Mavi Marmara.

The attack on the Mavi Marmara was a disaster for Israel in many ways, but its clumsy attempt to make the raid appear what it was not, is a double disaster for Israel’s anti-BDS Hasbara Warriors.

Who you gonna believe, the IDF, or Haneen Zoabi, an elected member of the Israeli Knesset, who was a passenger on the Mavi Marmara? (Shown above with supporters at a rally for her in a Globe and Mail photograph, and in this video taken when she attempted to report to the Knesset after the raid.)

Ms. Zoabi is a member of the Arab Israeli political party, Abnaa el-Balad (Sons and Daughters of the Homeland), which has four members in the Knesset.

Patrick Martin, writing for Canada’s Globe and Mailfrom Nazerath:


Two weeks ago, she was virtually unknown. But after travelling aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, on which nine Turkish citizens were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the boat, Hanin Zoabi, a 41-year-old, first-term Knesset member, has become the most hated person in Israel.

As an Arab Israeli, she also has found herself at the centre of a new political force with which Israel will have to contend.

Accused of treason for supporting the Free-Gaza movement, forbidden by the courts to leave the country for 45 days, Ms. Zoabi was attacked, physically, when she spoke in the Knesset last week to explain her decision to join the flotilla of ships hoping to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

She said she viewed her action on behalf of 1.5 million “prisoners” in Gaza as a kind of “mitzvah,” a Hebrew term for a religious good deed. The reference only made her Jewish assailants angrier.

Ms. Zoabi has been labelled an enemy, and a supporter of terrorists. Yet the unmarried, Western-dressed Muslim woman hails from one of Israel’s high-profile Arab families, one that has counted a high court judge, a mayor of Nazareth, a long-serving Knesset member and a deputy cabinet minister among its members.

It will be against this background that the 219th Presbyterian church General Assembly will be asked to vote yes or no on a report from its Middle East Study Committee that urges:

[T]he US to halt aid to Israel until the Israeli government ends the expansion of settlements in Palestinian territories, ceases its occupation of Gaza, and relocates “Israel’s separation barrier” to spots outside of Palestinian territories.

The delegates will be asked to vote with the Palestinians who live under a harsh military occupation, or with the Anti-BDS Hasbara Warriors who now seek to extend the reach of the IDF across the Atlantic into the meeting halls of the 219th Presbyterian Church General Assembly

Will Presbyterians vote for the Hasbara line, or will they vote for the people suffering and dying under occupation.

The choice is yours, you women and men of the Calvinist tradition. Which side are you on?

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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10 Responses to Will Presbyterians Be Duped by Anti-BDS Hasbara Warriors?

  1. Peter Bourne says:

    Lord David Trimble is not as Israel has tried to imply, Irish. He is from Northern Ireland and hence British. As an Ulster Unionist he has long been an apologist for the hundreds of years of brutal occupation of Ireland by Britain. It is absurd to think he will be an impartial observer when it comes to the subjugation of the Palestinian people by Israel.

  2. Bill Gepford says:

    Well done, Jim!! Why not send copies of this article to all the commissioners to the General Assembly? I have been a commissioner several times and know that they do read all reports. Those based on unequivocal facts will have influence. For Israel to try to make the Flotilla event appear like “something it is not” is stock in trade for a government trying to hide the brutal facts otherwise. This has got to stop. Let’s start with Presbyterians!

  3. Harris Fawell says:

    Let us hope that the 219th Presbyterian church General Assembly will vote yes on the report from its Middle East Study Committee. Harris Fawell

  4. Wilma Jones says:

    This is one Presbyterian who stands with Harris Fawell and Bill Gepford, it is about time we Presbyterians stand up and be counted on the stand for peace and justice!!!

  5. Eugene Fitzpatrick says:

    Is it time for the bienniel PCGA already? It seems like yesterday that, in 2006, the neo-con and Zionist James Woolsey, like some implacably stern Calvinist preacher jeremiading across the bleak Scottish Highlands, got the wobbly-kneed faithful to water down a divestment resolution directed against Israel’s tyranny such that it morphed into a laughably toothless charade.

    Then in 2008 the Santa Barbara Presbytery put forth a Resolution that would adopt a strict Presbyterian neutrality toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although voted down, it revealed that a substantial number of the membership are burdened by a deep ignorance and a wishy-washy, and indeed cowardly, moral code.

    I’m prompted to raise a prayer to John Calvin to ask him to inspire the 2010 GA such as to make us lookers-on proud.

  6. Ann Fontaine says:

    I am forwarding this to our Presbyterian church secretary, and intend to speak to our delegate. We stand for peace and justice and must make sure that the facts of this case are known.

  7. Awad Paul Sifri says:

    As a Presbyterian Palestinian Arab, I am appalled by how many Christian sects in the US are more concerned about appeasing politicized Jewish organizations and so-called “dialogue” groups than with the Israeli crimes of eradicating Christian Palestinians from the Holy Land.
    I am proud of the brave and just Presbyterian stand with the cause of justice and genuine peace in the Holy Land. I do hope that they raise their aim to the cause of BDS in order to help free Palestine from

  8. Jim McGown says:

    This video shows the extent to which paranoia has gripped the Israeli government. Is it any wonder that it pursues such crazed policies even in the face of world opinion? Yet its paranoia cannot be allowed to hold sway. Somehow the voice of sanity must get through. Perhaps the vote of the PC(USA)’s 219th General Assembly in approving what was obvious to the Middle East Study group will get through to the Israeli leaders. If not to them, perhaps to our own U.S. government so that it will stop empowering Israeli anomie.

  9. Don Wiederanders says:

    Praise the Lord!! You Presbyterians at least have the courage to address the issue. My ELCA Lutheran leaders wring their collective hands make pious pronouncements but DO nothing. When will Christendom have the courage to act like followers of our Lord ?

  10. Don Wiederanders says:

    Moderation and compromise were two concepts that our Lord rejected on the way to the cross.

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