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Urgent Issues for Congress: Zika, the Islamic State, Iran ransom, Turkey coup, N. Korea …

August 4, 2016, President Obama held a news conference where he endeavored to reassure the American public.  It was the usual political rostrum at the White House with the Washington press corps assembled to hear the President and engage in questions dealing with a host of emerging problems both internationally and domestically. Watch this YouTube video of the President’s August 4, 2016 White House Press Conference.

This White House Press conference was held in the midst of an especially troubling Presidential Campaign pitting his former Secretary of State Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton, against Republican New York real estate mogul, Donald Trump.  Because of the latter’s tweets and ex cathedra declarations at rallies and press conferences President Obama declared him allegedly temperamentally unfit to be Commander in Chief. This on the cusp of both candidates eligible to receive courtesy national security briefings. In Clinton’s case, her role during the Benghazi episode in September 2012 and the email scandal following State Department FOIA requests and Wiki leaks releases raised questions about the credibility of her responses during campaign rallies and media interviews. This despite endless hours of her providing testimony and that of FBI director James Comey before the House Special Benghazi Committee chaired by South Carolina Republican US Representative, Trey Gowdy. Trump, according to the President in an unprecedented political campaign comment, has displayed a fundamental lack of background in national security issues.  Especially concerning were his admiration for Russian President Putin, despite the latter’s seizure of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. There is the encroachment on ‘near enemies’ in the NATO Atlantic alliance: the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The President was asked by the assembled press corps about revelations from a series of Wall Street Journal reports about $400 million of foreign currencies strapped on pallates in a cargo plane last January and flown to Tehran, despite concerns raised by his own Justice Department. He All while another airplane waited on the ground for hours with four American hostages aboard told by Iranians they awaiting a “money plane” so they could be released to fly home.  There were also questions about the threat of the Zika virus in the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean given the start of the Rio, Brazil Olympic Games. There were other news stories about returning US military with possible infections, as well as Congressional resolution of the impasse over funding for completion of three promising vaccines.  There were also concerns raised about the latest launch of a North Korea missile that flew 600 miles, landing less than 150 miles off the main island of Japan. That raised questions about Japanese, South Korean and most importantly, Continental US Missile defense. The missile defense system virtually incapable of assuring protection of the US homeland.  Then, there were emerging concerns expressed about 60 to 70 over age B-61 nuclear bombs at the NATO base in Incirlik, Turkey. This came amidst a purge of the country’s military by President Erdogan following a failed coup and his demand to the White House seeking extradition from the US of former Islamist ally, Sheik Fethullah Gulen.

On the following morning, August 5th, despite the monsoon rains that continued to drench the Phoenix area and the entire Four Corners region, Lisa Benson and this writer were engaged in recording the Sunday, August 7th’s Radio program for the weekly eponymous national security radio show. Our guests on this 200th program were Dr. Jill Bellamy, renowned bio-defense expert and member of the UN Counterterrorism Task Force and Dr. Stephen Bryen former Reagan era Pentagon defense official and policy expert and senior fellow at the American Center for Democracy.

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Dr. Jill Bellamy

The Zika Threat

Bellamy spoke convincingly about the Zika threat in Brazil, Florida and the Caribbean. She noted the necessity of the World Health Organization, the CDC the US Congress and groups like the World Bank to fund vaccine development and military service personnel and dependents with health protection. She did not believe that the US CDC could rely on reprogramming of Ebola vaccine funds to complete development and clinical trials of three Zika vaccine candidates. Bellamy had warned about the emerging Zika threat seven months earlier on a Lisa Benson Show. Zika and other infectious tropical diseases like Dengue fever that are mosquito borne keep on emerging and re- emerging. She noted that the impact on infants born with micro-cephalic small head conditions could place enormous burden on families and insurance companies, potentially for decades. She said we have known about the Zika virus for over 40 years.  Dr. Bellamy believes that US military personnel and their families may have more preventive protection during pre-and post deployment phases. Lisa Benson noted the increase in women infected with the Zika virus since first reports emerged in May. Dr. Bellamy noted the US CDC warning to pregnant women traveling to Florida.  She did not believe that current mosquito control measures especially in south Florida and Puerto Rico would effectively curtail exposure to possible Zika infections.  She noted that European countries appear less concerned about the spread of Zika than the US and other countries in the sub tropical zones of the Western Hemisphere and globally.

Benson reminded that Dr. Bellamy had also addressed the lack of an effective radiation sickness antidote.  She revealed threats by ISIS cells in Belgium and the Netherlands to intrude on nuclear research facilities to obtain radioactive materials for construction of explosive dirty bombs. Both countries have distributed packets of iodine tablets to their respective populations as precautions.

Stephen Bryen

Dr. Stephen Bryen

The problematic nuclear weapons at the Incirlik NATO airbase in Turkey

Dr. Bryen, the husband of program Advisory Board Member Shoshana Bryen, addressed the dangers of not\ permanently retiring those over age nuclear bombs at the NATO base in Incirlik, Turkey. These weapons he pointed out contain plutonium, tritium and other fissile materials. They are gravity bombs and there are no aircraft based at Incirlik capable of dropping them. During the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, these nuclear weapons were redeployed and subsequently returned. The best that could be done would be to permanently remove them.   They might be exposed to ISIS infiltration, Iranian Quds Force raids or possible Islamic extremists in Turkey. He considered the huge purge of military in Turkey by Erdogan reminiscent of the Stalin era during the 1930’s in Soviet Russia. He noted the arrest of the Turkish base commander and 11 other air force officers and the surrounding of the base by fundamentalist AKP supporters loyal to Erdogan.   Despite this he said US personnel at Incirlik continue to engage in combat air support for the war against ISIS.  Both he and Benson noted Erodgan’s often conflicting positions on support for ISIS when it appeared political expedient in the raging civil war in neighboring Syria.

The North Korea Missile Threat to Japan and the lack of U.S. Missile Defense

Bryen addressed the failure of Japan to shoot down the latest North Korean missile that splashed down 150 miles off the coast of the main island. Dr. Bryen said all Japan had were old Hawk Batteries, Nike Zeus and Patriot missile defense systems incapable of bringing down the North Korean No-Dong production missile. It may have produced panic in Japan that it was unable to destroy the incoming missile. When queried about Continental US missile defense, he contended there is virtually no development of systems to deal with North Korean, Iranian and Russian missile threats. The latter threat concerns allies like Poland, the Baltic States and others in Central and Eastern Europe.  Bryen noted that all we had in the pacific at the moment was the Theater High Altitude Air Defense System in Hawaii and 44 Ground Mid-Course interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Fort Wainwright, Alaska. They lack a fully effective kill vehicle to knock down possible incoming North Korean missiles. Benson drew attention to the complete absence of missile installations on the east coast, to which Dr. Bryen agreed. He suggested that the US hadn’t developed any strategy to address asymmetrical warfare missile threats from rogue countries like North Korea and Iran.  During the Cold War era, he noted we had developed a symmetrical Mutually Assured Destruction Deterrent strategy.  Further, he drew attention to Putin’s Russia that has continued to develop sophisticated missile defense systems.

The Question of Administration Payments to Iran and Release of American Hostages

Dr.  Bryen addressed the troubling matter of the $400 million of sequestered Iranian funds in foreign currency loaded on palettes and sent on a cargo plane sent to Tehran. All allegedly done because we had no way of transferring it, given outstanding financial sanctions.  During his August 4th press conference, the President said: “We do not pay ransom for hostages. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future, precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging to be targeted.”

American Pastor Abedini and three other hostages were parked on the tarmac in Tehran. They were told by their Iranian minders that they could not depart until, what Dr. Bryen called, “the money plane,” landed. He suggested we have no idea where those funds could end up. Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey in aWall Street Journal op-ed, “The $400 Million; Legal but Not Right”,  called into question CIA Director John Brennan’s earlier suggestion that Iranian sanctions relief funds might be devoted less to infrastructure projects and more to the “untraceable” needs of  Iran’s Quds Force-a major agent of this global state sponsor of terrorism.

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Shoshana Bryen

Coincidental with the completion of the recorded Lisa Benson Show, Shoshana Bryen published an American Thinker article, “Iran, follow the money.” It cited further evidence of the duplicity and deviousness of Iran in setting up future possible ransom flights, given several additional American and other foreign nationals held as hostages, foolishly seeking to negotiate business deals. Problem is, as Shoshana Bryen wrote, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, like China’s Peoples Liberation Army, owns major businesses and will not brook any foreign competition.

Further, she noted that it is not only US banks, but foreign ones, notably in the UK, that won’t re start banking relationships with the Islamic Republic even with the lifting of financial sanctions. Was the US money plane simply to return the original funds sequestered by the US 37 years ago when the Shah’s regime was overthrown by the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic founder?

Shoshana Bryen concluded:

The Obama administration paid $400 million to the #1 financier and supporter of terrorism according to Obama’s own State Department.  In addition, Iran has more executions than any country except the People’s Republic of China, including for homosexuality; exercises legal brutality against women; supports religious intolerance; has committed violations of the Geneva Conventions against American sailors; provides military support to Bashar Assad as he commits war crimes against the Syrian people; violates U.N. bans on weapons import and export and ballistic missile testing; and censors information going into Iran and coming out.  That’s only a partial list.

Even as he claims that it wasn’t ransom for hostages (cough, cough), the president behaved as if there was a “moderate” part of the Iranian government with which to do business.  This is why the administration hid the fact from the American public.

Effectively President Obama said, during his press conference to Pastor Abedini and the other released hostages, don’t believe what you were told on the tarmac in Tehran. We wonder what the price could be for the next round of hostage releases. Would that include the doubtful release of ex FBI agent Bob Levinson, whose family want answers from the White House about his whereabouts and release after six years of silence following the last video proof of life? Americans are demanding the Administration press Iran to fess up whether Levinson is still alive.

A Wall Street Journal editorial, “The President’s Non-Ransom to Iran” best summed up the folly of dealing with Iran:

What matters to American credibility is what the mullahs of Iran believe. And it’s obvious they believe that arresting and holding Americans in Iran is a useful way to extract money and other concessions from the United States. Their latest demand is for the U.S. to hand over $2 billion in Iranian funds that have been frozen for the victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism. The thugs of the world don’t care what Mr. Obama believes. They care only that he shows them the money—then they’ll release their hostages.

Listen to the 200th broadcast of The Lisa Benson Show, Sunday August 7, 2016.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Nat Sec Daily Brief

Israel: ‘No Choice’ but Military Option against Iran’s Nuclear Program?

Israel - Iran War Scenarios  12-14(2)In 1964, I sat in a darkened movie theater in Washington, D.C. with a fellow Army Intelligence officer watching Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant dark satire film on how to live with thermonuclear warfare, Dr Strangelove: or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. My colleague and I laughed nervously as we had just finished secret intelligence assignments. That memory was triggered by a recent American Thinker article by veteran nuclear war gaming and arms control expert, John Bosum, “Thinking About the Unthinkable: An Israel-Iran Nuclear War”.  That was a reference to books and articles by nuclear game theorist and Hudson Institute co-founder Herman Kahn and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on limited nuclear warfare.

Scary prospects then, scary prospects now with the world on the verge of concluding a nuclear agreement with the apocalyptic Islamic Republic of Iran virtually assuring it of an arsenal of nuclear weapons in a decade, if not sooner funding in part by the lifting of $150 billion in sanctions. The U.S. says it has the means of striking back at Iran if it is found cheating, a reference to possible military actions. The reality is that the Administration has hollowed out the nation’s military capabilities leaving Israel isolated. The Jewish nation would doubtlessly be reviled by world opinion, should it undertake a strike of its own on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Israeli Limited Nuclear Attack Scenario

There are daunting prospects facing Israel with the looming Congressional vote rejecting the Iran nuclear pact in the face of a likely veto threat by President Obama that may not be overridden. John Bosum, in his American Thinker article vets a possible limited nuclear attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities. His credibility stems from his considerable expertise and professional background in nuclear war gaming and arms control.  He posits an attack scenario using conventional air craft equipped with US supplied GBU 28 “bunker busters” followed by tactical nukes or nuclear tipped cruise missiles launched from Israeli Dolphin subs offshore in the Arabian Sea.  That scenario faces the realities of estimated losses by Israel Ministry of Defense planners. They have estimated that such a scenario might result in the loss of 40 percent of air crews-a heavy price to pay for young IAF pilots.  Then there is Bosum’s suggestion that Israel might use a low altitude EMP attack on Iran by a Jericho 2 missile.  Ex-CIA official Chet Nagle suggested that Israel might pursue that during a Capitol Hill EMPact program on the EMP Threat several years ago. There is also the non nuclear option using swarms of Drone- launched CHAMP cruise missiles that could take out specific targets. Examples are computer controllers and major power transformers for underground enrichment and centrifuge R& D facilities as well as command and control networks. Israeli encrypted software managing large swarms of drones may provide a stealth shield against the Russian supplied S300 batteries. In September 2008 the IAF flew simulated missions against Greek S300 systems involving swarms of IAF aircraft that rattled the IRGC military. From that exercise the IAF may have developed electronic means of spoofing these Russian systems version of S-300 air defense systems.

Bosum believes that Israel’s anti-missile umbrella including the Arrow anti-ICBM, David Sling, Iron Beam and Iron Dome systems, might not be able to withstand barrages of Iranian rockets and medium range ballistic missiles. There is evidence from the Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) November 2012 Iran attack simulations that a conventional attack might succeed in setting back the Iranian program by three years.  Moreover, the simulations suggest that the anti-missile umbrella may destroy significant numbers of incoming Iranian missiles sparing Israel’s major population centers. From reliable sources we understand that Israel may have successfully conducted tests against North Korean developed Shahab 3 missiles likely candidates for nuclear equipped MIRV warheads.

The real issues for Israel are priorities and staging of a limited nuclear attack scenario on Iran’s nuclear program.  From release of  interview audio tapes  this weekend on Israeli Channel 2  by the authors of a forthcoming memoir of  former Defense Minister Ehud Barak   there were allegations  that  Netanyahu was thwarted  from undertaking possible Iran nuclear attack missions  because of objections from  former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, “cold feet” of Ministers Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Defense Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon  and  looming joint Israel US military exercises in 2012. There were reports that President Obama threatened to invoke the Brzezinski Doctrine with orders to shoot down IAF aircraft attacking Iranian targets.  Problem is Barak’s representations may have been part of a promotional effort to enhance his reputation and legacy.  There were also rumors that current Minister of Defense, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon may have also revisited the limited Iran nuclear attack option this past year.  He broadly hinted  that “steps” might have to be taken during a May 5, 2015 conference in Tel Aviv hosted by the Israel Law Center, sufficient to bring a reaction from Iran’s UN Ambassador. Ya’alon was cited in a Times of Israel report saying:

“Certain steps” Israel might consider against tyrannical regimes threatening the nation’s security.

Cases in which we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations we might take certain steps that we believe…should be taken in order to defend ourselves.

Of course, we should be sure that we can look at the mirror after the decision, or the operation. Of course, we should be sure that it is a military necessity. We should consider cost and benefit, of course. But, at the end, we might take certain steps.

He was reminded of US president Harry Truman who “was asked how you feel after deciding to launch the nuclear bombs, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000, casualties? And he said, “When I heard from my officers the alternative is a long war with Japan, with potential fatalities of a couple of millions, I thought it is a moral decision.

We are not there yet, Ya’alon then added.

The Hezbollah Attack Scenario

The release in mid-August 2015 of a definitive national strategy document by IDF Chief of State (COS) Gen. Gadi Eizenkot,  criticized failures to combat both Hamas and Hezbollah, raised the risk from non-state fundamentalist Islamic State, but downplayed the Iran threat.   It is not without moment in late August that there was a stream of contradictory declarations from PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon that Iran is behind a series of low intensity and rocket attacks on Northern Israel and the Golan frontier since the beginning of this year. The attacks involved IRGC officers and Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Israeli PM Netanyahu referencing acceptance of the Iran nuclear pact by world powers said, “You rush to embrace Iran, they fire rockets at us. We will harm those who harm us”

From the assessments of retired Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former National Security Adviser, the immediate objective is the elimination of the near enemy and proxy of Iran, Hezbollah.  Recently Iran unveiled a new solid fuel surface to surface missile, the Fateh 313, that President Rouhani threatened  ballistic missile exercises would demonstrate the ability of longer range missiles to strike both Israel and Saudi Arabia.  The limited range of 310 miles of the Fateh-113 makes the weapon suitable for possible launch from Syria and Lebanon against population centers in Israel. Further, this threat is bolstered by the turmoil in Lebanon behind the unresolved political crisis over the possibility of a power grab by Hezbollah.

An Israeli preemptive attack scenario is at the heart of Jon Schanzer’s article, “The Iran Nuclear Deal Means War between Israel and Hezbollah”.   Schanzer argues that the Iran nuclear deal may trigger a major war against Hezbollah to eliminate the Iranian- supplied rocket and missile inventories and the command and control echelons of Hezbollah.  Schanzer refers to discussions with senior Israeli defense officials who appear committed   to dislodge Hezbollah and destroy the huge inventory of 150,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon. Israel has both air and naval combat capabilities to achieve this including interdiction of Iranian and Chinese supplied anti-ship missiles. Further, the IDF would not have to rely on those U.S.-supplied GBU-28’s bunker busters.  It has sophisticated weapons like the Rafael SPICE precision guided glide bombs used to foil weapons deliveries from Syria to Hezbollah in the Bekaa Valley. It also has its own variant of the Boeing CHAMP cruise missiles capable of non-nuclear EMP effects against command and control nets. Moreover, unlike the inconclusive Second Lebanon War of 2006, the IDF has learned its lessons about unit training, command and control and effective means of taking out anti-air,  anti-tank rockets and  launching precision battlefield missiles, using the Iron Beam, Trophy and Pereh systems.

This sequencing of threat priorities was reflected in a Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition Interview by Sohran Ahmari with former Saudi General and National Security Advisor Anwar Eshki, “The Saudis Reply to Iran’s Rising Danger.”  General Eshki held colloquies with Dr. Dore Gold   director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry. The most notable one was the public forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. General Eshki’s conclusion drawn from a Socratic dialogue on the near versus far enemy decision paradigm was: “Israel is thinking first of all to destroy Hezbollah, to solve the problem with Hezbollah. After that they can attack Iran.”

Walla News in Israel reported a senior defense official   saying that Israel may be capable of undertaking an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and defending Israel against a retaliatory strike:

Every year that passes, the IDF improves. We never stand still. The professional level increases. In the coming year we will receive another submarine, F-35 fighter jets and other platforms. Intelligence is improving as well.

Further, Walla reported IDF COS Eizenkot instructing deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan to revise military plans for a possible military strike. But it cautioned that the military option was off the table until there are ‘significant developments’.  That may be for public consumption. Israel has a tradition of saying nothing or opaquely very little when such events occur

Conclusion

The planners in the Ministry of Defense pits in Tel Aviv have multiple threats and must prioritize resources. By necessity Israel must plan for taking out the near enemy, Hezbollah, which would enable them to have a clear path to attack Iran.  Thus, it must be prepared to accomplish both threats.  At issue is whether Israel I PM Netanyahu and the security cabinet have the resolve to accomplish both despite adverse world opinion and likely intervention by the Obama Administration.

When Israeli PM Begin ordered the “raid against the sun’ in 1981 that took out Saddam Hussein’s  Osirak nuclear reactor , it took a decade for former Vice President Dick Cheney to thank Israel when the US led coalition unleashed the First Gulf War.  No such thanks came from the Bush Administration following the IAF’s successful obliteration of the Syrian al-Kibar nuclear bomb factory following the September 2007 raid.  . The Obama Administration has demonstrated its inability or unwillingness to exercise a possible military option should Iran be found cheating under the terms of the JCPOA. It has hollowed out the US military capability under the Congressional Sequester.  We have the smallest navy since WWI and the smallest Army since before WWII. We have less than 26,000 first line aircraft.  Israel has no choice, but to undertake its sovereign right to defend the Jewish nation against such existential threats.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Iranian President Rouhani and Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan with Fateh-313 Sold Fuel Missile, August 22, 2015. Source: Iranian Presidential office/AP.

“Zionism Unsettled” is a hatefilled document endorsed by Iran and David Duke

zionism unsettledA century ago the Presbyterian Church was among the leading Christian Zionists. These days a minority within  the Presbyterian Church USA is engaged in relentless delegitimization of Israel through a decade long BDS campaign. Their affiliate the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) released last month a 74 page guide, Zionism Unsettled (the Guide) that recently stoked the ire of the American Jewish community. A JNS.org story on the Zionism Unsettled guide cited Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s  Director of Intergroup and Interreligious Relations, who called it:

 A devastating distortion of Jewish and Israeli history, aimed at nothing less than eradicating the State of Israel.

The study guide is reminiscent of medieval Christian polemics against Judaism, with the authors claiming to know better than the Jewish community how Jews define themselves. This is another example of the ongoing effort to demonize Israel by a cadre of people who want to see the dismantlement of the Jewish state.

Here are some examples drawn from the Guide  that led to adverse criticism:

The Nakba (catastrophe) that befell the Palestinian people in the late 1940s should never have taken place. The Palestinian story is one of suffering at the hands of the international community, which authorized the division of Palestine in 1947, and at the hands of the Zionists who planned, organized, and implemented systematic ethnic cleansing.

Now, 65 years later, the Zionist quest for demographic control of the land in still underway – not only in the occupied territories, but within Israel itself.

Yesterday, the Guide received the endorsements of the Shiite Islamic Anti-Semitic Regime’s Press TV in Tehran and the American Anti-Semite, David Duke.  Duke has conducted outreach to Muslim Anti-Semitic groups in both Syria and Iran, to say nothing of his racist efforts here in the US.

Press TV’s report, “Zionism destroying lives of Palestinians, Jews” applauded the anti-Zionist Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP):

In a study guide on the Israeli regime released by the IPMN of Presbyterian Church (USA) last month, the authors argue that Jewish criticism of Zionism is on the rise, hailing the Jews who speak against the ‘supremacist’ movement.

“Contemporary voices are breaking the taboos that have stigmatized and punished critical examination of Zionism and its consequences,” says the study guide, calling on the brave Jews who criticize Zionism to resist a concerted effort by Pro-Zionist groups to silence them.

Press TV supported the Guide’s anti-Israel views:

A Presbyterian Church group has described Zionism as the single reason behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it is destroying the lives of both Palestinians and Jewish communities across the world.

Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst for the Boston-based Middle East media watchdog, CAMERA, cited praise for the Guide from David Duke in an Algemeiner article:

In a major breakthrough in the worldwide struggle against Zionist extremism, the largest Presbyterian Church in the United States, the PC (USA), has issued a formal statement calling Zionism “Jewish Supremacism” — a term first coined and made popular by Dr. David Duke.

The IPMN website has additional acclamation from leftist Anti-Zionist Ben Gurion University Professor Neve Gordon (no relation) and former Palestinian National Council spokesman, Professor Rashid Khalidi, holder of the endowed Edward Said Chair on Modern Arab Studies  at Columbia University:

Gordon said in his blurb:

In my work I am inspired by the great Jewish prophets’ struggle for justice and freedom, while simultaneously I am often astounded how certain strains in Judaism and Christianity invoke the Bible in order to justify oppression and social wrongs in Israel/Palestine. Therefore I welcome the effort to emphasize a conception of Judaism and Christianity that espouses universalistic ethics – whereby all humans are imago dei – and to use it to expose injustices carried out in my homeland.

Khalidi said:

The denial of the rights of the Palestinians is largely driven by the exemption of Zionist ideology and its real-world implications from any serious scrutiny. Zionism Unsettled explains accurately and concisely why it is essential to look at the theological roots of Zionism, and how it has appealed to both Jews and Christians, in order to understand the true nature of the long ordeal suffered by the Palestinian people, as well as the real roots of so much of the strife in the Middle East.

Today, the Presbyterian Church (USA ) entered the fray with a news release in the wake of this kerfuffle over the Guide:

 “Our church has a long history of engaging many points of view when it comes to dialogue on critical issues facing the world around us — it’s who we are, part of our DNA,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “There are likely as many differing opinions as there are Presbyterians — and, like many denominations, we don’t always agree.”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) policy calls for a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and the right for each to exist within secure and recognized borders. The church has condemned acts of violence on both sides of the conflict, as well as the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements. Our church has categorically condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the refusal to acknowledge the legal existence of the State of Israel. At the same time, we believe that condemnation of injustices perpetrated in the name of the State of Israel, including the violation of human rights, does not constitute anti-Semitism.

In 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formed the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) to help move the church toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine. The independent group — which speaks to the church and not for the church — recently published a study guide, Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study. The guide is intended to prompt discussion on the ever-changing and tumultuous issue of Israel-Palestine. The IPMN booklet was neither paid for nor published by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“There are myriad voices within congregations, and some would like to see the church go beyond that stance,” added Valentine. “But we remain guided by the policies of the General Assembly, seeking peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Then it quotes the head of the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace:

There are a variety of voices and opinions within the Jewish community on this issue as well. Jewish Voice for Peace advocates for a peaceful and just solution among Palestinians and Israelis that respects human rights for all.

“We are in opposition to the settlements and occupation, and in favor of a true and just peace,” said Sydney Levy, director of advocacy for Jewish Voice for Peace. “And we are not alone in this — Jews, Christians, and Muslims join us in the prayer for peace.”

Is this the view of all members of the PCUSA?  Not by any means.  Robert Norvell, a Presbyterian Minister and counter-jihad activist in Jonesboro, Arkansas wrote in an email:

I believe 85% of all Presbyterians are adamantly opposed to this study. Is Israel perfect? No, but neither is the USA. But Israel is far superior morally to Hamas, Fatah and the other Muslim savages populating the neighborhood. They are our only reliable friends and allies in the region. I am embarrassed by the actions of a few Presbyterian extremists.

Dexter Van Zile in the JNS.org article corroborated Norvell’s comment saying:

The folks who lead this church in Louisville (site of Presbyterian Church USA’s headquarters) are quite willing to allow a small but vocal minority to demonize Israel and use the church’s brand-name to do it. They have behaved like this since 2004. Most of the denomination’s laity does not support these extremists, but their voice has not proven to be decisive.

When I wrote about a battle within the PCUSA over an anti-Israel BDS resolution at the annual conference in an American Thinker article in June 2006, “Divest Hate”, I noted who were among the Presbyterians opposing it:

Because grass roots opinion has been building among both pastors and their flocks against the leadership of the PCUSA on the divestment resolution. They want to eliminate hate and most importantly protect the religious freedoms of minority Christians in the Middle East from the real threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Their allies in this battle include leading grassroots Presbyterian groups like End Divestment Now!, founded by Jim Roberts.  Among vocal opponents of the BDS resolution was former CIA director, R. James Woolsey, a Presbyterian Elder,  and chairman of the Washington, DC-based foundation for Defense of Democracies..

Zionism Unsettled  is a hateful document that has had a spotlight thrown on it  by the endorsement of Iran’s Press TV and David Duke. As cited by Norvell, we trust that  a majority of Presbyterians will rise to the occasion and defeat another BDS resolution at the Church’s upcoming annual conference in June.  Whether they can remove the current PCUSA leadership and return to the moral high ground is another matter. Nonetheless, we wish the activist laity well in their battle to support the Jewish nation of Israel.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.