With relations between the Jewish and Presbyterian religious communities at their lowest point in decades, it’s hard to imagine what could have possessed the Presbyterian Church (USA) to decide this was the right time for a good-will visit with the leadership of Hezbollah.
A 24-member delegation from the church met last Sunday in Lebanon with Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, described in press reports as the commander of Hezbollah in South Lebanon. According to The Associated Press, the group was on a fact-finding mission that included tours of sites near the Lebanese-Israeli border. They were briefed on Hezbollah’s network of educational and social services, and heard from Kaouk that his Shi’ite group would welcome better ties with the American people.
Hezbollah is deemed by the American government to be one of the most dangerous international terrorist organizations. It is responsible for a host of atrocities, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 270. Before September 11 it was responsible for more American terrorist deaths than any other group. It is believed to be responsible for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, still the deadliest anti-Jewish attack since World War II. And it is busy expanding its links to other terrorist groups; it is currently believed to be directing as much as 70% of ongoing terrorist violence in the West Bank.
At press time the leadership of the Presbyterian Church (USA) was said to be seeking to distance itself from the church’s irresponsible behavior. But the hug-fest with Hezbollah is merely the logical conclusion of a course that was set last spring, when the church voted to divest itself of holdings in companies doing business with Israel. By singling out Israel for de-legitimization and demonization, the church sent a clear signal to its followers that the Jewish state is fair game and, by implication, that its enemies are valid partners in dialogue.
The church should use this opportunity to re-examine its shameful policies and return to sanity.