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Presbyterian anti-terror resolution: A lifeline for the Middle East

06/24/2006

A little heralded resolution of the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA may have extended a lifeline to the Middle East on a critical issue.

Sooner or later, everyone will understand that the Middle East is doomed unless we can lick terror. There will be no bright future, no democracy, no freedom, nothing worthwhile, if different groups of bandits are allowed to hold the world hostage to their whims. The entire Middle East will increasingly resemble Beirut during the civil war. The rest of the world is involved too, but the Middle East is the prime target and the major arena of terrorist action.

Because terrorism is an international plague, it cannot be beaten without international action. International action has been impossible because governments, communities, NGOs and religious leaders have insisted on manipulating definitions of terror to exclude their own particular brand of terror, or to advance the particular political cause they espouse. A near-universal conspiracy of journalists has euphemized the people who cut off heads and blow up people during religious observances as "militants," a word that used to be applied to advocates of women's suffrage. In the Middle East, these malefactors are often termed "martyrs" and terrorism is often called "resistance." Fatuous academic doctrines teach that suicide bombing is an act of altruism.

The term "terrorist" is only used when the explosions happen in one's own country, and the victims are members of one's religion or ethnic group. When a small U.S. Muslim organization tried, not long ago, to organize a Muslim protest against terror, the attempt fizzled because it was ridiculed by the U.S. Muslim community.

Since then, the Middle East has slowly learned a few lessons, paying a terrible tuition. As Jeff Weintraub points out, people are unwilling to condemn terror as long as it might advance their favorite cause, and will only rally to condemn terrorism when they finally understand that it is aimed at them:


Most people are willing to condemn this sort of "terrorism" in vague and general terms, but in practice their attitude often depends in large part on whom they see as the targets of terrorist attacks.  When the targets seem appropriate, then there is a common tendency to make excuses for terrorism, to find special justifications for it, to try to change the subject, or even to deny that these particular attacks really constitutes terrorism at all (as opposed to, say, "resistance").  Unfortunately, even when people claim to oppose "terrorism" in general, in practice they often make exceptions until they feel that their group is being targeted.

The terror strikes in Sinai, the strike in Jordan that killed about 60 people at a wedding, and the continuing use of terror in Iraqi sectarian violence, have finally changed a few minds about terror. At least, most normal people now agree that Abu Musab Al Zarqawi was filth. Typically, there is an attempt to blame the filth on someone else and insist he was an American "asset" (agent) or an Israeli agent. This dawning recognition has not as yet, really coalesced into an international will to wipe out terror, whatever its source. Tortuous verbal and moral acrobatics are used to justify the proposition that whereas it is an evil crime to kill Shi'a worshippers in a mosque in Baghdad, or Muslim worshippers in the cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, it is "legitimate resistance" for a suicide bomber to kill people celebrating a Passover Seder in a hotel in Nethanya. A large portion of "liberal" opinion lends legitimacy to the execrable means and ends of the Hamas ("democratically elected") and the Hizbullah ("legitimate resistance"), and there is, a sector of opinion, much smaller, but equal in moral and logical folly, that is willing to praise - or justify - the mad thuggery of Baruch Goldstein and other Israeli settler extremists.

The Presbyterian General Assembly, overruling their commissioners, approved the following resolution:


We, the 217th General Assembly (2006) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) declare that any suicide bombing, no matter who is the perpetrator or the target, constitutes a crime against humanity.

While international law, through various treaties and international consensus affirms the criminality of such acts when linked to a government, it is crucial that the church and the world affirm the culpability of individuals and groups that assist in carrying out suicide bombings [and terrorism] through financial or logistical support and that civil or military authorities who fail to exercise adequate powers of control over perpetrators and fail to take appropriate measures, be held accountable. The international community and faith community as a whole are obligated to prevent and call for international judicial prosecution of all those aiding and abetting these crimes.

We instruct our Moderator and Stated Clerk to encourage our leaders in the U.S.A., our ecumenical partners, our interfaith partners, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the United Nations Security Council to make suicide bombing a matter of declaration and legislation under national laws, and to raise this issue with all appropriate international agencies as appropriate.

We hereby pledge and instruct the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Washington Office of the PC(USA), and the Presbyterian UN representatives to take every opportunity to publicly and officially condemn suicide bombings [and terrorism] and to help empower victims of such attacks to be able to bring those who plan and inspire suicide bombings to the bar of international justice. Further to instruct the Stated Clerk to notify the United Nations, the World Court, the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other appropriate human rights organizations of the 217th General Assembly (2006)'s position on this topic, and ask for their collaboration in amending international law, especially international criminal court elements of crime; Article 7 entitled "Crimes Against Humanity."

This resolution is astonishing because it is so obviously right that it was almost impossible to expect that it would happen. It is a moral "enabling act" that gives everyone a banner that can be used as the standard of anti-terror forces. If it is carried out conscientiously, and emulated by other religious groups and NGOs, it can at last create an effective lobby against terrorism. It is a lobby that does not further the narrow interests of any political opinion, religion or ethnic group. It is a lobby that can be and should be supported by every religion and non-religion from Atheists to Zoroastrians, and every nation and ethnicity from Arabs to Zulus.

If we want to have any future for the Middle East, we have to hope that the PCUSA, and everyone else, will realize the potential of the moral force of this resolution.

Ami Isseroff


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Replies: 6 comments

Anti terror resolutions are wonderful to read. They will remain just that until everyone agrees on the term terrorist. As far as most muslims and probably the majority of the people in the world consider Israel a terrorist country. It kills with almost no discrimination, it distroys homes, it invades countries and many other criminal acts and the world governments say nothing. Whenever, most of the world powers agree to take action against Israeli terrorist acts, uncle sam uses it's veto power against the rest of the world. As long as Israel is on the war path, most arabs and muslims will continue believing in suicide as a ligitimiate method to fight the injustice caused by Israel. I am not saying Israel is the cause of all the problems in the middle east, but the majority of the problems are either directly or indirectly caused by a country that seems set on living in a state of war in the middle east a country called Israel.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 06/24/2006 10:14 PM CST

Israel, from its birth under UN Mandate, has been attacked by its Arab neighbors and has defended itself, as is its right. It goes to great lengths to try to prevent civilians deaths (witness Jenin - if the Israelis had simply bombed from above, they would have had no casualties, but instead did the very difficult job of going house to house to kill true terrorists - people who publicly target Israeli woman and children.) Mike, sounds like some people have been playing with your mind.

Posted by John C Saunders @ 06/26/2006 01:19 PM CST

The PCA are one sad branch of the worldwide Presbyterian family - they even have much of their Christianity wrong. But that sense prevailed - true Christian principles prevailed - we are all thankful. I belong to a small Scottish branch of the Presbyterian Church and was brought up to respect the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Our ministers pray publicaly for "God`s ancient people". And anyhow, should we not learn the dangers of Churches getting involved in the stocks and shares business?

Posted by Neil Livingston Maclean @ 06/26/2006 01:40 PM CST

People listen! The millinneum is upon us. We should be listening to what Rev. 2:26-29 is talking about. That is! When volunteer obedient disciples start identifying Satan's rules and advice which is causing lies to oppress and imprison people all over the earth, and praying in agreement against those lies, we will start to find places where the peace of the millinneum will be taking control. Only when the power of the iron rod, and the authority of the Bright and Morning Star are being used to make the enemies of Christ obey His will, or become a footstool for His feet, will we be preparing the earth for the real peace of the Millinneum.

Posted by Dr. Walter O. Peterson @ 06/27/2006 01:51 AM CST

John C Saunders, witness the criminal act of Israel on the beach in Gaza a few days ago. Witness the over 150 people murdered by Israel at a UN camp in Qana in Lebanon. Witness the thousands of killings by Israel in the name of it defending it self. Witness The massacre of Sabra and Chatila in Lebanon. As to arabs attacking Israel again do a search and see who was attacking most of the time. Stop giving Israel reasons to continue on this war path. Israel is in full speed towards murder in the name of killing "true" terrorists like that child on the beach.

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 06/27/2006 12:16 PM CST

I wonder why these Presbytarians are focussing so much on suicide bombings. Leaving a bomb in a pub or dropping it from a plane seems to me worse if anything, but that suicide aspect really seems to get people's goat.

I also wonder if people would be making such a fuss if suicide bombing had remained confined to the Tamil Tigers.

They also fail to mention state terrorism as practiced by Saddam, Karimov and various Latin American governments supported by the US - and direct US support for the "Contra" terrorists in Nicaragua, anti-Castro terrorists and various others.

That's without getting onto Zionist terrorism against the British Mandate and the Palestinians, the Mau Mau, ANC terrorism in South Africa, French terrorism against the German occupation, Dresden, Hiroshima and so on. Even though I would certainly condemn it as a tactic or strategy, I'm not sure that trying to isolate "terrorism" as a discrete phenomenon is a particularly illuminating way of looking at things.

Incidentally, when Hamas attack a military target instead of a civilian one it doesn't seem to gain them any brownie points. Apparently that's still terrorism.

Posted by Chris @ 06/28/2006 01:33 PM CST


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