Saturday, June 24, 2006

Further thoughts on the Presbyterian anti-terrorism resolution (Ami Isseroff)

This follows up my recent item about the vote by the US Presbyterian Church, at its 2006 General Assembly, to condemn terrorism and suicide bombing--"no matter who is the perpetrator or the target"--in explicit and unequivocal terms. (For further details, see HERE.)

In some ways, it's easy to sympathize with this slightly exasperated reaction (from an exchange between two other correspondents):
Your comment about the Presbyterians pretty much sums up what constitutes a victory these days -- Christians coming out against suicide bombers! Well, I guess that's something. Perhaps tomorrow they will take a courageous stand against beheadings.
And it is also worth noting that a quarter of the delegates voted against this resolution, so it's clear that condemning terrorist suicide bombing was not considered at all non-controversial.

But in fact that is part of what makes this action by the Presbyterian Church significant and potentially valuable--if it proves to be a first step that inspires imitation. As Ami Isseroff correctly points out (on MidEastWeb):
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.

We'll see whether or not this turns out to be overly optimistic. Read the rest below.

--Jeff Weintraub
====================
Ami Isseroff (MidEastWeb)
June 24, 2006

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

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:
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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.
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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:

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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."

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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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