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Subject: Divestment

Fax from Maurice Ostroff

An open letter to Mr. John Detterick,
Executive Director
The General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
FAX (502) 569-8005

In view of the great work which your church is performing, including Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Hunger Programs, Self-Development of People and International Health Ministries, it is indeed sad to find that the Presbyterian Church is a party to the publishing of inaccurate information. I refer to the "Resource Sheets" on "Israel and Palestine" published on the web, which contain egregiously flawed and misleading information. ( http://www.pcusa.org/pcusa/wmd/ep/country/isr-resource.htm )

As, no doubt, sincere Presbyterians would not wish to make decisions based on such false information, I believe you owe it to your congregations to call for an urgent re-examination of the contents of these published "resource sheets" to ensure that the data presented is accurate and fairly presented in the true Christian spirit. Let me quote just a few examples, which will convince you, as a fair-minded Christian, of the urgent necessity to carry out such re-examination.

In the section entitled "Who are the Israelis?" The following paragraph creates a completely distorted perception of the events described.
"The United Nations proposed a partition plan in 1947 to divide the mandated territory into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with the Jewish state receiving about 56.47 percent of the land and the Arab state about 43.53 percent. Jerusalem would have become an international region. Violence broke out between Jewish and Palestinian forces. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. The armies of five Arab nations intervened in the violence between Jews and Palestinians. Israel captured a total of 78 percent of the former Palestine Mandate. During the 1967 War, Israel occupied the Sinai, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt, annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, and continues to occupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip."

The paragraph misleads, not only because it does not place the information in context, but because of erroneous statements. The undisputed facts, which may be verified from newspaper archives, are

a) The partition resolution greatly reduced the area originally promised to the Jews. Over 75% of the land allocated to them was bare desert. The Jewish population nevertheless accepted the plan but the all of the Arab members states of the UN - Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen- voted against and declared partition invalid.

b) The statement "On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. The armies of five Arab nations intervened in the violence between Jews and Palestinians" is another distortion.

The word "intervene" creates the impression of an impartial, well-meaning intervention to separate parties to an existing dispute, but the indisputable facts are that far from intervening between two parties, the Arab armies were extreme, active aggressors. As soon as the State of Israel was declared, Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared publicly, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades". The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini stated, "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!" Israel was immediately invaded by armies of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq as well as irregular forces of Kaukji.

c) The statement "Israel captured a total of 78 percent of the former Palestine Mandate" is similarly false as is evident from the attached map (Appendix A) published, not by an Israeli source, but by the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), run by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals. This Palestinian document clearly proves that Israel was left with a tiny fraction of the mandate territory, which had been intended as a Jewish homeland.

The undisputed facts are that after World War I, the Paris Peace Conference (January to June 1919) ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles At this conference it was agreed that "Palestine" the area which today comprises Israel and Jordan was to become a League of Nations Mandate, entrusted to Great Britain, Britain being charged with the obligation to facilitate the implementation of the Balfour Declaration. The Mandate stipulated that Britain was to "facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and encourage close settlement by Jews on the land."

d) The bald statement "During the 1967 War, Israel occupied the Sinai, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem" lacks any attempt to provide information about circumstances leading to the war, to enable an impartial reader to evaluate the situation.

The facts are that that during 1966, Israelis were being killed daily by incursions from Jordan and Egypt, Syria was shelling continuously from the Golan Heights, making life unbearable for citizens in the Galilee. In May 1967 Egypt moved forces into the Sinai, expelled UN peacekeeping forces and closed the Straits of Tiran. Israel sent an emissary to King Hussein, to plead with him to stay out of the conflict. He refused. On May 25, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia massed troops on Israel's borders. President Nasser declared publicly "Our basic goal is the destruction of Israel". It was in the resulting, defensive Six-Day War that Israel took Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, not from the Palestinians - but from Jordan. Nor was Gaza taken from the Palestinians. It was previously in Egyptian hands.

The Timeline resource sheet states simplistically that during 1969*1970 "Jordan moves against the PLO whose members flee", aa though this too, occurred in a vacuum.

You will no doubt agree that this statement misleads by omitting the important facts about Black September in 1970 when a series of hijackings of international airliners by Palestinian terrorists was followed by the PLO's attempt to take control of Jordan. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in 10 days by the Jordanian army. It was this event that led to the establishment of the PLO HQ in Lebanon

The above are a but a few examples of the very many misleading statements in the published "Resource Sheets", which should suffice to convince you to withdraw them until they have been revised so as to present a true and fair Christian approach.

I would very much appreciate a considered response.


Maurice Ostroff
At 17:10 06/04/2005, John Detterick wrote:

Thank you for your message suggesting changes to the information relative to Israel on our website. I am forwarding your note to those involved in creating and supporting that portion of the website for their review and consideration.
John Detterick
April 6, 2005

Dear Mr. Detterick,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply which I appreciate and which I will be distributing to my international mailing list.

I trust that we can look forward to learning that immediate positive action has been taken to correct the misleading information on your web site and that you have notified members of your Church accordingly.

It is evident from the content of your "resource sheets" that support for the call for divestment from Israel by the Presbyterian Church (USA) is largely based on the kind of misinformation to which I drew your attention.

I pointed out only a few examples of errors. If you wish to ensure fair and accurate comment in all the "resource sheets" I will gladly assist in editing them with references to impeccable sources of accurate information.

Again thank you for your helpful response

Maurice Ostroff
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