Friday, October 26, 2007

Day One of Sabeel's Jew demonization project got under way today, and the organized Jewish Community took it on with an organized rally across the street in front of the Boston Public Library. The protest had to be in the early afternoon on the workday of Friday for what should be obvious reasons. An operative was there, and took the photos below which I thought I'd share.

Old South Church

Folks begin to gather in front of the BPL

The Real Apartheid State: Saudi Arabia

Blame the Jews

End Apartheid in Arab Countries

Old South in Background

I believe that's Francis Bok on the left

Sabeel's Solution: No Jews

We Support Israel

Simon Deng

The crowd

"When people criticize Zionists..."

Stand with Israel...

Stop Gender Apartheid


Facing the church

The church crowd

Conference attendees show their true colors

Traitor Jeff Halper talks to Jewish Voice for Peacers -- Dennis Fox on right.


As a member of the old south church this is my individual opinion about this matter. Senior Pastor Nancy Taylor did not alone make this decision to rent space to Sabeel for this event. The congregationist way of decision making is that the most important issues of the day are brought before the church council (basically the house of representatives) and a vote is taken. The church council voted to allow the meeting space to be used by Sabeel as it has a relationship with the national United Church of Christ (UCC). The Old South Church is a local member of the (UCC). I think has been clearly stated that the church is interested in hearing both sides of an issue. The gospel of Christian Love is what is preached at the Old South Church on weekly bases. The sign out in front of the church with this week”s sermon title as “blame the jews” has never been post by a sexton,member or minister.

The sign out in front of the church with this week”s sermon title as “blame the jews” has never been post by a sexton,member or minister."

It was most certainly allowed by the Old South Church, by the council and by the church as a whole.

That alone is, or should be, a cause of profound shame.

As to "both sides," what counts as "both" or all sides in a debate might reflect an estimable concern for impartiality, fairness, intellectual and moral inquiry - and other concerns as well that command respect. But talk of hearing "both sides" can also reflect highly dubious impulses, it can for example reflect moral atrophy, tergiversation and even cowardice. Talk of "both sides" requires context and it requires further delineation and clarity. When it's used in an unclarified or poorly clarified manner, as an aspect of a too general apology - in this instance for what the Old South Church shamed itself with - it becomes, bare minimum, suspect.

This is like the United Church of Christ hosting a Klan rally, to "hear both sides".

the sign on the front was a photo shop.

it's a parody, a well-deserved parody.

Earth to Janice Graves:

No one passed the image off as a photograph; it is a clearly labeled as a parody. IHowever, it's no laughing matter that parody message you object to aptly characterizes both the conference and the image Old South presents to the world. It's too bad you chose to focus on trivialities rather than on substance.

Janice, thank you for clarifying how Old South's governance works. If it's not just the Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor who was behind turning the church into a platform for hate speech, then it's an even greater disgrace.

Old South didn't always harbor such antipathy toward the Jewish people. Old South's complicity in the Sabeel hate-fest shows how the church has turned its back on its own history, now sullied. As Michael Oren notes in Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, this is the same church where, 45 years after people left the church disguised as Indians and threw British tea into the harbor, Levi Parsons and Pliny Fisk preached in 1819 that Christians should work to restore the Jewish people's sovereignty in their ancestral home.

Who is Jeff Halper?

"hear both sides"

Janice, why are you trying to weasel out of this? Aren't you proud of your decision to stand with the barbarians?

I still stand by the old south church's decision to rent space to Sabeel last week. Sabeel was not censored by the church as to who they would allowed speak as it was Sabeel's conference not a church sponsored event. The church also does not censor its ministers and they are allowed to preach on whatever the issues of the day are. This is called free speech.

What kind of langauge is Barbarians?. That in and of itself says to me alot about the openness of anyone writing to the this page. We are all god's children even if you don't agree with what the other is saying. I am not trying to weasel out of anything. I thought this page would like to hear from a church member who knowns about congregational polity and how decisions are made.

The hearing from "both sides" remark by me has generate angry in many of you writing here. There are two sides to this issue that is a fact. The church sponored forums planned for after the conference had included Dennis Ross but after pressure from the jewish establishment/community he backed out at the last minute. The well respected Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center of Philly, Penn did come in speak at a forum last Sunday.

About the sign in photo number three above. If I stumbled upon that photo on the internet or newsprint then i would think the church did use it in its front sign. "BLAME THE JEWS" as i have stated earlier has never been preached by the minsters or been placed in that sign. I dont believe in parodies either who ever printed that photo to begin with never check there facts about what the sermon titles have been over the last 338 years. What kind of group of people use The words "Blame the Jews" in there public relations to say we are right you and you are wrong to rent your space to sabeel.

I now know that i have written my email to a very pro-israeli group. But you have proven to me that by your responses that hearing an old south church member's opinion is not something you in are interested in. I was trying to help you understand how church polity works in a congregational church and that it is not fair for someone to print that photo of "Blame the Jews" on the church's front sign. That in and of itself is hateful towards the christians at the corner of Darmouth and Boylston Streets in Boston, MA.

Here is some more information about how the well respected Rabbi Arthur Waskow from the shalom center ended up speaking at the church's forum last Sunday. His words below are printed on an internet web page.

"""Here is a lengthy email from The Shalom Center’s Rabbi Arthur Waskow about how he became a last-minute replacement for Dennis Ross as a speaker at Old South Church in Boston. The church rented space to Palestinian liberation theology organization Sabeel for their conference this weekend which featured Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As Waskow writes:

The church, which had had warm relationships with the official Jewish structures of Boston, realized that Sabeel’s and Tutu’s presence might be a problem for those Jewish organizational structures. So it planned a series of speakers under its own sponsorship, separate from the Sabeel conference, representing a range of religious views, and asked advice from the official Jewish structures about speakers for a series of their own, including one who might speak right after the Sabeel conference to “balance’ the Sabeel presentations. Two Jews acceptable to these Jewish officials were suggested, were invited, and agreed to speak.

According to Rabbi Waskow, former Clinton aide Dennis Ross agreed to speak on the Sunday after the Sabeel conference.

But then something went awry. The Jewish officialdom decided to demand that the church require Sabeel to include in its conference a speaker who would present views very different from Sabeel’s and Tutu’s, far more favorable to Israeli interests and policies as defined by the Israeli government and the Jewish officialdom.

Old South, appropriately, said they could not do this. So Ross and another rabbi withdrew, presumably under pressure. And then a protest against the church and Sabeel was called for Friday. And the church invited me as a last minute replacement for Sunday"""".

Another Jew providing cover for the haters. That quote has been circulating on all the loveliest email lists (I had it forwarded approvingly from the Al Awda list -- yet another group that would like to dismantle the Jewish State). Maybe that's just his personal, minority, opinion and the rest of us are entitled to take in context perhaps? Sabeel is a member in good standing on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction brigade. Waskow's naive "they were real nice to me" silliness notwithstanding.

Clueless Janice, you scribbled:

There are two sides to this issue that is a fact.
Indeed, there are several sides to the issue, and honest discussion means listening to other sides. As someone who protested on Friday, let me say that that the Arabs who in recent years have invented an ethnicity and taken to calling themselves "Palestinians" (the real Palestinians were the pre-Independence Zionists, but I won't go further into that aspect of the dishonesty in the Palestinian victimhood trope here) got a raw deal. But not from the Israelis. Here's who really screwed them:
  • The Arab nations who used them as pawns.

  • The UN which institutionalized their refugee status, starting with a special definition of "refugee" that applies only to the Arabs who left in 1948-9, on through two UN Agencies devoted to preserving the status of the original refugees (and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren) as dependent, stateless refugees kept in abominable conditions that foment violence.

  • Their own leaders, the PLO and the government of the Palestinian Authority. By every objective measure (per capita income, infant mortality, life expectancy, freedom of expression and other civil liberties...), the condition of Palestinians (so-called) in the territories was better and improving until 1994, when they came under the control of Arafat's corrupt thugocracy.

  • The EU and the "international community" who bought into the victimhood narrative who discourage honest discussion.

Yes, there are (at least) two sides, and it is important to hear them. Israel deserves to be criticized when she does something wrong. Indeed, take a look at the lively Israeli press, which is free, unlike the government controlled media in the PA areas. You will be hard-pressed to find another society more self-critical or where a broader range of opinions is expressed. Now take a look at Palestinian media (Palestinian Media Watch at calls their content a "self-portrait of the Palestinian people.") You will look in vein for anything that's reflective or self-critical, but you will find lots of indoctrination into hatred, incitement to violence and blatant antisemitism.

Israel has made enormous sacrifices and done extraordinary things for peace. These confidence-building measures and signs of goodwill include arming the PA and handing large areas over to them to govern, including the entire Gaza Strip. Israel lived up to its Oslo commitments to prepare for Palestinian statehood. These things were not not reciprocated; instead, the PA promoted irredentist dreams and transformed what had been a nationalist movement into a religious quest, a religious battle for supremacy.

Our objection to the Sabeel conference wasn't because its program and speakers criticized Israel. The problem is that they are simply dishonest. They peddle a one-sided narrative that doesn't deepen understanding or promote dialogue. On the contrary, it promotes hatred.

Natan Sharansky has a simple heuristic for telling when criticism of Israel goes too far. It's the "Three D's". Legitimate criticism does not manifest the Three D's that animate hateful propaganda. These Three D's relentlessly pervade Sabeel's one-note diatribes:

  1. Double-standards. When Israel acts to protect her citizens (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Baha'i, Druze, Samarian, Bedouin, etc.), she is harshly criticized for measures that would be acceptable from any other nation.

  2. Demonization. Israel is portrayed as being solely responsible for the conflict, as an evil oppressor acting with malice against the innocent, peaceful Palestinians. Cause and effect are confused. For example, the security fence, a humane, non-violent response to horrible terror bombings, is called "The Wall" and seen as a provocation that confiscates land and oppresses the Palestinians. I'll remind you that there were no checkpoints nor the security barrier before 2000, when Arafat launched the Terror War (AKA the Second Intifada). Sabeel's charges of deicide employ theological arguments to make their case for their demonization of Israel. Israel is portrayed as inherently evil and acting out of bad faith.

  3. Denial of Israel's legitimacy and right to exist -- a right that no one questions of any other nation, as if the other countries were all born of immaculate conception. The unbroken Jewish presence in Palestine for more than two millenia is denied. The undying Jewish connection to their ancestral homeland is not recognized. There is no recognition that Jews were the plurality in Jerusalem from the 1840's and the majority there since about 1870. The fact is that is that the Jews of Palestine recognized that two peoples both had claims to the land and were willing to accept the UN's 1947 Partition Plan that offered Jewish sovereignty in Jewish majority areas and Arab sovereignty where they were more numerous, with Jerusalem to remain an "international city" for two years.

How does Sabeel's story stack up with the Sharansky's test? We've already noted the double standards. In their view, Israel's Israel is a colonialist project. The foreign, racist occupiers stole the land from whom they claim are its rightful owners. The Jews have have no right to be there. There is no discussion of competing narratives or striving for accommodation, just Demonization and Denial.

That is not "another side" that can be discussed. Advocating, promoting or supporting people with that view -- as Old South has done -- simply inflames. It gives succor to those who hate. Is that what you mean by bearing witness? How can Old South possibly justify lending legitimacy to Sabeel and offering them a platform? Were your integrity and self-respect worth the rent money's pieces of silver?

waskow's letter does not convey reality.

the jcrc did not ask dennis ross to back out, in fact they pressured him to go on with his talk.

that's a fact. believe it or not.

Inviting "Rabbi" Waskow to represent the best interests of Israel would be like inviting Clarence Thomas speak on the state of Black people in the US.

I believe that most black people would reject Clarence Thomas to represent them and most non-self-hating Jewish people would reject "Rabbi" Waskow.

I bet that even neturei karta would reject "Rabbi" Waskow.

Better yet, "Old South" should have invited Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz to represent the best interests of Israel.

THAT would have been a good lineup.

I am not a clueless person as to why hatred exists in this world for both groups involved in the middle east conflict. I do take offense to anyone who uses negative words before or after my name. As I dont speel out hatred in my emails. The church i belong to did try to do the right thing and have someone for the other side speak. Mr Ross is who was chosen. He did back out that is the only fact. Rabbi Wascok is not well respected in the community?. He had more and awards and initails after his name then any of us combined.
Why is there such angry at me for saying and informing the people who read this page about how the church came to the decisions it did in this matter. If the church did not care about the other side then there would have been noone speaking at all.


Christians do not have the right to annoint leaders within the Jewish community. They cannot pick and choose those Jews that represent the "true voice" of Judaism -- which has many competing voices. The fact that he had words and initials after his name doesn't dispell the fact that he is not a credible voice for many people in the Jewish community.

The fact that you take offense at anyone who uses negative words before your name is a bit ironic, because it is exactly what the Jewish community in Boston feels about the Sabeel conference. Sabeel has done a particularly good job of portraying Israel, and those who defend it as worthy of contempt.

The way Christians, including Sabeel, talk about Israel, has many similariities to the way Christians have historically talked about Jews. Anti-Israel activism is fueling anti-Semitism in the North America and Europe. Jews cannot wear their kippahs in public in France, synagogues received harassing phone calls during the Lebanon war, and a woman got shot to death in the Seattle office of the Jewish Federation by a man angry about the Lebanon war.

I admire your willingness to listen to the other side, but you have to understand that the Sabeel conference was a sharp stick in the eye of the local Jewish community.

For example, the presence of Imam Mahdi Bray from the Muslim American Society at the interfaith portion of the event is clearly provocative and antagonistic.

Mahdi Bray has raised his fist at a rally in support of Hezbollah and Hamas, two groups that deny Israel's right to exist and which target Israeli civilians for murder and say outrageously anti-Semitic things about the Jewish people. (Later Imam Bray said it was a joke.)

At another rally he shook a tambourine while people chanted "Let's throw stones in the face of the Jews." And he organized a rally in which attendees chanted, "Oh Jew Mohammed is coming for you."

You may not know these things, but the Jewish community does. How do you think they should respond to Imam Bray's presence in Old South's pulpit?


The real issue I'd like to see you address is just how much real debate went on in OSC before the event, how much information about Sabeel did they have and is there a discussion going on now?

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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