Sunday, June 15, 2014

Flawed "Expert" for Presbyterian "Zionism Unsettled"

This week the  Presbyterian Church USA will vote on a controversial motion to divest from certain companies that do business with Israel.  The chief force behind the motion is the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church USA which earlier this year issued a controversial, biased,  and error- ridden report and DVD Zionism Unsettled.

While the study guide has been thoroughly critiqued, not as much attention has been given to the accompanying DVD.  The watchdog organization CAMERA notes

a DVD that accompanies Zionism Unsettled. In an on-camera interview, Irving Wesley Hall ... reports that prior to the Six Day War, Israelis and Jews did not care too much about Jerusalem.
Up until the 1967 conquest of Jerusalem, it was not regarded by any element of Israeli society or any of the streams of Judaism as somehow central to God's plan for the Jews. But that all changed in 1967.
The notion that the city was unimportant to Israel and to all of the "streams of Judaism" prior to the Six Day War is, to put it politely, an outrageous misstatement of fact.

Hall, apparently, has no academic expertise in the Middle East or Jewish history or theology, though he has made a video documentary "Onward Christian Zionists" and written a not- very-funny, 800 page political satire attacking Christian Zionism, which promoted by a bizarre series of videos with Hall wearing a clerical collar..\

A little web search would have shown the Presbyterians Hall's extreme and uniformed views.

In an article on the CrossCurrents website Hall asserts that Christian Identity and Zionism are equally racist theories. He favorably quotes at length from antisemitic authors Jonathon Cook and Gilad Atzmon on a book by Shlomo Sand (Zand) The Invention of the Jewish People,

Hall favorably quotes Atzmon
the largely accepted assumption that the Judaicised Khazars [14] constituted the main origins of the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe
Of course, the Khazar theory is not only not "largely accepted," it is widely discredited.

Hall even writes writes
Remarkably not one of Zand's academic colleagues has seriously disputed his findings. 
This, too is whopper.

Simon Schama, University Professor at Columbia University, wrote that Sand's book is characterized by
many such twists of historical logic and strategic evasions of modern research in this book. To list them all would try your patience.
his book prosecutes these aims through a sensationalist assertion that somehow, the truth about Jewish culture and history, especially the 'exile which never happened,' has been suppressed in the interests of racially pure demands of Zionist orthodoxy. This, to put it mildly, is a stretch.

Anita Shapira, head of the Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism at Tel Aviv University, wrote

Sand bases his arguments on the most esoteric and controversial interpretations, while seeking to undermine the credibility of important scholars by dismissing their conclusions without bringing any evidence to bear.
She adds that Sand
drag[s] history into a topical argument, and with the help of misrepresentations and half-truths to adapt it to the needs of a political discussion
Israel Bartal, dean of the humanities faculty of the Hebrew University, called Sand's book
bizarre and incoherent
and Sand's 
…treatment of Jewish sources is embarrassing and humiliating
 Hall seems to have asked the notorious, rabid antisemite Israel Shamir in 2008, well after Shamir had been widely denounced by Palestinian activists Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish warned pro-Palestinians to stay clear of him (2001) and well after British antifascist organizations Searchlight and Hope Not Hate reported on Shamir's antisemitism, holocaust denialism and links to far-right organizations (2004).

Hall is clearly a flawed expert for a flawed group that promotes a call for boycott, divest,and sanction pretending that it is about Israeli abuses while actually being a movement which fundamentally rejects the existence of Israel and the right of the Jewish people for self-determination.

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