Presbyterian Church Leaders Meet with Terrorists in Lebanon; ADL Says "Irresponsible" Decision Furthers Interfaith Rift
Update: Following the visit by members of its Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy with Hezbollah, the Presbyterian Church (USA) issued a statement calling the group's decision to meet with a terrorist organization "misguided." ADL welcomed the statement as an acceptable response to the controversial meeting.
New York, NY, October 20, 2004 … Reacting to a visit by a delegation from the U.S. Presbyterian Church in Beirut with members of the terrorist group Hezbollah, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today said it was "deeply disturbing that leaders of the Presbyterian Church would seek out a meeting with members of a terrorist organization responsible for attacks that have killed both Americans and Israelis." Hezbollah is on the U.S. State Department's watch-list of global terrorist organizations.
The meeting between Sheikh Nabil Qauq, the leader of Hezbollah in south Lebanon, and a delegation of 24 leaders of the U.S. Presbyterian Church currently on a fact-finding tour in the Middle East, was broadcast October 17 on Al Manar, Hezbollah's satellite television network. During the broadcast, at least one member of the delegation was shown praising Hezbollah. Elder Ronald Stone, who identified himself as representing the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, said, "As an elder of our church, I'd like to say that according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders." Elder Stone went on to praise Hezbollah: "We treasure the precious words of Hezbollah and your expression of goodwill towards the American people."
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, and Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs, issued the following statement:
It is deeply disturbing that leaders of the Presbyterian Church would meet with the leader of a terrorist organization that is directly responsible for attacks against Americans and Israelis, and that has repeatedly denounced America and Israel as enemies of Islam. It is especially troubling and offensive that at least one member of the delegation praised Hezbollah, telling them it was easier to dialogue with terrorists than with Jews when it comes to Middle East issues.
Coming in an atmosphere where interfaith relations between Presbyterians and Jews have been sorely tested by the church's proposal to disinvest from Israel, it is disturbing that the Presbyterian leaders made the irresponsible decision to meet with Hezbollah, an organization whose self-stated goal is the total destruction of the Jewish State and the establishment of Islamic rule over Jerusalem. It is outrageous that, rather than seeking out moderate voices working for positive change in the Middle East, the Presbyterian leaders decided to seek out the leader of a terrorist organization.
Since its founding in 1982, Hezbollah has been responsible for hundreds of attacks against Israelis and Americans, including the 1983 suicide bomb attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 200. Hezbollah also attacked the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and the Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires in 1994.
While continuing to carry out cross-border attacks against Israel, Hezbollah has more recently contributed to anti-Semitic incitement throughout the Middle East, using its satellite station to broadcast anti-Semitic propaganda. According to the U.S. State Department, Hezbollah receives financing and other support from Syria and Iran.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.