YWCA says Israel is “just like Hitler”

February 25, 2005

This dispatch concerns the anti-Israel stands taken in recent days by various Christian-linked organizations, including the World Council of Churches, Christian Aid, the Church of Scotland, and YWCA -- Tom Gross


1. The American YWCA fails to condemn the World YWCA statement stating Israel is "just like Hitler" (The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 18, 2005)
2. Gaza YMCA hosted ceremonies paying rewards to families of suicide bombers (The Guardian, London, March 13, 2003)
3. YMCA: "The one-sided media reporting is unfair to the Palestinians"
4. World Council of Churches calls for Divestment from Israel (February 23, 2005)
5. "Christian Aid" uses charity funds for anti-Israel political advertisements
6. The BBC apologizes for broadcasting an anti-Semitic blood libel by Scottish cleric John Bell, but now a senior Church of Scotland official says Bell has been made a martyr "like Jesus"



[Note by Tom Gross]

Although the majority of American Christians remain strongly supportive of the state of Israel, in recent days a number of different Christian-associated bodies have shown their strong antipathy towards the Jewish state.

The timing of this new hostility may surprise some. It comes at the very moment when Israel is about to take enormous risks by withdrawing from a territory very close to its own major population centers, and which contains a still highly hostile population – a population in possession of more firearms per capita than almost any other in the world.

Israel is not being given any security guarantees for taking this risk by the Palestinian Authority or the armed groups which the PA shelters. But it is being rewarded with hostile statements and acts by some church bodies.

The National Coordinating Board of the American YWCA, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, last week failed to pass a statement condemning the report of the World YWCA that said Israel aimed to "rid themselves" of the Palestinians just as "Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews."

The report was written by Doris Pagelkopf, vice president of the World YWCA, and the American representative on the World YWCA board. It was written after she paid a pilgrimage to Yasser Arafat before he died last year. She wrote: "I strongly felt the correlation to World War II. During that war Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews and now Israelis... are trying to choke off and rid the land of Palestinians."

There is a long article about that meeting in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, which I attach at the end of this email.



Tom Gross adds:

This is not the first time the YWCA has allowed itself to be used in an extremist way on behalf of Palestinian radicals. On March 13, 2003, The Guardian (London) reported, in a news item titled "Saddam funds fail to buy Gaza hearts":

"... In January, Mahmoud Jamasi strapped explosives to a raft and guided it towards the vessel off the Gaza coast... the Hamas fighter was the absent star of yesterday's gathering at the Gaza YMCA as the only suicide bomber to be honoured by President Saddam's envoys, who handed out $245,000 to the relatives of those who died recently in the intifada"



The World Alliance of YMCAs, based in Geneva, has also previously issued a 3,000-word report (in I believe, 2003) concluding that "the one-sided nature of the conflict demands that the YMCA take the side of the oppressed Palestinian people."

The YMCA report declared that Israel is "killing people without provocation," and using "massive force against unarmed protestors and completely innocent people, mainly women, the elderly, and children."

The YMCA report further cited "biased and one-sided media reporting on the crisis, which left the Palestinian side generally outraged."



February 23, 2005

The World Council of Churches, the body representing millions of Protestant and Orthodox Christians worldwide, has called for its 347 member churches* to divest from companies profiting from "Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza."

The central committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva, modeled its resolution after that passed by the Presbyterian Church (USA) last year. No specific companies have yet been named.

[* Note: "Church" refers to denominational infrastructure including all individual member churches. Presbyterian Church (USA), for example, is a single member-church, but represents individual churches throughout the United States with an aggregate membership estimated at 2.5 million Presbyterians.]

Tom Gross adds: Besides their bias, the WCC is completely out of touch. Their resolution complaining of housing demolitions comes some days after Israel announced that this practice will no longer be employed. The WCC refers to a "dividing wall," when almost all the separation barrier is in fact a chain-link fence. And so on.

The WCC press release is at


Here is the short New York Times item on this:

Church Group Hints at Mideast Divesting
New York Times
February 23, 2005

The World Council of Churches, the Geneva-based ecumenical affiliation of 347 Protestant and Orthodox denominations, has recommended to members that they give "serious consideration" to divesting from companies that aid Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The council's stance echoes that of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., which voted last summer to explore selective divestment in such corporations. The Presbyterian Church's decision created a rift with American Jewish groups.

On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League called the Council of Churches recommendation, which is nonbinding, "a biased, one-sided interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

The council's governing body, which issued the statement on Monday at a meeting in Geneva, said that "criticism of the policies of the Israeli government is not in itself anti-Jewish."




NGO Monitor writes (24 February 2005): “Drawing upon simplistic and emotional language and imagery, a prominent advertisement from Christian Aid on the front page of The Guardian (London) sees this organization again using its considerable "charitable" resources to promote a political message focused on Israel's security barrier against Palestinian terror attacks.

On 15 February 2005, the front page of The Guardian featured a prominent advertisement from Christian Aid. At an estimated cost of approximately £4000 ($7500), Christian Aid has again used its considerable "charitable" resources to promote a political message focused on Israel's security barrier against Palestinian terror attacks.

Drawing upon simplistic and emotional language and imagery, this advertisement erases the context of this violent conflict, as was the case in CA's "Child of Bethlehem" and "Peace Under Siege" campaigns. Failing to acknowledge any Palestinian responsibility for the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian Authority, Christian Aid places the blame solely on "Israel's occupation and the poverty it has created." While Christian Aid claims to have condemned Palestinian suicide bombings, this immoral 'balance' does not justify the political attacks against Israel, as documented and analyzed by NGO Monitor and repeated in this advertisement.

The one-sided text, while referring to the difficult situation in both Israel and the Palestinian territories, treats the Palestinians as "the voiceless ones" ignoring the "voiceless" Israeli victims of terror and the many lives that have been saved by the security barrier. Christian Aid claims, in dramatic and entirely unsubstantiated fashion, that Palestinian families will be "carved down the middle by the separation barrier."

In sharp contrast to its legal status as a charity, Christian Aid's advertisement in The Guardian illustrates an unchanging political agenda, even at a time of renewed hope and efforts at peacemaking in the Middle East. In contrast to the new atmosphere in the region, it appears that Christian Aid has not reevaluated its own highly partisan contribution to the hatred and violence.”



After Scottish cleric John Bell and the BBC both apologized two weeks ago for a BBC Radio 'Thought for the Day' session in which Bell accused the Israeli army of deliberately shooting at "unarmed [Palestinian] schoolchildren," the issue seemed closed.

But in a letter to the editor published in The (Scotland) Herald, Church of Scotland official Sandy Gemmill compares Bell to Jesus.

Gemmill writes: "Two thousand years ago there was a man in Israel who used such uncorroborated tales of Samaritans, servants, agricultural workers, sheep, weddings and the like to illustrate various controversial points. Clearly the passage of time has not dampened the enthusiasm of the Israeli authorities to speak out against such tales and take action to suppress apparent lies

"... Unfortunately, any criticism of the Israeli government is now taken as being anti-Semitic... The term should not be used to deflect unfavourable comments about the way that governments abuse their powers. The Israeli government is no different from those in authority in, for example, Great Britain and the United States. Governments are like monoliths in exercising power on behalf of the people and from time to time must be reminded of the need to see beyond their own self-centred interests to those of the human race. If an uncorroborated story concerning any member of the Israeli Army, real or imaginary, can aid that process then that should be applauded."

British Journalist Melanie Phillips, a long-time subscriber to this email list, writes:

"So faced with a libel perpetrated against the Jews, Gemmill concludes that the Jews who are protesting are trying to suppress the truth and crucify the perpetrator, just like he thinks they did to Jesus! One is aghast at this calumny piled upon calumny, at the anti-Jewish prejudice that is here revealed and at the brazen revelation of the ancient theological underpinning of this prejudice. Gemmill assumes that what Bell said was true, even though there is not a shred of evidence for it and even though his account contained two demonstrable errors of fact which should surely give any rational person grounds for suspecting that the whole thing was a farrago of nonsense."




Anti-Israel report stands
YWCA national board fails to condemn Witness Report
The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix (Arizona)

By Deborah Sussman Susser
Associate Editor
February 18, 2005


The YWCA of the USA's National Coordinating Board (NCB), which met in Phoenix from Feb. 11-13, failed to pass a statement condemning the 2004 Witness Report, a four-page account of a visit that 14 members of the World YWCA made to the Middle East last spring.

That report detailed a visit to Yasser Arafat at his compound in Ramallah and concluded that Israelis were trying to "rid the land of Palestinians" just as "Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews."

Arafat, who died Nov. 11, was the leader of the Palestinian Authority.

The YWCA of the USA is a member of the World YWCA. The YWCA of the USA is made up of local associations that are organized into regions, such as the Southwest Delta Region, to which the Maricopa County YWCA belongs.

The statement condemning the report had been adopted and put forward to the NCB by the Pacific Region of the YWCA, which includes Tucson.

Janet Marcotte, executive director of the Tucson YWCA, said the Witness Report "has been a concern to our organization for a long time. I'm surprised it hasn't come up sooner."

Sharon Bettinelli, executive director of the YWCA Berkeley, in California, echoed Marcotte's concerns. "I'm on the executive committee, so we had been dealing with this for a while," she told Jewish News by phone the day after the NCB voted against the Pacific Region's statement.

In anticipation of the NCB meeting in Phoenix on Feb. 13, Bettinelli sent the 30 members of her board copies of the Pacific Region's statement as well as the Witness Report.

"I wanted to make sure our board members knew about it," she said, "because it was very important for us to separate ourselves from what was going on. ... We have quite a number of Jewish people involved here, and we don't want them to think in any way that we support this. 'They' are 'we.' That's why it was so important for so many of us out here to try to make sure that this resolution was passed at the meetings in Phoenix."

Five members of the NCB voted for the statement, and 11 voted against. There was one abstaining vote.

According to several YWCA members and observers who attended the meeting, the substance of the statement was not discussed; after it was voted down, it was referred to the YWCA's World Relations Committee for further study.

A prior statement from the Southwest Delta Region denouncing the Witness Report was voted down and referred to the same committee at a meeting of the NCB in November. According to participants at the Feb. 13 meeting, the committee has taken no action on the Southwest Delta Region's statement.

Marcotte said she found the results of the Feb. 13 vote "astounding. Anybody outside the organization would be distressed to see that given what we say we stand for as an organization, we didn't pass this very frankly inoffensive statement and make it the policy of the YWCA of the USA."

Authored by Doris Pagelkopf, vice president of the World YWCA and the American representative on the World YWCA board, the Witness Report reads in part: "I strongly felt the correlation to World War II. During that war Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews and now a group of Israelis ... is trying to choke off and rid the land of Palestinians."

The report was distributed to members of the World Relations Committee by Pagelkopf, who is a member of that committee, and included in a link in the newsletter of the YWCA of the USA, which is where Barbara Lewkowitz, then executive director of the YWCA of Maricopa County, came across it last summer.

Lewkowitz and Maricopa County YWCA board member Abbie Beller had already been alarmed by what both described as a "lack of balance" in a resolution brought before the World YWCA by the YWCA of Palestine at a meeting in Brisbane, Australia, in 2003, which both Lewkowitz and Beller attended. The 2003 resolution called for "an end to Israeli military aggression" as well as "the immediate withdrawal of occupation forces from Iraq."

The YWCA of the USA was the only national body to vote against the 2003 resolution, which was adopted by the World YWCA.

Lewkowitz, who was first interviewed by the Jewish News in November, after she resigned her position, said at the time, "I thought the resolution was untenable, but I was even more offended by the (Witness) Report."

According to Lewkowitz, she mailed a copy of the report to the members of the executive committee of the local YWCA and received no response. She said that she also asked to have the issue put on the agenda for the August board meeting and that it was not.

At that meeting, Beller resigned in protest. Interviewed by Jewish News in November, Beller expressed dismay that the board of the Maricopa County YWCA "didn't take the situation more seriously." At least one other board member later resigned as well. In her letter of resignation, a copy of which was obtained by Jewish News, she noted she was unable to reconcile her own views with the World YWCA's initiatives regarding Palestine, Israel and Iraq.

Connie Robinson, president of the YWCA of Maricopa County board of directors, said she did not attend the Feb. 13 session at which the Pacific Region's statement opposing the Witness Report was presented.

Reached by telephone the following day, Robinson said that she had not seen the statement and had no opinion on it. Asked for comment on the Witness Report, she said that she had none and that she had not read it in its entirety. She also declined to comment on the resolution on the Middle East passed by the World YWCA in 2003, saying, "I don't have anything in front of me right now. I need to refresh my memory and I don't have anything to refer to," and added that she had other priorities.

Prior to the NCB meeting this past weekend, the directors of the Jewish Community Relations Councils of the Jewish federations in both Phoenix and Tucson, in conjunction with the YWCA of Tucson, invited Peggy Sanchez Mills, the CEO of the YWCA of the USA, and members of the YWCA's national board to meet with members of the Jewish community while they were in Phoenix for the NCB gathering.

Josh Protas, director of the Southern Arizona JCRC, said that Sanchez Mills declined to meet in person, but offered to arrange a conference call.

Both Protas and Michelle Steinberg, director of the Greater Phoenix JCRC, declined to participate in a conference call, saying in a joint statement, "We believe that a face-to-face meeting is required to begin a meaningful and productive dialogue about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and have offered to meet at a future time and place that is convenient for the leadership of the YWCA of the USA."

According to Steinberg, she tried unsuccessfully several times to arrange a meeting with Robinson and other board members of the local YWCA in the month preceding the NCB meeting.

Robinson and a small number of local YWCA board members met on Feb. 9 with President Ken Smith and Executive Director Rabbi Robert Kravitz of The American Jewish Committee regarding, in Kravitz's words, "the misunderstandings and the difficulties in (Robinson's) planning for her upcoming event."

That event is the Tribute to Women, the local YWCA's major fund-raising lunch, to be held March 2. Kravitz told Jewish News that Robinson called the AJC at the urging of one of the honorees.

Kravitz described the meeting with Robinson and her board members as "a very frank meeting of the minds, and I think the result will be positive. They told us that they would be publishing two advertisements, one in the Jewish News and one in the Arizona Republic, indicating their position."

The ad published in this week's Jewish News does not mention the Witness Report that is denounced by the statements from the Southwest Delta and Pacific regions.

Eileen Mershant, one of two NCB representatives from the Great Lakes Region who voted for the Pacific Region statement on Feb. 13, said that she did so because "it was a fairly straightforward request to simply say that the comments in the Witness Report made last summer do not reflect the views of the YWCA of the USA. And I don't believe they do."

Asked why the statement was defeated, she sighed. "I wish I had a simple answer and I don't," she said finally. "I have a feeling other things entered into it that I'm not sure I understand, because it seems pretty straightforward to me."

Mershant wondered if perhaps the voting members didn't "refresh their memories on the content of the Witness Report" prior to voting. "I have looked at (the Witness Report) again," she said, "and it was terribly one-sided. It just simply would have been a far clearer thing to say this does not represent the views of the YWCA of the USA and make that a clear, unequivocal statement."

Mershant added her concern that because the Witness Report initially came through the World Relations Committee, which is a committee of the YWCA of the USA, "it could appear that the World Relations Committee was endorsing it."

Asked whether the World Relations Committee from which the Witness Report originally came is the same committee to which the Southwest Delta and Pacific Region statements have been returned for review, Mershant allowed that it was.

"That makes your head wonder a bit," she said. "It's kind of circular."

The resolution is scheduled to be revisited at the NCB's next meeting, in April, in Washington, D.C.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.