Dear Rev. Kirkpatrick and Moderator Ufford-Chase:
We are deeply disturbed by reports that leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) met with and praised leaders of Hezbollah. In light of our recent meetings and conversations, you can imagine how surprised and alarmed we were to hear of these meetings. We were also very troubled by your statement in response. Though you distance yourself by saying that the visit and the comments made at this meeting do not reflect the official position of the Presbyterian Church (USA), you fail to condemn the fact that an official delegation from your church met with a known terrorist entity whose stated enemies are the United States and the state of Israel.
To speak of Hezbollah "goodwill towards the American people," as Elder Stone is quoted as doing, is astonishing. The U.S. State Department has long identified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. In 1983, Hezbollah carried out a suicide bombing attack that killed 241 American Marines in Beirut. They continue to portray on their television station, Al Manar, United States foreign policy as Satanic. Chief Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said that "the Arabs must understand that Israel is merely a battalion of the American army, and that the United States is the principal enemy." And on and, tragically, on.
Furthermore, we are horrified by Elder Stone's praising of Hezbollah for an initiative of "dialogue and mutual understanding." Hezbollah is responsible for untold numbers of Israeli deaths and kidnappings declaring "there is no life and no co-existence with Israel; there is only one slogan: Death to Israel." Hezbollah proclaims "we expect to see a suicide attack every day or every two days" as suicide terror "is the only way to wipe out the Zionists." Even after Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to launch rockets into northern Israel killing dozens of Israelis. Hezbollah continues to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians, including Elhanan Tannenbaum, an Israeli businessman kidnapped during a business trip to Europe.
We are especially offended by Elder Stone's remarks that meeting with Hezbollah "is a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders." To suggest that dialogue with terrorists is preferable to conversations with the American Jewish community is appalling and has overtones of anti-Semitism.
Based on our recent dialogue, we had hoped that you would swiftly and strongly denounce these meetings and statements by individuals who speak in the name of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Yet your statement does no more than repeat an earlier blanket condemnation of terrorism with no attention to the meetings of and statements from this delegation.
As we said when we met, there can be no religious justification whatsoever for words that serve to encourage terror and justify terrorism. Surely all people of decency, especially those whose tradition calls on us to "choose life" and "seek peace," can see that Hezbollah is not praiseworthy. We hope and pray that you will exercise the moral leadership required at this moment and repudiate these deplorable words spoken in the name of your church.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie
Union for Reform Judaism
Rabbi Paul Menitoff
Central Conference of American Rabbis