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Wiesenthal Center Denounces Presbyterian Church Leaders' Meeting With Hezbollah Terrorist Commander

November 23, 2005

WIESENTHAL CENTER DENOUNCES PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH LEADERS' MEETING WITH HEZBOLLAH TERRORIST COMMANDER

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has denounced renewed contact between the U.S. branch of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror organization.

According to the Middle East Research Institute, Lebanese media confirmed that a PCUSA delegation headed by Robert Morley, a retired professor from McCormick Theological Seminary and Father Nihad Tomeh, the Church’s Mideast liaison met with Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, Hezbollah’s commander in Southern Lebanon. The Church delegation reportedly wanted to learn more about Hezbollah’s charitable works and its "concern" for people.

"The people of Lebanon struggle mightily to reassert their independent democracy, Israel evacuates Gaza and continues negotiations with the Palestinian Authority towards a two-state solution, hundreds of thousands of Jordanians throng to the streets to denounce suicide bombers in Amman, but leaders of the PCUSA rush again to coddle up to Syria and Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorists," charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center. "Their moral blindness is both arrogant and dangerous, seeking this meeting with Hezbollah even as the group plotted kidnapping and mayhem to blow up the quiet Lebanese-Israel border," Cooper continued.

At the meeting, Qaouk complained to the Presbyterian officials that U.S. policy towards Lebanon was dictated by Israel. Worley assured him that his delegation was blameless, because they had voted for Democratic Party. Worley also voiced his own complaintabout how much PCUSA had suffered from Jewish organizations because its stand supporting divestment from companies doing business in the Jewish state.

"The latest photo op with a frontline terrorist leader confirms these Presbyterian leaders are pursuing a functionally antisemitic, punitive campaign against Israel, motivated not by hopes for peace but as a desire to weaken the Jewish state," said Rabbi Cooper.

"The Jewish community can only hope that fair-minded members of PCUSA will take back control of the moral compass of their movement before any further damage is done to the cause of Middle East peace, interfaith relations and the Presbyterian Church’s historic reputation," Cooper concluded.

PCUSA was the first mainline Protestant movement to call for divesting funds from Israel. A year ago, a PCUSA delegation also visited with Sheikh Qaouk in Lebanon. This led to the dismissal of two members of that delegation as well as condemnation by U.S. Congressional leaders, among others.

Hezbollah is recognized by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. In addition, the distinction between the group’s political and terrorist wings was removed by General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands following an investigation into the groups social services apparatus.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe.

For more information, please contact the Center's Public Relations Department, 310-553-9036, or visit www.wiesenthal.com.