The conflict between the Jews and Arabs in the Middle East was transported last month to the floor of the 252-member governing board of the National Council of Churches in Minneapolis. Amid the politely restrained verbal pushing and shoving between Arab sympathizers and Israeli backers, a large woman suddenly appeared at a microphone, clutching the small steel shell of a cluster bomb. Joan Bordman, a church social-action worker from California, said that she had just come from a visit in southern Lebanon, where she had seen the civilian devastation and suffering caused by American-made cluster bombs dropped from Israeli warplanes. She described what happens when a child picks up an unexploded shell and when a farmer accidently steps on one.

From then on, it was no contest. The fewer than 100 delegates who had remained for the final session of the three-day meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that was highly critical of Israel’s use of the bomb in its recent invasion of Lebanon. It was the first time the ecumenical body singled out Israel by name in a statement of censure, according to several NCC spokesmen.

The controversy began when United Presbyterian Eugene Crawford, identified as an American Indian leader from Chicago, introduced a resolution “on the illegal and inhuman use of U.S. arms by Israel in its recent massive invasion of Lebanon.” The proposal said that several thousand civilians “were wantonly killed, mutilated, and maimed” by the “indiscriminate” use of U.S.-made anti-personnel weapons, and it declared that America “shares in the moral responsibility for their illegal use.…” The measure called on Congress to stop furnishing the weapons to Israel and to insist that Israel ...

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