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June 25, 2014 0

PCUSA Affiliated Group Demonizes Israel With Anti-Jewish Themes

Lurk­ing not too far in the back­ground of last week’s dis­ap­point­ing vote by the Gen­eral Assem­bly of the Pres­by­ter­ian Church USA (PCUSA) to divest from US com­pa­nies doing busi­ness with Israel in the West Bank, is the ongo­ing cam­paign by ele­ments within PCUSA to dele­git­imize Israel by using bla­tantly anti-Jewish ideas and themes. A dri­ving force of this cam­paign is the PCUSA-affiliated activist group Israel-Palestine Mis­sion Net­work (IPMN), an anti-Israel orga­ni­za­tion work­ing with orga­ni­za­tions com­mit­ted to dele­git­imiz­ing Israel, includ­ing the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment and Jew­ish Voice for Peace.

IPMN is most infa­mously respon­si­ble for pub­lish­ing the so-called study guide “Zion­ism Unset­tled,” which prop­a­gates egre­gious anti-Israel themes long-peddled by Israel’s ene­mies, and is, at its core, an anti-Semitic doc­u­ment. Despite the obvi­ous offen­sive nature of this pub­li­ca­tion, as well as the Gen­eral Assembly’s approval of an over­ture stat­ing that Zion­ism Unset­tled does not “rep­re­sent the views of PCUSA,” it remains avail­able for pur­chase on the PUCSA web­site where it is absurdly mar­keted as a help­ful guide on how to “pro­mote more truth­ful rela­tion­ships among fol­low­ers of the three Abra­hamic religions.”

Presbyterian_Church_(U.S.A.)Equally trou­bling is the anti-Semitism which per­me­ates IPMN’s Face­book pages, as high­lighted in a new report by the Israel-based watch­dog orga­ni­za­tion NGO-Monitor. Accord­ing to the report, the IPMN Face­book page (which was shut down in Jan­u­ary 2012 after crit­i­cism over the post­ing of extrem­ist mate­ri­als and then reopened in July 2012 as a “closed but not secret” page) con­tains numer­ous post­ings and com­ments express­ing age-old anti-Semitic themes, as well as links to anti-Semitic arti­cles and web­sites. Exam­ples include:

  • Youtube video titled: “Zion­ist con­trolled America’s des­per­ate lust for Iran War”
  • Arti­cle in “Ugly Truth”, a blog run by the anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­rist Mark Glenn
  • Poster mock­ing “The genetic ances­try of Jews” and their his­toric con­nec­tion to the land of Israel
  • Car­toon depict­ing a stereo­typ­i­cal “ultra-Orthodox” Jew ruth­lessly killing an inno­cent Palestinian

While IPMN’s Face­book page only has about 300 mem­bers, the con­tent is con­sis­tent with and ampli­fies some of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic themes con­tained in Zion­ism Unset­tled.

It is greatly trou­bling that despite IPMN’s evi­dent hos­til­ity towards Jews and anti-Israel ani­mus, PCUSA has not only failed to repu­di­ate their egre­gious views but still remains affil­i­ated with IPMN. There is no doubt that false­hoods pro­moted by IPMN in Zion­ism Unset­tled have neg­a­tively influ­enced the atti­tudes of some PCUSA mem­bers towards Israel, and per­haps even Jews, and pro­vided an offen­sive back­drop to the Gen­eral Assembly’s pas­sage of the Israel divest­ment resolution.

It is time for PCUSA to denounce IPMN for their abhor­rent views and fully dis­as­so­ci­ate itself from the organization.

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June 19, 2014 1

Anti-Israel Resolutions Debated at Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly

Israel is very much on the agenda at this year’s Gen­eral Assem­bly (GA) of the Pres­by­ter­ian Church USA (PCUSA), cur­rently meet­ing in Detroit.  All four­teen res­o­lu­tions, or over­tures, being con­sid­ered by the Mid­dle East Com­mit­tee con­cern the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, as does one before the Ecu­meni­cal and Inter­faith Com­mit­tee.  The PCUSA, which has had a pres­ence in the Mid­dle East since the early 1800’s, has taken up divest­ment at each bien­nial meet­ing since 2004. In 2012, the divest­ment res­o­lu­tion was nar­rowly defeated.  This year, it is once again on the agenda, as are over­tures to boy­cott Hewlett-Packard (HP), to label Israel an “apartheid state,” and to study whether the Church should main­tain its com­mit­ment to a two-state solu­tion. ADL, rep­re­sented at the GA by its Inter­faith Direc­tor, Rabbi David Sand­mel, opposes these mea­sures as unfair to Israel and con­trary to the goal of achiev­ing a two-state solution.

There are also over­tures being con­sid­ered that oppose divest­ment and sug­gest a “third way” of engag­ing the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict through sup­port­ing peace-makers, travel to the region and encour­ag­ing study­ing a broad range of views through local relations.

Dur­ing the first few days of the GA, com­mit­tees receive over­tures pro­posed by local gov­ern­ing bod­ies, hear tes­ti­mony, debate amend­ments, and even­tu­ally decide what actions to rec­om­mend the GA take regard­ing the over­tures they received.  While the com­mit­tees have a great deal of influ­ence on what finally ends up before the entire polity, it is the GA that makes the final deci­sion, which is sched­uled for Fri­day, June 20.

Pow­er­ful groups within the Church, such as the Israel/Palestine Mis­sion Net­work, which pro­duced the anti-Semitic “Zion­ism Unset­tled doc­u­ment,” sup­port divest­ment.   Due to the GA’s struc­ture, these groups have a dis­pro­por­tion­ate voice in the Com­mit­tee, and are sup­ported by the anti-Israel Jew­ish Voice for Peace, whose promi­nent vis­i­bil­ity at the GA has con­fused some par­tic­i­pants into think­ing they rep­re­sent the main­stream Jew­ish com­mu­nity.  More mod­er­ate voices within the Church, such as Pres­by­te­ri­ans for Mid­dle East Peace, have been work­ing closely with the ADL and a broad coali­tion of other major Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions and reli­gious lead­ers to bring a fairer per­spec­tive to the deliberations.

Though the Mid­dle East Com­mit­tee did vote on June 17 in favor of divest­ment from HP, Cater­pil­lar and Motorola, it also explic­itly stated “the action does not mean align­ment with the over­all strat­egy of BDS (Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions).” The over­ture that rec­om­mends divest­ment also reaf­firms Israel’s right to exist within secure and inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized borders.

There is also the large major­ity of Pres­by­te­ri­ans who sup­port the state of Israel while also sym­pa­thiz­ing with the suf­fer­ing of the Pales­tini­ans. They feel torn between their com­mit­ment to pos­i­tive Jewish-Christian rela­tions and desire to see an end to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and some have expressed feel­ing over­whelmed with input from all sides. While the bar­rage of anti-Israel rhetoric from cer­tain sec­tors has been chal­leng­ing to hear, the shrill­ness of their mes­sage may be pro­duc­ing a back­lash, espe­cially when com­pared to the more mea­sured pre­sen­ta­tion from the mod­er­ates and rec­og­nized main­stream Jew­ish organizations.

It is clear that the Church is divided on how best to address the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, as demon­strated by the con­flict­ing rec­om­men­da­tions of the Mid­dle East Com­mit­tee. The process in the com­mit­tees is dif­fer­ent than that of the GA where the debate is much more bal­anced. While in the past the GA has rejected rec­om­men­da­tions of the Com­mit­tee, what will hap­pen this year can­not be pre­dicted, and, as the vote draws near, there will likely be intense lob­by­ing of the vot­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all sides.

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