By Rabbi John Rosove
Yet again, anti-Semitic extremists within The Presbyterian Church USA have asserted themselves with the publication of a new “study guide” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This “guide” was released by the “Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)” and is titled “Zionism Unsettled.” It comes with a companion DVD.
In its self-promotion, the Guide states its purpose this way:
“What role have Zionism and Christian Zionism played in shaping attitudes and driving historical developments in the Middle East and around the world? How do Christians, Jews, and Muslims understand the competing claims to the land of Palestine and Israel? What steps can be taken to bring peace, reconciliation, and justice to the homeland that Palestinians and Israelis share?
Zionism Unsettled embraces these critical issues fearlessly and with inspiring scope. The booklet and companion DVD draw together compelling and diverse viewpoints from Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Israel, Palestine, the US, and around the globe. By contrasting mainstream perceptions with important alternative perspectives frequently ignored in the media, Zionism Unsettled is an invaluable guide to deeper understanding.”
This is hardly a guide to deeper understanding because it outright rejects the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, calls Zionism a “pathology”, “heretical” and “a doctrine that promotes death rather than life.” It accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” calls it an “apartheid state” and charges that Israel, despite being the only democracy in the Middle East, is inherently discriminatory towards non-Jews.
The guide ignores historical context altogether and shows no sympathy towards the Jewish victims of war and terror, nor does it justify Israel’s legitimate security concerns based on one hundred years of hostility against it. The guide even says that Jews have no inherent right to defend themselves.
The same anti-Semitic faction that produced this guide attempted at the last national conference of the American Presbyterian Church to pass a resolution supporting the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, but failed by a small margin. This group intends to bring a BDS resolution again to the June national conference, not motivated as a protest against certain Israeli policies in the West Bank, but against the very existence of the state of Israel.
Thankfully, there are many fair-minded and decent Presbyterians who have condemned the guide, reaffirmed their friendship with the Jewish people, support for the state of Israel and for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Among Israel’s greatest defenders is The Revered Chris Leighton, who serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies and is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He has heavily critiqued this guide in “An Open Letter to the Presbyterian Church” http://www.icjs.org/featured-articles/open-letter-presbyterian-church-0
He writes in part:
“The condemnation of Zionism, in all its forms, is not merely simplistic and misleading; the result of this polemic is the theological delegitimization of a central concern of the Jewish people… Even a cursory study of history reveals the varied and complex forms that Zionism has taken over the centuries. The yearning for their national homeland has been woven into the Jewish community’s daily life for millennia. The Torah (Deuteronomy) and the Tanakh (2 Chronicles) both end with images of yearning to return to the land; synagogues face Jerusalem; the Passover Seder celebrated annually concludes with the prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.” To suggest that the Jewish yearning for their own homeland—a yearning that we Presbyterians have supported for numerous other nations—is somehow theologically and morally abhorrent is to deny Jews their own identity as a people. The word for that is “anti-Semitism,” and that is, along with racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the other ills our Church condemns, a sin.”
This guide does not contribute to dialogue or mutual understanding between American Christians, American Jews, American Muslims, or any of the parties in the Middle East because it is a vicious polemic against one of the principle actors in the Israeli-Palestinian drama and against the position of anyone who would support the fundamental right of the Jewish people to a state of their own.
For the complete story, see the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s report in Ha-aretz (February 20, 2014) – http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.575067