JStreet joins virulent attack on Presbyterian guide to zionism
The article by Ali Abuminah is followed one from Charles Carlson of WHTT. Lastly Notes and links on all the acronyms.
By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada
February 20, 2014
The Israel lobby group J Street has launched a blistering attack on the Presbyterian Church USA over its new study guide Zionism Unsettled, claiming that the publication promotes “polarization” and “intolerance.”
Zionism Unsettled, published last month by the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), is a 74-page study guide examining the role Zionism and Christian Zionism have played in shaping attitudes and events in Palestine and its region.
It is intended to help church congregations and others to learn and talk about Zionism and the devastating impact the practice of the ideology has had on Palestinians, as The Electronic Intifada previously reported.
J Street “deeply offended”
In a statement yesterday, J Street said it was “deeply offended” by Zionism Unsettled, asserting that “one has to question the IPMN’s motives in publishing this ‘resource.’”
J Street claimed the guide’s authors “had no intention of encouraging thoughtful reflection on Zionism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or Jewish perspectives on Israel. Instead, reductive and divisive thinking of this kind exacerbates polarization and intolerance, both of which are not in short supply in this conflict.”
J Street protested that the guide “offensively intimates that Zionism is racist, pathological and the very root of the conflict in the region.”
“An approach that belittles or demeans Jews, Israelis or Palestinians makes no contribution to ending this conflict,” J Street concludes.
While demanding that Zionist political ideology not be questioned, J Street has long opposed key Palestinian rights and promotes anti-Palestinian views among its youth wing, including the view that refugees are a “demographic threat” and must be excluded from their native land on the sole grounds that they are not Jews.
While J Street does not outright accuse Zionism Unsettled’s authors of anti-Semitism, its angry attack is scarcely more temperate than the Anti-Defamation League, which claimed that the study guide “may be the most anti-Semitic document to come out of a mainline American church in recent memory.”
Both of these approaches reflect an extreme intolerance for any diversity of opinion about Zionism, especially among Jews.
Rabbi Brant Rosen, author of Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity, has voiced strong support of Zionism Unsettled.
“As a Jew, I’m especially appreciative that while [Zionism Unsettled] is strongly critical of Zionism, it doesn’t flinch from extensive Christian self-criticism,” Rosen writes at his blog.
Rosen is a contributor to a longer, forthcoming book – Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land – on which Zionism Unsettled is based.
Rosen, co-chair of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, continues: “The guide is particularly candid in its examination of the oppressive legacy of the post-Constantinan Church, replacement theology – and Christian anti-Semitism in general.”
Critique of “extremist elements”
Donald Wagner, National Program Director of Friends of Sabeel–North America, responded to J Street’s attack with an invitation for renewed dialogue.
In an email to The Electronic Intifada, Wagner, an ordained Presbyterian minister, says that J Street’s response “is what we might expect from CAMERA, AIPAC, and other extremist groups, but not from an organization that strives to position itself as an alternative to these purveyors of the tired old anachronistic diatribes.”
Wagner adds that Zionism Unsettled is “a critique of the extremist elements of political Zionism, including those of [Christians United for Israel founder] Rev. John Hagee that have crept into our Evangelical communities or their liberal models that we find in our mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations.”
“As a Presbyterian who contributed to this new study guide, I’d like to challenge J Street to a more thoughtful, honest, and open public conversation of the difficult and complex issues it raises – but only after J Street’s leaders have actually read the document.”
Wagner’s suggestion that J Street leaders had not even read the document they are condemning is understandable given the fact that Zionism Unsettled addresses in detail all the points J Street raises in its statement.
Wagner urged that “It is time for us all to face up to the dangerous tendencies within political Zionism and the Christian Zionists who prefer to excuse the human rights abuses perpetrated on Palestinians daily and in doing so actually negate the spiritual and moral claims of justice that we share as faith communities.”
A “dialogue of justice” will be difficult, Wagner says, but would be preferable to “the so-called ‘ecumenical deal,’ where large dinners and polite discussions abound but where equal justice for Palestinians and Jews is off the table.”
“We look forward to hearing from J Street and will welcome a new dialogue with you,” Wagner urges.
It will be interesting to see whether J Street is capable of rising to that challenge, especially as the Presbyterian Church USA heads into another debate and vote on divestment from Israel occupation profiteers at its general assembly this summer.
By Charles Carlson, WHTT*
February 14, 2014
Reposted in Al-Jazeerah, CCUN [Cross Cultural Understanding], February 24, 2014
Israeli lobbying organizations, including Unity Coalition For Israel, the Anti-Defamation League, and The Simon Wiesenthal Center have suggested that the PCUSA committee producing the “Zionism Unsettled” (1) Study Guide and DVD is a “hate group” for its effort at what the church group calls the “cause of just peace.” (2) The Wiesenthal Center stated it might “divest all contacts from this institution and call on other Jewish organizations to do the same.”
The Presbyterian Church USA refers to “Zionism Unsettled” as, “A Congregational Study Guide 76-page booklet with a free companion DVD.” PCUSA stated on January 21st, “Released to immediate critical acclaim, Zionism Unsettled is aimed bring about an end to the silence surrounding the impact of Zionism and to encourage open discussions on the topic in church and society. This study guide is a condensed version of a book entitled Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land, which will be published in 2014 by Pickwick Publications.”
We Hold These Truths has for many years voiced similar aims. Our 2010 video, Christian Zionism, The Tragedy And The Turning, Part 1 (3), 32-minutes, won an award for one of the best foreign films presented at the Ammar Popular Film Festival (4) in Tehran, Iran in January, 2014. We concluded that film with the statement that the “Turning” away from war and Zionism in churches would take place when Traditional churches joined in the call for Peace and Justice for the Philistines. The last scene of The Tragedy and The Turning concludes with this plea explaining our aim:
“WE IMPLORE YOU TO SHOW THIS FILM TO EVERY MAINLINE PASTOR…AND ALL INFLUENTIAL GROUPS OF CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS… AND JEWS… IF THEY’LL LISTEN.”
“TRADITIONAL AND ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCHES DO NOT BELIEVE THAT GOD ORDAINED THE STATE OF ISRAEL…SO THEY WILL LISTEN.”
“THEY NEED TO GO FURTHER IN UNDERSTANDING THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN ZIONISM…SO THEY CAN DO THEIR PART IN RECOVERING AMERICA FOR GOD.”
We concluded this from our own experience in openly and publicly challenging many dispensational, Christian Zionist churches over a period of nine years, to their prevalent blindness to the plight of the Palestinians. We stated that only the Mainline Traditional churches (including PCUSA) could and would be the key to freeing 3.5 million Philistines from occupation.
Our conclusion was and is based on our own, Christ Followers definition of Christian Zionism; It is and always has been the contrived belief that, “the modern political state of Israel is the fulfillment of Biblical Prophesy.” Mainline or Traditional churches, including PCUSA, do not believe this is Biblical; but Zionist churches accept this by definition. We think our prayer is coming true in front of our own eyes with the beginning of an awakening by many moral and honest leaders, and laymen within several of the largest, and oldest, mainline church denominations, including PCUSA, that has taken a stand and is being attacked for it, as has whtt.org and this writer. The attacks go with telling the truth and can not be avoided, and we have not seen PCUSAflinch yet. This author will in due time provide a full review of both the film and text. Meantime we urge you to watch Tragedy and Turning, which has been made free.
Responses to the PCUSA release from Zionist supporters of Israel are radical and virulent. One of these is Israeli controlled **Unity Coalition For Israel (UCFI). (2)
Long ago WHTT studied UCFI and learned that it is essentially a lobby, directly controlled by an all Israeli director team, an equivalent to AIPAC for Churches. It is also the godfather of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), headed by American pastor, John Hagee, and others, who ostensibly control it from their positions within prominent, Zionist leaning, evangelical churches in America. We have yet to find any mainline churches that participates in CUFI, though Zionist influence can be found inside almost any church, including Roman Catholics.
Literally dozens of inflammatory, Zionist internet attacks have been leveled on PCUSA in recent days. So many are there, we had to look twice to find its website, (pcusa.org) among the attackers. Here are a few excerpts from UCFI, planned I think, to frighten church members into withdrawing or downplaying the Study Guide and DVD, and to intimidate other churches from using Zionism Unsettled.
UCFI writes: ”WASHINGTON (JTA) — A study guide on Zionism published by an arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is drawing expressions of outrage from Jewish groups.
The guide is “worthy of a hate group, not a prominent American church,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. ”
“The study guide by the church’s Israel Palestine Mission Network is titled “Zionism Unsettled.”
“… is impossible to separate the toxic actions of IPMN from the PCUSA …The Simon Wiesenthal Center warned …“If this book reflects the feelings of the PCUSA…it will divest all contacts from this institution and call on other Jewish organizations to do them same,” (the center said in a statement)
“The guide was released ahead of the church’s biennial General Assembly, taking place this June in Detroit. The gathering will once again consider recommendations that it divest from companies that deal with Israel’s military. Similar resolutions have been narrowly defeated in the past.”
The attacks on PCUSA and any church that recognizes the human right of the Philistines will be relentless and and angry. However this time I do not think intimidation tactic will work because other mainline churches are already on the same path of understanding as PCUSA. We wrote of this growing movement in our letter to Christian Zionist pastors last August, “Church Leaders Join The Call For Peace In Syria.” In it, we discussed fifteen mainline church denominations that joined in the call to investigate military aid to Israel, because the aid led to the deaths of Palestinian children. This list included leaders from Evangelical Lutherans (ELCA), United Methodists, Presbyterians (PCUSA), and The United Church of Christ, and others, who wrote to Congress in November 2012.
The PCUSA bookstore (1) sells the Study Guide, with a DVD, at pcusa.org for $10.00. In part they write:
“Zionism Unsettled: This study guide is produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), a grassroots organization of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) established in 2004 with a mandate from the denomination’s General Assembly for the purpose of encouraging wider and deeper Presbyterian involvement with Palestinian Christians and advocating for the human rights of Palestinians under military occupation. As part of its mandate, the IPMN speaks to the church not for the church.”
“It provides a leader’s guide for congregational study of Christian, Jewish and Muslim perspectives on the development of Jewish Political Zionism, liberal Protestant Zionism, and Evangelical Christian Zionism. It examines controversies about Zionism among Israeli Jews as well as diaspora Jews, and gives helpful guidance on how you and your congregation can contribute to the cause of just peace for the people who share the Holy Land and promote more truthful relationships among followers of the three Abrahamic religions.”
We Hold These Truths is not the only group to appreciate this effort or to think it will bring results. Medill Reports (5) from Chicago, Northwestern University, has this to say about Zionism Unsettled, quoting from Dr. Francis Boyle, University of Illinois, international law professor, who said, he “has much respect for the Presbyterian Church and he is ‘pleasantly surprised’ the IPMN has decided to grapple with this difficult issue.” Boyle said in a prepared statement, ”The nationalistic, exclusionary and racist ideology of Zionism is the exact antithesis of the core spiritual values and moral teachings of all three of our shared Abrahamic denominations. This path-breaking guide and related materials explain precisely why that is true and point the direction toward achieving real peace.”
We thank the dedicated few within PCUSA who are responsible for this effort, and we are grateful to those who have helped WHTT to have a part in restoring churches to being Christ Followers.
(1) “Zionism Unsettled,” Israel/Palestine Mission Network, 2014: http://www.israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/main/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=256.
Also, “Presbyterian network opens new dialogue on Zionism,” PCUSA, 1/21/2014: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2014/1/21/presbyterian-network-opens-new-dialogue-zionism/
(2) “Jewish groups condemn new Presbyterian study guide on Zionism.” Unity Coalition For Israel, 2/13/2014: http://unitycoalitionforisrael.org/uci_2014/?p=6027
(3) Christian Zionism: The Tragedy & The Turning, Part 1, WHTT, © 2010: http://vimeo.com/59933668
(4) WHTT video wins award at Ammar Popular Film Festival: http://whtt.org/tragedy-turning-wins-award-at-amman-film-festival/
(5) “ADL denounces ‘Zionism Unsettled’ pamphlet released by Presbyterian group,” Medill Reports, 2/13/2014: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=227980
Rabbi Brant Rosen defends “Zionism Unsettled:”
WHTT podcast on “Zionism Unsettled:” http://whtt.podbean.com/2014/02/18/presbyterian-church-attacked-for-publishing-%E2%80%9Czionism-unsettled%E2%80%9D-others-applaud/
Notes and links
Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide is a 76-page booklet with a free companion DVD. It provides a leader’s guide for congregational study of Christian, Jewish and Muslim perspectives on the development of Jewish Political Zionism, liberal Protestant Zionism, and Evangelical Christian Zionism. It examines controversies about Zionism among Israeli Jews as well as diaspora Jews, and gives helpful guidance on how you and your congregation can contribute to the cause of just peace for the people who share the Holy Land and promote more truthful relationships among followers of the three Abrahamic religions.
This study guide is produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), a grassroots organization of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) established in 2004 with a mandate from the denomination’s General Assembly for the purpose of encouraging wider and deeper Presbyterian involvement with Palestinian Christians and advocating for the human rights of Palestinians under military occupation. As part of its mandate, the IPMN speaks to the church not for the church. IPMN can be contacted at Info@theIPMN.org.
Item Number: 2646614001
1 – 9 $10.00, 10 – 19 $8.00, 20 + $6.00
Shaking up Zionism: A review of ‘Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide’, by Mark Braverman, Mondoweiss, February 3, 2014
It’s hard to do justice to the extraordinary new booklet Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide in a brief review, because of the breadth of the topics it manages to cover in its 74 pages…
Zionism is a “false theology,” says new Presbyterian study guide, Electronic Intifada, January 2014
“Zionism Unsettled, as the pamphlet is titled, offers much value to any Palestine activist who has not considered the ramifications of Zionism as an ideology.
Its 74 pages sketch both Zionism’s historical outlines and its complex relationships with the Christian and Jewish faiths. A companion DVD offers further commentary….”
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