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Courtesy of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church  (U.S.A.).


Presbyterians affirm commitment to constructive debate on Israel/Palestine

by Rachel Menitoff
Feb 20, 2014

Excerpts from ‘Zionism Unsettled’

  • “Diplomatic posturing in support of a two-state solution notwithstanding, Israel’s expansion into territory classified under international law as occupied has brought about a de facto one-state entity under Israeli jurisdiction. Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University is one of many analysts to note that the current situation is unstable. He writes, “a ‘one-state solution’ based on enduring discrimination and oppression is ultimately unsustainable.” 
  • “It is important for American communities of Christians, Jews, and Muslims to not only listen to what Palestinians (such as Khalidi, Masalha, and Said) and Jews (such as Lustick, Ehrenreich, and Stone) say about Zionism and the struggle in Palestine/ Israel, but also, for several reasons, to enter into the discussion.”
  • "This study explores the theological and ethical exceptionalism of Jewish and Christian Zionism, which have been sheltered from open debate despite the intolerable human rights abuses rooted in their core beliefs. The challenge of interfaith relations is to find a way to respect theological differences and the historical experiences that gave rise to them while preventing them from becoming excuses for injustice toward those who find themselves on the outside." 

In the aftermath of the publication of its Israel/Palestine Mission Network's study guide that faced an avalanche of criticism from the American Jewish community, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has issued a detailed statement calling for "a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and the right for each to exist within secure and recognized borders ..."

Seeking to adopt a conciliatory yet nuanced stance, the statement speaks to the church's condemnation of anti-Semitism, "including the refusal to acknowledge the legal existence of the state of Israel." But, it clearly states when it speaks ill of Israel's violation of Palestinian human rights, such criticism "does not constitute anti-Semitism."

Jewish critics have expressed outrage at the tone and content of the study guide, "Zionism Unsettled," released in January as a companion to a soon-to-be-published book, "Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land."

"Zionism Unsettled" "is not an attack on particular Israeli policies but on the very idea of a Jewish return to Zion," argues Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an L.A.-based Jewish human rights organization. Cooper calls the booklet "a compendium of distortions, ignorance and outright lies.”

The study guide’s authors and supporters remain resolute in affirming the legitimacy and moral rectitude of their position: The Rev. Walt Davis, education co-chairman of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) clarifies that “there is no maliciousness intended in any of this writing.”

Davis further asserts, “We know there are strong disagreements within the Jewish community. We also know that the communal organizations have not wanted any critical discussion of Israel, which they have tried to suppress within the Jewish community and within the larger society. We don’t think that’s healthy. It undermines respect and support for Judaism in the U.S., the mainstream Jewish organizations and Israel because it is not keeping in the spirit and tone of democracy.”

In its statement, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) says it's obligated to engage "many points of view when it comes to dialogue on critical issues facing the world around us. There are likely as many differing opinions as there are Presbyterians — and, like many denominations, we don’t always agree.”