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February 06, 2012: JCPA Calls on Presbyterian Church to Confront Anti-Semitic Rhetoric

01:31 PM Feb 06, 2012

JCPA CALLS ON THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA) TO CONFRONT ANTI-ISRAEL, ANTI-ZIONIST AND SOMETIMES ANTI-SEMITIC CONTENT IN ITS MISSION NETWORK

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs called on the Presbyterian Church (USA) to take concrete actions to address the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and at times anti-Semitic content that has been all too common in the church’s Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN-PCUSA).  The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA (IPMN-PCUSA) is a group chartered by the PCUSA General Assembly and advised by members of the denomination's national staff.   IPMN-PCUSA’s policies, programs, social media and other communications are a wellspring of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel invective, according to extensive research conducted by the JCPA and the Israel Action Network, an initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with JCPA.

For example, at an opening program of the IPMN-PCUSA annual conference, the Rev. Craig Hunter said "greed and injustice is a cancer at the very core of Zionism."   In a 2010 letter to church delegates, the IPMN-PCUSA falsely accused the Jewish community of intimidating Presbyterians by sending a letter-bomb to the church’s headquarters and setting fire to a church. IPMN-PCUSA tweeted an article proclaiming “Jewish power + Jewish hubris = moral catastrophe of epic proportions.”   IPMN-PCUSA also has supported virulently anti-Israel resolutions including those equating Israel with Apartheid and has been a vocal supporter of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanction movement.

“Our experience across America confirms that most Presbyterians reject the approach of the IPMN-PCUSA , and that our communities remain close partners on many issues including social justice and Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking” said JCPA president Rabbi Steve Gutow.  “We ask the church to do more to confront the extreme and destructive rhetoric of a few.  Passionate disagreement on policy is one thing -  good decision-making requires it - but when it devolves into incivility and demonization, the fabric of our society is torn apart.  Our relationships are too precious to jeopardize by a climate that tolerates demagoguery and bigotry. "

The IPMN-PCUSA recently announced greater controls on its Facebook page.  “That is a good first step.  The issues must be addressed at their roots, though,” added Gutow.  “We wonder who are these people who have created and sustained an environment where the most outrageous and uncivil invective flows so freely. The words and actions of these few seem to be aimed more at fueling conflict and distrust than in creating peace for Israelis and Palestinians.  That this horrific rhetoric comes under a banner of peacemaking strains credulity.   For as long as it makes sense to do so we will continue to work with our friends in the PCUSA to call for responsible policy that promotes peace and positive relations and rejects partisanship and division.”

The IPMN-PCUSA Facebook page includes a cartoon of President Obama wearing weighty Jewish star earrings to suggest Jewish control of the American leaders, a common theme on the site.   The IPMN-PCUSA has posted articles that accuse Jews of controlling Hollywood, the media, and American politics - and blaming Israel for the American housing and economic crisis. IPMN-PCUSA's communications chair also posted her opposition to a two-state solution and the existence of a Jewish state, something which she terms "anachronistic.”  The same IPMN leader, Noushin Framke, clicked "like" on the Obama cartoon with the Jewish stars and another post that Hamas should keep  Israeli Gilad Shalit hostage until Palestinians are granted a right of return. 

“We have been concerned by the transformation of the IPMN-PCUSA into a gathering place for anti-Jewish tirades,” said JCPA Chair Dr. Conrad Giles. “We cannot remain silent while a group chartered by a mainstream church tolerates language that reflects the darkest times in the Christian-Jewish encounter.  These attitudes cannot find a home in the Presbyterian Church (USA). We urge our friends in the church to champion a path for peace that does not depend on such dangerous tropes.  The connection to Palestinian Christians and the passion that IPMN-PCUSA leaders feel about their condition are not excuses for the invective that is being used.  Nor does it excuse the silence of the PCUSA leadership to it. We must all do better to root out bigotry and bias.  I would hope that the church would make clear that it will not condone these gutter tactics against the Jewish people or the state of Israel. How can we deal with any entity that does not condemn such horrific comments?  How can we foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians – and create an America that is safe for Christians, Muslims, Jews and others, if we stand idly by when groups are demeaned so viciously?”

Giles and Gutow added their appreciation for the Israel Action Network in assisting with the reporting on the IPMN-PCUSA.

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