As Presbyterian Church (USA) Meeting Begins, Simon Wiesenthal Center Severs All Relations, Calls On Members to Vote Down Anti-Israel Agenda
by Joshua Levitt
As the biannual general meeting of the Presbyterian Church (USA) begins this week in Detroit, Jewish human rights group The Simon Wiesenthal Center said they have severed all relations with the controversial church.
The group also called on PC (USA) members to vote down the anti-Israel agenda that has been praised by David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and Press TV, a semi-official Iranian government news channel.
In a statement, SWC said it was “urging the rank and file of the Presbyterian Church (USA)… to defeat the leadership’s embrace of extreme anti-Israel positions, including a report that called Israel racist and illegal.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Center, said, “We are severing all dialogue with PC (USA), because of a pattern of malicious behavior on the part of church administration,” pointing to Zionism Unsettled, a 74-page monograph released in December and sold on PC (USA)’s website.
“This demonization of an entire nation and its supporters around the world is an outrage that makes further conversation with this church impossible. Zionism Unsettled does not merely attack Israeli policies, but calls the quest for a Jewish State racist and illegal,” Cooper said.
“This invokes memories of the UN’s notorious ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution of 1974 (repealed in 1991) – but this time PC (USA) has substituted theological language to dismiss the Jewish people’s 3500-year presence in and association with the Holy Land,” he added.
“The long-standing protocols of interfaith dialogue have always demanded that no partner attack the core beliefs of the other. This document, and the cynical response of church leaders to criticism of it from other Presbyterians is a frontal assault on the central place of the Jewish State in Jewish life and thought,” the rabbi said.
In 2004, SWC said PC (USA) became the first mainline denomination to vote for divestment from Israel. Strong opposition by church rank and file led to an overturning of that resolution in 2006, but those groups who oppose the leadership generally face an uphill battle.
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, SWC’s director of interfaith affairs, said, “While Israel enjoyed strong support from the ordinary worshipers and pastors of this church – including a large cadre of tireless workers for balance and fairness to all peoples of the Middle East – their wishes were frustrated by church leadership bent on taking the church in a different direction.”
“After every defeat at a biennial General Assembly, the church administration raised the ante, building partnerships with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that abandoned the very two-state solution that was the historic policy of the church,” he said.
“It gerrymandered key committee appointments, and tolerated overt anti-Semitism on church websites. We stayed in an abusive relationship too long. We will continue to love Presbyterians, but we will inform our community that PC (USA) is a group that disrespects the Jewish People.”
In his own commentary on PC (USA)’s booklet, in February, former KKK leader Duke wrote,”Zionism Unsettled is not only an attack on Israel and its Jewish supporters. It criticizes the Catholic Church’s landmark 1965 Nostra Aetate, which opened the door for a new relationship between Jews and Catholics, saying that the declaration ‘raises as many questions as it answers.” It also “features an entire chapter panning Evangelical Christian support for Israel,” Duke said.
He praised the organization for “calling Zionism ‘Jewish Supremacism’ — a term first coined and made popular by Dr. David Duke.”