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February 20, 2014 4:15 pm

Presbyterian Org Says Agenda of Group Within Church is ‘End of the Jewish State of Israel’

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Presbyterian Church (USA).

Presbyterian Church (USA).

The battle over Israel within the Presbyterian church turned a corner on Thursday, when a pro-Israel faction, called Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, said it would fight the church agenda, as described in its ‘Zionism Unsettled‘ monograph. The document on Zionism, praised this week by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and Iranian media, was described by PFMEP as seeking the “end of the Jewish State of Israel.”

In a statement to supporters, entitled, “The True Agenda: the End of the Jewish State of Israel,” PFMEP described itself “as a grassroots group of Presbyterian lay and clergy volunteers who want the Presbyterian Church USA to be an effective peacemaker in the Middle East.” It said the group came together after the church’s 2004 General Assembly and was established prior to the 2008 Presbyterian General Assembly.

The church made headlines in 2012 for proposals, ultimately voted down by its members at its 220th General Assembly, to divest from Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Motorola because of their activities in Israel. But the motions were only narrowly defeated, with a tally of 333-331, with two abstentions, emboldening their supporters to re-table the motions in 2014.

The group said: “Since 2004, a small but determined advocacy group within the PCUSA, representing the Israel-targeted international Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Movement, has lobbied the denomination to divest from several companies that supposedly support Israel’s occupation of the West Bank,” while those “same companies support the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the PA attempts to build the West Bank’s economy.”

“For the past decade, the BDS advocates have strenuously denied that they want to do the Jewish state of Israel any harm. They have said in numerous forums, ‘We are friends of Israel and we are doing what good friends do. We are trying to convince our friends to do the right thing and end the occupation.’ Events this winter reveal that these advocates are anything but Israel’s friends.”

“The Israel Palestinian Mission Network (IPMN) and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) have broadened their attacks on Israel with explicit challenges to Israel’s existence as the Jewish (Zionist) state it was created to be in 1947.”

“These challenges are unambiguously rampant in the so-called ‘congregational study guide’ created by IPMN called ‘Zionism Unsettled.’ The materials in ‘Zionism Unsettled’ argue that Zionism (a Jewish state) is inherently discriminatory, and that the very idea of a homeland for the Jewish people is illegitimate. The guide states that ‘The fundamental assumption of this study is that no exceptionalist claims can be justified in our interconnected, pluralistic world.'”

“In other words, no nation can build its identity around religion, ethnicity or other category. The Irish, Armenians, Japanese or Czech’s may have a problem with the IPMN-PPF vision of a world with no nations rooted in religious or ethnic identity. The BDS advocates go so far as to criticize Jewish prayer books around the world for including a prayer for the state of Israel.”

“Of course, the same activists also want to eliminate from the new PCUSA hymnal the traditional category of hymns entitled ‘The Covenant with Israel.’ They say the language embraces the oppression they claim Israel inflicts on others. Will the next step be to challenge ‘covenant with Israel’ language in the Bible?”

In the statement, PFMEP said the church’s 2014 General Assembly, in Detroit, in June, will discuss “an onslaught of anti-Israel initiatives,” including boycotts against Israeli products, divestment from three companies doing business with Israel and with the Palestinian Authority, and labeling of Israel as an apartheid nation.

“In addition, there will be criticism of the new hymnal for using the phrase ‘God’s Covenant with Israel’ to describe a few hymns, and attempts to deflect criticism of the outrageous study guide the IPMN is distributing through our denominational publishing house,” it said.

“Add all of these strategies together and it is 100% clear that the true agenda of IPMN, PPF, and the secular BDS movement is to undo what the world did in 1947 when the international community came together to recognize the newly created Israel as a Jewish homeland.”

“Can it possibly be true that the lay people and clergy of the PCUSA believe that Israel should stop being a Jewish state, that it is an apartheid state, that we should penalize companies who do business on both sides of the West Bank border, that we should drop traditional understandings of hymns to advance a radical political agenda, that we want our mission dollars being spent to distribute a ‘study guide’ that is being condemned by anybody with a more inclusive approach to the issues? We think not. We don’t think the General Assembly will agree either.”

The group included a link to An Open Letter to the Presbyterian Church, by Presbyterian teaching elder Rev. Chris Leighton, which it described as “a Christian response to ‘Zionism Unsettled,'” and urged church members to read it.

The group noted the recent critical press received by the church this week for publishing ‘Zionism Unsettled,’ as having its “worst fears” confirmed.

“We at PFMEP believe it is absolutely essential that the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board act immediately, and direct the PMA to cease distribution of this deeply troubling document,” the group concluded.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace is led by a steering committee consisting of Presbyterians Rev. Dr. Bill Harter, Rev. Dr. John Wimberly, Elder Gary J. Green, James Roberts, and Elder George Douglas. Rev. Dr. Bill Harter and Rev. Dr. John Wimberly serve as co-conveners of PFMEP, the group says on its website.

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