(RNS) The Presbyterian Church (USA) has removed from its website a booklet that many Jewish groups have criticized as hostile to Israel and denigrating to Judaism.

Zionism Unsettled cover page.

Zionism Unsettled cover page. photo courtesy of www.israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“Zionism Unsettled,” published in January by the church-chartered Israel/Palestine Mission Network, is a history and commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that paints Israel as the aggressor and describes Zionism as inherently racist and theologically flawed.

The booklet played a role last month in the denomination’s debate on divesting from three American companies that, divestment proponents say, profit from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Those opposed to the divestment measure, which passed the denomination’s General Assembly 310-303, argued that it unfairly singled out Israel in a complex, two-sided conflict.

With “Zionism Unsettled” selling on the church’s website, they added, it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that a divestment vote was further evidence of the church’s hardened stance toward the Jewish state.

Leaders of the 1.8 million-member denomination said they removed the booklet from the church’s  website — where it sold for $10 — to dispel confusion and affirm that while the denomination endorsed divestment, it does not endorse “Zionism Unsettled.”

“We need to keep our focus on supporting and communicating the decisions of the General Assembly,” said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the stated clerk. “And responding to a recent increase in feedback about the book is impacting our ability to do that.”

In a flurry of statements released after the PCUSA removed “Zionism Unsettled” from its website, Jewish organizations applauded the move, but still chided the church.

“An anti-Israel and anti-Semitic document of this kind should have never been published by a church-affiliated organization, let alone marketed by the Presbyterian Church (USA) on its website,” said Rabbi David Sandmel, director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League. “Concerned Presbyterians along with Jewish organizations have been asking for this step for months on both the national and local level.”

The General Assembly and PCUSA leaders have been trying to distance themselves from the harshest critics of Israel within and without the church. Delegates passed a measure last month declaring that “Zionism Unsettled” does not represent the denomination’s point of view. And the divestment measure specified that it does not signify support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which aims to pressure Israel to leave the territories but is criticized by opponents as insensitive to security threats against Israelis and the Jewish state.

A relatively small but ultimately influential group of Jewish divestment supporters met and prayed with Presbyterians during their meeting in Detroit. The largest and most established Jewish groups — religious and secular — opposed the divestment measure and warned that it would poison Jewish-Presbyterians relations. The PCUSA is now the largest U.S. denomination to have passed a divestment measure to protest the occupation.

YS/AMB END MARKOE

11 Comments

  1. I will never believe anti-israel opinions automatically equal anti-semitic opinions. Calling it racism as soon as someone criticizes you is an attempt to control thr conversation and shut it down early….causd well, that’s all you’ve got to fight back with.

    How is the israeli/pali conflict, based on the “divine right” to the territory any different than islamic caliphate…also a claim ro earthly things by divine right?

    Meanwhile….shhh. Don’t take about thr broad brush “justice” israel is metering out right now. No horseface, aka john kerry, its not apartheid and you retract that statement or you will be secretary of nothing.

  2. Lauren,
    A commissioner’s resolution asked the pcusa to state that ZU is not an official document of the curch AND to remove ZU from the pcusa website as an item for sale.

    The middle east committee and the assembly voted overwhelmingly to make the statement that Zionism Unsettled does speak for the denomination, but that it shall remain for sale on the church’s website.

    A few leaders of the pcusa went against the wishes of the committee that dealt with this all week and against hundreds of commissioners.

    You want a story? Go ask them what gives them that kind of authority in the Presbyterian system.

  3. Rev. Irvin Nussdorfer

    I am disappointed by the GA OFFICE removed the document from the website. It is not antisemitic but an honest telling of Zionism and it’s influence in Israel. We cannot deal with the issues in the struggle for peace without separating this from the religion of Judaism.

    • Garson Abuita

      The official PCUSA position is that Israel has the right to exist and that there should be a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. ZU is wholly incompatible with that position. Have any of you actually read it? It is dripping with hate not just for the Israeli hard-right but for Israelis themselves and for any American Jews who dare to support the state. PCUSA could not have this on their website and have an official position supporting Israel’s right to exist. The real question for the future is whether PCUSA will continue to hold that position.

      • There’s the buzzword again…hate. If someone calls it hate it must be banned, no questions asked.

        It cannot be merely disagreement, or criticism. It must be “hate”. It must be made emotional and blindly illogical by the use of the word hate and we can then justify censoring that offensive opinion.

        Disclosure: I have not see the material in question. It may very well be hate, or it may be a mere criticism of jewish zionism. It may be done in a edgy style common to many docudramas today. But in my opinion, if its a logical criticism of the zionist mindset it is not hate, racist or anti-semetic.

        • Garson Abuita

          Disclosure: I have read the material in question. I agree, criticism of Zionism is not necessarily anti-Semitic. Read it and make your own conclusions.

      • Warren R. Smith

        I’ve read it and if anything, it’s very careful in offering only factual documentation. The alarming part is that none of these views are allowed in American media. If it’s such an affront to Judaism, why are there no public broadcasts of point and counter-point? And I don’t mean Fox News “discussion” where O’Reilly basically overrides any critical views before they leave the speaker’s mouth.

  4. Modern Zionism is a secular movement. David Ben-Gurion was an agnostic. Some Zionist are atheists. So how could Zionism be based on the God given right to anything.

    Modern Zionism was a response to the failure of assimilation of Jews to end antisemitism. Theodore Herzl wrote his first Zionist document after witnessing the mobs calling “death to the Jews” after hearing the verdict of the Dreyfus trial. Herzl was an assimilated Jew who was not religious, but the response to the Dreyfus trial smashed his illusions completely.

    If Israel did not exist, I would be there trying to create a Jewish state, because Jews need a state of their own. I can live in America because Israel exists. German Jews once thought that Germany was the new promised land and look what happened to them. Right now in France recored numbers of Jews are leaving France for Israel to escape antisemitism.

    • Thank you for your insightful comment. So many things about the jewish mindset confuse me. I’ve wondered how a jewish person could be zionist and non-religious at the same time. Heck, I’ve wondered how a non-religious jewish person can still call themselves jewish, as I know multiple racial backgrounds make up thr modern jewish society. Your comments help bridge the gap for me a bit.

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