Relations between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Jewish groups – difficult for some years now – have slid into acrimony again involving a new study guide on Zionism.
In January, the Israel Palestine Mission Network (known as IPMN) released a resource titled “Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide.” The PC(USA) sent out an announcement of the resource’s release, written by the network’s education co-chair, Walt Davis.
Now, some Jewish organizations are criticizing the document – with some characterizing it as a PC(USA) attack on the concept of Zionism. “Presbyterians Declare War on the Jews,” reads the headline on an opinion piece in Commentary magazine. Some of the criticism is directed at language in the 74-page study guide and accompanying DVD – such as a description of the “pathology” of Zionism.
A Religion News Service article about the disagreement quoted Jewish leaders saying the study guide equates Zionism with racism. Reactions to the study guide came from the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and more.
The PC(USA) responded Feb. 13 by releasing its own statement, which describes the study guide as “independently produced” and reaffirms the denomination’s “commitment to a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
The General Assembly created the Israel Palestine Mission Network in 2004 and its study guide is being sold through the PC(USA) website, but the Feb. 13 statement describes it as an “independent group – which speaks to the church and not for the church.”
All this comes as the 2014 General Assembly is preparing to consider a recommendation in June that it divest from three companies doing business in Israel-Palestine. The PC(USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee has determined that three companies are involved in non-peaceful activities in the region: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.
The 2012 General Assembly stopped just short of recommending divestment – voting 333-331 to pursue positive investment in Israeli-occupied Palestine instead of divestment in the three firms.