(JNS.org) Presbyterian Church USA has come under fire for its new study guide on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, which critics contend is a “hateful document” that “promotes the eradication of Israel.”
The 74-page study guide, titled “Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide,” was produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church USA and released ahead of its national assembly in June.
“Every couple of years, in the run-up to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly, anti-Zionist activists in the denomination put forth a hateful document that assails Israel's legitimacy and antagonizes Jews in the United States. It happened in 2010, it happened in 2012 and it happened again in 2014 with this document,” Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, told JNS.org.
According to its website, the study guide and its companion DVD tackles “critical issues fearlessly and with inspiring scope” that “draw together compelling and diverse viewpoints from Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Israel, Palestine, the US, and around the globe.”
The study guide also seeks to confront “mainstream perceptions with important alternative perspectives frequently ignored in the media,” its website said. But B’nai B’rith International said in a press release, “Despite the rosy terms in which the church describes the guide, its description is profoundly deceptive. The church conceals the actual nature of the publication—engagement in vile revisionism of not merely Israeli, but Jewish history too—while exploiting fringe perspectives to legitimize polemics contrary to any understanding of genuine interreligious dialogue and peacemaking.”
Van Zile told JNS.org that the study guide promotes historical figures who have “lost the argument over the need for a Jewish state and then presents them as credible voices to non-Jews.”
“The authors of the document report these folks are ‘outside mainstream circles,’ which is another way of saying they have lost the argument with their fellow Jews,” he said.
Van Zile cited Israeli philosopher Martin Buber, who advocated for a binational state prior to Israel’s independence in 1948, as an example that the study guide uses as “pointing to a road not taken.”
Van Zile explained that Buber’s philosophy, while coming from an honest direction, was flawed and eventually lost out to mainstream Zionism.
“Buber was afraid of Jews having power, because they would lose their innocence and their purity once they had it. Problem is a people can be free and sovereign or it can be innocent. It cannot be both. Israel has wielded power with a lot more responsibility than its adversaries,” he said.
Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Director of Intergroup and Interreligious Relations, said the study guide “is a devastating distortion of Jewish and Israeli history, aimed at nothing less than eradicating the State of Israel.”
According to AJC, the Presbyterian Church is slated to pass a resolution supporting the BDS movement at its June meeting.