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“Zionism Unsettled” is a hatefilled document endorsed by Iran and David Duke

zionism unsettledA century ago the Presbyterian Church was among the leading Christian Zionists. These days a minority within  the Presbyterian Church USA is engaged in relentless delegitimization of Israel through a decade long BDS campaign. Their affiliate the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) released last month a 74 page guide, Zionism Unsettled (the Guide) that recently stoked the ire of the American Jewish community. A JNS.org story on the Zionism Unsettled guide cited Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s  Director of Intergroup and Interreligious Relations, who called it:

 A devastating distortion of Jewish and Israeli history, aimed at nothing less than eradicating the State of Israel.

The study guide is reminiscent of medieval Christian polemics against Judaism, with the authors claiming to know better than the Jewish community how Jews define themselves. This is another example of the ongoing effort to demonize Israel by a cadre of people who want to see the dismantlement of the Jewish state.

Here are some examples drawn from the Guide  that led to adverse criticism:

The Nakba (catastrophe) that befell the Palestinian people in the late 1940s should never have taken place. The Palestinian story is one of suffering at the hands of the international community, which authorized the division of Palestine in 1947, and at the hands of the Zionists who planned, organized, and implemented systematic ethnic cleansing.

Now, 65 years later, the Zionist quest for demographic control of the land in still underway – not only in the occupied territories, but within Israel itself.

Yesterday, the Guide received the endorsements of the Shiite Islamic Anti-Semitic Regime’s Press TV in Tehran and the American Anti-Semite, David Duke.  Duke has conducted outreach to Muslim Anti-Semitic groups in both Syria and Iran, to say nothing of his racist efforts here in the US.

Press TV’s report, “Zionism destroying lives of Palestinians, Jews” applauded the anti-Zionist Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP):

In a study guide on the Israeli regime released by the IPMN of Presbyterian Church (USA) last month, the authors argue that Jewish criticism of Zionism is on the rise, hailing the Jews who speak against the ‘supremacist’ movement.

“Contemporary voices are breaking the taboos that have stigmatized and punished critical examination of Zionism and its consequences,” says the study guide, calling on the brave Jews who criticize Zionism to resist a concerted effort by Pro-Zionist groups to silence them.

Press TV supported the Guide’s anti-Israel views:

A Presbyterian Church group has described Zionism as the single reason behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it is destroying the lives of both Palestinians and Jewish communities across the world.

Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst for the Boston-based Middle East media watchdog, CAMERA, cited praise for the Guide from David Duke in an Algemeiner article:

In a major breakthrough in the worldwide struggle against Zionist extremism, the largest Presbyterian Church in the United States, the PC (USA), has issued a formal statement calling Zionism “Jewish Supremacism” — a term first coined and made popular by Dr. David Duke.

The IPMN website has additional acclamation from leftist Anti-Zionist Ben Gurion University Professor Neve Gordon (no relation) and former Palestinian National Council spokesman, Professor Rashid Khalidi, holder of the endowed Edward Said Chair on Modern Arab Studies  at Columbia University:

Gordon said in his blurb:

In my work I am inspired by the great Jewish prophets’ struggle for justice and freedom, while simultaneously I am often astounded how certain strains in Judaism and Christianity invoke the Bible in order to justify oppression and social wrongs in Israel/Palestine. Therefore I welcome the effort to emphasize a conception of Judaism and Christianity that espouses universalistic ethics – whereby all humans are imago dei – and to use it to expose injustices carried out in my homeland.

Khalidi said:

The denial of the rights of the Palestinians is largely driven by the exemption of Zionist ideology and its real-world implications from any serious scrutiny. Zionism Unsettled explains accurately and concisely why it is essential to look at the theological roots of Zionism, and how it has appealed to both Jews and Christians, in order to understand the true nature of the long ordeal suffered by the Palestinian people, as well as the real roots of so much of the strife in the Middle East.

Today, the Presbyterian Church (USA ) entered the fray with a news release in the wake of this kerfuffle over the Guide:

 “Our church has a long history of engaging many points of view when it comes to dialogue on critical issues facing the world around us — it’s who we are, part of our DNA,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “There are likely as many differing opinions as there are Presbyterians — and, like many denominations, we don’t always agree.”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) policy calls for a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and the right for each to exist within secure and recognized borders. The church has condemned acts of violence on both sides of the conflict, as well as the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements. Our church has categorically condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the refusal to acknowledge the legal existence of the State of Israel. At the same time, we believe that condemnation of injustices perpetrated in the name of the State of Israel, including the violation of human rights, does not constitute anti-Semitism.

In 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formed the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) to help move the church toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine. The independent group — which speaks to the church and not for the church — recently published a study guide, Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study. The guide is intended to prompt discussion on the ever-changing and tumultuous issue of Israel-Palestine. The IPMN booklet was neither paid for nor published by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“There are myriad voices within congregations, and some would like to see the church go beyond that stance,” added Valentine. “But we remain guided by the policies of the General Assembly, seeking peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Then it quotes the head of the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace:

There are a variety of voices and opinions within the Jewish community on this issue as well. Jewish Voice for Peace advocates for a peaceful and just solution among Palestinians and Israelis that respects human rights for all.

“We are in opposition to the settlements and occupation, and in favor of a true and just peace,” said Sydney Levy, director of advocacy for Jewish Voice for Peace. “And we are not alone in this — Jews, Christians, and Muslims join us in the prayer for peace.”

Is this the view of all members of the PCUSA?  Not by any means.  Robert Norvell, a Presbyterian Minister and counter-jihad activist in Jonesboro, Arkansas wrote in an email:

I believe 85% of all Presbyterians are adamantly opposed to this study. Is Israel perfect? No, but neither is the USA. But Israel is far superior morally to Hamas, Fatah and the other Muslim savages populating the neighborhood. They are our only reliable friends and allies in the region. I am embarrassed by the actions of a few Presbyterian extremists.

Dexter Van Zile in the JNS.org article corroborated Norvell’s comment saying:

The folks who lead this church in Louisville (site of Presbyterian Church USA’s headquarters) are quite willing to allow a small but vocal minority to demonize Israel and use the church’s brand-name to do it. They have behaved like this since 2004. Most of the denomination’s laity does not support these extremists, but their voice has not proven to be decisive.

When I wrote about a battle within the PCUSA over an anti-Israel BDS resolution at the annual conference in an American Thinker article in June 2006, “Divest Hate”, I noted who were among the Presbyterians opposing it:

Because grass roots opinion has been building among both pastors and their flocks against the leadership of the PCUSA on the divestment resolution. They want to eliminate hate and most importantly protect the religious freedoms of minority Christians in the Middle East from the real threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Their allies in this battle include leading grassroots Presbyterian groups like End Divestment Now!, founded by Jim Roberts.  Among vocal opponents of the BDS resolution was former CIA director, R. James Woolsey, a Presbyterian Elder,  and chairman of the Washington, DC-based foundation for Defense of Democracies..

Zionism Unsettled  is a hateful document that has had a spotlight thrown on it  by the endorsement of Iran’s Press TV and David Duke. As cited by Norvell, we trust that  a majority of Presbyterians will rise to the occasion and defeat another BDS resolution at the Church’s upcoming annual conference in June.  Whether they can remove the current PCUSA leadership and return to the moral high ground is another matter. Nonetheless, we wish the activist laity well in their battle to support the Jewish nation of Israel.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Boston Jewish Leadership caught in Deception over Newton Schools Disputed Texts

Questions on the integrity of Boston Jewish communal groups, the regional office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and its affiliate, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) were raised in a Boston Jewish newspaper report released this week.  The investigation was prompted by a raging dispute with Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) over the Newton, Massachusetts School Board use of controversial anti-Israel and Muslim proselytizing high school texts.

The Boston Jewish Advocate (The Advocate), the weekly Jewish community newspaper of record, has published an investigation of this latest development in an 18 month battle brought to the community’s attention by Dr. Charles Jacobs and his team at Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), “ADL, CJP Newton reaction raises questions of integrity”.  We posted on The Iconoclast about this simmering dispute in late October 2013, when Jacobs and APT took out ads in several local and regional newspapers.  These were about the troubling world history course texts used by the Newton School Board in 9th and 10th grades; “The Arab World Studies Notebook” and “A Muslim Primer”.

The Advocate’s expose was triggered by a November 15, 2013 letter signed by the heads of the regional ADL, the CJP and its affiliate, the JCRC, published in the newspaper, alleging that they had conducted their own investigation on the troubling Newton school board texts. This letter was prompted by another ad by the APT pointing out the lack of attention by the local Jewish defense and Federation groups to anti-Israel maps from the controversial texts similar to those that ran on bus kiosks and in subways of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).  The Advocate expose noted:

Controversy continues to swirl over a statement released by the ADL, CJP and JCRC claiming that charges by APT President Charles Jacobs of anti-Israel material in the Newton Public Schools were groundless.

Following that statement and ambiguity over whether a referenced ADL report even existed, the JCRC stated that it has also conducted an inquiry into alleged anti-Israel materials taught in 9th- and 10th-grade history classes in the Newton Public Schools that is separate from that of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
However, the JCRC – like the ADL before it – declined to share the details of their review with the public, prompting some in the community – including an instructor at Brandeis University in Waltham – to raise the question of transparency in local Jewish organizations.

We have reported in New English Review articles, interviews and Iconoclast posts on the local Boston regional and national investigations by the APT. In particular we have drawn attention to the nearly decade long battle to uncover the support and indoctrination in terrorism by the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) controlled by an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood,  the Muslim American Society..  The ISBCC figured prominently in the incitement of the Boston Marathon jihad bombers, the refugee Tsarneav brothers.   APT also produced a documentary on anti-Semitism in the Northeastern University faculty and its former Muslim Chaplain associated with the ISBCC.   The APT also produced the nationally acclaimed film, Losing our Sons about the first home grown Islamic terrorist action after 9/11 by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, aka, Carlos Bledsoe. He was trained by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He attacked a Little Rock, Arkansas Army Recruitment center on June 1, 2009.  Mohammed-Bledsoe, originally from Memphis, Tennessee, engaged in a jihad action that took the life of the late Army Pvt. Andy Long, seriously injuring a fellow recruiter, Army Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula.

The deception, disputed  by the ADL, CJP and JCRC in this latest development, was uncovered through investigations by Middle East watchdog group CAMERA’s  Joshua Katzen, a Brandeis University adjunct faculty member, and Russell Pergament, publisher of the Jewish News Services (JNS).

The Advocate cited ADL and JCRC’s lack of transparency:

Neither ADL nor JCRC has agreed to release its findings in order to support their joint statement in a Letter to the Editor in the Nov. 15 issue of The Advocate, where the organizations’ leaders wrote that they have done a “careful review of the materials at issue,” concluding, “We trust that this is reassuring to members of our community.”

[ADL New England Regional Director] Robert Trestan said a report of their investigation does not exist, ADL’s New England Regional Board Chair, Jeffrey Robbins,
said there is indeed such a written analysis but it is not available to the media.“It’s an internal report,” he said. “People do this stuff internally all the time. … It involves all kinds of proprietary research.”

JCRC Executive Director Jeremy Burton said … JCRC has not completed a “written report or briefing memo” of its analysis.

Katzen replied:

The failure of both organizations to release the reports that they claim to have undertaken, by nameless non-experts, indicates that no such reports were ever prepared.

While CAMERA has an expert on the subject, [Senior Research Analyst] Steve Stotsky, who made serious and professional findings, there doesn’t appear to be anyone at either ADL or JCRC with the credentials to analyze the curricula. Why on earth would they be refusing to release the reports?  Only two explanations: Either the reports are slipshod and amateur, or [they] don’t exist.

Barry Shrage, President of the CJP responded:

Implicitly acknowledging that there were in fact such materials in the Newton schools, Shrage said, “In my view the question of existence [of materials listed on APT’s advertisement] is not the issue, but rather how these materials were used.”

When asked about how the situation reflects on transparency of the Jewish community organizations, Shrage turned the attention on Jacobs’ group, saying, “What about APT? Where is their transparency?” He went on to say that APT still has not answered questions to ADL and JCRC’s inquiries.

In response to the question about his organization’s transparency, Jacobs said in an e-mail, “Our ads and our many op-eds have disclosed the basis of our concerns.”

Russell Pergament publisher of the JNS who conducted his own investigation said:

I really doubted any report existed. I pushed hard on the phone with Schrage…. I wanted facts. What is really alarming here is to see Boston’s most powerful and
well funded Jewish communal organizations train their firepower on one courageous man, Charles Jacobs, who has time and again come to the aid of Jewish high school and college students facing harassment.  These groups often did nothing and, worse yet, even tried to undercut him. That they jointly, almost conspiratorially, joined forces to try and take him down is worse than disgraceful. You have to question their fitness to retain these positions of trust.

An anonymous prominent Boston Jewish community leader observed:

Instead of releasing any report or detailed findings on which their statement is based, these organizations are asking us to blindly trust them and their general conclusion on faith. And yet, how can we do that when they are saying two inconsistent and contradictory things, at least one of which is therefore a lie? This is no longer just a story about the Newton schools, but about accountability and how our communal organizations and leadership operates.

Jacobs of the APT commented:

It seems to me that ADL has done a disservice to the Jewish community and Jewish leadership in Boston, by claiming to have done a thorough, quality investigation – which they refuse to disclose …

We do not believe ADL has any credible basis for its continuing claim that there is nothing for Boston’s Jewish community to worry about. This is very unfortunate for a community that desperately needs strong leadership at a time when Israel and its supporters are under attack in universities, in K-12, and in the media.

Once again, Jacobs and the APT team as well as independent investigators have caught the Boston Jewish community leaders in a web of deception abetting anti-Israelism in both the local schools and in the public debate.  This does not come as a surprise to us, nor is it an isolated case.  For example, we can point to our investigations of the controversial Olive Tree Initiative at UCAL Irvine funded by an affiliate of the local Orange County, California Jewish Federation.

How can we trust the Boston Jewish leaders to defend both Israel and the Jewish people?

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

A rebuttal to Ari Shavit’s book “My Promised Land”

my promised land book coverWhen I opened David Hornik’s  FrontPage Magazine article, “Ari Shavit’s ‘Doomed’ Israel”, I felt compelled to answer him, as he had not read Shavit’s New York Times “best seller”, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.   Shavit’s book is the Winner of the Natan Book Award. On the reverse of the jacket are blurbs extolling his personalized view of Israel by the likes of Franklin Foer, Editor of The New Republic, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Rabbi Daniel Gordis author and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem college in Jerusalem, former Newsweek editor and author, Jon Meacham and author Daphne Merkin.  They extol it as “beautifully written”, “full of moral complexity”, “powerful book about the making of Modern Israel”, “passionate and fair minded”.  In the course of his polemic against Shavit’s theme of ‘gloom and doom’ for Israel, Hornik quotes a review by Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse:

However, a review by another of my esteemed authors and commentators, Ruth Wisse, makes me all the more leery of putting any time into the book.

“[E]verywhere in My Promised Land,” Wisse writes, “the techniques of literary foreshadowing are deployed to telegraph impending doom.” And yet, “according to Shavit himself, his fears arise less from what Arab and Muslim leaders intend to do to Israel than from what Israel has done to them.”

Israel, in other words, as a doomed country—as comeuppance for its own sins. Sounds all too familiar.

David Hornik may not have read Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. I have. I found it morally flawed and in many cases redolent of the peace at all costs mentality of the marginalized left in Israel and their supporters here in the West.  Here is an Israeli leftist intellectual who engages in secular ‘yahrzeit’ memorializing all of the disappeared Arab villages and towns whose residents fled the UN partitioned areas at the behest of the Arab Higher Council warning Arabs to flee to let five invading armies crush the embryonic Jewish nation, the State of Israel.  Nowhere in Shavit’s book does he recognize the enormous toll of Jewish lives in the War for Independence, 6,000 or 1% of the 600,000 Jews.  As one graphic example he does not mention the massacre of  79 Jewish doctors, nurses and others in the April 1948 Mt. Scopus Hospital medical convoy.  His heart bleeds for  the ”massacre” of Lydda when the embryonic IDF was allegedly ordered by Ben Gurion in July 1948 to sweep out the Arab fifth columnists and Jordanian Legionnaires  from Lydda and Ramle after the Arab notables had agreed to surrender.

“Lydda 1948”, a chapter in his book,  becomes an iconic theme that Israel haters in the US and elsewhere used to promote Shavit’s book.  Note  Shavit’s article on “Lydda 1948”  that is published by the New Yorker in the October 21, 2013 issue.  Middle East media watchdog  CAMERA unloaded on Shavit five days later with a broadside of facts about what occurred in the battles for Lydda and who triggered it.   Witness the Margaret Warner interview with him on Friday, December 20, 2013, on the PBS New Hour in the venue of the historic Washington synagogue, at Sixth and I Streets, see here.  All Shavit talks about are the two pillars of ‘intimidation’ and ‘occupation’, that Israel is led by an unworthy government continuing the mantra of ‘woe is me’ Israel is doomed.

One of the more  revealing chapters in Shavit’s book is “Up the Galilee, 2003”, that recounts his journey with Palestinian–Israeli attorney Mohammed Dahla, his co-chair of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel  to visit Sheikh Raed Salah of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in the village of Umm el-Fahem. What I have taken to call Hamas in Israel. Then they visit Azmi Bishara, the traitorous former Knesset member of  the Arab List Balad party at his office Nazareth. Both Bishara and Salah are fervent Islamist enemies of Israel and the West.  Shavit says he “loves” his friend Dahla, a leader of “Israel’s Palestinian Community”.  Shavit concludes:

He is as Israeli as any Israeli I know. He is one of the sharpest friends I have. We share a city, a state, a homeland.  We hold common values and beliefs. And yet there is a terrible schism between us. What will become of us, Mohammed?  I wonder in the dark. What will become of my daughter Tamara, your son Omar?  What will happen to my Land, your land?

Perhaps fellow Israelis, including Hornik may have answered Shavit.  They are no longer buying Ha’aretz, what some have mockingly called  the New York Times of Israel.  Shavit’s colleague at Ha’aretz, Amira  Hass has been the center of controversy with her biased Pro-Palestinian coverage and allegations of radicalization of the newspaper.  Arnold Shocken publisher of Ha’aretz  has been forced to lay off staff for this newspaper of record in Israel because of its biased coverage and other competition. This is perhaps reflection of the free Hebrew version of Israel HaYom backed  by American magnate Sheldon Adelson that  has clobbered  the circulation of Ha’aretz, forced Ma’ariv to lay off its print staff  and threatened  many other Israeli dailies.

Most Israelis don’t harbor for one moment  the gloom and doom theme of Shavit and his book.  They are reinventing our world with their impressive high tech developments backed by savvy venture capitalists from around the globe.  They are producing oil and gas off and on-shore to achieve energy independence  generating royalty revenues and wealth to ensure a future.  Moreover, Israelis are committed to an active national defense of that future despite the existential threats of Iran’s nuclear project.  Why? Because their Jewish faith invented a future. A future embedded in the national anthem of the State of Israel,  Hatikvah,  “the Hope”.  That Promised Land is not Shavit’s promised land of gloom and doom.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.