Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jewish Agencies Express Profound Hurt by Presbyterian Church Actions

More than a dozen national Jewish agencies have issued a statement strongly criticizing a Presbyterian Church (USA) document that replaces a PCUSA critique of anti-Jewish bias, issued just one month prior.

The revised document, according to the Jewish statement, "is infused with the very bias that the original statement condemned." The Jewish agencies note "with profound hurt" that the "new season of mutual understanding and dialogue" called for by the 2006 Presbyterian General Assembly "has indeed not yet arrived."

The Following is a Joint Statement issued from the American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress; Anti-Defamation League; B'nai B'rith International; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Hadassah: The Women's Zionist Organization
Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; The Rabbinical Assembly; United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Union for Reform Judaism; Women's League for Conservative Judaism; and the Women of Reform Judaism.

The joint agency statement follows:

"We are deeply distressed by the revisions made to the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s recent statement calling for "Vigilance against anti-Jewish ideas and bias."

The revised statement is infused with the very bias that the original statement condemned. We are disappointed that after taking steps toward better relations, the church has rescinded many of the positive statements it made about rooting out anti-Jewish invective. It is even more disturbing that this occurs after Jewish groups had warmly welcomed the original statement, and only days before the church's upcoming biennial. As such, we can no longer welcome its publication and must rescind the letters and statements in which we welcomed the original document.

We resent the implication in the revised statement that some Jewish criticism of Israeli policy justifies the PC(USA)'s one-sided stances. It does not. There is legitimate criticism of Israeli policies that comes from both Christians and Jews. However, some criticism crosses the line. Sadly, many PC(USA) statements have and continue to cross this line.

A 2004 policy stated that Israeli occupation is "at the root of evil acts committed against innocent people on both sides of the conflict." A 2007 church teaching resource claims a two-thousand-year continued Christian presence in the Holy Land, but writes Jews out of the history until the middle of the twentieth century. A 2008 church statement termed the rockets that Hamas has fired into Israeli civilian areas as "provocative acts of retaliation." The newly revised statement on anti-Jewish bias describes Israel as "the oppressive force in the Israeli-Palestinian situation," dismissing the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish terror that has killed and maimed Israeli civilians in buses, restaurants, and markets. Each statement and action moves beyond legitimate criticism and rewrites history or assigns excessive blame to Israelis, even for violence directed against them.

A further example of blaming Jews for that which harms us is the revised language on Palestinian liberation theology. Gone is language recognizing that such theology presents "unique problems" and is "troubling in its demonization of Israel." Instead, the burden is shifted to Jews who, the statement claims, "inevitably construe" calling the Jewish state a crucifying power as anti-Jewish. We know that we do not shoulder alone our horror over statements by liberation theologians such as "the Israeli government crucifixion machine is operating daily," or "Israel has placed a large boulder, a big stone that has metaphorically shut off the Palestinians in a tomb, similar to the stone placed on the entrance of Jesus' tomb" or "security is a pagan god that Israel worships." Christians and all people of good will also construe such rhetoric as echoing classic anti-Jewish accusations.

The revised statement inserts a litany of church policies against Israel, including targeting corporations for "engagement" as a viable approach to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No recent church policy has caused greater harm to Presbyterian-Jewish relations. In contrast, the church has yet to take any action to "engage" corporations that foster anti-Israel terrorism through investment in state sponsors of terror, including Iran and Syria. This demonstrates a continued one-sided and distressing approach to peacemaking.

The revised statement also adds a most troubling interpretation of the biblical promise of land. The original statement recognized both a universal gift of land and one made specifically to the Jewish people. This is replaced with a re-interpretation that the Jewish covenant instead includes a promise of land to "the Jewish people and to all the descendants of Abraham."

In June 2006, Jewish organizations broadly welcomed the call for a "new season of mutual understanding and dialogue" issued by the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). In January 2007, after the issuance of an anti-Israel PC(USA) statement, we questioned whether that new season had arrived. Today, we note with profound hurt that the season for which we continue to hope has indeed not yet arrived."

original version online here...

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