Presbyterian church body hits back hard at JCPA’s “anti-Semitism” smear over support for Palestinian rights

The Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has hit back strongly at a smear campaign from a major pro-Israel group aimed at portraying it as “anti-Semitic.”

In responding to allegations from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), IPMN stated:

The world where Israeli government policy cannot be criticized is a thing of the past. There is vigorous debate within the Jewish community around Israel’s military occupation, and groups like the JCPA and others are losing control of the narrative.

For the record, the Israel Palestine Mission Network is not an anti-Semitic organization. It does oppose Israeli government policy that sustains illegal occupation and violates Palestinian human rights every day. The IPMN is also a proponent of open dialogue and debate about the issues that prevent a just peace. The truth is that the JCPA, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and other “pro-Israel” organizations do not desire open and free discussion about these issues in America, and when they don’t want to talk about the facts on the ground, they resort to slanderous smear campaigns.

The rest of the IPMN statement recalls earlier attacks on Presbyterians and other faith groups that have debated proposals for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

IPMN is a group mandated by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to work “toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine by facilitating education, promoting partnerships, and coordinating advocacy.”

Calls for BDS amid various Christian church denominations have been growing. Some anti-Palestinian groups have even accused Presbyterians of a “declaration of war” on Israel.

Using “anti-Semitism” charge to silence criticism, stop action

IPMN’s statement came in response to a 6 February attack by the JCPA – one of the leading Zionist advocacy groups in the United States – alleging that IPMN’s “policies, programs, social media and other communications are a wellspring of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel invective.”

As has become typical of these smears, the JCPA statement contains a laundry list of alleged quotes provided without sourcing or context.

Moreover, it would seem the only way to appease JCPA would be complete silence. Its own Handbook for Pro-Israel Activists defines all criticism of Zionism as anti-Semitism:

To single out Jewish self-determination - or Zionism - for condemnation is itself a form of anti-Jewish racism.

When JCPA casts the net so wide, not only is anyone who criticizes Israel open to their smears, but real anti-Semitism is trivialized by this cynical effort to use the accusation to cover for Israeli state policies.

The Handbook also repeats discredited “quotes” from Martin Luther King Jr..

Trying to slow down BDS through smears

The JCPA has been at the forefront at trying to slow down the growing BDS movement. In early 2010, the group passed a resolution urging that BDS “be regarded with the utmost seriousness and urgency.”

It is part of a multi-million dollar “Israel Action Network” whose goal is to try to stop the BDS movement by smearing activists and organizations.

Taking its cues from the Reut Institute’s “sabotage and attack” strategy, JCPA’s “Handbook for Pro-Israel Activists” effectively advises that smear campaigns should be used to try to change the subject. Under the heading, “Play Offense: Make BDS the Issue, Not Israel,” the handbook urges:

Expose the Israel Delegitimization Network: those involved with delegitimization efforts should be held accountable for their extremist positions against any peaceful resolution of the conflict or Israel’s very existence. This is critically important in order to drive a wedge between them and those who criticize Israeli policy.

It would appear that JCPA’s smears against Presbyterians are designed with exactly this in mind. It’s good to see that IPMN has not been intimidated by these tired tactics.

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What's terribly missing from IPMN's reply is the natural, necessary denouncement of JCPA as a TRULY racist organization: their reference to "Jewish self-determination" is an open declaration of violent racist doctrine. The tired old Zionist phrase "..single out Jewish self-determination.. ..is a form of anti-Jewish racism" has been exposed long ago and eliminated from the discourse - for anyone paying attention to it. Self-determination is NEVER a right based on ethnicity: it refers only to the right of a indigenous populations to rule themselves, without interference - regardless of their ethnicities or religions. When self-determination is DIS-interpreted as an ethnic right, it becomes a virulent doctrine of violent racism. Of course, many countries have a natural ethnic majority, but it's ABSURD to say that this gives everyone a human right to live in a place where his or her ethnicity or religion reigns supreme. Every experienced and successful equal-rights activist knows this - and it's way past time for representatives of Palestine to take notice. IF ethnic self-determination were a human right, it would turn the clock back to tribal pre-history, when a "right" to an ethnically purified homeland was commonly contested against the rights of indigenous people to remain ALIVE and continue to exist and work in their ancestral lands and villages - the contest of these two conflicting "rights" to be settled by force of arms - as we see this Zionist "right" operating in the ethnic-cleansing of Palestine. Such racist obfuscation is natural from Zionists: the really appalling center of the problem is that representatives of Palestine have STILL not figured this out, as they CONTINUE to plead for understanding, instead of DECENTLY denouncing the violent racism of their Zionist attackers for what it so obviously is. An intelligent denouncement of Zionist racism cannot be interpreted as "extremist" or "anti-Semitic." It's the only way to win trust from modern people.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.