A research institute based in Jerusalem has issued a report that reveals antisemitism on the Facebook page of an activist group that played a prominent role in advocating for boycott and divestments efforts from companies doing business in Israel by the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The NGO Monitor issued a 69-page report entitled “The Role of Antisemitism in the Presbyterian Church (USA’s) Decision to Support Divestment,” just five days after the PCUSA’s 221st General Assembly voted 310-303 to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.
The report from NGO Monitor asserts that the Israel-Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), an activist group affiliated with the PCUSA that lobbied for the church to divest from companies that do business with Israel, promoted anti-Jewish prejudice on its Facebook page.
“The IPMN’s Facebook page is in fact a hate site operating under the protective wings of the Presbyterian Church,” said Yitzhak Santis, NGO Monitor’s Chief Programs Officer. “None of the antisemitic postings were repudiated by the IPMN leadership or other members of this Facebook group. Several Presbyterian Church senior staff members are also members of this group, and they remained silent.”
The decision to divest was labeled by many as a setback in the effort to negotiate a sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola were targeted for divestment because their products—construction equipment, biometric scanners and cell phones, respectively—are used by Israel in maintaining its military presence on the West Bank. The decision means the denomination will divest holdings worth approximately $21 million in the three companies.
In addition to numerous antisemitic posts on its Facebook page, the IPMN also is the publisher of the controversial Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study.
Released in January 2014, Zionism Unsettled asserts the position that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is driven by pathology inherent in Zionism and rejects theologies – Christian and Jewish – that support Zionism. It describes the effort to establish a Jewish state as “a struggle for colonial and racist supremacist privilege.”
The General Assembly passed a resolution that the study guide does not represent the views of the PCUSA, but a clause calling for the church to no longer distribute it and have the document immediately removed from the denomination’s web store was deleted from the resolution. Zionism Unsettled remains available for purchase on the PCUSA web site.
The IPMN – created by an overture of the 2004 General Assembly to “demonstrate solidarity, educate about the facts on the ground, and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians” – shut down its Facebook page early in 2012 after being criticized for posts containing extremist material.
Six months later, IPMN opened another Facebook page as a “closed but not secret group.” It has 289 current members that include members of the PCUSA’ senior staff, theologians, clergy, laity and non-Presbyterian anti-Israel non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
A number of overtly anti-Semitic sentiments can be found in the postings as well as crude anti-Jewish caricatures and links to anti-Semitic web sites. Some of those posts make reference to Zionists/Jews controlling the American government/media, that they are warmongers, and racial definitions of Jewish identity that infer Jews have no legitimate ethnic connection to Israel.
The page also shows support for the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, indicate that Zionism is racism and that Israel/Zionism is akin to Nazism or apartheid.
Posts on the page by members over a period of two years demonstrate the ongoing pattern of anti-Semitism. Some examples include:
- “a ‘Zionist controlled America (has a) desperate lust; for war with Iran;
- “’Jewish interests’ are corrupting the US government and the media is ‘owned’ and ‘operated’ by these same ‘Jewish interests’”;
- “the ‘Christian Holy Land’ is ‘occupied’ by the ‘zionist (sic) instigator’”;
- “’IRAN! Thank God for them! The only Zionist-free land left on earth.’”
The report indicates that such antisemitism serves as a component of the IPMN’s advocacy campaign for divestment and boycotts against Israel, which culminated in last week’s decision by GA commissioners to support divestment and other anti-Israel resolutions.
‘Down a dark path’
One of the key points raised in the report reads, “The bigotry expressed by IPMN members and tolerated by IPMN leaders and PCUSA staff is a moral failing of the church. Serious steps must be taken by the church to remedy this situation, including an apology to the Jewish community, for the church to be able to claim any moral standing on the Middle East.”
In light of the report and last week’s action by the General Assembly, Santis questioned the direction the PCUSA is headed, especially in regard to its relationship with the State of Israel.
“The moral credibility of the Presbyterians is on the line,” continued Santis. “The church must repudiate and fully distance itself from IPMN and its bigotry. IPMN has been walking the church down a dark path, and Presbyterians should ask themselves if this is the direction they wish to go.”