My friend Viola Larson at Naming His Grace has unearthed the likely real reason behind the disappearance today of the Facebook page of the PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network. That page has frequently featured links to extreme left-wing and even anti-Semitic sources, as I have documented here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, AND here. Today, the IPMN put the following statement on its site:
IPMN has been a presence on social media sites Facebook and Twitter over the last eighteen months, providing links to stories on Israel and Palestine that are not easily found in the mainstream U.S. media. We have had this clarification posted on our Facebook page:
“The opinions expressed in articles and/or videos posted here are those of the authors/producers, and not necessarily those of the IPMN. This Facebook page demonstrates the diversity of perspectives that exist on Israel/Palestine, and serves to encourage dialogue between differing positions.”
As our “fan base” has grown on Facebook to over 2100, so have the comments, both positive and negative. At present, Facebook does not provide a setting where fans can “like” and “share” links without posting comments that need to be monitored. Since IPMN has no paid staff, we will not be able to keep our Facebook page going, until such a time as new posting settings are made available. Until then, IPMN will post links to articles, commentary, videos, etc. on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/IPMN
What Viola found, however, is that the PCUSA has apparently been getting pressure from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which put a press release on their web site blog today that notes some of the more egregious examples of IPMN anti-Semitism and offers this reaction:
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs called on the Presbyterian Church (USA) to take concrete actions to address the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and at times anti-Semitic content that has been all too common in the church’s Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN-PCUSA). The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA (IPMN-PCUSA) is a group chartered by the PCUSA General Assembly and advised by members of the denomination’s national staff. IPMN-PCUSA’s policies, programs, social media and other communications are a wellspring of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel invective, according to extensive research conducted by the JCPA and the Israel Action Network, an initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with JCPA.
“Our experience across America confirms that most Presbyterians reject the approach of the IPMN-PCUSA , and that our communities remain close partners on many issues including social justice and Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking” said JCPA president Rabbi Steve Gutow. “We ask the church to do more to confront the extreme and destructive rhetoric of a few. Passionate disagreement on policy is one thing - good decision-making requires it – but when it devolves into incivility and demonization, the fabric of our society is torn apart. Our relationships are too precious to jeopardize by a climate that tolerates demagoguery and bigotry. “
The IPMN-PCUSA recently announced greater controls on its Facebook page. “That is a good first step. The issues must be addressed at their roots, though,” added Gutow. “We wonder who are these people who have created and sustained an environment where the most outrageous and uncivil invective flows so freely. The words and actions of these few seem to be aimed more at fueling conflict and distrust than in creating peace for Israelis and Palestinians. That this horrific rhetoric comes under a banner of peacemaking strains credulity. For as long as it makes sense to do so we will continue to work with our friends in the PCUSA to call for responsible policy that promotes peace and positive relations and rejects partisanship and division.”
“We have been concerned by the transformation of the IPMN-PCUSA into a gathering place for anti-Jewish tirades,” said JCPA Chair Dr. Conrad Giles. “We cannot remain silent while a group chartered by a mainstream church tolerates language that reflects the darkest times in the Christian-Jewish encounter. These attitudes cannot find a home in the Presbyterian Church (USA). We urge our friends in the church to champion a path for peace that does not depend on such dangerous tropes. The connection to Palestinian Christians and the passion that IPMN-PCUSA leaders feel about their condition are not excuses for the invective that is being used. Nor does it excuse the silence of the PCUSA leadership to it. We must all do better to root out bigotry and bias. I would hope that the church would make clear that it will not condone these gutter tactics against the Jewish people or the state of Israel. How can we deal with any entity that does not condemn such horrific comments? How can we foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians – and create an America that is safe for Christians, Muslims, Jews and others, if we stand idly by when groups are demeaned so viciously?”
IPMN doesn’t mention this, and I can’t find any response to this on the PCUSA site. But the fact that the IPMN Facebook page (which was recently removed, restored, and then removed again just today, the same day as the JCPA release came out) suggests that Louisville may finally be tiring of the embarrassment of being associated with the bigots and kooks who seem to dominate the IPMN, and is finally, just maybe, taking some responsibility for their creature.
P.S.: By closing its Facebook page and moving to Twitter, the only thing IPMN has changed (besides prohibiting people like Viola and I from commenting) is the location of its dirty deeds: