It is no surprise that the PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network would take issue with the Jewish Council on Public Affairs press release that accused it of anti-Semitism. What’s surprising is how lame the response is.
On their web site today, IPMN uses a host of leftist tropes, irrelevant claims, and propaganda cliches to essentially say, “so’s your mother!”:
This week has brought broad-side attacks on the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from the organized Jewish community in the U.S. In order to understand the latest vitriol coming from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) towards the IPMN, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one has to imagine the feeling of sheer desperation that results when a fantasy world comes crashing down. 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.
As far as I know, the JCPA has never said that Israel can’t be criticized. In fact, in a 2008 statement responding to PCUSA action on a document on anti-Jewish bias, JCPA explicitly said, “There is legitimate criticism of Israeli policies that comes from both Christians and Jews.” What JCPA objects to is 1) criticism of Israeli conduct that singles out the Jewish state and ignores similar or worse conduct on the part of other nations; 2) criticism of Israel that distorts or even lies about the facts as well as the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and 3) groups that want to be considered mainstream that ally themselves with open anti-Semites and given the latter a platform from which to spew hate. All three of those would apply to the IPMN.
For the record, the Israel Palestine Mission Network is not an anti-Semitic organization.
That’s “for the record.” The record, however, shows IPMN repeatedly engaging in all three of the behaviors mentioned above. IPMN may not want to be seen as anti-Semitic, but if it climbs down into the sewer with bigots, it’s got to expect to get dirty.
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.
Translation: they actually have the temerity to disagree with us, to call us out on our associations, and demand that we stick to the facts! How dare they!
“Open and free discussion” sounds great, and is normally what one should aim for. In the case of the extreme anti-Israel left, however, what that means is that every voice–no matter how vicious, bigoted, false, or mendacious–deserves an equal hearing. Hence you get IPMN links to the toxic swill of people like Gilad Atzmon, whose idea of “open and free discussion” is claiming that Israel is worse than Nazi Germany and that there’s no such thing as a “Jewish people.” By all means, let’s have that “open and free discussion,” but without the haters, please. Until such time as IPMN is willing to disassociate itself from such slime, no such discussion is possible.
The recent attack by the JCPA on IPMN, as well as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mirrors exactly the criticism leveled at these same faith groups at roughly the same time of year back in 2010. What is the correlation? This is the run-up to the national summer gathering of the Presbyterian General Assembly that deliberates on church policy every two years. In 2010 the bogeyman was the Middle East Study Committee Report that came before that body for approval. For all the critical hype from the JCPA, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others at that time, and all the credit these organizations shamelessly took for supposedly changing the document to their liking, the reality is that the report was never substantially changed. All the original recommendations were approved, but JCPA leadership somehow called that a win. That final report is on record and can be compared to what had been originally proposed. The comparison shows no substantive difference between what was recommended and what was ultimately approved. But in today’s climate, if you say you won loud enough, you actually start to believe it yourself.
In fact, as I documented at the time, the original recommendations were changed–not enough, but in several instances in ways that improved the report form the standpoint of supporters of Israel. This is playground stuff that has nothing to do with what the IPMN has been doing–in other words, it’s a red herring.
This year the JCPA concern comes in trying to stem the unstoppable tide of a growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
And this is nothing more than the kind of false bravado of which they just got through accusing the JCPA. The BDS movement is only “unstoppable” to the kind of people who count every college student protest as a decisive blow against the Establishment.
Presbyterians and Methodists are leading the way in the faith community, along with many other Christian, Jewish and secular grassroots organizations across the United States, to stop profiting from the Israeli Occupation.
Actually, some Presbyterians and Methodists are doing so. Neither denomination has yet signed on to BDS, and I’d be willing to bet that neither will during their denomination-wide assemblies later this year. As for the others, they are uniformly organization of the political left, and usually far left at that. Enough said.
The BDS movement is saying the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is wearing no clothes; you can’t say you want a just peace and at the same time build settlements on Palestinian land at break-neck pace. With Archbishop Desmond Tutu publicly stating that the present state of affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is akin to what he vividly remembers as South African Apartheid, the pro-Israeli groups are desperately losing ground.
Yep, that settles it. If Desmond Tutu (who has never met a situation that he couldn’t relate in some way to apartheid) says that the situation in the Holy Land is “akin” to that of South Africa, no further discussion is necessary. No wonder supporters of Israel are desperate–if you’ve lost Desmond Tutu, you’ve lost any hope of redemption. Let the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth begin.
Part of their tactics, as outlined by the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute, is to delegitimize any opposition to Israeli government policy by accusing those who disagree with it of engaging in anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic behavior. It is a campaign known as “delegitimizing the delegitimizers” and it has millions of dollars behind it.
Um, saying that IPMN is engaged in “anti-Israel” or “anti-Zionist” behavior is not an accusation, it’s simply a statement of fact. In the very next paragraph, IPMN says that it is “disingenuous” to say that “ethnic cleansing” has not been part of the “Zionist agenda” since long before the establishment of Israel. I’d say that pretty much ends any debate over whether IPMN is “anti-Israel” or “anti-Zionist.”
As for the charge of anti-Semitism, to at least some extent that is in the eye of the beholder. As I have pointed out repeatedly, however, IPMN feels no compunction about giving people who cannot be considered anything but anti-Semitic a platform or a shout out. They’ve pointed their members repeatedly in the direction of people who claim that the U.S. is controlled by Jews, that Israel was behind 9/11, that “Jewish money” controls American elections, and so on. They link to Internet publications and sites that sell and trumpet the “truth” of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, deny the Holocaust, and call for the destruction of Israel if not the Jewish people. You can deny you’re anti-Semitic all you want, but when you are willing to grant that Gilad Atzmon, Stuart Littlewood, Gordon Duff, Stephen Lendman, Ilan Pappe, James Wall, Veterans Today, Salem News, Occupied Palestine and their ilk are legitimate “news sources,” you’ve lost the argument.
For too long pro-Israel groups in the United States have promoted a two-state solution even while Israeli policy insures that such a thing cannot possibly exist (all one needs to do is travel there to witness the facts on the ground). They have perpetuated the lie that those city-sized, Jewish-only settlements being built nonstop deep into Palestinian territory are not really illegal colonies; and have disingenuously insisted that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine has not been on the Zionist agenda since the days of Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, long before 1948.
As I was saying.
Answering every false charge leveled against IPMN by these groups accomplishes nothing more than plunging a peace-dedicated volunteer mission network, whose projects are funded by small pledges by its members, into a mud pit where paid “pro-Israel” lobbyists desperately fight to take back control of a debate they can no longer win through their bullying behavior. The JCPA, AJC and others should spend their time and energy on the issues that are barriers to peace, not on name-calling and attacks in an attempt to change the subject.
I’ll conclude by noting that at no point in this propaganda piece did IPMN ever respond to a single substantive charge made by JCPA. The entire piece is an attempt to change the subject from IPMN’s anti-Semitic language and associations. Unfortunately for them, neither I, nor JCPA, nor Viola Larson, nor any of the others who have sought to hold IPMN accountable are going away, nor will we be misdirected by pathetic stuff like this.
UPDATE: Welcome to those of you who have come from the The Layman Online as well as Church and World. A couple of other articles you might want to check out. First, Dexter Van Zile has a lengthy piece at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. Second, Commentary has an article by Jonathan Tobin. I would especially commend to your reading the comments on the latter article. They are eye-opening.