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censor rubber stampIPMN Strongly Condemns Censorship of Academia by Private Business

Sept. 30, 2020 — We strongly condemn the recent muzzling of free speech at San Francisco State University (SFSU) on 9/23 when “tech giants” Zoom, YouTube and Facebook blocked an online webinar after being  pressured by pro-Israel groups. This censorship has resulted, yet again, in a silencing of the Palestinian narrative.


Controversially, the online virtual class, “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance,” was to feature Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled who is most known in the West for hijacking an Israeli flight over 50 years ago. She is now in her seventies and lives in Jordan. Of course, we condemn her illegal actions and only support non-violent resistance, but we assert that SFSU has the right to have her speak on the panel for the virtual class. We believe that having academia hostage to private business in this way is a terrible new trend. The situation is aggravated to a critical level in the current time of pandemic in which most learning, as well as many church services, are happening online. Systems and solutions provided by these companies have become essential utilities; they cannot shut them off based on pressure from interest groups.


Last week’s event was sponsored by SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies Department, and was organized and to be moderated by AMED associate professor Rabab Abdulhadi. (She was the recipient of the 2020 Georgina M. Smith Award for outstanding faculty activism conferred by the American Association of University Professors.). Other scheduled speakers were South African anti-apartheid military leader Ronnie Kasrils, US activists and former political prisoners Sekou Odinga and Laura Whitehorn, and scholar Rula Abu Dahou, director of the women’s studies institute at Birzeit University in Palestine.


In a time when our politics are deeply divided and many have been accused of a “Cancel Culture” that stifles free speech, it is reprehensible that pro-Israel groups have pressured an American university to cancel an academic event. To their credit, the administration of SFSU refused many demands to censor the event, and objected to the tech censorship. President Lynn Mahoney wrote to campus, “We cannot embrace the silencing of controversial views, even if they are hurtful to others.”


Social media erupted with protests against the cancellations, with reminders that the Irgun Gang leader Menachem Begin who bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing dozens of civilians, became the Prime Minister of Israel. To censor an academic event based on what some would call similar violent history five decades ago stretches belief that pro-Israel groups are pro-justice. They are pro-justice for one group only; those who support the settler colonial state of Israel who now operates as an apartheid state with laws based on religion and identity.


We stand against all racist beliefs, violent movements and terrorist actions that diminish the dignity of human life of any race, ethnicity, religious belief or land of origin. 


We ask people of conscience to focus on Israeli violations of human rights and international law which include detention of Palestinian children without charge or access to legal counsel, illegal daily instances of collective punishment in Gaza and the West Bank, home demolitions for lack of permits that only Israel can issue, a relentless land grab in many forms, including the building of settlement cities on stolen Palestinian lands, and an apartheid system of separate laws for people based on religion and identity, now codified into law.


IPMN joins Jewish Voice for Peace in demanding “an immediate, strong response from SFSU ensuring that they will do everything in their power to ensure that Palestinian voices are not censored on campus. We also hope to see from SFSU a strong statement naming the actions today by Zoom, Facebook and Youtube as a dangerous overreach and a chilling precedent.” Human Rights group #Africa4Palestine has already “called for a boycott of Zoom video conferencing” and it remains to be seen if US groups will follow. 


We urge our members and friends to write to Zoom founder and CEO This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. who is Chinese American and knows about the damage of censorship to society. Zoom hired This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as their first Chief Diversity Officer in May. He is African American and needs to learn about the Palestinian narrative and Black and Palestinian intersectional justice solidarity (here is one example).  You can also write to SFSU President, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and thank her for her support of academic freedom in the public sphere, and urge her to stand against those of power who would silence those who are marginalised.




UN Releases report on business activities in Israeli settlements in Palestine that violate international law and human rights

[IPMN has uploaded a PDF version of the report online.]

UNHR logo

UN Press Release:

GENEVA (12 February) – The UN Human Rights Office on Wednesday issued a report on business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in response to a specific request by the UN Human Rights Council, contained in a March 2016 resolution, that mandated the Office to produce a database of business enterprises involved in such activities.*

In an interim report (A/HRC/37/39) presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2018 by the then High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN Human Rights Office noted it had reviewed information that was publicly available, or had been received from a variety of sources, about an initial 307 companies. After further research, the total number reviewed increased to 321. Of these, a total of 206 companies were considered for further assessment. 

The report released on Wednesday sets out conclusions following further communications with business entities, as well as a thorough review and assessment of all information available. It identifies 112 business entities which the UN Human Rights Office, on the basis of the information it has gathered, has reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in one or more of the specific activities referenced in Human Rights Council resolution 31/36.

Of the 112 business entities identified in the report, 94 are domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other States. During the complex process of drawing up the database, the Office consulted the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, and held widespread discussions with numerous States, civil society organizations, think tanks, academics and others, as well as having extensive interactions with the companies themselves.  

The report makes clear that the reference to these business entities is not, and does not purport to be, a judicial or quasi-judicial process. While the settlements as such are regarded as illegal under international law**, this report does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them. Any further steps with respect to the continuation of this mandate will be a matter for the Member States of the Human Rights Council, which will consider the report during the Council’s next session, beginning on 24 February.    

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” said Michelle Bachelet, the current High Commissioner for Human Rights. “However, after an extensive and meticulous review process, we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate, and that it responds appropriately to the Human Rights Council’s request contained in resolution 31/36,” Bachelet said. 

Read this on UN human rights website.

* Human Rights Council resolution 31/36, adopted on 24 March 2016, requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a report to follow up on the 2013 report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (A/HRC/22/63).  The resolution defined the parameters of the current report by reference to ten specific activities listed in Paragraph 96 of the Fact-Finding Mission’s report. Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 was adopted with 32 States in favour, none against and 15 abstentions.

** Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 recalls reports of the UN Secretary-General, resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and the opinions of several human rights bodies reaffirming the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem. 


For UN Human Rights Council Website,
and to see the report on business activities
related to settlements in the "Occupied Palestinian Territory"
and scroll down to A/HRC/43/71.
Or click on here to download as a Word Doc.
[IPMN has also uploaded a PDF version of the report online]





Jesus once said: “Take the log out of your own eye then you can remove the splinter in your neighbor’s.”

By 1822 Presbyterian minister, the Rev. John Rankin, was known throughout his native Ohio to be a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves find freedom. Harriet Beecher Stowe once said of him: “Who abolished slavery? Reverend John Rankin and his sons did.”

The late Rev. Dr. Neal Kuyper, Presbyterian minister, and founder and director of the Presbyterian Counseling Service for 35 years in Seattle, Washington died at the age of 91 on Veteran’s Day two years ago. During World War II he was an Army medic and chaplain’s assistant, and by virtue of those roles, was permitted to go inside the concentration camp at Buchenwald immediately following its liberation, where he did his best to help holocaust prisoners as they lay dying of malnutrition and disease all around him.   In his retirement, he spoke in Minnesota high school history classes and told the students what he saw with his own eyes. It was his commitment, in so doing, to make sure the next generation would never forget.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Plowshares, the student peace and justice organization at Princeton Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian institution, had raised enough concern in calling for the seminary to disinvest from companies doing business in South Africa that the President of the seminary and members of its Board of Trustees finally gave in and granted an audience to the group. Although it made for a lively discussion, Princeton Seminary never did divest from such holdings, but many of those students soon became ordained Presbyterian ministers. In a movement that was, for its day, as controversial as is the BDS movement of today, they became instrumental in getting the Presbyterian Church to divest from companies doing business in South Africa, and thus supporting the underpinnings of apartheid.

Upon their return from a typical church tour to Israel in 2003, the Rev. Dr. Glenn Dickson and members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Gainesville, Florida where he served as pastor were so shocked at the demolition of Palestinian homes they witnessed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, they went right to work to submit an overture calling for divestment from Caterpillar, Inc. to the 216th General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church (USA). This overture blew the lid off American Christian ignorance about occupation and made the denomination one of the global leaders in calling attention to the injustices committed against Palestinians by the Israeli government.

When Giulio Meotti accuses the Presbyterian Church (USA) of ugly slander (“US Church versus Israel” in Israel's Ynet News), he either knowingly or unknowingly mouths the propaganda of greater political powers than himself.   As can be seen from the everyday, real-life witness of rank and file Presbyterians throughout the decades and even centuries, the Presbyterian witness for justice has been long and indisputable in the march of history. The fact that his (among that of others) sacred cow is being gored now suddenly, for him, makes the Presbyterian legacy of striving for human justice at all times and in all places as being something suspect.

Meotti cannot bring himself to speak truthfully about the present facts on the ground in Palestine while criticizing the Presbyterians for holding a symposium on land theology. His hysterical language regarding the Kairos Palestine Document (KPD) borders on incoherence. KPD deals with a harsh reality and does so with the voice of the leadership of the whole Body of Christ in Palestine. The document calls for non-violent resistance to occupation. Meotti ignores the fact that the alternative to non-violent resistance towards illegal occupation would be violent resistance, and yet this Christian document rejects violence in all its forms. Boycott, divestment and sanctions are time-honored tools for overcoming oppression in many places and situations throughout the world. Although, tragically, there was a time in history when the Nazis in Germany engaged in the racism of requiring wholesale boycott of the Jewish people, BDS is not that, not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it serves to accomplish the very opposite of that.   Kairos Palestine’s call for BDS today is as if the Jews in 1930’s Germany had been able to rise up and boycott everything German in an effort to wake the world up regarding Nazi oppression and genocide. BDS is about resisting the oppressor, not the oppressed.   Meotti’s argument essentially tells Palestinians that they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t because Israel will not stop occupying the land and oppressing its people; that it will continue its illegal non-stop building of settlements on Palestinian land and there is nothing they can do about it.

The “security fence” to which Meotti refers is not a fence like neighbors have in their backyards. It is a system of concrete walls (with guard towers) and razor-wire fences hundreds of miles in length that run deep into Palestinian territory for the purpose of separating illegal Israeli settlements in apartheid manner, cutting off natural resources for Palestinian use, and dividing Palestinian communities in half. As Israeli Jeff Halper, Executive Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions points out: “You can’t explain security with the wall.” That’s because the wall is all about dividing the occupied territories into a system of isolated cantons or bantustans that make it impossible to ever say Palestine is or could be a nation unto itself.

One of the great slanders committed against Christians, in Palestine and those in the west committed to working towards a just peace in Israel Palestine, is the ongoing charge that by engaging in the very justice reflected in the words of the Hebrew Prophets, that they are engaged in anti-Jewish, and even anti-Semitic behavior.   It needs to be stated clearly again and again and again that opposition to the oppressive policies of the Israeli government is just that: opposition to the behavior of a national entity and not racial hatred or the persecution of a religious people. This rhetoric is nothing more than a smoke screen to divert attention away from the blatant violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As the real truth of anti-Semitism in the world became the excuse for bringing Nakba to Palestinian homes and villages in 1948, the charge of anti-Semitism leveled at those who oppose unjust policies in Palestine today continues to fuel and justify Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the land. Christians throughout the world who work for justice in Palestine have, working with them shoulder to shoulder, many Jewish peacemakers who are good friends and colleagues committed to this struggle.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) understands that security for Israel can only be accomplished by achieving a just peace in Palestine.   Meotti’s charge that “Presbyterians have left behind the commitment ‘never again’ to ‘participate in, contribute to, or allow the persecution or the denigration of Jews’” is a calculated and disingenuous falsehood. What Presbyterians have and always will stand for is justice for all of God’s people wherever injustice reigns supreme. The fact that Meotti, the Israeli government and supporters of Israeli policy don’t see that means that who they call “friends” are only those who willingly turn a blind eye to the very kinds of oppression of which the Jewish people were once victims themselves. To not stand for the occupied in favor of the occupiers is indeed to be in league with Pharaoh and his henchman in any era of human history.

A condensed look at advocacy for justice in Palestine at Presbyterian General Assembly

For over a decade Presbyterians have been responding to the Palestinian cry for justice through IPMN. Here is a review of our own history as a mission network in the PC(USA) regarding seeking justice for Palestine.

216th General Assembly, (2004): The General Assembly mandated  “the formation of a Worldwide Ministries Division-related Palestine Mission Network move forward as soon as possible, for the purpose of creating currents of wider and deeper Presbyterian involvement with Palestinian partners, aimed at demonstrating solidarity and changing the conditions that erode the humanity of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.”

Beginning in 2004, key Presbyterian leaders from throughout our denomination met and began dreaming of what this network might become.  In 2006, they called the organizational meeting in Chicago, Illinois that gave birth to what became the Israel Palestine Mission Network.  Although the General Assembly directive was to form a “Palestine Mission Network,” the organizing body determined that because of the significant Palestinian presence in Israel that the title must include both Israel and Palestine.

218th General Assembly, (2008): The General Assembly endorsed The Amman Call from Churches in the Holy Land, which after sixty years, spoke with one voice about Arab-Israeli peace. Their call to us, their brothers and sisters in Christ, was an urgent plea: "Enough is enough. No more words without deeds. It is time for action."

219th General Assembly, (2010): The General Assembly approved the Middle East Study Committee report, Breaking Down the Walls, “Commend[ing] for study the Kairos Palestine document (‘A Moment of Truth’), and endors[ing] the document’s emphases on hope for liberation, nonviolence, love of enemy, and reconciliation. [The Assembly] lift[ed] up for study the often neglected voice of Palestinian Christians.” Here is the report as approved.

The Assembly also denounced Caterpillar, Inc.’s profit-making from non-peaceful pursuits. Further, The Assembly “called for the allocation of U.S. military aid funds to be contingent on compliance with international law, human rights protections, and U.S. foreign policy,” and expressed its “extreme disappointment with the U.S. government that while the State of Israel has been found not to comply with the above statutes, it continues to be the recipient of U.S. military aid.”

220th General Assembly, (2012): The General Assembly approved a blanket boycott of all Israeli settlement products, a first in our history, as the Plenary had never approved a boycott of anything on the first appearance at our Assembly.

221st General Assembly, (2014):  After a decade of corporate engagement to change company practices, The General Assembly instructed the Presbyterian Foundation and The Board of Pensions to divest our holdings from Caterpillar, Inc., Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions for profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Palestine.

222nd General Assembly, (2016): The General Assembly voted to advocate for the safety and well-being of Palestinian children, commissioned a prayerful study of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, approved the study report entitled: For Human Values in the Absence of Just Peace, and affirmed nonviolent means of resistance against oppression, including economic measures used throughout Presbyterian history,


Israel to Palestine: “You are Damned if You Do, and Damned if You Don’t”

NEW YORK - Nov. 3, 2011 - The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)* (IPMN) condemns the announcement by the Israeli government to accelerate expansion of settlement construction and financially sanction the Palestinian Authority as a response to the successful bid by its leadership to join UNESCO this week. The IPMN calls upon President Obama to take a clear, public stand against this decision because it threatens any hope that peace negotiations can occur between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the foreseeable future.

By this action, Israel’s intentions have become quite clear: It will expand settlements when the Palestinians are at the negotiating table; and, it will expand settlements when they are not at the table. With this move, Israel is taking away the legitimate choice all peoples have of seeking relief within the appropriate international structures dedicated towards global community and peace building.   In addition, in light of reports by Israel’s own generals that the Palestinian Authority has played a major role in reducing extremist violence, it is absurd to cut off funds to an official Palestinian entity that is helping to achieve nonviolence inside the pressure cooker of Israeli apartheid.

Historically, in regard to settlement building, the facts cannot be disputed: Israel has been expanding them at break neck speed under the leadership of every one of its prime ministers since the Six-Day War in June 1967. The pace has even accelerated following the breakdown of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Israeli historian, Gershom Gorenberg has pointed out why settlement expansion, and not peace negotiations, is the top priority for Israeli leadership: “What we’re seeing is a classic example where a diplomatic initiative has the effect of accelerating settlement construction. When there is a fear or suspicion that a diplomatic process might actually take place…there is a tendency among settlement supporters within the government to try to speed things up.”

Complicating matters is the recent announcement by the United States State Department to withhold $60M from UNESCO, as dictated by U.S. law (1990 & 1994) requiring the withdrawal of financial support from any U.N. entity that admits Palestine into its membership.   Senator Tim Wirth (D-CO) described what is at stake as a result of this decision: “The United States is on the brink of abandoning its decades-long leadership in several international organizations—a process that will fundamentally undermine American national security and economic interests… UNESCO leads global efforts to bring clean water to the poor, promotes educational and curriculum building in the developing world, and manages a tsunami early warning system in the Pacific, among other important tasks.”

The Palestinians will be applying for membership in all 16 U.N. agencies in the coming months. These include the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). If these U.N. agencies vote to admit Palestine as UNESCO did so overwhelmingly, will the United States continue to withdraw its support in a time when its leadership in such areas is so greatly needed? Will the United States actually find itself in the position of sabotaging efforts towards global stability and well-being because of its indefensible, parochial view that Palestine can only seek terms of a just peace through the methods or channels the U.S. has approved? Will the U.S. stand against Palestinian membership in U.N. agencies just to satisfy Israel even at the cost of U.S. interests elsewhere in the world?

The Israel Palestine Mission Network regrets that an effort by Palestinian leadership to work within the structures of the greatest international peacekeeping and peacemaking body in the world can lead to even more isolation of Israel and the U.S. and further undermine peace, security and justice not only in the Middle East but globally. The network calls upon all Christian, as well as interfaith bodies to contact our national leadership at every level to make our financial and military aid to Israel contingent upon an immediate halt to the building and expansion of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


*Established by action of the 2004 General Assembly, the IPMN seeks to demonstrate solidarity, educate about the facts on the ground, and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians, especially those who are living under occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The network speaks TO the Church not FOR the Church.

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