The IPMN Condemns Smear Campaign
NEW YORK - Feb.7, 2012 - 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.
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 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.
This year the JCPA concern comes in trying to stem the unstoppable tide of a growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
About IPMN: According to our General Assembly mandate, in joyful obedience to the call of Christ, and in solidarity with churches and our other partners in the Middle East, the IPMN covenants to engage, consolidate, nourish, and channel the energy in the Presbyterian Church (USA) toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine by facilitating education, promoting partnerships, and coordinating advocacy.
Our network speaks TO the Church not FOR the Church.