The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church USA has responded to a recent attack on the church by Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the Wall Street Journal on 3 December 2010.
The Network was a key player in assuring the passage of the Presbyterian Church's Middle East Study Committee Report at the denomination's national assembly in July 2010, pushing for a policy of just-peace for all in Israel-Palestine, but also criticising the policies and practices of the Israeli government.
"The Simon Wiesenthal Center is up to its old tricks," said the Rev Jeffrey DeYoe, Advocacy Chairperson for the Israel Palestine Mission Network. "This is not the first time they have wrongly accused Christian traditions that are committed to overcoming injustice in the Holy Land of demonising the Jewish people."
Early in 2010, the Wiesenthal Center attacked the Presbyterian Middle East Study Committee report even before it had been made available for public review.
When the report was finally approved by an overwhelming majority at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Minneapolis in July, various Jewish observers expressed differing views both in support and opposition.
"In a world where an occupying nation with the most powerful standing army in the Middle East can claim victimhood, even while it effectively inflicts apartheid on an entire indigenous people, Rabbis Hier and Cooper have much to try to defend...or spin," DeYoe reflected, "to say nothing of their Center's entanglement in the controversial ‘Museum of Tolerance' project in Jerusalem—a museum being built on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery."
In its attack on the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Rabbis mistakenly claimed that Presbyterians called for divestment from Israel in 2004.
What the church did was to call for its Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee to examine where its funds are invested, and to withdraw them if such investments contribute to injustice and human rights abuses.
The Presbyterian Church said yesterday that it has never called for divestment from, or boycott of Israel. The primary targets of the proposed divestment action were US corporations profiting from military occupation. The church has a longstanding record of not investing in any corporations that engage in such behaviour anywhere in the world.
DeYoe went on to point out, "Whether Rabbis Hier and Cooper like it or not, the real facts on the ground in Israel and Palestine are human and plain to see: the land is made up of Israelis and Palestinians who are Jewish, Christian and Muslim on both sides of the Green Line. The vast majority of all these peoples are peaceful and law-abiding. It is the conviction of our network, and our church, to work for the security, peace and human rights of all God's people in the Holy Land."
Both Jewish and non-Jewish activists working for peace, justice and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike in the Middle East have come under regular attack from supporters of the Israeli government's policies, likening any criticism of these policies or of occupation of Palestinian lands with anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic sentiments. They say this is a tragic abuse of these terms.