(Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
Jewish leaders have expressed outrage of a study guide Presbyterian Church (USA) recently released regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that the publication is "sending Jews to the trash-heap of history."
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Center's director of interfaith affairs, wrote a column on Fox News website denouncing a guide titled "Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study."
In their column, Cooper and Adlerstein said that the "Zionism Unsettled" study guide was "sending Jews to the trash-heap of history."
"Presbyterian churches are teaching that their Jewish neighbors are inherently racist and prone to abusing the rights of others," wrote Cooper and Adlerstein. "To be clear, this is no mere attack on Israeli policies, but rather on the very legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise."
Cooper and Adlerstein added that with the publication of "Zionism Unsettled" PC (USA) leadership "have crippled dialogue with the Jewish people."
"Our outrage over 'Zionism Unsettled' is directed at the leaders of PCUSA, not its members. But while there is no collective guilt, there is responsibility. Zionists-Jews and Christians -- await two responses from responsible Presbyterians," wrote Cooper and Adlerstein.
"They ought to consider joining the exodus of hundreds of thousands of others who have left PCUSA in recent years to form other Presbyterian associations."
Released last month by the PC (USA) Israel-Palestine Mission Network, "Zionism Unsettled" is a study guide on the history and underpinnings of Jewish and Christian Zionism. The guide includes a 74-page booklet and companion DVD and promotes itself as providing a "deeper understanding" the roots of Zionism and the competing claims over the Holy Land by Christians, Muslims and Jews.
"The booklet and companion DVD draw together compelling and diverse viewpoints from Jews, Muslims and Christians in Israel, Palestine, the U.S., and around the globe," stated the Mission Network. "By contrasting mainstream perceptions with important alternative perspectives frequently ignored in the media, 'Zionism Unsettled' is an invaluable guide to deeper understanding."
"Zionism Unsettled" has received its share of compliments from scholars, including Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University.
"The denial of the rights of the Palestinians is largely driven by the exemption of Zionist ideology and its real-world implications from any serious scrutiny," commented Khalidi. "'Zionism Unsettled' explains accurately and concisely why it is essential to look at the theological roots of Zionism…in order to understand the true nature of the long ordeal suffered by the Palestinian people, as well as the real roots of so much of the strife in the Middle East."
The booklet has also garnered Presbyterian critics, including the Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, the president of New York's PC (USA) affiliated Auburn Theological Seminary.
"Our denomination has consistently supported the needs and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians; it has advocated for justice, security and reconciliation for all, while acknowledging the complexity of the problem and the difficulty in reaching a just and lasting peace," said Rhodes in a statement given to the Jewish publication JTA. "An ideologically driven document such as this one cannot conceivably promote solutions that all parties in this conflict urgently need."
Controversy over "Zionism Unsettled" comes at a time when the PC (USA) General Assembly will determine whether or not to add three companies that do business with Israel to their list of divested enterprises.
The recommendation for divestment came from the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) of PC (USA) and called for divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions.