Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Repairing the Breach Zionism Is Not the Problem, despite What a Presbyterian Study Guide Says, Write Rev. Sheldon Sorge and Rabbi James A. Gibson

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Repairing the Breach Zionism Is Not the Problem, despite What a Presbyterian Study Guide Says, Write Rev. Sheldon Sorge and Rabbi James A. Gibson

Article excerpt

A torrent of controversy has surrounded the recent publication of a curriculum on Israel and the Palestinians entitled "Zionism Unsettled" by the "Israel/Palestine Mission Network," a study group appointed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Some Presbyterians believe it presents a fair claim and opens a new path to justice for Palestinians. Others are alarmed at the prospect of burning bridges with the Jewish community that have taken decades to build and are anchored in our shared ancient faith traditions.

Some Jews believe that this is simply another chapter in a long history of anti-Semitic publications from the far left. Many other Jews long to reach a just two-state solution to the conflict, respecting both the rights and needs of both parties.

Israelis and Palestinians alike have suffered violence. Palestinians have been hurt and killed in confrontations with Israeli soldiers. Life under occupation is very difficult. Israeli civilians have been hurt and killed by Palestinian terror attacks. Yet a majority on both sides, according to most polls, want a just resolution of claims and a peaceful end to the conflict.

We believe this study guide heightens strife more than it promotes peace. It one-sidedly blames the Jewish state in particular and Zionism in general for the conflict. Claiming to balance the current dialogue, it threatens to upend it.

We would hope that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which has long sought a peaceful two-state solution to the conflict, would seek to promote light instead of heat, hope instead of despair. This study does neither.

Rabbi Gibson writes here out of a deep belief in the need for two states for two peoples, a belief held since 1982. Simply put, this entails: Israel for the Israelis and Palestine for the Palestinians. National borders and rights to be negotiated by the parties with the help of mediators. Past injustices to be reckoned on both sides, with payments to compensate claims. Limitation and removal of some settlements in the West Bank. Access to water, electricity and roads to both sides as a matter of right.

Rev. Sorge writes here out of an ongoing commitment to Presbyterian positions on a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Presbyterians are deeply distressed over the adversities endured by the Palestinian community, which includes Christian churches with whom they have deep historic ties. Yet the PCUSA has always affirmed Israel's right to exist and has long owned gratefully the faith heritage it shares with the Jewish community. It has decried attempts to achieve justice through force or terror from either side and has consistently advocated an equitable two-state solution as the best pathway to a just peace.

The study guide "Zionism Unsettled" questions the legitimacy of Zionism itself. Over the last 2,500 years, Jews never left the land of Israel of their own accord. They were forced out by successive conquering armies from Babylon, Greece and Rome. That is why Jews pray facing Jerusalem. That is why Jews pray three times a day for the welfare of Jerusalem. It never left the hearts or minds of the Jewish people.

Political and spiritual Zionism represent nothing less than the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. …

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