Repairing the breach: Zionism is not the problem, despite what a Presbyterian study guide says

guideBy Rev. Sheldon Sorge and Rabbi James Gibson

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.



Comments 6

  • page 61:
    The campaign to “Judaize” the Negev dates back six-plus decades to the Bedouin expulsions and land seizures committed by the Israeli government in 1948. Today, 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev – home to nearly 90,000 inhabitants – are “unrecognized” by the state. Without municipal jursdiction, the villages are deprived of access to basic services and infrastructure, such as electricity and running water.

    When you leave the PCUSA where are you going? There are as many presbyterian denominations as there are versions of the Bible. Cover your eyes and point in any direction, you’ll find one. And each is infallible and inerrant.

  • The presbyterian church USA is poorly informed about the plight of the Jewish state of Israel . The charges of anti semitism against the presbyterian church USA are absolutely accurate. I refuse to be lectured to from the pulpit by liberal social progressives who have the unmitigated arrogance to claim they know what is best for the Jewish state go Israel. I ask myself how many of these Presbyterian USA ministers in cincinnat oh(I have had about 6 different ministers in 3 pcusa churches ) have had relatives herded away, shoved onto rail cars, tortured, raped, shot naked in trenches, shoved into gas chambers, turned into glue. and the most perverse part is that parents saw their children die first just for the added fun of it all. The pcusabhas a very short memory, a lingering anti semitism newly packaged as social justice. My god given Protestant conscience in accordance with my reading of the scriptures has taken me out of this church, read social action committee, as fast as I can rerun. Praise be to The Lord.

  • page 45:
    For decades the Presbyterian Church (USA) has opposed the evangelical blend of dispensationalism and Christian Zionism because it fuses religion with politics, aborts faith, and imperils peace in the Middle East. A major segment of the pro-Israel lobby in the US consists not of Jews but of evangelical Christians who are Zionists and claim that Christian Zionism is an essential component of their faith. In his essay “Evangelicals and Christian Zionism,” Gary Burge, an evangelical Presbyterian and Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, takes pains to distinguish between “mainline evangelicals” and evangelicals who are also Christian Zionists. In this section we present Burge’s critique of contemporary evangelical Chrstian Zionism as espoused by its most visible contemporary advocate, Rev. John Hagee.
    (to be continued)

  • Pages 51-52:
    The most infamous of the massacres took place on April 9, 1948, in the village of Deir Yassin, a few miles west of Jerusalem. The Palestinian village had made a non-agression pact with the Hagana (the “official” Jewish militia) inJerusalem. To distance itself of any responsibility for the actions in Deir Yassin, Hagana commanders dispatched two other Jewish militias noted for their violence, the Stern Gang and the Irgun, to carry out the killings.
    “As they burst into the village,” Abu Sway relates, quoting Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, “the Jewish soldiers sprayed the houses with machine-gun fire, killing many of the inhabitants. The remaining villagers were then gathered in one place and murdered in cold blood, their bodies abused while a number of the women were raped and killed.” The Jewish leadership then broadcast an exagerated number of deaths as a warning to other Palestinian villages that the same fate awaited them if they refused to leave all behind and run for their lives.
    Even Saul – when he decimated the Amalekites (“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, … Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass…. And Saul … utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.” 1 Samuel 15:2-3, 7-8) – didn’t resort to rape.

  • I am in sympathy with the basic plea made here. However I was surprised to see the term “occupation” used without elaboration, and hope the authors are not embracing the discredited notion that the the State of Israel per se is tantamount to an occupation. It is true that certain territories were occupied as a result of serial attacks on Israel initiated by its sworn enemies, and those areas have been and are perhaps properly matters to be resolved in the context of an overall settlement. But this important distinction should be borne it mind.

    • Regarding use if the word “occupation”. It is in widespread use because that is exactly what it is. The US State Department, no less, uses it. Go to and click on the “Go to a Country Report” pull down menu. Scroll down and you will see “Israel and the Occupied: territories”. The occupation is brutal and illegal and the source of suffering on both sides. Christians are called to be compassionate even as the Good Samaritan was compassionate. Blessings to those segments of our denomination who see the reality of the occupation and seek to address its multiple injustices. I can understand many who take a different view. The mainstream American Media has drastically distorted the truth. I’d urge everyone to read widely. Here’s a good source: and go to the tab in the right panel. Thanks to The Layman for providing this forum.

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