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Pro-Palestinian Presbyterians close Facebook page after complaints

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — A pro-Palestinian affiliate of the Presbyterian Church (USA) pulled down its Facebook page after Jewish groups complained about offensive postings.

"At present, Facebook does not provide a setting where fans can ‘like’ and ‘share’ links without posting comments that need to be monitored," said a statement posted Tuesday on the website of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA). "Since IPMN has no paid staff, we will not be able to keep our Facebook page going, until such a time as new posting settings are made available. Until then, IPMN will post links to articles, commentary, videos, etc. on Twitter."

It added: "Mostly, this forum has been respectful and meaningful, though there have been times when comments or posts have had to be taken down as they were deemed offensive."

On Monday, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs had decried what it said was "the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and at times anti-Semitic content" appearing on some IPMN forums.

"The IPMN-PCUSA Facebook page includes a cartoon of President Obama wearing weighty Jewish star earrings to suggest Jewish control of the American leaders, a common theme on the site," JCPA said, noting that one of the IPMN’s leaders had "liked" the cartoon.

In another instance, the group had tweeted a link to a blog post titled "Jewish power + Jewish hubris = moral catastrophe of epic proportions."

The American Jewish Committee on Monday called on the church "to make efforts to further rein in its highly problematic Israel/Palestine Mission Network."

It’s not clear what authority if any the church has over IPMN. Presbyterian affiliations are known for being devolved from a central authority, and IPMN pointedly describes itself as a network that "speaks TO the Church, not FOR the Church."

On Wednesday, IPMN issued a news release angrily denying that Jewish groups had made any advances in pushing back against its demands and accusing the JCPA of trying to stifle debate.

"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," IPMN said.

In recent years, Jewish groups have made representations at Presbyterian assemblies that have rolled back efforts to divest from Israel.

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