Presbyterian actions on Israel
Archive # 2
September through December, 2004
This page contains reports and links
from Sept. - Dec. 2004.
Reports and commentary from 2006 >>
For archives from 2005 >>
July and August, 2004 >>
An Israeli American
protests against PC(USA) policy
I am a private Israel-American citizen,
not affiliated with any organization, and certainly independent of the
Israel government. I would like to protest against the Presbyterian Church
divestment policy as a means of pressuring Israel to change its policy.
It's not that Israel is 100% right and the Palestinian side is totally
wrong . It is a life and death problem. Israeli and Palestinian lives are
in the balance. This is NOT JUST the geo-political problem that a cold
Presbyterian Church divestment policy assumes it to be.
How can divestment be the response of a
Christian Presbyterian Church? There are cries for help that rise out of
the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
for Peace supports divestment as a strategy to end Israel's occupation
of Palestine. [12-14-04]
Session of 4th Presbyterian, Chicago, offers
reasoned comments on the divestment
The session of Fourth
Presbyterian Church of Chicago has issued a statement affirming its close
ties with the Jewish faith community in Chicago, while also supporting the General Assembly's call for divestment from companies that
are supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and promises to urge
that any proceeds from the sale of such stock be invested in "corporations
whose business in Israel is positive, helpful, and peaceful."
Presbyterians Concerned for
Jewish and Christian Relations (PCJCR)
is organizing to work toward
reversing last summer's General Assembly action to begin a process of
phased, selective divestment from certain companies doing business in
Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
More resources on Israel/Palestine and the divestment question
Discussion (a word which may be a bit mild)
continues about Israel, Palestine, and statements made by the 2004 General
Assembly, especially suggesting that the PC(USA) divest stocks it holds in
We have already provided
a variety of resources that you can find
on another page.
But here are
a few more items you may find
helpful as the debates continue.
One local effort for divestment
in Somerville, Massachusetts, is working at the local level to get their
city to withdraw its money from companies that help Israel commit extensive
and ongoing human rights violations.
They have submitted a
Responsible Investment Resolution to the Somerville Board of Alderman,
with 8 out of 11 Aldermen co-sponsoring it.
The co-sponsors are now being pressured to withdraw their
support, and the group is urging people to encourage those people to stand
firm in their commitment to justice.
For more information,
check out the group's website.
Watch calls on Caterpillar to halt bulldozer sales to Israel
The action of
the 2004 Presbyterian General Assembly, in calling for consideration of
divestment for Caterpillar Inc., because of their sales to the Israeli
army of a giant bulldozer for use in demolishing Palestinian homes,
aroused considerable distress among American Jewish organizations and
conservative Presbyterians whose understanding of Scripture leads them to
give strong support to the State of Israel.
Other groups are now taking the same stand. One of
America's major human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch, has now
Caterpillar to suspend sales of its D9 bulldozer to the Israeli army on
the grounds that they are being used to violate international humanitarian
law in the occupied territories.
Comments from our readers
The actions of the 2004 General Assembly regarding
Israel and Palestine have aroused considerable interest -- to put it
Earl Arnold, of East
Syracuse, NY, writes in support of the GA actions. He suggests that the
Assembly acted out of frustration, after years of calling on both sides
to act for peace. Noting the diversity of views on Israel within the
American Jewish community, he also urges that we continue to listen to
the voices of our sister churches in Israel/Palestine.
argues against the PC(USA) action to consider divestment in relation to
Israel. It is, he says, "a quiet divestment of Israel's Bible and Savior
from the church."
Eschen-Pipes, a minister in Santa Cruz, CA, comments that PC(USA)
criticism of the recent delegation visit to Hezbollah is understandable,
but should be seen in the context of good efforts to improve our
understanding of Islam, and to engage in dialogue with "our enemies."
Baltimore ministers address their Jewish
neighbors in light of the concerns about actions by the 2004 General
In an open letter issued not long after the Assembly, 16 minister members
of Baltimore Presbytery expressed their concern about what they saw as the
lack of even-handedness in the criticisms on Israel's actions in
Palestine, while also noting that the statements did criticize attacks on
innocent people by both sides. They also criticized the Assembly's action
to continue funding for the "Avodat Yisrael" congregation in Philadelphia,
noting that Baltimore Presbytery acted over ten years ago to remove a
similar "Messianic" congregation from its roll as being incompatible with
a healthy Jewish-Christian relationship.
Jack Sharp, one of the signers of the letter, sent it to
us recently. [11-1-04]
Pro-peace Jewish group offers a new book an anti-Semitism
If you're dealing with charges that the Presbyterian
Church's actions on Israel/Palestine are anti-Semitic, you might find this
Entitled Reframing Anti-Semitism: Alternative Jewish
Perspectives, book includes articles by diverse Jewish Voice for
Peace members "meant to deepen our collective understanding of
anti-Semitism and its bearing on our work as critics of unjust Israeli
policies. Individual essays investigate claims that criticism of Israel is
anti-Semitic, the history of anti-Semitism, and the intersections between
anti-Mizrahi racism and anti-Semitism."
You can read
more, and order online from Jewish Voice for Peace.
Presbyterians Disagree on
A Statement from Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish Christian
The Rev. Dr. Donald W. Shriver and the Rev. Dr. William
Harter, in an open letter, have criticized the actions of the 2004 General
Assembly in relation to the state of Israel, and have reminded their
readers of the PC(USA)'s long-standing commitment to dialogue with the
Jewish faith tradition, and to support of the state of Israel.
They add that "we are distressed that the General
Assembly's statement this year on Israel lacked balance and failed to
condemn the terrorism to which the people of Israel have been subjected.
Violence and injustice are not one-sided problems and should not be
portrayed as such: there are victims of war among Israelis as well as
among Palestinians." Further, they say "We categorically denounce any
equation between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and apartheid."
Jewish peace group
challenges Caterpillar's Israel business
PC(USA) backs shareholders'
resolution seeking stop to demolitions
The General Assembly action last June to
call for consideration of divestment from PC(USA) investments in
Caterpillar because of their providing heavy equipment that is being used
by Israel to destroy homes in Palestine. The action produced a storm
of criticism from Jewish groups and many conservative Presbyterians.
[Get more background.] Now one of
the leading Jewish peace groups is leading the way to challenge
Caterpillar's support of Israel.
about the Israel Palestine conflict from a Palestinian Christian and
If you're in the New York area, you'll have opportunities this week to join
in events this week with the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb. Mitri is a Palestinian
Christian and the pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.
Despite the growing violence, Mitri remains an ardent advocate for peace in
the region. He will be speaking on three occasions, sponsored by
the Presbyterian UN Office and other groups.
High-level Presbyterians and Jews discuss
Top-level Jewish and
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders held strained but polite dialogue in
New York City on September 28, about the PC(USA) General Assembly's decision
earlier this summer to divest from companies who profit from Israel's
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. While the two parties agreed on
a mutual commitment to peace in the Middle East, there was little yielding
on the divestment issue. [10-6-04]
On the "Messianic Christian" congregation
Avodat Yisrael, in Philadelphia
One issue in the current debates about the Presbyterian
General Assembly's actions in relation to Israel and Palestine is the
congregation Avodat Yisrael in Philadelphia - a congregation founded with
the purpose of reaching Jews in Philadelphia with a presentation of the
Gospel that would be familiar and congenial to them. Dr. Arch Taylor
looks at some of the theological dimensions of the concerns about that
Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors
a Presbyterian Minister in Santa Cruz, CA, shared with us a letter she sent
to her Senators about the wall being built by Israel.
Pension funds and responsible
investing ... and Israel
With all the
discussion of the PC(USA) action to divest stock holdings in companies doing
business supportive of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, Gene
TeSelle offers some thoughts and questions about pension funds, which have
become a part of the debate.
For a report on
discussions of divestment at the recent meeting of the General Assembly
Leslie Scanlon's article in The Presbyterian Outlook.
Words of praise for the GA
actions on Israel and for even-handed reporting of the situation -- and the
I join in applauding the recent decisions of the General Assembly regarding
Israel and Palestine. I am particularly relieved that the Mission
Responsibility Through Investment committee will be divesting my pension
funds from companies that profit from the suffering of innocent Israelis and
I also appreciate the leadership the General Assembly demonstrated to other
church bodies in putting action behind its pronouncements. The United
Methodists' similar statement in May got as little press coverage as that
given to the statements of other mainline denominations, whereas the
PC(USA)'s action is getting coverage still. The PC(USA)'s action has given
hope to Christians who are frustrated by the mainstream media's lack of
coverage of the plight of the Palestinians and by the inroads of Christian
Zionism within Evangelical media. People who hunger for information that is
not being covered in the mainstream will seek elsewhere. Unfortunately, some
of the information about Palestinians on the internet is inaccurate and,
even in some sources where the facts are accurate, they are presented with
an anti-Semitic bias or with highly inflammatory rhetoric. Fortunately, the
PC(USA) has been updating its website to respond to the controversy and the
website has links to many resources on the Middle East that are reliable and
Thank you also for printing perspectives as diverse as the Boysens' and
Elder Larson's (with the informative web-links) and for trusting
Presbyterians to be capable of using the brains God gave us. Witherspoon
should not worry about groups with contrary ideologies linking to it. Anyone
who has googled "miserable failure" knows that an organization cannot
control other groups from making links to your website.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Santa Cruz, CA
Presbyterian Church creates website dealing with
Israel and Jewish
creatively to the concerns expressed by Jewish individuals and
organizations, by Presbyterians and others about what have been called
"anti-Semitic" actions by the 216th General Assembly, the PC(USA)
has established a very helpful website.
It includes comments by
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase and
Clifton Kirkpatrick, along with links to the
GA actions (it
doesn't hurt sometimes for folks to know what was really said - and not
said), answers to
comments from a number of Presbyterians, and
to many other good resources.
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase speaks out on the issues around Israel and
website has posted one of his responses, and the
Presbytery of Greater Atlanta has one as well.
For one helpful survey of Jewish reaction, you might check
the Atlanta Jewish Times.
This page contains reports and links
from Sept. - Dec. 2004.
Reports and commentary from 2006 >>
For archives from 2005 >>
July and August, 2004 >>
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly have now been acted upon by the presbyteries,
confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.
We provided resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest have been:
which removes the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
Confessions. Disapproved, because as an amendment
to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not
10-1, which adopts the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. Approved.|
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