for our index page on GA 2010
Committee 14: MIddle East
If you have comments on these issues, or
material you would like us to post here,
please send a note, and if possible we will add it to this page.
For some of our earlier posts on Israel/Palestine >>
"Breaking Down the Walls" report on Israel and Palestine is
approved, 558 to 119
But no approval for
divestment from Caterpillar -- only "denouncement"
I'll be back with more
... soon. I hope.
Unprecedented Agreement at 219th GA from
Previously Divided Voices
release from the
Israel/Palestine Mission Network, dated 7-9-10
A week ago, it looked as if the Presbyterian Church (USA) was
going to enact a version of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
within its own body, so divided were we on all sides. For some
of us, the Middle East Study Committee’s report was a
long-awaited recognition of the suffering of the Palestinian
people, particularly our Christian brothers and sisters, and a
stirring call to action and solidarity. For others of us, the
report seemed indifferent to Israeli concerns for a secure
homeland and the Church’s ongoing relationship with the Jewish
community. Coming into the Assembly, some of us were lined up to
push the report through; others of us were determined to defeat
Today, we still have disagreements on items in the report, on
methods we should pursue, on arguments we should make. But
today, by God’s grace, we have discovered that together, we may
actually be more faithful and effective in seeking peace with
justice for both Palestinians and Israelis than separately. To
that end, we stand together in support of the report as amended
by the Middle East Issues Committee as witness to a new way of
approaching this intractable problem and, indeed, a new way of
being the Church.
We have learned that we do not have to choose between our
commitments. We have learned that we can risk trusting people
with whom we were afraid to engage. We have learned that
addressing the conflict in the Middle East cannot be a question
of winners and losers. We must model how the conflict itself
will be resolved: if someone loses, everyone loses. Beyond any
expectation, we find ourselves discovering a new model of
ministry together, a model committed to seeking, hearing, and
responding to the fullness of narratives and commitments with
the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, Jews, Christians and
Through Isaiah, God says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it
springs forth; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the
desert and rivers in the wilderness.” Let us all give thanks for
this new thing that God is doing and commit ourselves anew to
work together for peace with justice.
Carol Hylkema, Moderator, Israel/Palestine Mission Network
Ron Shive, Chair, Middle East Study Committee
Bill Harter, Co-Convener, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace
Katharine Henderson, President, Auburn Theological Seminary
An introductory look at some issues coming to this committee
any Item number to jump to the full text on the PC-BIZ website.
Breaking Down the Walls – From the Middle East Study Committee.
This report is at the heart of the work to be done by Committee 14 and by
this General Assembly. It deals with a wide range of Middle East issues, and
focuses mainly on Israel-Palestine. Its 42 pages entitled “We Bear Witness”
lead into 9 pages of recommendations for our church and its members, our
government, and all parties to the conflict. These 50 pages are must reading
for all commissioners. The other 123 pages have valuable summaries of
perspectives, history, the committee’s process, GA policies, Presbyterian
Panel results, and two recent documents from Palestinian Christians.
One recommendation has been the focus of special interest because it deals
with corporate engagement. The report stops short of recommending
divestment, but calls us to “invest positively, after due vetting, in
sustainable economic development projects for the West Bank and Gaza (that
do not support the occupation) sponsored by Palestinians or jointly by
Palestinians and Israelis in equitable partnership.” The GA will be able to
deal directly with the divestment issue as it considers a separate MRTI
report and two overtures on that topic. Focus on this issue should not
detract from attention to all the recommendations, which could help the
church make a significant contribution to justice and peace across the
14-02 – On Divestment from Caterpillar, Inc. and 14-03 – the
Mission Responsibility Through Investment Report of Its Engagement with
Corporations Involved in Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank.
Both overtures call for disinvestment from Caterpillar by the Presbyterian
Foundation and Board of Pensions, and for no reinvestment unless MRTI is
satisfied that Caterpillar no longer sells equipment to Israel that is used
in illegal actions such as building settlements and walls on Palestinian
land and destroying Palestinian property. They commend the Church of England
and Hampshire College for divesting. 14-02 adds that the Israeli occupation
should end for the sake of justice and to prevent the extinction of
Christianity in the region.
The MRTI Report begins by citing GA policy: “… all corporations doing
business in the region [should] confine their business activity solely to
peaceful pursuits, and refrain from allowing their products or services to
support or facilitate violent acts by Israelis or Palestinians against
innocent civilians, construction and maintenance of settlements or
Israeli-only roads in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli military
occupation of Palestinian territory, and construction of the Separation
Barrier as it extends beyond the 1967 ‘Green Line’ into Palestinian
territories.” Corporate engagement with Motorola, ITT, United Technologies,
and Hewlett-Packard are to continue, in light of some positive responses.
But Caterpillar “has produced, sold, and profited from equipment that has
been and continues to be used … for clearly non-peaceful purposes ...
Caterpillar’s unwillingness to engage with authenticity and openness is
unique and disappointing.” The report then “strongly denounces Caterpillar’s
continued profitmaking from non-peaceful uses of a number of its products.”
Since that report was written, Caterpillar took action to have its
distributors stop selling to Iran, due to concerns over Iran’s nuclear
program. The company has not taken similar action in Israel-Palestine and
remains, after over 5 years of corporate engagement, non-compliant with
PC(USA) policy. In the face of such noncompliance, divestment (as called for
in the two overtures but not the MRTI report) is the course needed now.
14-04 – On Recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices
Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People.
The overture directs the Stated Clerk to encourage the United Nations to
find that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, and to send this
information to the President and Congress. It urges all Presbyterians and
especially the Office of Interfaith Relations to study this matter and work
to end apartheid. Finally, it directs the GAMC to prepare resources and urge
study about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
The rationale is based upon the International Convention on the
Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the UN
in 1973. The argument is made that the UN should expand the definition of
the crime of apartheid to apply to the State of Israel instead of only to
individuals. In many discussions in Israel, in the U.S. and elsewhere,
comparisons as well as contrasts have been made between South African
apartheid and the conditions imposed by Israel’s occupation of Palestinian
By passing this overture, GA will help bring the principles of this
Convention to bear on the crisis, in the service of arriving at a decent and
just life for all the people of Israel-Palestine.
14-05 – On Commending “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith and Hope from
the Heart of Palestinian Suffering” as an Advocacy Tool.
This overture calls upon the GA to receive an ecumenical statement from
Christian Palestinians, known as Kairos Palestine 2009, and commend
it for study and advocacy by presbyteries and congregations, and especially
by the Office of Interfaith Relations in discussions with Jewish and Muslim
groups. The first sentence of the Rationale states: “This is the first time
we have a common voice from the grassroots Christians in Palestine asking us
to help them get rid of the occupation through concrete acts: theological
debates on occupation as sin, and boycott, divestment, and sanctions
campaigns.” The 10 ½ page document is included in the rationale. (NOTE:
“Receiving” a document implies a general recognition and appreciation of the
statement, rather than acceptance of all aspects of the statement.)
Palestinian Christians, and their Jewish and Muslim partners in the quest
for a just peace, have made another statement similar to the Amman Call of
2007, with was endorsed and affirmed by the 118th GA (2008). This
Kairos document brings up to date the descriptions of the conditions of
occupation, rejects violence from any quarter, and furthermore calls for
“companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and
commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation. We understand
this to integrate the logic of peaceful resistance.” By receiving and
commending this document, the 219th GA will assure that it receives the
attention it deserves in Presbyterian congregations.
14-06 – On Middle East Peacemaking.
Perhaps emerging from a weariness with controversy, this overture calls on
the GA to answer all overtures concerning Israel and Palestine with a
statement that, in recognition of the complex and changing conditions, it is
best to take no actions that appear to support either side. PC(USA)
leadership should influence peacemaking through prayer, tolerance and
reconciliation, advocating step-by-step negotiation toward a two-state
solution, condemning all terrorism and unwarranted violence, and providing
assistance to innocent victims. The GAMC is to make sure that all staff
abide by the directives, and the whole church is urged to pray and
conscientiously support the overall welfare of all in the Middle East and
While these statements may sound faithful, they do little more than assure
the continuation of the statements and processes that have been in place for
many years, and that have ended neither the violence of Israel’s occupation
nor the violence of Palestinian rhetoric and actions. Passing the
recommendations of the Middle East Study Committee report and overtures that
sensitively support or carry forward those initiatives, plus supporting the
Palestinian Christians’ Kairos Document and the United Nation’s Goldstone
Report – these are the ways to be faithful in difficult times.
14-07 – On Iraq.
This overture calls for prayer for the churches, all who grieve, Iraqis as
they rebuild, and refugees; commends the GAMC for keeping us informed about
Iraq churches, Presbyterian Women in regard to the Birthday Offering for the
KG in Kirkuk, and those ministering to Iraqi refugees; directs the GAMC to
continue support in these ways and to direct the Advisory Committee on
Social Witness Policy to study from a perspective of Reformed theology and
practice, the costs of the war related to the U.S. economy; calls for
prayers for the U.S. government and commends it for some actions in the
Kurdish areas, and calls for the U.S. to maintain the announced schedules
for withdrawal of troops and contractors, to have no permanent bases, to
provide more and quicker help for refugees, and more medical and
psychological help for military personnel.
With its position that the U.S. maintain its stated withdrawal goals this
overture would strengthen the 2008 GA position, which did not set a firm
limit to the length of the occupation.
14-09 – On Seeking Compliance to U.S. Government Policy in the Use of
Military Aid by All Parties in the Middle East.
This overture calls for the application of U.S. law, as well as
international law and human rights protections, to all military aid to the
region. Criteria for compliance are found in the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act
of 1961 and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act of 1976. While the relevance of
U.S. law is all-inclusive, the primary focus is upon Israel’s use of U.S.
weapons, which have been used in ways contrary to U.S. law. The main value
of the overture is that it makes very explicit long-standing church policy
and two recommendations of the Middle East Study Committee.
Item 14-10 Toward Peace and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
This overture from Baltimore Presbytery calls for the GA to join in
international efforts to investigate possible violations of international
law by both sides during Israel’s military action in Gaza, December ’08 –
January ’09. A United Nations report in Sept. 2009 called for independent
investigations by both Israel and Hamas. This recommendation has not been
implemented; the U.S. Congress voted in Nov. 2009 to have nothing to do with
this report, known as the Goldstone Report, after the name of the Jewish
South African jurist who led the investigation. The 575-page report alleges
extreme violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The
Middle East Study Committee report has many references to Gaza, but does not
address this particular concern, probably due to the fact that they were not
able to visit Gaza. Passing this overture will appropriately put PC(USA)
solidly in line with calling for the parties to conduct their own
investigations, and keep alive our church’s long-standing commitment to the
rule of law in the Israel-Palestine crisis and our calling for
accountability whenever violence occurs.
Justice and Policy at General
Assembly: a Middle East-related example, divestment from
Introduction: This is the first of a two-part
pre-Assembly update from the Advisory Committee on Social
Witness Policy (ACSWP). It contains many links to past and
current policy recommendations and other resources. Our reports
to the upcoming General Assembly are listed at the end.
ACSWP has kept its focus on its work, despite the impact of the budget
reductions announced on May 14 (of 19%) and consequent reduction
in force that has, very regrettably, cost the Committee one
staff position. Some readers will know immediately that the
position of Associate for Policy Development was filled by a
human being, a friend and a colleague, Belinda M. Curry. Some of
our readers will have served on study teams with her, or met her
at a General Assembly. Her presence will be missed, and
correspondence can be sent to us for forwarding to her.
The Middle East Study Committee and the
Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) Committee
Background for “Advice & Counsel” Memos
This update focuses on one of the issues related to the Middle East Study
Committee’s report, “Breaking Down the Walls.” In accordance
with ACSWP’s mandate to provide guidance on matters that involve
the social witness of the church, the Committee provides “Advice
& Counsel Memoranda.” These “A&C’s” usually contain a policy or
Biblical application, analysis of the impact of reports or
overtures from presbyteries, and recommendations (sometimes
amended language) to help commissioners focus on key issues
without repetition or contradiction. A&Cs are posted under many
items for General Assembly action, and these items can be found
www.pc-biz.org. If you hit “committees” on the search bar,
pick a committee and its agenda will appear and items can open.
The example here discusses a matter of economic witness and corporate
social responsibility (divestment from a specific company,
Caterpillar) that is not treated significantly in the Middle
East report but which is recommended in two overtures and a
public statement by Palestinian Christians (“Kairos Palestine”).
At the same time, the Committee that deals with ethical
investment matters for the church, the Committee on Mission
Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), presents a case that
seems to be for divestment, but then calls simply for
“denouncement” of Caterpillar, a company whose armored
bulldozers are used in home demolitions, building the “security
fence” or wall around Palestinian enclaves, and were used in the
invasion of Gaza in early 2009.
Without duplicating the ACSWP A&C on Middle East Committee 14’s Items 01,
02, and 03, this update focuses on the ethical structure of the
argument — because these ethical elements are used on other
issues as well. To be clear, ACSWP supports the Middle East
Study Committee’s solid work as it speaks to the need for urgent
action both for peace and justice, and to preserve the remnant
of Christians under pressure in both Palestine/Israel and
elsewhere in the Middle East. The divestment recommendation is
fully consistent, in this perspective, with the Middle East
report as a whole.
The Core Values
in the A&C: Responsibility takes three forms: Effectiveness,
Integrity, and Solidarity:
A consistent theme in the Advice & Counsel memos of the Advisory
Committee is that words and deeds should go together. Thus
“justice” is a nice word, but unless the church in its various
councils and in the lives of members does something, it simply
makes “pronouncements.” The words, “policy” and “resolution” are
meant to convey implementation, action, program, even if it is
simply directing the Assembly’s concern to a proper governmental
or private entity. In a complex society with many moving parts,
this sometimes means complex sets of recommendations. But the
principle — and Presbyterians are good at principles — is
clearly that the church takes responsibility itself when it asks
others to take responsibility. For better or worse, we
Presbyterians tend to think “Responsibility Matters.”
Responsibility actually has two or even three components. When we quote
the Book of Order’s preliminary principle, that “Truth is in
order to goodness…,” we want effectiveness. “By their
fruits shall ye know them,” is another expression. But when we
say, “practice what you preach,” we are also calling for
integrity. Not purity, as purity is not something Reformed
churches and individuals can easily claim. Integrity is
when you know that all action is fallible, but that action still
makes a difference and that it can express or deny one’s alleged
values or identity.
A third component is solidarity, standing with other Christians
or others whose voices are being silenced. Most people use a
kind of “power analysis,” and can “tell which way the wind is
blowing.” Sometimes solidarity is when you choose to go against
the stream precisely to help those without power, and sometimes
you choose solidarity when you do not have enough power on your
own. But the Christian core of solidarity is the doctrine of the
mystical body of Christ, of which we all are members! In the
case of Palestine and Israel, solidarity says, remember the
Palestinian Christians who are being pressed out—by several
factors, but notably by Israeli government policy (“Breaking
Down the Walls”).
Divestment and Corporate Engagement have a history:
Perhaps the most controversial example of this responsibility ethic is
the Advisory Committee’s Advice & Counsel that the General
Assembly authorize divestment of Caterpillar stock, rather than
simply “denounce” the company for its key role in the occupation
of Palestine. Opponents of divestment will try to make it seem
radical, as if using economic pressure wasn’t a constant both in
Israel and in many of the consumer choices we make. Most
Presbyterians probably try to support good companies and
products and avoid unsavory ones much of the time. A good
analysis of “The Divestment Strategy” was done by the 1984
General Assembly, before it took the action in 1985 of beginning
a process of “selective, phased divestment” of strategic
corporations operating in South Africa. [Learn
more →]. The effectiveness of this strategy was reviewed and
re-affirmed by the Assembly in 1991. (1991 Minutes, Part I, pp.
more → (PDF)] For various reasons, defenders of Israel’s
occupation of Palestine do not want to be reminded of analogies
to South Africa.
Many of the critics of divestment do not practice much “corporate social
responsibility” in the first place. The whole process of
as MRTI’s report shows, takes years of discussions,
shareholder proposals, reports from churches and other partners.
But then you get to a point where your integrity says, we have
tried to reform from the “inside,” as fractional owners. We will
have more impact by selling our shares publicly — if we really
think it is wrong to profit from someone else’s suffering. And
yes, that act of public sale is sometimes mocked as a feel-good
gesture—by those who cannot distinguish very well between
integrity and conflict-avoidance. The fact is, divestment FOR
the sake of justice and IN solidarity with others, may remove
inner conflicts but it adds external ones. And those with guilty
consciences who feel judged will take their shots.
The church’s voice is often a subtle instrument — perhaps “still and
small,” like the Holy Spirit speaking to the conscience of
Elijah — so it gains its power from integrity, not volume. Moral
action always has to point to limits, and say some witness is
needed. How many Presbyterians, for example, know that their
church already divests from nuclear warhead makers, the most
war-dependent corporations (by percentage of sales), and the
biggest military contractors? [Minutes,
1982, Part I, pp. 259-264 (PDF)] That 1982 divestment
decision was made after 10 years of corporate engagement with
military contractors during and after the Viet Nam war, and as a
response to the 1980 policy, “Peacemaking: The Believers’
Calling,” which says we are responsible to seek peace in all
parts of our lives. That emphasis on the linkage of personal and
social reform is also present in our long-standing divestment
(and systematic avoidance) of securities in companies heavily
involved in alcohol, tobacco and gambling? [Learn
Background for the Conversation in your community:
Almost all commissioners to the General Assembly are being approached by
members of the “defense organizations” of the Jewish community
who wish to defend Israel from what is claimed to be unfair or
imbalanced criticism designed to “de-legitimate” Israel’s
occupation of Palestine. Perhaps the most succinct expression of
this effort to “counter de-legitimate” critical voices—including
that of the church—is the game plan of The Reut Institute
more →]. There is considerable discussion of this in Israel
itself, where human rights organizations are under increasing
pressure from the very conservative government of Benjamin
Netanyahu. Needless to say, the Palestinians are under much
harder pressure, and much criticism is aimed at the Christian
non-violent statement of December 11, 2009, “A
Moment of Truth.” An effort is thus being made to have this
document tarnished in a manner similar to the criticism of the
“Goldstone Report,” the careful analysis led by a liberal
Zionist, Justice Goldstone, of the bombing and invasion of Gaza
in December of 2008 and January of 2009 [Learn
more → [PDF]]. In other words, there is a common technique
at work and international law itself is a target.
At risk of adding more links, but coming now to close this backgrounder,
there is much recent debate in the Jewish community over the
strategy of defending Israel all the time, no matter what it
does. Peter Beinart, once editor of the neo-conservative
magazine, The New Republic and a supporter of the Iraq and
possible Iran wars, has now changed his position. Writing in the
New York Review of Books, his essay, “The Failure of the
American Jewish Establishment,” points to a moral failure that
is alienating many mainstream and liberal younger Jews [Learn
more →]. His is far from the only voice breaking with the
groups that claim a single, pro-Likud, Jewish perspective, but
his voice is that of a convert and a kind of prophet. There are
times when a tipping point in a society’s moral vision occurs,
and in this case the behavior of the settlers and the continued
encouragement of settlements has perhaps triggered that point.
For Turkey, the killing of 9 peace activists trying to bring
relief to Gaza appears to be such a point.
But the challenge of divestment is that the church must make up its own
mind about its own resources, and not have its moral choices
circumscribed by the voices of others, be they corporations or
other groups. And that is why we have a General Assembly.
The next update will look at the values of effectiveness,
integrity and solidarity in relation to three reports on Gun
Violence, Theology of Compensation, and Public Education.
going to 219th General Assembly (2010), Minneapolis, MN, July
10-09 Living Through Economic Crisis: The Church’s Witness in
Troubled Times: A Social Involvement Report for the 219th
General Assembly (2010)
10-10 Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Compensation, Equity and the
Unity of the Church
10-11 Loving Our Neighbors: Equity and Quality in Public
11-04 Human Rights Update 2010
11-06 Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to
17-Info Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP)
17- Self Study ACSWP Self Study
11-07 On Living a Human Life before God
19-05 Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic
Witness and Compassionate Action
16 former moderators
support Middle East report
encourage GA commissioners to approve study committee's report
by Bethany Furkin, Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — With the 219th General Assembly
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) days away, 16 former GA
moderators are calling for commissioners to approve a study
report on Middle East peace that was requested by the 218th GA.
"Breaking Down the Walls" is the report of the
Middle East Study Committee. The committee was charged with
preparing a comprehensive study focusing on Israel/Palestine
with regard to the context of the Middle East. The report
includes recommendations and study materials.
"Breaking Down the Walls" affirms Israel's
legitimacy as a state but calls the occupation of Palestine
(West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) "illegitimate, illegal
under international law, and an enduring threat to peace in the
The report's recommendations call for the
PC(USA) to dedicate 2010-12 as a time of prayer and action about
the Middle East; create a Middle East monitoring group to ensure
implementation of GA directives; strongly denounce Caterpillar's
profit-making from non-peaceful uses of its products in the
region; encourage PC(USA) bodies to invest in sustainable
economic development projects in the area; send a delegation to
the area with other faith leaders; endorse the Kairos Palestine
document developed by Palestinian Christian leaders; promote
donations to Christian education in the region; and encourage
Presbyterians to travel to Israel/Palestine.
The full text of the letter from 15 past
moderators, encouraging commissioners to approve the report:
|June 15, 2010:
Dear Commissioners to the 219th
Thank you as elders and ministers
for taking the time to serve the church in your
local congregation and session, presbytery, synod
and now on our highest governing body, the 219th
General Assembly. We know the amount of reading
material before you can be overwhelming. You are in
our prayers as you discern the will of God and seek
the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our beloved
PC(USA) on all the issues before the Assembly.
The purpose of our letter is to
ask you to support and approve the Middle East Study
Committee report for the following reasons:
1. The committee membership
was chosen to represent the church by our 3
moderators, mandated by the 218th General Assembly,
and consisted of different points of view. One from
our midst, Rev. Susan Andrews who was the Moderator
of the 215th General Assembly, served on the
2. Their mandate was to
write a comprehensive report about the Middle East —
focusing on Israel/Palestine, in the context of the
whole region. They were asked to talk with the
people in the region, particularly our Christian
partners, and Jews and Muslims. Their mandate did
not focus solely on talking with the American Jewish
community. That dialogue is essential as we move
forward, but this is a Presbyterian statement and is
a work in progress.
3. Their report builds on —
and assumes — all the reports and statements that
have been adopted by the GA in previous years —
including the many statements that give voice to a
Jewish and Israeli perspective. This report gives
voice to the Palestinian Christian voice in a way
that has not been heard before — in response to the
urgency of the moment and the plea of our Christian
brothers and sisters in the region to be heard.
There is unanimity among all the many diverse
Christian voices in the region in a way that has
never happened before. It is a voice of suffering
and urgency — and is echoed by moderate Muslim
partners. The window of opportunity is closing for a
peaceful solution to the problems in
Israel/Palestine, and the threat of renewed violence
is everywhere. The Christian presence has dwindled
significantly in the past 50 years in
Palestine/Israel, and so, the voice of
reconciliation that Christians have always
represented in the region is being silenced.
4. Their report reaffirms what
the PCUSA has wanted for decades — a desire for
commitment to a peaceful two state solution, within
secure and recognized borders, in a nuclear free
Middle East; the right of return or compensation for
refugees, the security barrier pulled back to the
1967 borders, the end of settlement expansion, the
right of Israel to exist next to a sovereign,
independent and economically viable Palestine, a
shared Jerusalem, all with a clear repudiation of
5. Their report lifts up the
Kairos document for study — not approval — so that a
collaborative Palestinian Christian voice can be
heard. The study team report affirms the emphases in
the Kairos document on non-violence and
reconciliation and hope. The report does not affirm
or endorse language about boycott, divestment, or
sanction, although, it reaffirms corporate
engagement and other non-violent ways to end support
for the occupation.
6. The biblical and
theological section clearly repudiates any hint of
Christian Zionism or supercessionism. What it does
do is tie responsibilities for justice, human rights
and hospitality to the biblical understanding of
In light of the urgency of the
situation in Israel/Palestine, the 43 years of
Israeli military occupation over the lives of 4
million Palestinians in the West Bank, East
Jerusalem and Gaza, the continuous building of
settlements is making the two state solution
We urge you to be a prophetic
assembly by approving this report to help the whole
church begin a two year study of Israel and
Palestine and asking our people to travel and meet
Israeli Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims,
and see the situation for themselves. Our church
must continue to love both Israeli Jews and
Palestinian Arabs and continue to struggle with them
to work for truth, freedom, justice, reconciliation
Again, we urge you to support and
vote in favor of this report.
Sincerely in the service of Jesus
(Our names below indicate our
| The Rev. Bruce
Reyes-Chow, 2008-2010 218th|
| Elder Rick Ufford-Chase,
| The Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel,
| The Rev. Jack Rogers,
| The Rev. Syngman Rhee,
| Elder Freda A. Gardner,
| The Rev. Douglas W.
Oldenburg, 1998 210th|
| Elder Marj Carpenter,
| The Rev. Robert W. Bohl,
| The Rev. David Dobler,
| The Rev. John M. Fife,
| The Rev. Dr. Herbert
Valentine, 1991 203rd|
| Elder Price H. Gwynn,
III, 1990 202nd|
| The Rev. Benjamin Weir,
| The Rev. Dr. Albert C.
Winn, 1979 119th|
| Elder Jule C. Spach, 1976
Is criticism of
Michele Chabin, of Religion News Service, raises
this question, which is at the heart of many Jewish and
pro-Israel criticisms of the Middle East report coming to this
newswoman Helen Thomas’s suggestion that Israelis should
“get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland,
Germany and the U.S., was widely seen as anti-Israel.
But was it
faces unprecedented censure from the world community —
including economic, academic and cultural boycotts — the
Thomas incident raised the question of when, if ever, anti-Israelism
She tells of
various efforts to equate criticism of Israeli with hatred of
Jews – or anti-Semitism. But she also quotes Adam Keller, a
Jewish Israeli and spokesman of Gush Shalom, a liberal
organisation that is critical of Israel’s treatment of the
Palestinians, as saying:
There can be
someone who thinks the existence of the State of Israel is
wrong because the creation of Israel is an injustice to the
Palestinians. ... While I would not deny that some people
are using criticism of Israel as a mask for anti-Semitism, I
think there is a systematic campaign that tries to label
everyone who criticizes Israel an anti-Semite. Doing so does
not make me a self-hating Jew.
anti-Judaism: Critiquing a PCUSA report on Israel/Palestine
Two scholars at
Vanderbilt Divinity School one Protestant and the other Jewish,
have published a careful and intricate critique of what they see
as lingering traces of “anti-Judaism” in the report coming to GA
from the Middle East Study Committee, entitled "Breaking Down
They are not
arguing against the report as a whole, and its call a just peace
in Israel/Palestine. But they see “old habits” of negative
attitudes toward Judaism which must still be resisted.
Anyone who wants
to support this important report may find it helpful to pay
close attention to the points they make, which may well be cited
in debate as reasons for opposing the report as a whole.
article has just been published in Christian Century.
See the next post below, for a response to this
Defenders of Israel seek to influence
Presbyterian General Assembly
Wall, former editor of The Christian Century, has posted a blog
responding to two recent articles attacking the report being present to
General Assembly by the Middle East Study Commission, and its
recommendations calling for change especially, but not exclusively, in
Israeli policies. We recently posted a
link to the article in Christian Century, by two Vanderbilt
Divinity School professors, Ted A. Smith and Amy-Jill Levine; the other has
appeared in Newsweek magazine.
NOTE: James Wall headlines his essay:
"Israeli 'Agents' Infiltrate Presbyterian General Assembly." Your
WebWeaver has chosen to uses a less provocative line to head this post,
but it's worth noting Wall's original wording.
It is possible that one or more of the anti-resolution
quartet members has devoted time to academic study of the history,
politics and ethics involved in this issue, or conducted on-the-ground
research investigation in the area.
There is, however, no evidence of practical nor
scholarly wisdom regarding the current political situation in either
Both articles ignore the harsh reality of Israel’s six
decades of immoral and unethical treatment of the Palestinian people.
There is nothing about the Nakba, the “security wall” or the prison-like
conditions under which Palestinians are forced to live.
We commend this essay to your attention >>
Here's one new example of efforts to influence the Assembly:
This comment has come in an email
from a person writing under the pen name of "Scott Davis." His note is posted here with no
editing of its formatting. He says he is a member of various Jewish
groups, but is speaking for himself in this note.
[posted here 6-30-10, updated 7-7-10]
Your comments are welcome!
Just send a
note, to be shared here.
Seven Concerns regarding Committee 14 report "Breaking Down The Walls" and
Questions about its views regarding Israel's new blockade policy
Concern #1: Committee 14 did not adequately get input from mainstream
Jewish organizations supporting Israel.
A June 29, 2010 article in the journal Christian Century,
"Habits of anti-Judaism
Critiquing a PCUSA report on Israel/Palestine", states a Committee 14
letter addressed to 'Our American Jewish Friends,' "laments the
difficulty of working with 'organizations within the mainstream Jewish
community. This difficulty should be the occasion for dialogue, not an
excuse for avoiding it." [http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=8539]
The article also reports, "The committee did meet with the American
Jewish Committee's representative in Israel, but he told the Jewish Week,
"They listened to nothing." Furthermore,
this meeting only lasted 20 minutes according to a report from the
pro-Israel group 'Standwithus [
#2: Bias by Committee 14 writing the report is likely to be perceived
In addition to not getting adequate input from pro-Israel groups, noted in
Concern #1, I understand from Standwithus that 7 of the 9 Committee 14
members preparing this report had been openly and actively critical of
Israel before being appointed. I also understand from Standwithus
that one member resigned after a short time, expressing the view that this
committee was biased and had already predetermined the outcome of its
research before it started. Please check if these assertions are
Concern #3: Potential dissension with Presbyterian congregations
if this report is approved
Concerns #1 and #2 above as well as other concerns listed below, this report
might create dissension within Presbyterian USA congregations. The
results of focus group evaluations and other evaluations of such potential
impacts might be helpful to GA PCUSA delegates before they decide whether to
approve this report.
#4: The report does not assess the likely increased persecution
of Christians and Christian institutions by Muslims as an impact of ceding
East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, a ceding which Committee 14
4.1) The Arab Christian mayor of Bethlehem Elias Freij sought Israel
to not deliver Bethlehem into the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority
for fear the Muslim power would persecute Christians.
4.2) National Geographic Magazine in the article "Bethlehem 2007 A.D."
reports on the ever increasing exodus of Christians from Bethlehem. It
reports, "Christians are afraid that if we speak frankly and Muslim
families hear, we'll be persecuted," says the patriarch (of a Christian
family). "We'll be forced to pay a lot of money. And physical things, of
course, are possible. Arson. Anything you can think of."
4.3) The New York Post 2009
Christmas edition (Dec. 25, 2009) article "Bethlehem's exodus"
reports, "Fifty years ago, Christians made up 70 percent of
Bethlehem's population; today, about 15 percent. . . the story's the same in
Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere in the Mideast.
the only place in the region where the Christian population is growing is in
Israel...Many [Muslims] see the land as Waqf -- belonging to the Muslim
nation. They increasingly buy or confiscate land -- and talk of laws to ban
Christian landownership. "
4.4). In December 1997, the London Times reported: "Life in (PA-ruled)
Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling
Christian minorities. Increasing Muslim-Christian tensions have left some
Christians reluctant to celebrate Christmas in the town at the heart of the
story of Christ's birth." http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp490.htm]
So it is unclear why Committee 14 seems to be recommending placing
Christians and Christian institutions in East Jerusalem subject to increased
risk of persecution through transfer to PA jurisdiction.
Concern #5: It is unclear why Committee 14 believes that if Israel adopts
Committee 14 policies that then conditions will be ripe for peace - given
that both the PA and Hamas utterly reject the UN establishment of
Israel, the existence of Israel even within its pre-1967 borders, and have
inculcated this policy throughout the fabric of their society where they
demonize Israel and make its destruction a religious duty.
5.1) US Senate presentation. For
11 minute video go to
5.2) A May 2010 Palestinian Media Watch report shows that PA President
Abbas was untruthful to President Obama when their talks began in May 2010
when Abbas said that the PA wants to live side by side with Israel in peace.
Abba's actions and those who report to him show the exact opposite.
See report at
5.3) Children say that suicide bombing to kill Israelis is better than
5.4) The chief PA negotiator of the Oslo Peace Accords said that the
strategy of the PA is to entirely destroy Israel, by first getting whatever
it can by diplomacy, and when it cannot get more, then to return to
Likewise a senior PA member of the PA parliament stated the PA follows
Yasser Arafat's strategy which is to follow diplomacy and violence as each
is useful. He said Arafat would condemn terror by day "while at
night he would do honorable things".
PA TV July 22, 2009
5.5) PA TV recently showed: "Where are you [Israelis] from? Of course,
you're from Ukraine; of course, you're from Germany, from Poland, from
Russia, from Ethiopia... I ask of you, return to your original homeland!"
[PA TV (Fatah), May 4 and 7, 2010]
5.6) PA has continued to honor terrorists who have killed Israeli civilians
by naming sporting events after them, a practice repeatedly condemned by the
5.7) A Muslim cleric on PA TV on May 14, 2010 says its a religious duty to
destroy Israel and that driving out the Jews from all of Palestine is more
important than peace. http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=636&fld_id=636&doc_id=2373
Concern 6: Why does Committee 14 insist on withdrawal to the pre-1967
borders which is a position that diverges from 1967 UN Resolution 242 that
Israel should withdraw to borders that are secure?
The UN Resolution 242 of 1967 says that Israel should withdraw from
territories occupied in the 1967 6-day war, but not "the territories"
implies all, as the Arab nations wanted. Res. 242 also said Israel should
have "secure and recognized boundaries"
which the UN believed may not have been not provided by the 1948 truce
lines. So Committee 14 should explain why it diverges from this UN
resolution. See UN Res. 242 at: http://www.mideastweb.org/242.htm
Also, some of the areas beyond Israel's 1948 truce lines, such as the area
south of Jerusalem, had thriving Jewish communities that were conquered and
massacred by the Jordanian army in the last days of the 1948 war - a serious
war crime. Committee 14 should explain why these communities should
not have been later re-established after the 1967 war and allowed to live in
security within Israel. See link:
Concern #7: Unclear why Committee 14 wants to strengthen PA and Hamas
insofar as they want to destroy Western values and culture, including
Christian religion and freedoms Committee 14 cherishes.
Islam will rule the world : On PA
TV a religious official of the PA Ministry of Religious
Affairs declares that Allah will cause the demise of the US, and
Islam will eventually rule the US, Britain, and the entire
Palestinian TV (Fatah) May 13, 2005
7.3) A PA official cleric on PA TV asks Allah to, "Annihilate
the Infidels and the Polytheists - Your [God's] enemies and the
enemies of the religion. God, count them and kill them to the
last one, and don't leave even one,"
after London bombing in 2005. On PA TV July 8, 2005
7.4) Hamas TV sermon on April 23, 2010: Iceland volcanic
eruption was Allah`s punishment for Infidels in all of Europe.
Questions to Committee 14 policy regrading Israel's current Gaza blockade
Committee 14 has stated that Israel should end its blockade so that
humanitarian aid can enter Gaza. I request the Committee 14 discuss
its considering how this action might allow more Hamas terrorists and more
heavy military weapons, including larger and longer range rockets into Gaza
which Hamas can then fire at Israel, which it has sworn to destroy and why
Israel has the blockade. Is Committee 14 concerned about this danger
to Israel if the blockade is ended?
Also, Israel has recently relaxed its policies so more humanitarian aid can
enter Gaza through Israel - which was welcomed by the Obama administration
Will Committee 14 modify its blockade ending policy after taking
into account this new Israeli policy?
Your comments are welcome!
Just send a note,
to be shared here.
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!
Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch
GHOST RANCH SEMINAR
July 26-August 1, 2010
WE’RE ALL IN
CONFRONTING THE STRUCTURES OF INJUSTICE
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