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Presbyterian actions and Israel / Palestine

This page contains reports and links from 2007-09.
For reports added in 2010 >>
Reports from 2006 are archived >>
Archive from 2005 >>
For archives from September through December, 2004 >>

Items from July and August, 2004 >>

GA Middle East study team meets with UN officials

Different voices heard as team prepares final report   [12-3-09]

Sharon Youngs, communications coordinator for the Office of the General Assembly, reports:

LOUISVILLE - The nine members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Middle East study team met Nov. 11-13, 2009, in New York City. Meetings were held at the Presbyterian United Nations office and at First Presbyterian Church of New York City.

The group's agenda focused on further conversations with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, as well as ecumenical and Presbyterian leaders, as they begin to craft their final report to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the PC(USA).

The rest of the story >>

MRTI recommends denouncement of Caterpillar, Inc. for corporate irresponsibility in Israel/Palestine

Committee encouraged by dialogue with many other corporations    [11-9-09]

Presbyterian News Service, in a story from Cincinnati dated November 9, 2009, reports that at its Nov. 6 meeting there, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee issued a recommendation that the denomination's General Assembly denounce Caterpillar, Inc. for its products' involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The recommendation reads, "On the basis of Christian principles and as a matter of social witness, the 219th General Assembly strongly denounces Caterpillar's continued profit-making from non-peaceful uses of a number of its products."

The recommendation comes after four years of what MRTI called weak response from the corporation to engage in dialogue with MRTI and its ecumenical partners seeking just peace in the Middle East.

"The committee and its ecumenical partners have been working faithfully to engage Caterpillar with very minimal success," said the Rev. Brian Ellison, chair of MRTI. Later, Ellison told Presbyterian News Service: "[We] find that Caterpillar remains unwilling to accept any responsibility for the non-peaceful use of the products it sells from which it continues to profit. The General Assembly has said that it finds such a position unacceptable."

The full report >>


New study booklet and DVD report on efforts by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian peacemakers working for justice and reconciliation

Thanks to Len Bjorkman of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, for news of this important resource.

Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace is a 48-page perfect-bound booklet with a free companion DVD. Steadfast Hope challenges common myths and misperceptions about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presents a compelling snapshot of the present situation on the ground, and offers a guide to the challenges that lie ahead in the quest for peace.

Steadfast Hope offers an inspiring view of the activities currently being undertaken by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian peacemakers working for justice and reconciliation. It also gives helpful guidance on how your congregation can contribute to the cause of just peace for the people who share the Holy Land.

Download the flyer to share with others!
low-resolution (smaller file)
hi-resolution (larger file)

Buy it now!

Contact the Israel/Palestine Mission Network by email at to order the 48-page booklet and the accompanying free DVD.
• 1–9 copies............ $10 each
• 10–19 copies......... $7 each
•  20+ copies............ $5 each

Carol Hylkema, Moderator of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, says:

"I commend Steadfast Hope as an excellent resource for Presbyterian Women as well as pastors, educators, and congregations. It grows from the Israel/Palestine Mission Network purpose to demonstrate solidarity, educate about the facts on the ground, and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians."

For more information >>

American Christian leaders applaud Obama's speech

PC(USA)'s Parsons among leaders voicing grave concern over 'deteriorating situation in the Holy Land'

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - A diverse group of American Christian leaders – including Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons – today praised President Obama for his speech in Cairo reaching out to the Muslim world and making Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority of his administration.

In a letter to the president, the group also, however, expressed grave concern over the "deteriorating situation in the Holy Land" and urged the Obama administration to make real and concrete progress in achieving a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Bishop Howard Hubbard, chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "I am deeply inspired by the president's effort to bridge divides of culture and faith and to reach out directly to the people of the Middle East. Confrontation only breeds radicalism. For this effort at rapprochement to succeed, however, we need to see real progress on the ground towards peace with justice in the Holy Land."

Joel C. Hunter, pastor of Northland Church, said, "For too long the Holy Land has been viewed as a clash of religions and cultures, but religion must be part of any durable solution. We're saying today that we're prepared to put our faith and resources behind that most important goal of bringing a just peace to Israelis and Palestinians - Jew, Christians and Muslim alike."

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said, "I welcome President Obama's strong commitment to pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace. His belief that peace in the Holy Land is possible and his firm statements holding both Israel and the Palestinians to their obligations are heartening. Indeed, urgent efforts are now needed to preserve the two-state solution. We are ready to help support bold action by his administration to finally achieve the peace of Jerusalem."

The letter emphasizes that this may be the last chance for a viable two-state solution to the Holy Land's conflict, which the signatories view as critical to stabilizing the region and bringing justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.

In addition to praising Obama's Cairo speech, the ad hoc group of leaders signaled their support for related statements regarding Middle East peace the president made in a June 1 interview with National Public Radio.

The full text of the Christian leaders' letter, dated June 4, 2009:

Dear Mr. President,

As American Christian leaders with a shared commitment to a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, we have come together at a time of great opportunity and urgency. After decades of tragic conflict, many Israelis and Palestinians despair of the possibility of peace, yet with your determined leadership we believe the promise of two viable, secure and independent states can be realized.

We commend your message to the people of the Middle East and your challenge to all of us to work for Holy Land peace as we seek to build a more positive future for the people of the region and the world. We are grateful that you have identified resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a top priority and made clear your Administration's commitment to sustained, hands-on diplomacy. As you embark on peace efforts, we ask you to provide a clear framework for an end to the conflict, help Israelis and Palestinians make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve lasting peace, and hold both parties to account when they fail to honor their commitments.

Mr. President, you have assumed office at one of the most critical moments in the long history of this conflict. While the international community and majorities of the Israeli and Palestinian people are all committed to a two state solution as the best option for achieving peace and security, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Continued settlement growth and expansion are rapidly diminishing any possibility for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. The targeting of Israeli civilians through ongoing rocket fire and the insistent rejection by some of Israel's right to exist reinforces the destructive status quo. These actions, along with the route of the separation barrier, movement restrictions, and continued home demolitions, serve to undermine Palestinians and Israelis alike who seek peace. As hope dims, the threat of violence grows and hardliners are strengthened.

We share a common commitment to all the people of the Holy Land – Jews, Christians and Muslims – and are particularly concerned with the plight of the Palestinian Christian community. In the birthplace of our faith, one of the world's oldest Christian communities is dwindling rapidly, and with them the possibility of a day when three thriving faith communities live in shared peace in Jerusalem. Mr. President, it is apparent that unless there is an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement Christians in the Holy Land may cease to exist as a viable community.

Now is indeed the time for immediate and bold American leadership. Fruitful diplomacy will require U.S. engagement with a Palestinian unity government committed to peace with the state of Israel. We commend your important statements pressing both Israel and the Palestinians to live up to their obligations, and we urge your Administration to continue to bolster Palestinian capacity to halt violence and continue to demonstrate firm dedication to a viable Palestinian state by exhibiting no tolerance for Israeli settlement activity. While working to end rocket attacks against the people of southern Israel, the U.S. should also seek immediate relief for the population of Gaza – living in rubble and without basic necessities – by ending restrictions on humanitarian goods and opening the borders to reconstruction material, commerce and transit in a secure manner.

We welcome your call for people on both sides to recognize the pain and aspirations of the other. Because of this conflict many have lost the ability to see the other as human beings worthy of dignity and respect. An entire generation of Israelis and Palestinians has grown up amidst violence and hatred. We pledge to join with you to work with and support those in both societies who seek peace, justice and security, standing beside those who hope for a better future for themselves and for the generations that follow.

The current political stalemate and declining situation on the ground demonstrate that Israelis and Palestinians cannot reach a negotiated agreement without a strong, helping hand. We urge your Administration to present proposals that go beyond the mere principle of two states and lay out a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples.

Moreover, we appreciate your strong support for a comprehensive peace and we look forward to diplomatic efforts to build upon the historic Arab Peace Initiative, with its offer of recognition and normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for an end to the occupation.

There is no greater work than the Psalmist's call to "seek peace and pursue it" and no more critical time than now to finally end the conflict in the Holy Land (Ps. 34:14). We stand ready to support your bold action and are rallying Christians nationwide around robust U.S. peacemaking efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. Our prayers and mutual commitment are with you in this difficult and most important task.


The Rev. Dr. Jimmy R. Allen
New Baptist Covenant

The Most Rev. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)

David Black
Eastern University

Bishop Wayne Burkette
Moravian Church in America, Southern Province

Tony Campolo
Eastern University, St. Davids, PA

Sr. J. Lora Dambroski, OSF
President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Marie Dennis
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Dr. Joy Fenner
Former President
Baptist General Convention of Texas

Leighton Ford
Leighton Ford Ministries

Israel L. Gaither
National Commander
The Salvation Army

The Rev. Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley
Executive Secretary-Treasurer
Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention

The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
President, Lutheran World Federation

Dennis Hollinger
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Most Rev. Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany
Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor, Northland Church
Member, Executive Committee of the National Association of Evangelicals

Bill Hybels
Senior Pastor
Willow Creek Community Church

Lynne Hybels
Advocate for Global Engagement
Willow Creek Community Church

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

The Reverend A. Wayne Johnson
General Secretary
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America

Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim
Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch for the Eastern USA

Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF
Franciscan Action Network

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches

The Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Executive Director
International Council of Community Churches
Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches

The Reverend Willie Maynard
Treasurer, National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Pastor, St. Paul Baptist Church, LA

His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

The Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO
Church World Service

Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

The Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches

Richard J. Mouw
Fuller Theological Seminary

David Neff
Editor in Chief
Christianity Today

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer, President
The Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

The Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The Very Rev. Thomas Picton, CSsR
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Reverend Tyrone Pitts
General Secretary
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Most Rev. John H. Ricard, SSJ
Catholic Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee

Bob Roberts, Jr.
NorthWood Church, Keller, TX

Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba)
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Rolando Santiago
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Dr. Chris Seiple
Institute for Global Engagement

Robert Seiple
Former Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom

The Reverend William J. Shaw
President, National Baptist Convention, Inc
Pastor, White Rock Baptist Church, PA

Ron Sider
Evangelicals for Social Action

Reverend T. DeWitt Smith
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Richard Stearns
World Vision

The Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Jim Wallis

The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski
Catholic Bishop of Orlando

The Right Rev. John F. White
Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer
African Methodist Episcopal Church

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Bishop Gabino Zavala
Bishop President
Pax Christi USA: National Catholic Peace Movement


Rabbi Michael Lerner, Chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, urges ...

Stand with President Obama on Israel and Iran


If you're one of President Obama's supporters on the Middle East, Congress needs to hear from you right now.

Send an email to your representatives in Congress that you support President Obama's policy in the Middle East - both on the Arab-Israeli conflict and on Iran.

Some in Congress may consider opposing the President under the false impression that that's what Jewish Americans and other friends of Israel want.

They're wrong.

In fact, over 70% of Jewish Americans support President Obama's handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East. We would prefer if Obama went further--and clearly articulated a U.S. vision of what a just and fair peace agreement would look like. We are concerned that he may be dragged into giving US approval to a "peace process" that is little more than endless negotiations, while Netanyahu and Lieberman expand the settlements on the West Bank. So we want Obama to move beyond his current plans. He certainly won't do that if he faces a Congress that tells him that the US can't even engage in negotiations with the Palestinian unity government! More >>

Here's what's happening with the President's agenda in Congress right now:

On Iran, the President is promoting tough, direct diplomacy to address concerns over their nuclear program, support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and threats against Israel. The President has made clear that the diplomatic road ahead will be tough - but the chances of success won't be helped by Congress imposing tight timelines or a new round of sanctions at this moment.

Yet, just this week, the Orwellian-named "Iran Diplomacy Enhancement Act" was introduced in the House – a bill that in reality does nothing to "enhance diplomacy" but instead imposes further sanctions on Iran, directly undercutting the President's diplomatic message.

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the President is moving clearly to promote a two-state solution – including support for Palestinian institution-building and for urgent humanitarian needs – all part of the proposal first made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to provide $900 million in aid to the Palestinians. It's not nearly enough, but it's a start.

Not only will this assistance help alleviate human suffering in Gaza, rebuild its infrastructure, and revive its stalled economy, but it is also structured in a way that could enable the U.S. to work with a Palestinian unity government that meets relevant criteria, an important building block for advancing Israeli-Arab peace.

The opposition is going to be intense. Just last week, for instance, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) attacked the President's request as allowing support for Palestinian "Nazis."

Yet, according to recent polls, 69% of Israelis and American Jews would support dealing with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.

We oppose and condemn Hamas' use of terror and violence to achieve political ends. We also condemn the terror and violence used by Israel against the Palestinian people in order to enforce the Occupation of the West Bank and the open-air prison that is called Gaza.

Along with the majority of American Jews and Israelis, we also recognize that resolving this conflict may require bringing those who have used violence into a political process, one aim of which is to end their armed resistance. So, yes the Palestinians will have to sit with violence-mongers Netanyahu and Lieberman and Israelis will have to sit with violence-mongers from Hamas. But that's how you make peace – by sitting with your enemies, no matter how little you approve of their tactics.

This strategy has been met with some success in Lebanon, where America works with a government that now includes Hezbollah, in Iraq where we work with the Sunni Awakening, and of course in Northern Ireland.

President Obama intends to reverse years of diplomatic neglect in the Middle East, aiming for nothing less than historic progress to finally resolve historic conflicts.

But President Obama needs our political support to put his agenda into action. That's why - on both issues – we're asking you to step to the plate now to support President Obama's vision for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Our success will depend on our ability to generate thousands of messages to Congress in a matter of hours – so, after you've taken action, make sure to forward this message to your friends and family that might be interested.

Thanks so much. If you don't know your Congressperson's name, or how to contact her/him, go to and you can get the name of your Congressperson and a form that will allow you to send a note directly to his or her office.

Sometimes, just a little gesture like this can make an important difference.

Warm regards and blessings,

Rabbi Michael Lerner, Chair, The Network of Spiritual Progressives

From the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP):

Announcing the 2009 Churches for Middle East Peace Conference

Israeli-Palestinian Peace: Hope for Things Unseen
June 7-9, 2009

Please join us in Washington, D.C. on June 7-9, 2009 at the Kellogg Conference Center and Hotel at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

You will be informed and inspired by speakers including Danny Seidemann, Michael Kinnamon, Trita Parsi, Daniel Levy, and Amjad Attalah. You'll be empowered by learning how to be an effective advocate for peace in the Holy Land. And, you'll have an opportunity to impact policy directly on Capitol Hill by educating your elected officials about the need for a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You will make a difference.

The recent Gaza crisis demonstrates the urgent need for U.S. engagement to bring about a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The 111th Congress and the Obama Administration provide a new opportunity to help Israelis and Palestinians stop the tragic cycles of spiraling violence and diplomatic stalemate and move forward on a path toward peace. Your elected officials need to hear from American Christians who care about the two peoples of the Holy Land and expect robust U.S. diplomatic action in 2009.

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend this year's Advocacy Conference.

For Conference Details Check:
Online conference registration will be opening soon.
For questions contact CMEP at

Membership named for GA special committee on Israel Palestine

The membership of a General Assembly special committee on Israel-Palestine has been released, bringing the total of special committees named by the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to three this week.

Reyes-Chow has also named his appointees to the Assembly’s Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Unions and Christian Marriage, and one to study problems in the translation of the Heidelberg Catechism as they impact the question of ordination of lgbt persons.

All three special committees were formed out of actions of the 218th General Assembly (2008), which met last summer in San Jose, Calif.

From the leadership of the PC(USA):

Prayer for Peace in Gaza

Even as we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we are anguished by stories of violence and conflict once again in Gaza []. Citizens and soldiers, young people and old are wounded and killed. We see how violence begets violence, as an eye for an eye leads not to peace, but to deeper blindness. We pray fervently for peace, for a New Year marked by a willingness and commitment to put violence aside and a desire and dedication to seek new relationships of peace. We pray that governments and leaders here and there and around the world will use whatever influence they may have as peacemakers, and that we, too will have courage and faith to pray without ceasing and to be agents of justice and peace for all.

Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk
Linda Valentine, Executive Director, General Assembly Council
More on the Israeli attacks against Gaza

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program offers suggestions for action, and sources of information.

A few critical looks at Israel’s attack on Gaza – mostly through Jewish eyes

bullet Palestinian doctor refutes several of Israel’s justifications for its attacks on Gaza
bullet Phyllis Bennis, of the Institute for Policy Studies, analyzes Israel's actions under these main points:

The Israeli airstrikes represent serious violations of international law С including the Geneva Conventions and a range of international humanitarian law.

The U.S. is complicit in the Israeli violations С directly and indirectly.

The timing of the air strikes has far more to do with U.S. and Israeli politics than with protecting Israeli civilians.

This serious escalation will push back any chance of serious negotiations between the parties that might have been part of the Obama administration's plans.

There is much work to be done.

bulletOther good sources of information include Jewish Peace News offers a vast amount of information (such as the pieces above) from many different sources, and Jewish Voice for Peace, which reflects the U.S.-based Jewish peace-activist orientation of the group.

A Hundred Eyes for an Eye

Writing for Truthout, Norman Solomon says:

Even if you set aside the magnitude of Israel's violations of the Geneva conventions and the long terrible history of its methodical collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, consider the vastly disproportionate carnage in the conflict. 'An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,' Gandhi said. What about a hundred eyes for an eye?

The rest of the article >>


A different point of view:

It's Overtime for Hamas' Leaders and Time for Them to Go

Former Ambassador Marc Ginsberg argues that "the only way out of this mess is to separate Hamas' entire military and political leadership from the oppressed citizenry of Gaza (and yes, it is absolutely a mischaracterization of fact to assert that Hamas is the legitimate ruler of Gaza)."   More >>

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

The 2008 Christmas message from the Washington Office includes:

bullet Send Christmas Prayers for Peace to Bethlehem
bullet Join the Call for Holy Land Peace
From the Israel/Palestine Mission Network

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network invites us to join in their letter to President-elect Obama before his inauguration – supporting “Israel's right to exist and right to live in safety and security, [as well as] peace and justice in Palestine.”

Here is the text of their email note seeking signers for the letter >>

Click here for the full text of their letter to Obama >>


I am writing you as the Advocacy Chairperson for the PC(USA) Israel/Palestine Mission Network. This is a network of hundreds of Presbyterians from around the nation who advocate for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. Even as we support Israel's right to exist and right to live in safety and security, so we also firmly believe that this is directly tied to peace and justice in Palestine. Our network was created by the mandate of the General Assembly in 2004, and yet because we are a network we are independent from the Office of the General Assembly. This gives us the freedom, as we have, to sometimes speak prophetically even to our leaders in Louisville.

On behalf of the network, my committee has created the attached letter which will be sent to President-elect Obama prior to his inauguration. We have been given numerous routes, both front door and back door, by which we can get just such a letter to him and will be pursuing that.

What we are doing now is sending the letter throughout the denomination by every means available to offer Presbyterians the opportunity to put their signature on this letter. I am sending this to you because: 1) you may have an interest in signing it yourself; and, 2) if you do, you also have extensive contacts in this presbytery and beyond and may want to distribute this letter to them and ask those people to sign on as well.

The sign-up procedure is very simple – send an e-mail to with the following information: NAME, POSITION OR TITLE IN THE CHURCH (minister, elder, deacon, educator, youth worker, etc.), CHURCH NAME, TOWN/STATE/ZIP, PRESBYTERY, PREFERRED E-MAIL ADDRESS (you need not respond back to me).

The deadline for signing on is January 4th.

I do want to make it clear that this request comes in my capacity as the chairperson of the IPMN Advocacy Committee and is nothing more than an inquiry concerning your possible interest in being part of this effort. Aside from that, I encourage you to exercise your good Presbyterian conscience as to whether or not you feel it appropriate to sign on. 

Thank you,

Jeffrey DeYoe, Senior Pastor
Worthington Presbyterian Church
773 High Street
Worthington, Ohio 43085

Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley passes overture to endorse “Amman Call” for Arab-Israeli peace.

For the full text of the overture including the World Council of Churches’ statement, the “Amman Call” >> 

New resource on Israel/Palestine     [1-17-08]

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has a new website, offering current news, resources, resources for advocacy, and much more.

Thanks to Witherspoon member Heidi Saikaly

Jewish Voice for Peace defends the right to speak out

On October 27th, JVP-Boston joined forces with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Massachusetts in a solidarity rally with the Sabeel Conference taking place in that city.

Sabeel is an international peace movement initiated by Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land who seek a just peace based on two states -- Palestine and Israel -- as defined by international law and existing United Nations resolutions. Their conference had come under attack by the local Jewish Community Relations Council, CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America -- a group "devoted to monitoring and challenging perceived anti-Israeli news coverage"), and the David Project.

The main speaker at the conference was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He thanked Jewish Voice for Peace and the many Jews who are following their conscience and speaking against the Israeli occupation:

Thanks be to God for the many, many Jews who know what their divine calling is and who want the Israeli Government to live it out. We believe in a two state solution - of two sovereign, viable states each with contiguous borders guaranteed as secure by the international community. We condemn acts of terrorism by whoever they are committed. The suicide bomber has to be condemned for targeting innocent civilians. But equally must the Israelis be condemned for their acts of indiscriminate reprisal. [...]

The world needs the Jews, Jews who are faithful to their vocation that has meant so much for the world's morality, of its sense of what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, what is just and unjust, what is oppressive and what sets people free. Jews are indispensable for a good compassionate, just and caring world.

And so are Palestinians.

JVP was quick to defend the right of Sabeel, Archbishop Tutu, and others to express their views against the Israeli occupation. "Attacking and demonizing someone like Archbishop Tutu by calling him an Anti-Semite because he criticizes Israeli human rights abuses doesn't change the fact that the occupation is wrong," stated Martin Federman, co-chair of the Boston chapter of JVP. "Whatever name you give to it, it's immoral, it's illegal and the world knows it."

More >>       And here's our earlier report on Tutu's speech >>

You are invited to participate as a Congressional "Accompanier"

Congressional Accompaniment Project Tour
March 14 – March 24, 2008


• Travel for 10 days with your Congress member or his/her Foreign Policy Aide to Israel & the Palestine Occupied Territories.
• Visit both sacred sites and sites of controversy: i.e. the "Wall," military check points; homes demolished, refugee camps, "settler" colonies.
• Interview government officials, university faculty & students, religious & human rights leaders, legal and research experts, Israeli "Settlers" and Palestinian Refugees.
• Stay in a Jerusalem first class hotel, tour the Old City of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerico, Ramallah and more. Experience "Holy Week" celebrations in the "Holy City"
• Tour led by Sabeel’s Ecumenical Center in Jerusalem multi-lingual staff.
• Nine nights and eight full days on the ground in Israel & Palestine for about $1,200.
• Fly group rate round trip from Chicago to Tel Aviv. Approximate flight cost: $1,200. Flights from other cities can be arranged by CAP travel agent.

Contact CAP Tour: 319 354-7877 or now.

CAP is co-sponsored by: the Peacemaking Task Force, East Iowa Presbytery; S.E. Iowa Lutheran Synod ELCA; Iowa Friends of Sabeel; FOSNA; People for Justice in Palestine; the Resource Ct. for Non-Violence, Santa Cruz CA; and the Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Ct. Jerusalem.

Purpose and Goals

The purpose of the Congressional Accompaniment Project tour is to give members of the United States Congress, either directly or through their Foreign Policy Aides, constituents and media representatives, an opportunity to become more fully informed about the conditions and opinions of the people in Israel and Palestine. Participants will be able to see for themselves the "facts on the ground" and thus be better prepared to speak and act knowledgeably about U.S. foreign policy.

We believe that intelligent, informed and balanced decisions by the U S. Congress will contribute greatly toward a just and lasting peace in the area and security and genuine freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians, and thereby, the people of all nations.

As your Congressional Representative or Aide "Accompanier," you can expect to learn - by talking with many people of both sides and seeing the intentions of each displayed on the ground - what the goals of the people in the area are and what efforts and attitudes adopted by members of the U.S. Congress might facilitate the achievement of a just and lasting peace.

Israel, Jews, and Judaism

Arch B. Taylor, Jr., writing as a sympathetic Gentile, offers personal observations concerning the complex relations among these three entities in light of current events and biblical instruction, expressing sincere hope for a peaceful settlement of the ongoing conflict between the modern state of Israel and its Middle East neighbors.

Arch Taylor is an ordained Presbyterian minister who served for over thirty years in Japan and taught Bible at Shikoku Gakuin University. After retirement he went on short delegations twice to Nicaragua with Witness for Peace and Habitat for Humanity, and once to Israel/Palestine with Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Christian Peacemaker Teams. He is a member of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Society of Biblical Literature, and author of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, & Beyond: Subversion of Values.

His essay is published here in PDF format.  You can also ask him to send you the file in MS Word format; just send a note to him at  To request a copy on paper, he asks that you send him $2 to:  

Arch B. Taylor, Jr.
2200 Greentree North #1120
Clarksville IN 47129

Desmond Tutu urges Jews to challenge oppression of Palestinians    [10-29-07]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, spoke in Boston on October 27, appealing to Jews to challenge what he described as the Israeli government's oppression of Palestinians.

In a lengthy and emotional address to a packed Old South Church, where the faint din of pro-Israel protesters could be heard through the stone walls, Tutu cited passages from the Hebrew Bible to argue that the God worshiped by Jews would champion the cause of Palestinians.

"Remembering what happened to you in Egypt and much more recently in Germany - remember, and act appropriately," he said, alluding to the enslavement of Jews in Egypt described in the book of Exodus, as well as to the Nazi Holocaust. "If you reject your calling, you may survive for a long time, but you will find it is all corrosive inside, and one day you will implode."

His remarks, to a congregation of about 850, created controversy even before they were delivered. A wide array of Jewish community leaders and organizations denounced Sabeel, the Palestinian Christian organization that put together the conference at which Tutu spoke, as anti-Israel, and rued Tutu's support of the group.

bullet The Boston Globe report on Tutu’s speech and the protests >>
bullet The full text of Tutu’s speech >>

An op-ed column by Bishop Tutu, published in the Globe the day before his speech, expressed his hope for Israel/Palestine. He acknowledged there is little reason for "optimism" in today’s realities, but his hope is grounded in the deeper reality of God’s intention for humanity:

God has a dream for all his children. It is about a day when all people enjoy fundamental security and live free of fear. It is about a day when all people have a hospitable land in which to establish a future. More than anything else, God's dream is about a day when all people are accorded equal dignity because they are human beings. In God's beautiful dream, no other reason is required.

God's dream begins when we begin to know each other differently, as bearers of a common humanity, not as statistics to be counted, problems to be solved, enemies to be vanquished or animals to be caged. God's dream begins the moment one adversary looks another in the eye and sees himself reflected there.

The full essay >>

Shannon O'Donnell, a Presbyterian Volunteer in Mission now serving with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, took part in the opening panel discussion of the Witherspoon Conference on Global Mission and Justice, Sept. 16-19, 2007.  Click here to see her comments.
Participants in Sabeel Palestine conference report on their encounters with the Israeli occupation, and pledge to advocate for change in their own nations.    [7-28-07]

Over forty young adults of nine nationalities have spent 11 days learning about and experiencing the situation of occupied Palestine. They have issued a joint statement reporting on their experiences, their learnings, and their commitments to work for change.   Their report >>

Happy Fourth of July! And consider this: just maybe ...

It's Time for a Declaration of Independence From Israel     [7-3-07]

Chris Hedges, the former New York Times Mideast bureau chief, warns that America’s foreign policy, particularly under the Bush administration, has been subverted by an aggressive and dangerous Israeli agenda that could launch a nightmarish regional war.

Hedges, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School, is the author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."

Read this on >>     
... or on CommonDreams >>

Praying for Gaza

a note from Shannon O’Donnell, PC(USA) volunteer in mission in Jerusalem    [6-26-07]

Hi Church,

Hope all is well across the globe where you are, and that everyone is having a good summer so far.

You may be aware of the current situation in Gaza. I ask that you would hold these people in your prayers. Personally, I find it helpful to have a specific focus when I pray for something, so below is an article I included for Sabeel's quarterly magazine publication about a hospital in Gaza that we have close connections to. It says so much about the heart and mind of the people of Gaza, that (in my opinion) the news networks fail to portray ...

A Parish Called Gaza
by Metin Mitchell

Gaza is a narrow piece of land along the Mediterranean coast between Israel and Egypt. Just 40 km long and 10 km wide, it is home to more than 1.4 million Palestinians. Land side, the Israeli government has built a "wall" around Gaza. This "wall" is one of the most sophisticated ever built. It is a construction of concrete blocks, barbed wire, electronic fences, and pillboxes with remote controlled 50-caliber machine guns.

Gaza has three main population centers: Gaza City, Khan Younis and Rafah. These are some of the most densely populated agglomerations in the world. The majority of the populations are refugees who fled or who were expelled from their homes in what was Palestine but became, in 1948, the State of Israel.

There are two ways in and out of the Gaza strip: Rafah crossing which leads through Egypt; Erez crossing which leads through to Israel. Imports are not permitted through Rafah. Exports are only permitted through Erez, however this is often closed. Any form of viable economic activity based on trade with the outside world is impossible.

Official unemployment is currently at 40 percent. The unemployment, the economic embargo and the indiscriminate air strikes by Israel's air force have led to an untold story. These are the facts. If you stack up these facts of misery they are just another tally of human injustice, poverty, and misery in a far away place. And you could quite easily walk away from them.

Having been there I can tell you that in amongst all the misery that is Gaza there is much that is beautiful. There is hope, courage, defiance, and surprisingly, forgiveness. I have witnessed the Gospel there on the front line of poverty and misery. I have witnessed solidarity between Muslims and Christians. I have seen with my own eyes, in the midst of anger and fear, what a better world can look like.

I could tell you about the bleakness of Gaza. I could tell you of that drive into Gaza city with its bombed out roads and buildings. I could tell you about the scores of young men hanging around with nothing to do. I could tell you about the young men with guns looking for something to do. I could tell you about the donkeys and carts, about the hammering in the small workshops where men are desperately trying to recycle poverty.

But let me tell you instead about a single hospital there, the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital.

Amongst the narrow scarred streets there is a small oasis of whitewash and green grass. It too carries its scars. The chapel of the hospital has been bombed by an Israeli Apache helicopter but this is dismissed in a good humored way by the hospital director. The wards are spartan. The equipment is old and inadequate. The surgery is dilapidated. The corridor acts as the overflow when the bombing gets really too bad and the casualties too many.

The hospital is open to all, irrespective of their faith. It treats the poor without charge, it treats those hurt in the crossfire of war, and it treats fighters injured in battle, be they Israeli or Palestinian. The hospital is there to heal the sick and suffering – period.

But direct casualties of war are not the only victims in Gaza. War and its filth brings a hidden killer. And this is cancer. The increase in cancer has been dramatic. It is the women who are hardest hit by cancer, particularly breast cancer. The hospital is doing what it can but it desperately needs a mammogram machine so that it can do better detection sooner and thus have a better chance of saving lives.

I was introduced to one of the hospital's cancer outpatients. She lives near the hospital with her family. They live in a graveyard. Her children are full of life. They have the biggest smiles and the most mischievous grins I have ever seen. They jump from one gravestone to another. These make good hiding places since many of the tombs are open, having been bombed at some point in time or another. Their home is a hut in the middle of the graves. The hut has no drainage for sewage.

You don't need to be a doctor to see that the children are malnourished and sickly. But you do need to have a heart of steel not to be moved by the sight of them fighting amongst themselves for a single piece of meat they have found on the floor. The woman's eldest daughters make flat bread in a home made clay oven. They shared with me some of their bread. And in doing so gave me a meal far more generous than the richest of my friends has ever given me.

This woman is just one of the hospital's patients. She is dying. But she is undefeated, she is loud and alive. And with her amongst this rubble and poverty, Palestine lives, bloody, torn, and divided, but it lives on like an eternal flame beyond the power of a foreign army to snuff it out. This is Gaza. This is the 'parish' in which the hospital operates.

But if this hospital works it is because the staff, Muslims and Christians, work unstintingly to take care of those around them. The Chief Surgeon is a Muslim and the Director of the hospital is a Christian, but none of that matters. In that hospital I saw the message of our Christian faith, the compassion and love for people, not segregated, blind to difference. I saw the message of our faith, raw and without hindrance of theology or denomination. I saw the world that I would like for my children to see. A world blind to religious difference, where people stand in dignity shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors, accepting what makes the other special and unique. A world where people give of themselves without counting the cost.

They need help. Specifically, I would ask you to pray for them and if ever you are at a loss for words to say let me share with you their prayer: "Pray not for Arab or Jew, for Palestinian or Israeli; pray rather for ourselves, that we might not divide them in our prayers, but keep them both together in our hearts."

Metin Mitchell is an Anglican who is from the UK, and leads a professional services firm in the Middle East.

Jewish Voice for Peace
toward understanding Gaza


The situation in Gaza is dire, and also confusing for many. JVP has assembled this newsletter to help clear some of the fog surrounding current events. Click here for an abridged version of a longer article by JVP's Director of Education and Policy, Mitchell Plitnick, offering an analysis of the events in Gaza.

Click here for the full version of this article

Gaza: Can Disaster Be Avoided?

Mitchell Plitnick

Back in 2005, Jewish Voice for Peace took to the streets in San Francisco to protest the just-commencing Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Of course, JVP was never opposed to Israel withdrawing its soldiers and checkpoints and abandoning its settlements in Gaza. But doing the right thing in the wrong way can be just as bad, in some ways perhaps worse, than doing the wrong thing, and this was what we saw happening with the Gaza withdrawal. Sadly, this prediction has come true, now leaving the Palestinians split between two governing bodies, leaving Gaza in ruin and chaos and leaving Israel with an increasingly hostile and dangerous territory on its western border. The first thing one sees when looking at the current split among the Palestinians is that the situation is not one that can last. It's eminently clear that the forces arrayed against Hamas – the US, Israel, Fatah, the moderate Arab states, the EU – are not going to be content with the status quo. Fatah in particular will not just sit idly by and let some 1.5 million Palestinians be governed by someone else. They will have considerable support from outside in pressing Hamas, politically, economically and militarily. For its part, Hamas has already shown they can and will act aggressively in pursuing their own position atop Palestinian society.

Right now, reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas does not seem realistic and there is no third option in the Palestinian polity. This would seem to indicate that, at least for the time being, these two groups will continue to work against one another and that the opportunity to engage the broad spectrum of the Palestinian people by dealing with a broad-based government with Abbas at its head is lost. Still, even though the leaders of Fatah and Hamas have done little more than pay lip service to the value of national unity among the Palestinians, this value remains strong among the Palestinian populace. That might pressure change and force the two groups together at some point. But such a possibility is not on the radar right now.
On the other hand, the view that seems to be dominating both Washington and Jerusalem right now is quite distorted. It seems that the US and Israel believe that they can crush Hamas for good by strengthening Abbas with a peace summit and encouraging aggressive actions against Hamas in the West Bank. The latter is a foolish strategy, and one that has repeatedly bolstered Hamas, rather than weakened it. Indeed, virtually every attempt by Israel, the US and much of the rest of the world to harm Hamas has helped them over the years, and if foreign hands are seen too clearly in Fatah's attacks on Hamas, support for Fatah, even from within, will quickly wither.

Many analysts, including this one, have been urging for some time that Hamas must be dealt with, not shunned. By engaging Hamas and forcing them into politics rather than ideological grandstanding, they will be forced to confront the ineffectiveness of their more extreme positions, which is precisely what happened after the election. This is why they were forced to allow Abbas to represent the Palestinian government in the Arab League vote on their peace proposal, and to allow him to keep his leading position in any negotiations and contacts with Israel.

That Abbas will not come back to Ramallah bearing an acceptable final status resolution is inevitable. The only way he can do that is to offer at least the hope that Israel can be convinced to return to something close to the 1967 borders, to share Jerusalem and to agree to acknowledge the refugees' right of return, allow a token number back to Israel and compensate the rest. Abbas need not actually deliver all of that. But the whole idea of bolstering Abbas with a summit rests on the presumption that a sufficient number of Palestinians can be convinced that Abbas, freed of the burden of Hamas, can deliver the minimal Palestinian demands some time in the near future. Abbas will need to show some concrete indication that he can pull this off, and he will have to do so with a very skeptical audience. The Olmert government is far too weak to even signal the possibility of such concessions, much less actually make them.

It is far from certain that Fatah would win an all-out battle for the West Bank. But it is very likely that Israel would be drawn into a conflict there, either to defend Fatah or because some Palestinians decide to bring them in with an attack on Israelis. The resulting violence would expand very quickly, and would not only quickly bring back, and possibly surpass, the worst days of the last intifada, but is likely to spark off conflicts in other areas of the Middle East. There is very little good that can come of Fatah's aggressive actions against Hamas in the West Bank, and the potential for a great deal of harm.

And there are new concerns, ones which Israel had better take very seriously. For quite some time now, we have heard from Mahmoud Abbas as well as from Hamas leaders of attempts by al-Qaeda and similar groups to gain a foothold within the Palestinian Territories. Thus far, these have been rebuffed, and nothing in the current developments will make either Fatah or Hamas more receptive to such groups. But the general chaos in Gaza may well make it much more difficult for the Palestinians to keep these groups out, and if Hamas is proven to be a failure, the radical elements in Palestinian society are going to turn not to more moderate elements, but to still more radical ones, giving these groups a foothold. This would be exceedingly dangerous for Israelis. Whatever one thinks of Hamas or Fatah, they are not the same at all as al-Qaeda, simplistic Western propaganda notwithstanding. The last thing any Israeli civilian wants is to see al-Qaeda operating on their doorstep.

The simple fact is that there can never be any progress between Israel and the Palestinians if a big chunk of the Palestinian community, the Islamists, are excluded from the process. Not only will many other Palestinians support their right to be heard, but groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad can easily derail any peace process with attacks on Israelis, as they have so often done in the past. They need to be engaged so they will have incentive to refrain from such actions. The alternative is not just failure, it is a brand of radicalism that will be much worse.

Any crisis contains in it the seeds of progress. These opportunities have been routinely missed by all parties. This one has the potential for serious consequences throughout the region, as well as the potential to make any kind of peace unrealistic for years to come. That must not be allowed to happen. Israel, the US, the PA, Hamas, the UN, the Arab League, indeed, the entire world has got to allow good judgment and cooler heads to prevail in this matter. If everyone continues to only pursue their own political ends, disaster is sure to follow. But history has witnessed occasions where people with understanding of prevailing conditions and dynamics and sufficient diplomatic skill overcome politics to bring about significant progress, and it is not unusual for such things to happen just at the brink of disaster. Let's hope that is the course that is chosen. In fact, let's demand it.


Church World Service responds to the Gaza crisis     [6-23-07]

Situation report from CWS, June 18, 2007

Amid tentative signs that the situation in Gaza Strip was emerging from a crisis situation after a week of violence and uncertainty, the European Union said it plans to restore humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Palestinian Authority. That follows the Fatah-allied government's move to cut off ties with the radical faction Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip.

Runs on markets in Gaza in the wake of fears of food shortages had subsided with assurances from Israel that some humanitarian assistance would go into Gaza, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported today.

Still, as Action by Churches Together (ACT) International reported, the coming days and weeks could see a deepening instability in economic and social conditions, translating into thousands of families having no access to food, cash, medical care and other needed essentials, particularly as the new school year approaches.

Last week's fighting left more than 100 dead and hundreds more wounded, with extensive damage done to an already weak infrastructure. Hospitals became battlegrounds and medical staff members were unable to report to work.

See the full report, including actions being taken, on the CWS website >>

An urgent notice from Churches for Middle East Peace

Jerusalem Church Leaders Urge End to Gaza Violence, Work for Peace

June 15, 2007     [posted here 6-15-07]

The violence and chaos in Gaza is cause for alarm and dismay for all those who yearn for peace in the Holy Land. The current crisis is bringing untold hardship to ordinary Gazans, threatens to spill over into the West Bank and Israel and jeopardizes progress toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The present situation underscores the urgent need for a political process that can restore hope for peace to Palestinians and Israelis.

Below is a statement from the heads of churches in Jerusalem calling for an end to the fighting between Fatah and Hamas and urging all sides to work for peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Lutheran Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, in a separate statement, emphasized the need for urgent work on the peace process, "If you want to bring an end to the horrific violence in the Middle East and if you are concerned as I am by the rampant growth of religious extremism: please, I urge you from Jerusalem, get serious about implementing the two-state solution…"


An urgent call from The Heads of Churches to the members of Fateh and Hamas

June 14th, 2007

On the recent 40th Anniversary of the Occupation we urged all sides to work for peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. How painful and awful then that now we have to say stop all domestic fighting.

The fighting has struck at the most vulnerable timing thus diverting International attention away from the National issue with its priorities and so disappointing the Palestinian people's hope of attaining independence together with freedom from Occupation with its related aspects.

This domestic fighting where the brother draws his weapon in the face of his brother is detrimental to all the aspirations of achieving security and stability for the Palestinian People.

In the name of the One and only God as well as in the name of each devastated Palestinian many of whom are still dying, we urge our brothers in Fateh and Hamas movements to listen to the voice of reason, truth and wisdom. So we implore that you immediately announce the cessation of all bloody fighting and to return back to the path of dialogue and attempt through understanding to solve all differences. In this urgent appeal we would draw attention to that which both parties have in common assuring them that it is greater that their differences. The national and land cause must be greater than any other consideration.

In this belief we urgently ask both movements to listen and put aside all weapons so concentrating on ending the Occupation in a peaceful manner based on National fundamentals and International legitimacy in order to achieve freedom for all the people together with an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its Capital.


Outspoken political scientist Norman Finkelstein denied tenure at DePaul

Norman Finkelstein, the political scientist whose bid for a permanent position at DePaul University stirred up charges of anti-Semitism, personal vendettas and outside interference in the hiring process, was informed Friday [June 8, 2007] that he had been denied tenure by the university.

The full report in the New York Times >>

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday >>

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that DePaul University’s president, the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, affirmed the decision against granting tenure, adding that the intense outside interest in the case "was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case."

A Roman Catholic priest was quoted to your WebWeaver, by a friend, as saying:

Anyone who denies the long arm of the powerful Israeli lobby in America need only to note today that distinguished Professor Norman Finkelstein of De Paul University was denied tenure. Without any doubt this was due to his outspoken criticism of Israeli policies. This was a great triumph for leading Zionist scoundrel Alan Dershowitz and his crusade to have Finkelstein denied tenure. Finkelstein's great sin has been his defense of the Palestinian people and his criticism of Israeli policies toward them. Because Finkelstein's family were Holocaust survivors and his Jewish credentials impeccable his courageous stance for justice was intolerable for the likes of Dershowitz and the Israeli lobby.

The greater shame is that of the Catholic university of De Paul for knuckling in to the pressures from the Zionist lobby. I have attended Finkelstein's brilliant lectures and treasure his autographed book.

This is a disgrace and a violation of academic freedom. The excuse given for tenure denial is limp and contrived. Shame on De Paul.

Click here to read Dr. Finkelstein's letter to Commissioners to the 217th General Assembly, discussing the issue of Israel and divestment as they prepared for the Assembly.

For background on the attacks on Finkelstein because of his criticism of Israel >>


June 10 Rally in Washington, DC:

Calling for an End to Israel's 40-Year Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem

The Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace (WIAMEP) and Friends of Sabeel North America invite everyone to meet at 1 p.m. in front of the National Gallery of Art, East Building, on 4th St. just south of Pennsylvania Ave. We'll go together to the West Lawn of the Capital for the 2 p.m. rally. For a complete list of events for June 10-11 and a list of rally speakers, see


Sabeel’s 2nd International Young Adult Conference to be held this summer


Sabeel is proud to announce its second International Young Adult Conference to be held July 19-29, 2007 under the theme 40 Years in the Wilderness: 40 Years of Occupation. Sabeel’s vision for this conference is to gather, network, and further educate young leaders from Palestine and around the world during this 40th year of the Occupation, so that they may be trained, commissioned, and equipped with the tools to act in advocacy to end the Occupation.

During this conference, young adults (ages 18-35) will travel together through Jerusalem and the West Bank to learn more about current realities in Palestine, visit biblical sites, and become trained in international advocacy for Peace with Justice in the Holy Land. The conference will include visits to Palestinian towns and villages, events celebrating Palestinian culture, worship, biblical reflections and volunteer experience. There will also be an emphasis on advocacy workshops and opportunities to share experiences and ideas with Palestinian and International young adults from around the world.

The registration and program fee for the conference is $700. This includes all of participants’ land costs—food, accommodations, ground transportation, speakers and activities—but it does not include airfare. For those interested in traveling in the Galilee there will be an option for a two-night tour for an additional $150 after the conference.

Application forms, scholarship application forms, and additional information are available at The registration deadline is June 15th. Please feel free to contact the young adult conference coordinators at

ABOUT SABEEL: Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, promote unity, justice and love. Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns. It encourages individuals and groups worldwide to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action.

More >>

Norman Finkelstein under attack by pro-Israel campaigners as he is considered for tenure at DePaul University 

Over the years, Norman Finkelstein has spoken out as a Jew, criticizing the State of Israel for its suppression of Palestinian freedom and dignity. He testified at the 2006 General Assembly as the issue of divestment and criticism of Israeli oppression of the Palestinian territories were hotly debated.

A friend writes that "Norman Finkelstein has long been the target of a sustained campaign from the Israel Lobby to discredit him as a person and a scholar, thereby undermining his critiques of the State of Israel and the occupation. The latest effort includes trying to prevent him from getting tenure at DePaul University, a Roman Catholic institution where he has taught for the past six years. He is down to the last phase of this process, having been approved by the faculty committee; the dean will be making a decision by May." Read the Chronicle of Higher Education account of this struggle >>

You’ll find much more information on Finkelstein’s own website, and also in a lengthy letter written by the Middle Eastern Studies Association to the President of DePaul University in his defense – and in defense of academic freedom.

World Council of Churches launches new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative   [3-13-07]

The World Council of Churches (WCC) says it is will launch in June an international, ecumenical peace initiative for peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories. An initial meeting will occur June 17-21 in Jordan.

"The initiative is a major step toward the WCC’s goal of mobilizing churches around the world for peace with justice in the Middle East," the WCC said in a March 7 statement. "Its launch will take place during this year's observances of 40 years under occupation
for Palestinians."

The full report, from Ecumenical News International

A Jewish perspective on the "New Anti-Semitism" conference

from Craig Wiesner     [3-9-07]

We recently posted a report by Geoff Browning on a conference held in the San Francisco Bay Area on the topic, "Finding Our Voice: The Conference for Progressives Constructively Addressing Anti-Semitism."  Sponsored by a number of Jewish organizations, it focused largely on what was described as "the New Anti-Semitism."

Also attending the conference was Craig Wiesner, who sometimes describes himself as a "Jew-byterian," a Jewish man whose life partner, Derrick, is a Presbyterian. He has written a detailed report-with-commentary on the event, and we encourage you to take a look at this perspective along with that presented by his friend, also a Presbyterian, Geoff Browning.

UN envoy criticizes hits Israeli 'apartheid'

(It’s not just Jimmy Carter)

BBC News reports recently from Gaza that a UN human rights envoy has compared Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories to elements of apartheid.

The UN's Special Rapporteur, John Dugard, describes the regime as being designed to dominate and systematically oppress the occupied population.

Mr Dugard is a South African professor of international law assigned to monitor Israeli human rights abuses. He has extensively studied apartheid in South Africa and has compared it to what he saw under Israeli rule.

The full story >>

40 Years in the Wilderness: 40 Years of Occupation
Sabeel International Young Adult Conference
July 19- July 29, 2007


bulletDo you want to know more about Current Realities in Palestine, during this 40th year of the Occupation?
bulletDo you want to visit Biblical Sites and share Biblical reflection with Young Adults from around the world?
bulletAre you between the ages of 18 and 35 and want to be involved in advocacy for peace with justice in the Holy Land?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, then we invite you to participate in Sabeel’s 2nd International Young Adult Conference.

Our vision for this conference is to gather, network, and further educate young leaders from Palestine and around the world, during this

40th year of the Occupation; so that they may be trained, commissioned, and equipped with the tools to act in advocacy to end the Occupation.

The conference will include:

bulletVisits to Palestinian Towns and Villages
bulletEvents Celebrating Palestinian Culture Worship
bulletand Biblical Reflections
bulletVolunteer Experience
bulletAdvocacy Workshops
bulletSharing Experiences and Ideas with Palestinian Young Adults

The registration and program fee for the conference is $700.

This includes all of your land costs – food, accommodations, ground transportation, speakers and activities – but it does not include airfare. When scheduling flights, please keep in mind that participants should arrive on July 18th.

SPECIAL OFFER- For those interested in traveling in the Galilee there will be an option for a two-night tour for an additional $150 after the conference.

REGISTER BY JUNE 15th AT WWW.SABEEL.ORG or e-mail for more information

ABOUT SABEEL: Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, promote unity, justice and love. Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns. It encourages individuals and groups worldwide to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action.

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
P.O.B. 49084
Jerusalem 91491
Tel: 972.2.532.7136
Fax: 972.2.532.7137

British Jews break away from 'pro-Israeli' Board of Deputies of British Jews   [2-13-07]

A new organization of British Jews has been launched recently in response to a perceived pro-Israeli bias in existing Jewish bodies in the UK.

The founders of Independent Jewish Voices, IJV, which will include such luminaries as the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter and the historian Eric Hobsbawm, say that the group is being established as a counter-balance to the uncritical support for Israeli policies offered by established bodies such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews.    The full story >>

Catching up on anti-Semitism – and now it’s the "new" anti-Semitism

You probably recall the furious criticisms on the Presbyterian Church (USA) after the 2004 General Assembly approved a call for studying the possibility of the church’s divesting itself of stocks in companies currently doing business in or with the State of Israel in ways that support the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory. We reported and commented on those attacks at the time, and have continued to link to many discussions of Israel, Palestine, and charges of anti-Semitism.

But now a number of Jewish groups in the US are talking about a "new anti-Semitism," which some observers see as the familiar fear-mongering that has been practiced so effectively by President Bush and his administration, using "terrorists" (and of course Arabs and/or Muslims) as the focus of the fear.

The fierce criticisms of Jimmy Carter’s recent book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, seem to be one current example of what these members of the "Israel lobby" are calling the new anti-Semitism.

To gain some understanding of what’s happening among our Jewish sisters and brothers, Geoff Browning, an active participant in the Israel-Palestine Network attended a conference on "the new anti-Semitism" in the Bay Area, and shared a report with the group.

He has kindly agreed to let us share it here, as well. Browning’s essay >>

Facing reality in Bethlehem   [1-31-07]

Presbyterian Outlook, in its December 25th issue, published a short article titled "The real Bethlehem," by Erin Dunigan, an Outlook feature reporter. Dunigan’s article takes a painfully realistic look at the situation in Israel, and specifically in Bethlehem, reminding us as Christmas approached that "the little town of Bethlehem" is no sweet Christmas-card place under Israeli occupation today.

You can read Dunigan’s article in Outlook >>

The Rev. Al Sandalow of Seattle, Washington, objected to this view, since on his brief visit to Jerusalem last March he saw no such problems. He wrote:

I’m not a big fan of the wall Israel has built, but I don’t understand how it has affected tourism.

I was in Jerusalem in March. I jumped in a taxi at the Jaffa Gate and was at the Church of the Nativity in less than 30 minutes. That was less time tan the two previous, pre-wall, visits. I know that Israel can close down all the checkpoints, but that seems to happen seldom these days.

Overall, tourism has been down in Israel, and the Lebanon war six months ago has had an effect on people who six months ago decided not to take that trip to Israel they had been planning. Most of the Christian pilgrims who visit Jerusalem make a trip to Bethlehem.

In response, Matt Middleton, a Presbyterian Mission Volunteer who is living and working in Bethlehem wrote this comment:

A privileged American tourist to the Holy Land will rarely notice the injustices found here.

The problem with checkpoints and Israel's separation barrier is not so much that they are closed down for arbitrary reasons, but that travel permits are not being granted to the vast majority of Palestinians.

"Nobody deserves this treatment. Not Palestinians. Not Israelis. Not even dogs." These words of Dr. Nuha Khoury, Dean of Dar Al-Kalima College in Bethlehem, refer to her and her mother's experience of trying to obtain permission from the Israeli Defense Force to enter Jerusalem for Christmas.

Consequently, job losses, in addition to the narrowing scope of tourism in places like Bethlehem, are squeezing the Palestinian economy to its breaking point.

According to Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Pastor of the Lutheran Christmas Church of Bethlehem, $3.5 billion of tourism income is generated annually in Israel/Palestine. Two percent of that enters the Palestinian economy of the West Bank.

A brief visit to the Church of the Nativity will never reveal the reality of daily Palestinian life, nor will the luxury of being able to afford an Israeli taxi disclose the waning quality of life found today in the modern ghetto of Bethlehem.

Matthew Middleton
Mission Volunteer International
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Bethlehem, Palestine

An Israeli Jew looks seriously at the realities of Israel     [1-23-07]

David Grossman, who lives near Jerusalem, is the author of The Yellow Wind, a report on life in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He gave this speech at the annual memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin, November 4, 2006, in the presence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Speaking as an Israeli "whose love for this land is tough and complicated, but nevertheless unequivocal," he calls his people face the reality of their current situation, and to change their stance toward the Palestinian people.

He says:

I ask you, how can it be that a people with our powers of creativity and regeneration, a nation that has known how to pick itself up out of the dust time and again, finds itself today – precisely when it has such great military power-in such a feeble, helpless state? A state in which it is again a victim, but now a victim of itself, of its fears and despair, of its own shortsightedness?

Maybe he should be invited to speak in the US, too?

The full speech, in the New York Review of Books >>

This page contains reports and links from 2007-2009.
For reports added in 2010 >>
Items archived from 2006 >>
Reports from 2005 are now archived.
For archives from September through December, 2004 >>

Items from July and August, 2004 >>


GA actions 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:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which  removes the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.  Approved!

bullet Amendment 10-2, 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 receive that.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which  adopts the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.   Approved.

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

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 thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

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 lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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