Presbyterian report condemns Israeli policies in Palestinian territories

By David Waters America’s largest Presbyterian denomination is preparing for a contentious General Assembly next month as delegates will be … Continued

By David Waters

America’s largest Presbyterian denomination is preparing for a contentious General Assembly next month as delegates will be asked to consider approving a strongly worded report that calls on the U.S. to stop sending billions of dollars in aid to Israel until it changes its policy toward Palestinians.

“Israel has both the responsibility and the ability to reverse the course of the precipitous decline throughout the region,” states the 172-page report “Breaking Down Walls,” written by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s nine-member Middle East Study Committee.

The report will be considered by the denomination’s 219th General Assembly, meeting July 3-10 in Minneapolis. In 2004, the PC (U.S.A.) became the first mainline Protestant denomination to approve a policy of divestment from Israel. The policy was unpopular with many Presbyterians and was later rescinded.

The new report doesn’t call for divestment, but it does urge the U.S. to halt aid to Israel until the Israeli government ends the expansion of settlements in Palestinian territories, ceases its occupation” of Gaza, and relocates “Israel’s separation barrier” to spots outside of Palestinian territories.

“A just and lasting peace and security for the Palestinians is possible when the occupation has ended and Israel does not need to resort to military force to maintain its illegal land possession. If there were no occupation, there would be no Palestinian resistance. If there was no Palestinian resistance, Israelis could live in peace and security.”

“We also call upon the various Palestinian political factions to negotiate a unified government prepared to recognize Israel’s existence. We proclaim our alarm and dismay–both over the increasingly rapid exodus of Christians from Israel/Palestine caused by anti-Palestinian discrimination and oppression, the growth of Islamic and Jewish fundamentalism, and the occupation-related absence of economic opportunity; and also over the exodus of Christians from other parts of the region caused by various military, economic, religious, and cultural factors. And we oppose the government of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, its sponsorship of international guerrilla warfare, and the threat these pose both to Israel and to Arab states.”

The report is drawing sharp criticism from Jewish groups and praise from Palestinian Muslim and Christian organizations.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism adopted a resolution last week, claiming that the report is “distinctly one-sided, traffics in troubling theology, misrepresents Jewish history, and “describes Israel as the occupying army and the major impediment to peace without acknowledging that the Israeli government has the ethical imperative to defend its citizens from terrorist infiltration.”

Rev. Richard Toll, chair of the group Friends of Sabeel North America, which supports Palestinian Christians protesting the occupation, praised the report.

“The Presbyterian Church in the United States has been a leader in confronting the issues of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian land by the state of Israel,” Toll told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It is important and timely … that Presbyterians stand up for their previous resolutions and challenge other churches and all Americans to nonviolently resist the occupation.”

Several mainline Protestant denominations have issued critical statements about Israeli policies in Palestinian territories, and taken actions to support Palestinians. Evangelical denominations, meanwhile, tend to take the opposite view, strongly supporting Israel and its policies, primarily because of biblical passages that that link Israel’s survival to the Second Coming of Jesus..

In the run-up to the General Assembly, the PC (U.S.A.) study committee issued separate explanatory letters to Presbyterians, “American Jewish friends,” and “American Muslim friends.”

“We deeply value our relationships with Jews and Muslims in the United States, Israel, and the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East,” states the report. “Yet the bonds of friendship must neither prevent us from speaking nor limit our empathy for the suffering of others. Inaction and silence on our part enable actions we oppose and consequences we grieve.”

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  • farnaz_mansouri2

    It’s fine. The Presbyterians can go to Palestine and bring the Palestinian Christians out. Israel has huge economic problems and the continual influx of Palestinian Christians is not helping.The “aid” we send them, 2.5 billion, they spend here, getting that which they could get cheaper elsewhere. Further, it is a fraction of their GDP and could easily be made up in other ways.It might also be a good idea for the US to stop giving Egypt 2 billion per annum, although the Presbyterians, of course, would not be concerned about the fact that the thug Mubarak pockets the money, distributing it to the thug families and the military.The Presbyterians are also welcome to pay for protecting their own Christian sites in Israel. I would imagine that their Christian biblical historians and archaeologists could also find work elsewhere.If Israel continues to permit these racists access, it is insane. Truly, insane.

  • noelkristan

    The PCUSA’s position papers by no stretch of the imagination represent the majority of Presbyterians in the pew (or the pulpits, for that matter). The report will certainly not be adopted, though it may be received and merely read. The Pro-Palestinian bias is a patent embarrassment to many of us who support Israel and value our long-term relationships with American Jews. Let the readers be clear: such a paper represents a minority opinion among a broad and diverse population of biblical Christians.

  • SoccerParent

    If Israel would set its border at the Green Line and defend it, just about everybody would support its right to do so. Instead, Israel is continually absorbing more Palestinian territory and settling Israeli Jews there. This policy is repugnant not only to a few Presbyterians, but to many pro-peace Israelis, concerned observers around the world, and, needless to say, to the Palestinians. If Israel settles its own citizens throughout the Palestinian areas, then restricts Palestinians’ movement and access to basic needs so that Israeli settlement can proceed unhindered, is it any surprise that Palestinians resist? Would not any population do so? Past U.S. administrations have failed to stop Israeli expansionism–in fact, they have supported it with billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. I support the Presbyterians of conscience and others who are doing what they can to help Israelis and Palestinians find a path to peace. This is not “bias,” or “one-sidedness,” or “pro-Palestinian agitation”…it is simple common sense.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    One senior Greek-Cypriot politician in London said last night who is close to the talks with Israel said:”It is time that Cyprus and Israel join together in an alliance to help each other in a region that is full of Islamic extremists and terrorist groups that want one thing, the destruction of the state of Israel and the establishment of Islam in the near and middle east”.In Cyprus this week media commentators have already started arguing for a closer alliance with Israel with Savvas Iacovides of the daily newspaper Simerini saying:”The Republic of Cyprus is powerless. It does not have the luxury to choose friends and enemies. The enemies, they impose on you. The friends, are chosen, based on mutual interests, how near each one’s objectives are to the other’s, and mutual aims. Let us talk straight and cynically: Our enemy’s enemies, those of the Turkish invaders of Cyprus, are or can be our friends and allies.”Israel has already instructed that its citizens do not go to Turkey for holidays, Greece and Cyprus are eager for extra tourism given the economic problems both economies are facing, and will be seeing more Israelis this summer.With Turkey now deepening its commercial ties with Arab countries with a new trade accord with Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, this surely underlines Turkey’s objective to turn to its historical and political past and work with the Islamic world.By Turkey moving to the east, this does not mean Cyprus and Greece cannot have a good relationship with Turkey, but there must be a move to embrace Israel and signal that the Hellenes are the natural allies for Israel, and not with Turkey.From Cyprus Forum. REad the rest here:

  • ralphjacob

    Clearly there are strong factions in the Presbyterian Church that prefer to ignore those aspects of history that don’t align with their biased perspective. It is a sad commentary in the 21st Century that certain Christian denominations continue to perpetuate hatred and bigotry. If only Israel didn’t exist it would all be a wonderful world. Clearly there are issues on both sides, but the reality is that no matter what Israel would do, it would never be enough for some.

  • ttraub

    A few years ago, a Presbyterian Church USA delegation headed by one Robert Worley visited Lebanon to meet with Hezbollah, a terrorist organization responsible for killing 241 U.S. Marines in 1983 and murdering four Israeli soldiers later in 2006, precipitating a war with Israel. Hezbollah, funded and armed by Iran, has virtually taken over the Lebanese government, threatening violence if the citizens did not vote for them in parliamentary elections.The PCUSA delegation told the terrorists how they disagreed with the Bush Administration and planned to vote against it in the elections. They praised Hezbollah’s cultural and charitable works, completely ignoring Hezbollah’s more unsavory activities such as its torturing of political opponents, its close relationship with Iran, and its avowed goal of destroying Israel and killing the Jews.Fortunately, a large contingent of dissenters forced PCUSA to back down from its plan to boycott Israel, but it appears the same anti-Israeli group is still in control and is trying again.As others here have noted, the Christians of the Middle East are not well treated by any of the Muslim countries. In fact, it is only in Israel itself that Christians are free to worship and evangelize. In some of the more conservative Muslim states, possession of a Christian bible is grounds for arrest and evangelism is a capital offense. A group of Christians were arrested in Saudi Arabia a while back for “spreading poison”.Like most other countries, Israel is not perfect and makes the occasional policy mistake. Undoubtedly its Gaza policy is imperfect, but after the bombardment of some 8000 rockets up until the 2009 incursion, they can hardly be expected to be sympathetic to the Gazans, who in any case are hardly starving.The PCUSA leadership, however, has demonstrated gross bias and shortsightedness regarding its relations with Israel and the Jewish community worldwide. By siding with groups who consider Christians to be subhuman and deserving of death, they have betrayed their faith in the pursuit of the senseless politics of the Left.

  • GratefulGoyim

    I am saddened that there are still so-called Christian groups who would turn their backs on their religious heritage and the group from whom their religion came from. Israel needs and should continue to get all the help they can from the US and any other nation or group willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with them against a common enemy. Israel is viciously attacked on a daily basis, in the media, on their own soil and around the world. Those who would manipulate the truth and try to change history or ignor it need to stop.

  • director1

    Why am I not surprised? In the 1950’s, I attended Hamilton College, a small Presbyterian school in upstate NY, whose president, among other things, was an ordained Presbyterian minister. He told me, in the course of a conversation concerning the basis for the anti-Semitism that flourished on Hamilton’s campus at the time, that the anti-Semitism was entirely understandable given how American Jews behaved. The Jews in Europe, he explained, faced with discriminatory laws, had had to learn how to evade the spirit of the law while conforming to its technical requirements. When Jews immigrated to the US they continued to behave in this manner and this was, in his opinion, the cause of anti-Semitism in the US. Evidently, the passing of 50 years has not changed how some Presbyterian leaders attempt to rationalize and justify their hatred of Jews. The fault, you see, lies not in their prejudicial hearts and minds, but in the way Jews behave.

  • abeirwin

    In 1948, while Israel was being attacked by its Arab neighbors, approximately 700,000 Arabs left Israel. At the same time, about the same number of Jews, 700,000, were expelled from the surrounding Arab nations. Essentially the area became Judenrein.

  • AIPACiswar

    Looks like the Jewish attack machine got on this article early, the comments here are ridiculous pro-Zionist bs.Kudos to the Presbyterians! Speaking truth to power! No behind the scenes Zionist puppeteers manipulating them!It is refreshing, finally ONE Christian group shows a little courage for the truth. Remarkable. Evangelicals on the other hand are a wholly owned subset of the Israel Lobby with all the evil that includes.