The Presbyterian Church USA has reversed its divestment resolution, approved in the 216th assembly of 2004. This victory for sanity, decency and Jewish rights was won by the devoted work of Presbyterian volunteers and their Jewish counterparts, who put a great effort into the campaign to ensure fair witness for Israel, in many different forums and groups, and to bring about a reorientation in the stance of mainline Protestant denominations in the United States.
All of us who support Israel, good relations with people of all faiths and peace in the Middle East owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who are making these changes possible by their tireless work, both from within the Presbyterian Church - Committee to End Divestment Now and Concerned Presbyterians (see here and here and here, and in other "mainline" Protestant Churches (For example: Fair Witness).
Thanks to these friends, Presbyterians have sent a clear message to the world, that Christian support for Israel and concern for the Jewish people is not confined to conservative, evangelistic denominations. The resolutions call for investment in enterprises that promote peace in the Middle East. There is nothing that all the peoples of the Middle East need more than peace and economic development, and for that too, we must be thankful. We must also embrace with enthusiasm the frank and beautiful apology contained in these resolutions, and work for interfaith dialogue with renewed commitment and mutual respect.
The new resolutions call on the Church to be proactive for peace. They reflect a sincere desire to bring peace to the Middle East. They are good for Israel and good for the Palestinians. They are fair to both sides in the conflict. The resolutions put the Church above the slogans of demagogues and hate-mongers and remove it from the clutches of groups like Sabeel and PSM that are trying to subvert the Church through the agency of make-believe Christian Ned Flanders zombies, and false claims about "justice." For supporters of Israel, they are an object lesson in the value of presenting a moderate and reasoned defense of Zionism and of Israel, rather than opposing extremism with extremism.
One would perhaps have liked to see a more outspoken condemnation of terrorism, an issue that should be of concern to Americans as well as friends of Israel. However, overall, the resolutions are fair to both sides. Therefore we can hope that they will be robust against the attacks of the enemies of peace. Such attacks are sure to come, so we cannot say the work is done.
The text of the resolutions adopted is below.
Resolutions of the Presbyterian Church USA 217th General Assembly (2006) regarding the Middle East
After careful consideration of the overtures brought before the Assembly Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues of the 217th General Assembly (2006), we offer the following recommendations.
1. We acknowledge that the actions of the 216th General Assembly (2004) caused hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community and within our Presbyterian communion. We are grieved by the pain that this has caused, accept responsibility for the flaws in our process, and ask for a new season of mutual understanding and dialogue.
To these ends, we replace the instructions expressed in Item 12-01 (Minutes, 2004 Part I, pp. 64–66) Recommendation 7, which reads
“7. Refers to Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) with instructions to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel, in accordance to General Assembly policy on social investing, and to make appropriate recommendations to the General Assembly Council for action.”
with the following:
“7. To urge that financial investments of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as they pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, be invested in only peaceful pursuits, and affirm that the customary corporate engagement process of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investments of our denomination is the proper vehicle for achieving this goal.”
2. Direct Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to ensure that its strategies for engaging corporations with regard to Israeli and Palestinian territories
a. Reflect the application of fundamental principles of justice and peace common to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism that are appropriate to the practical realities of Israeli and Palestinian societies.
b. Reflect commitment to positive outcomes.
c. Reflect awareness of potential impact upon the stability, future viability, and prosperity of both the Israeli and Palestinian economies.
d. Identify affirmative investment opportunities as they pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank.
3. We call upon the church:
a. To work through peaceful means with American and Israeli Jewish, American and Palestinian Muslim, and Palestinian Christian communities and their affiliated organizations for an end to all violence and terror against Palestinian and Israeli civilians.
b. To work through peaceful means with American and Israeli Jewish, American and Palestinian Muslim, and Palestinian Christian communities and their affiliated organizations to end the occupation.
c. To work through peaceful means with American and Israeli Jewish, American and Palestinian Muslim, and Palestinian Christian communities and their affiliated organizations towards the creation of a socially, economically, geographically, and politically viable and secure Palestinian state, alongside an equally viable and secure Israeli state, both of which have a right to exist.
d. To encourage and celebrate efforts by individual Presbyterians, congregations, and judicatories of our church to communicate directly and regularly with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities, sponsor programs likely to improve relations among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and engage in peacemaking in the Middle East.
4. The 217th General Assembly (2006) does not believe that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should tell a sovereign nation whether it can protect its borders or handle matters of national defense. The problem with the security wall, in 2004 and presently, is its location. The 217th General Assembly (2006) supports fair criticism of the security wall insofar as it illegally encroaches into the Palestinian territory and fails to follow the legally recognized borders of Israel since 1967 demarcated by the Green Line. To the extent that the security barrier violates Palestinian land that was not part of Israel prior to the 1967 war, the barrier should be dismantled and relocated.
5. Recognizing that the situation on the ground in the Israel-Palestine area is rapidly changing, the General Assembly Council (GAC) is directed to carefully monitor ongoing developments of the situation in the Middle East and to examine the polices of the PC(USA) related to the Middle East, in order to make a comprehensive report to the 218th General Assembly (2008).
6. Instructs the Stated Clerk to communicate Recommendations 1. through 5. above to the United States’ president, vice president, secretary of state, and members of Congress; to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the Middle East; to the membership of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); to leadership of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith bodies and denominations in the United States and the Middle East with whom we are in communication.
Comment: The Assembly received twenty-six overtures pertaining to the Middle East. The recommendation is the result of the General Assembly’s honest and sincere effort to address the issues and concerns that appeared in the overtures in a comprehensive and concise document.
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