Monday, March 15, 2010

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace: a Press Release

An organization, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, consisting of Pastors and laity in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who are concerned with fairness and peace in the Middle East have released a press report:

" Presbyterians for Middle East Peace

Media Release
March 15, 2010

Proposing a disturbing shift in policy direction, a Middle East Study Committee (MESC) Report for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. states that the study group sees, "the occupation as the major obstacle to regional stability,..." This reverses the denomination's evenhanded, historical position that Israel's occupation of Palestinian-claimed land and regional threats to Israel's existence are both major obstacles to peace. Decoupling the two obstacles to peace, the Report makes the theologically and politically naïve assumption that peace would blossom in the Middle East if only Israel would end its occupation of the disputed territories.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace (PFMEP) is not surprised at the radical conclusions of the costly report given that seven of the committee’s nine members had evidenced a strong bias toward a one-sided Palestinian narrative. The prejudicial slant of the committee's composition ignored the mandate from the denomination's General Assembly that the committee's membership represent the diversity of opinion on the Middle East that exists within the denomination as a whole. One member of the committee resigned after the first meeting, in part, to protest the overwhelmingly slanted makeup of the committee.

One committee recommendation appropriately calls "on the U.S. government to pursue the goal of guaranteeing continued security for Israel from an atmosphere of fear of rocket attacks or other forms of violence." However, many of its other recommendations, if followed, would seriously undermine if not actually eliminate Israel's security.

For example, the Committee recommends 1) "the withholding of U.S. government aid to the state of Israel as long as Israel persists in creating new West Bank settlements"; 2) "Endorses the Kairos Palestine document (“A Moment of Truth”) in its emphases on hope for liberation, nonviolence, love of enemy, and reconciliation; lifts the document up for study and discussion by Presbyterians; and directs the creation of a study guide for the document through the appropriate channel of the General Assembly Mission Council"; 3) "Calls on the Israeli government to end immediately its blockade of Gaza, and on the U.S. government to end any support it is giving to the blockade…."

Is it possible to foresee a secure Israel with absolutely no U.S government aid and all that is implied by revoking support? How is Israel's security enhanced by an end to the blockade of Gaza with no mention of a strategy to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza that are used against Israel's civilians? In what way does the Kairos document emphasize love of enemy and reconciliation when at the heart of its strategy it demands, "Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation."? How can a document be viewed as reconciling while calling for an severe economic boycott of Israel and a strict separation of religion and state which, if achieved, would put an end to Israel as a Jewish state?

PFMEP rejects the assumptions and conclusions of this report and considers its acceptance by the PCUSA 219th General Assembly to be the exact opposite of what is necessary for the PCUSA to have a meaningful voice for peacemaking. Peace will only be created when 1) concrete steps are taken by Israel's neighbors to insure Israel's security and 2) the occupation of the West Bank is ended so the creation of an autonomous Palestinian state can proceed.

In the United States, the Jewish and Presbyterian communities have worked together for generations to secure social justice and peace. Acceptance of the MESC’s report by the PCUSA 219th General Assembly and the adoption of its recommendations will sever Presbyterian-Jewish relationships at the national and grassroots levels in ways that will take generations to rebuild. Such an outcome is not only undesirable; it is unnecessary.

PFMEP believes the report should not be received by the General Assembly. It would set the PCUSA on a tragically partisan political course rejected by previous General Assemblies. It should be discussed and categorically rejected because of its naive worldview. After spending much time and money to produce this report, it is sadly, an offense to serious-minded peace-makers.

For more information contact:
Rev. John Wimberly
Steering Committee Member, PFMEP
Western Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.
Telephone: (202) 835-8383

The web site is new and will be expanded with a great deal more information and links in the coming weeks. For more information for those interested in coming to the 219th GA in Minneapolis as support for Presbyterians for Middle East Peace or for information about tax deductible giving please contact Gary Green at .


dxturner said...

The report of the PC(USA) Middle East Study Committee is quite troubling to me. I've written a couple of blog posts on the issue and I would appreciate your comments if you have time.

Thank you.

Viola Larson said...

Hi dx-I have answered you at your site.