The document "Breaking Down the Walls: Part Two: Recommendations, written by the The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Middle East Study Committee is filled with political recommendations that extend far beyond the Israel and Palestine problem.
Yet the committee initially blames all problems on the Israeli and Palestinian issues writing “The undue influence of outside forces continues a history of colonial interference throughout the Middle East. Yet most expert observers and popular opinion polls confirm that the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is playing a central role in exacerbating region-wide grief and grievance.” If I wrote, that having said the above the committee is blaming most of the problems in the Middle East on Israel, most readers would exclaim that isn’t what they said.
But what does the paper “Our Witness: ‘What We Have Seen and Heard’ say? “Inexcusable acts of violence have been committed by both the powerful forces of the Israeli military and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, as well as, the Palestinians, of whom a relatively small minority has resorted to violence as a means of resisting the occupation.” (Italics mine)
And “As the MESC traveled throughout the region, the overwhelming consensus of all members was that Israel’s occupation of the West bank and Gaza is a sin against God and fellow human beings. While there are subordinate factors that contribute to the lack of a just peace in Israel-Palestine, the major issue for a just peace is the continued occupation that has been ongoing for the past forty-three years.”(Italics mine)
This is the problem throughout most of the Recommendation Document. Recommendations are in many cases stated in what seems to be a fair even handed way but when they are tied to the other documents written or recommended for study by the committee they are almost always pointing toward Israel.
A whole list of human rights and moral principles are affirmed under section I. And few would quibble with most of them yet tied to the other documents and the accusations made by those documents readers will understand that the committee believes Israel has broken most of these human rights and moral principles. Therefore the section on human rights is largely about Israel although the recommendation does not say so.
For instance under the rights section is this, “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) affirms-The moral goal for nations to create a nuclear-free world and toward that goal, to sign and comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other relevant treaties.” When the reader looks at the paper “Our Witness: “What We Have Seen and Heard” they read about Iran’s attempt to develop a nuclear warhead and then they read this, “While this growing fear [by the Israelis over Iran’s plans] is a deep concern, an equal concern is the number of nuclear warheads that Israel currently stockpiles and thus the growing sense of Iranian vulnerability and insecurity.” (Italics mine)
Another problem with the recommendations is the attempt to make equations that are unequal. For instance equating the use of anti-Semitism in the Middle East with Islamophobia, and the attempt to equate the Holocaust with the Nakba (the loss of homes and exile by around 750, 000 Palestinians during the 1948 war that secured the new Jewish State of Israel). The recommendation, listed under IV. “Urgent Actions for a Comprehensive Peace with justice in the Middle East” is:
“Calls all parties in the Middle East to cease rhetoric and actions that demonize others, whether that takes the form of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, as well as rhetoric and actions that threaten the well –being of another nation or people. This includes threats by Iranians and members of Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, sponsorship by Iran of Holocaust-denial conferences, Israel efforts to deny the Nakba and threats of mass transfer (expulsion) of the Palestinians into Jordan or elsewhere, and perpetuation of maps and textbooks that deny the existence of internationally recognized borders, states, and occupied territories.”
There appears to be a lot of excellent thought put into that statement. However there is a vast difference between Holocaust denial and the denial of Nakba. I will explain. The Holocaust in all of its horror is undeniable, but the Nakba has a mixed history. Few Israelites would deny that the 1948 war caused untold trauma because of the dislocation and, yes, even massacre of Palestinians. But that isn’t the complete story. Jewish people were also massacred and not all refugees were ‘forced’ out of their cities and homes.
My other thought is that in the Middle East there is a vast disparity between the use of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Palestinian television even has children’s programs that use gross anti-Semitism. So while both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are terribly wrong the recommendation does not address the real issue. And totally left out of any of the equation is any mention of anti-Zionism which is now the new anti-Semitism.
Perhaps the most troubling part of the Recommendations document is two places that address the Kairos Palestine Document and another which would allow the General Assembly to receive the report A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis.
Under “For the Witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” the 219th General Assembly (2010) the Kairos Palestine Document is recommended “in its emphasis on hope for liberation, nonviolence, love of enemy, and reconciliation,” and the recommend includes lifting up the document “for study and discussion by Presbyterians.” This also includes providing a study guide.
In another posting I have shown that this is not a pacifist document. Not only does it blame Israel for any terrorist acts by Palestinians it also commends all of those who died in service to their country which could include those who died committing suicide attacks. But the most damming part of the Kairos document is its move toward turning Israel into a non-Jewish state. I have quoted from the document in a different posting:
“Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority.” (Emphasis mine)
My answer to that is “A Jewish state is not by necessity a religious state, and notice the term “numerical majority” has been slipped into this equation. All of this is to say that the Kairos Palestine Document is asking that there no longer be a Jewish State in the Middle East.” I wrote that the Kairos Palestine Document attempts to unravel the idea of a Jewish State and substitute the idea of a sacred land for diverse faiths. The posting is Presbyterian Middle East Study Team & "The Kairos Palestine Document" no longer a Jewish Nation?
The Kairos Palestine Document also has the possibility of being ‘received’ by the denomination under part VIII. “Engaging This Report.” There it asks the 219th General Assembly to receive the Appendixes and other documents which includes the Kairos Document. But, as I stated above, there is another troubling document the committee is asking the Assembly to receive “A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis.” This document not only begins with a manipulative and untruthful early history for Israel it ends suggesting that a one state solution is the only possibility.
So a whole series of documents, at least one reminding the readers, that a two state solution has always been the policy of the Presbyterian Church includes one with this statement:
“An objection to a one-state solution is the fear that Israel will cease to be a Jewish state. However, Mark Satin, claims that the majority of those proposing a one-state solution do not question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state but rather ‘they question the wisdom of its existing as a specifically Jewish state when Jewish life and culture could be equally well (arguably more securely and benignly) preserved in the same region in a secular, democratic state that was constitutionally sensitive to the needs of all its peoples. …” (46) (Italics the author's)
The paper goes on to speculate on such things as “The state would have to be bilingual with both Arabic and Hebrew signage and all legal documents. The issue of what to call the country can be resolved.” (47)
This in the face of several statements by the Study Committee that the time is almost past for a two state solution and their use of authors such as Ali Abunimah who proposed a one state solution in his book, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, is troubling. Taken altogether the many documents compiled, written and recommended by the PC(U.S.A) Middle East Study Committee represent an assault on the Jewish State of Israel. If the General Assembly votes for these documents they will have broken faith with the Jewish people both those who make up the state of Israel and those who are citizens of the United States and elsewhere.
 (For a posting about Ali Abunimah and his speech at a Presbyterian Church see Is an overture for a one state solution looming on the horizon?