I had little time to spend in committee 14, the committee dealing with the Presbyterian Middle East Study Report. Instead I was in the Theological Issues committee as an Advocate for Sacramento’s overture. But I hurried to visit committee 14 because I was concerned about the faulty Middle East Study Report.
Another reason I hurried was because I knew my friend Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was there. Although he has been a friend for a long time I had never met him in person. I arrived just in time to listen to the debate before the committee voted to remove the infamous 72 page appendix “A plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis” from the report. And I did meet the Rabbi. Two happy events.
There were many other changes made to the report. A great deal of the changes came about because of a friend, a commissioner, who worked tirelessly to help the committee reshape the controversial document into one that although it would not totally satisfy anyone would nonetheless be acceptable to almost everyone. The commissioner poured hours into the 172 page report to guide the committee in their reshaping. I saw her suggestions when past Moderator Susan Andrews handed them to me and then loaned me her glasses, since in my hurry I had forgotten mine.
So when I read the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy’s summary of the report in their on-line subscription newsletter, Salt & Light, I was stunned.
So what does the author of the summary say about the Presbyterian Middle East Study Report?
“The Middle East Report was approved virtually unchanged, with two appendices removed, despite massive and frequently personal pressure from persons seeking to defend virtually all Israeli policies from moral criticism. The Report’s strongest recommendation, that U.S. aid to Israel’s very conservative government be stopped as long as the settlements are not stopped, showed widespread understanding that the two-state solution is virtually impossible and the Christian population virtually gone, primarily due to Israel’s 47 year military occupation. Divestment was put off further into the future, but had not been recommended by either the Middle East Study Committee or the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI).”
The summary is a lie. And to help the lie along, the author does not link to the study and its changes as he/she did on other issues in this summary. Here is the link to the study with the changes, Breaking Down the Walls.
When first opening this document the reader immediately finds a change: the insertion of the words, “the reaffirmation of Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders in accordance with United Nations resolutions,” into the report.
And as I stated above, one of the appendices that was removed was the 72 page document “A plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis” that was a one-sided account of the history of the Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East. That was the document which stated that the Jewish immigrants “took the land of Palestine from a majority of its inhabitants at gunpoint.” It also suggested that the Jewish immigrants from Europe were not true descendants of the ancient Israelites and the history did not uphold the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
The committee changed the wording “endorses” the Kairos Document to “commends for study.” It changed the words “the possible withholding of military aid as a means of bringing Israel to" compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts to “making U.S. aid to Israel contingent upon Israel’s” compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts.
Committee 14 changed the Presbyterian Middle East Study committees’ efforts to continue on overseeing the General Assembly’s mandates for Middle East peace, and instead requires that there be a committee made up of seven new members chosen by the past moderator and the new moderator. One but no more than two of the original group will be a part of the new committee. There are many other changes; one only need read through the document in order to see them.
In the final paragraph of the ACSWP’s summary the author brings the Belhar Confession and the Middle East Peace issues together. The author writes:
“Let us hope that the church-wide discussion of the Belhar confession does seek to apply it to other matters of concern, and not simply to Israel/Palestine.”
My first thought was this is crazy. Belhar was supposed to be about racism not the Middle East. But then I realized I was thinking from my own objective viewpoint; the author of the summary sees Israel as the most racist nation in the world today. He/she is concerned because the term apartheid was not applied to Israel by the General Assembly. So when the author looks at Belhar he sees it addressed to Israel.
So many statements in this summary by the ACSWP and their advisor Chris Iosso are distorted. They have simply ignored the actual work of Committee 14 and provided their readers with their own decisions about the Middle East. They are also ignoring the members of their own denomination who sent commissioners to the General Assembly. Since the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy is a Presbyterian organization under the General Assembly Mission Council hopefully they will be asked to correct their erroneous newsletter.
 . It is ironic that in the above statement by the ACSWP the two dropped appendices are referred to as simply two appendices while in their “Human Rights Update 2010 Recommendation,” they ask the General Assembly to answer the request to "identify Violations of the Civil Rights of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the United States and Other Areas of the World" with one of them, A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis. For more information see “A Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis:” false beginnings, twisted thoughts- part 1