Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Kairos Document, The Bethlehem Call & the 220th GA of the PCUSA

This posting is meant to help those who will be voting on Middle-East issues in the 220th Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly. For instance ovt-021 "On Recognizing that Israel’s Law and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against Palestinian People" and in particular, ovt-068 On Responding to the Call from Palestinian Christians for Economic Solidarity.

In 2009 a paper entitled The Kairos Document was written and signed by various Christian leaders in the Middle East. It was voted on at the 219th GA of the PC (U.S.A.) but only one section was emphasized and it was received as a document for study.[1] The document is clearly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, I wrote about it at 'Presbyterian Middle East Study Team & "The Kairos Palestine Document" no longer a Jewish Nation?." It is not a fair document even insisting that Israel should not be a Jewish state.

In December of 2011, another document, connected to the Kairos one, was published entitled, “The Bethlehem Call.” In this document the Israel occupation is referred to as lasting sixty years, meaning that the writers consider all of Israel the occupation. In this second document the derogatory comments toward Israel, the West and religious organizations are indefensible:
As witnessed with our own eyes, the treacherous conditions imposed by the Israeli occupation on Palestinians and their land have reached a level of almost unimaginable and sophisticated criminality. This includes the slow yet deliberate and systematic ethnic cleansing and the geo-cide of Palestinians and Palestine as well as the strangling of the Palestinian economy. The brutality in the “violence of silence” internationally provides an almost impenetrable shield for the Israeli government to implement its evil designs in blatant disregard for human rights and international law. Silence is an opinion. Inaction is an action. We witness decidedly spineless cowardice in failure to resist the Israeli government by the majority of governments, political parties, media outlets, businesses, most of organized religion -- including Christianity -- and the silence of prophets worldwide.
The Bethlehem Call which is heavily involved in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement and looks for connections to South American also has this statement in its text:
We pray and plead for a radical change of hearts, policies and practices of the Israeli government and those governments that support it. If this does not happen, we pray in trembling and hope if it is God’s will…. for these governments to fall.
I am writing this to point out that much of this has influenced the attitude of the PCUSA toward the Jewish State of Israel. The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA has pushed the first document, even writing their own study guide, and linked to and advocated for the Bethlehem Call when it was released.

As a counter to both of these documents I am linking to a paper published by the Council of Centers in Jewish Christian Relations in 2010. The paper is entitled “Cautions to US Churches Regarding the Kairos Palestine Document.” The paper points out where the Kairos Document is correct but where it is also faulty because of what it leaves out or misstates. For instance:
The Kairos Palestine document states that “[the Palestinian] connectedness to this land is a natural right.” (Sec. 2.3.4) We agree . . .

• But the Jewish connectedness to the land is also a natural right. Both Jews and Palestinians have legitimate claims to the land which can and must be accommodated through a negotiated two-state solution.
The Kairos Palestine document professes that “an end to Israeli occupation . . . will guarantee security and peace for all.” (Sec. 7) . . . But is that true?

• There was no security or peace prior to the occupation. During the British Mandate period, Arabs responded to Jewish immigration with violent attacks.

• More violence broke out after the November 29, 1947 U.N. partition plan which separated the British Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Increasingly violent attacks by Arabs against Jews were followed by violent Jewish reprisals. This was twenty years before the occupation and prior to the creation of the state of Israel.

• One day after Israel declared independence, five Arab states attacked the new Jewish state. The 1948/49 war ended with Armistice Agreements. But there was no peace. All of Israel’s borders were closed and every Arab country boycotted Israel. Hundreds of Israelis were killed and wounded in terror attacks launched mostly from bases in Jordan and the Syrian Golan Heights.

• In 1964 — three years before the occupation — the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded. The PLO established a Palestine Liberation Army in order “to attain the objective of liquidating Israel.”

• There is no reason to believe that ending the occupation alone would bring security and peace to Israel and Palestine.
It is important for any person involved in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 220th General Assembly to be aware of all of the facts of the history of the Jewish State of Israel as well as the needs of the Palestinians. The article I have linked to is extremely helpful because it does not leave out either side’s story. Please read-“Cautions to US Churches Regarding the Kairos Palestine Document.”

[1] What was mainly rejected was the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Viola. I did my own analysis of the Kairos document at It still considers the establishment of Israel a catastrophe and an injustice. It basically says there will be no peace until Israel ceases to exist.

Greg Scandlen
Wayneboro, PA

Jodie said...

Greg and Viola,

Considering the precarious position of the Christians in Palestine, caught between the Israelis and the Muslims, and considering they have been living there for two thousand years, and considering the possibility even that they could be the descendants of the very first Christians ever, Jewish converts who so long ago abandoned their Jewish ancestry in favor of their Christian identity that they no longer seek to claim it, what do you suggest we do for these our brothers and sisters in Christ?

I share your reluctance to support anyone and anything that may appear anti-Semitic, but to turn our backs on those Jews who converted to Christianity in the times of Peter, John, and James, who speak Aramaic to this day, and who until recently lived and walked in the Palestine our Lord lived and walked in, seems just as wrong.

We should be able to help them, somehow.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

Greg Scandlen said...


I agree. But if the experience of the rest of the middle east is any guide, Christians would fare much better under Jewish Rule than under Muslin Rule. Witness the Coptic Church in Egypt. I wonder how Christians in Gaza are making out these days.

But I'm afraid that Christians have a long and ignoble history of persecuting Jews. This applies to Protestants, too. Witness Martin Luther's writings in his later years. The notion that a Christian community would be anti-semitic is no shock to me.

Greg Scandlen
Waynesboro, PA

Viola Larson said...

The Palestinian Christians are not Jewish but Arab. They did not descend from the Jewish Christians but from early Arab Christians. And yes they need help. But most of the BDS movement is determined to end the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. That is not helpful—it will not bring peace to the Middle East. A two state solution that involves security for Israel including acknowledgement that Israel is a Jewish State, and a state, water and security for the Palestinians is what is needed.

Viola Larson said...

Greg, Thank you for all of your helpful information. Keep writing: )

Jodie said...


Do you know where we can find the DNA evidence for this claim: "The Palestinian Christians are not Jewish but Arab"? That sounds much more like an ideological claim than a historical or genealogical one.

Of course any Jew who became a Christian would no longer have been bound to marry within the Jewish community. If we belive the Scriptures, they were in fact expelled from the Jewish community. So I would expect a significant amount of intermarrying to have occurred between any converted Christian Jews and the local Arab population.

It would not be right to penalize them for that.

Greg, as far as living under Israeli Rule, I don't know the right answer there, but it seems to be a question for the Palestinians to answer more than for us to decide for them.

(not like we have any moral leg to stand on anyway)

What we do know for sure about the Christians in Palestine is they are asking for our help. What I am hearing here is that our answer to them is "they should suck it up".

Not much different than the answer we gave the Jews of Europe in their hour of need.

While we stand back and accuse them of not being helpful, when do >>we<< become a part of the solution?


Viola Larson said...

Jodie you might want to ask a Palestinian Christian if they are Jewish or Arab: ) I am not at all sure that any DNA work has been done in that area although it has been done on various Jewish groups. It is very interesting.

However history tells the true story of the Palestinian Christians.