The Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has issued the following statement in the wake of the Israeli interception of a convoy of ships on its way to Gaza with humanitarian aid:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of ministry and presence with the people of the Middle East and has long advocated for a just and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Because of this, we express our deep concern about the events that occurred on May 31, 2010 — the Israeli interception in international waters of a convoy of humanitarian-aid ships seeking to bring supplies to a population of 1.5 million people in Gaza.
A severe blockade of Gaza by Israel in response to the free election of Hamas representatives in 2006 and the military incursions of Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009 have dramatically increased the already acute humanitarian need. We grieve the killing and injuring of participants in the humanitarian effort, as well as the injuring of members of the Israeli military forces that occurred when the Israeli forces stormed one of the ships and those on board resisted.
Our tradition, although not strictly pacifist, honors peaceful resistance, including nonviolent disobedience to unjust government policies and actions. We recognize that such initiatives as the flotillas to bring aid to the people of Gaza can be powerful instruments of such resistance. These actions sometimes incite violent responses, as in this case. The long-term success of this kind of resistance requires a nonviolent response on the part of the demonstrators, even when they are under attack.
We affirm the call of the United Nations Security Council for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation of the May 31, 2010, events, in conformity with international standards. We ask President Obama and the United States Congress to support and ensure the fulfillment of this call.
We call for an end to the blockade of Gaza and urge the government of Israel to permit the immediate delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.
We call on the Hamas government to work to end rocket attacks by all parties against Israel.
We call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
We call for the release of all ships and civilians held by Israel.
We call on the United States government to play an intensive and faithful role as a peacemaker – honoring international law, supporting U.N. efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and working for the day when Palestinians and Israelis alike know justice, peace, and security.
We pray for those killed and injured in the events of May 31, 2010, and for those who ordered and executed the interception. We pray for the people of Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel, as well as all nations and peoples impacted by these events. We pray that the day for peace will come swiftly.