A summary of the 219th General Assembly’s actions on Middle East peace issues:

What did the Assembly do?

The Genenal Assembly approved a comprehensive report on the Middle East — its first since 1997. The paper calls for:

  • An immediate cessation of all violence, whether perpetrated by Israelis or Palestinians;
  • The reaffirmation of Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders;
  • The end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories; 
  • An immediate freeze on the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and on the Israeli acquisition of Palestinian land and buildings in East Jerusalem; .
  • And many other steps toward peace in the region.

The General Assembly also approved the report of the Mission Responsibility through Investment (MRTI) committee, which:

  • Provides an update on all corporations that MRTI has engaged as a result of the 2004, 2006 and 2008 General Assemblies;
  • Acknowledges that “Caterpillar has in many ways provided positive leadership to its community, its state, and the nation. It has gived considerable resources and equipment in support of local development and disaster relief at home and overseas. It has significantly improved workplace safety, acted aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and pursued environmental conservation within its production processes. In recognition of these accomplishments, Caterpillar has been listed for seven consecutive years in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index”; .
  • Strongly denounces Caterpillar’s continued profit-making from non-peaceful uses of a number of its products on the basis of Christian principles and as a matter of social witness;
  • Calls upon Caterpillar to carefully review its involvement in obstacles to a just and lasting peace in Israel-Palestine, and to take affirmative steps to end its complicity in the violation of human rights.

What does this mean?

Coming into the 219th General Assembly (2010), few thought that agreement on issues relating to the Middle East would be possible. Diverse perspectives divided Presbyterians from each other, and from the Jewish community. However, during the committee deliberations and again in the plenary session, through God’s grace, a place of broad consensus was found — common ground for continued peacemaking work in Israel/Palestine.

The General Assembly rejected immediate divestment from Caterpillar in favor of continued corporate engagement with Caterpillar and other companies profiting from the sale and use of their products for non-peaceful purposes and/or the violation of human rights.

What’s next?

A Monitoring Group for the Middle East will be formed to assist the appropriate General Assembly Mission Council offices and the Middle East staff team in monitoring progress and guiding actions to ensure adequate implementation of policy directions approved by this General Assembly. MRTI will continue to engage Caterpillar, and other companies, in relation to particular actions whereby the company profits from “non-peaceful action” of their products.