LOUISVILLE

In a letter to leaders of clashing political parties in Palestine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons pushes for an end to their power struggle and calls for them to be unified representatives of the Palestinian people.

The Oct. 16 letter, addressed to leaders of Hamas and Fatah, urges the groups to “renew your efforts toward reconciliation.”

Both sides have stated their intentions to forge a unity agreement, a “prerequisite to your ability to show a united ‘face’ to the Israelis at the negotiating table,” the letter states. But recent obstacles in the West Bank and Gaza’s upcoming elections are cause for concern.

“It is obvious that as long as this struggle for power and authority persists, the Israeli’s accusation that they have no ‘partner’ with whom to negotiate a peace agreement remains true,” the letter states.

The PC(USA) has been a strong advocate for both Israel’s and Palestine’s right to self-determination and freedom to live in peace alongside their neighbor.

“We have spoken strongly and consistently against our own government’s years of military aid and other forms of support for Israel’s violations of human rights and international law. Yet our voice is weakened and ignored as long as we cannot point to Palestinian leaders that will sit at the table with Israel as unified, viable representatives of the Palestinian people.”

The full text of the letter:

His Excellency Mahmood Abbas
His Excellency Salam Fayyed
His Excellency Khaled Mashaal
His Excellency Ismael Hanieyh

Dear Partners for Peace,

From the unilateral establishment of the State of Israel, and throughout the ensuing years, our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been an unrelenting advocate for peace among Jews and Palestinians in the land that is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

We have recognized the State of Israel as the expressed right of the Israeli people for self-determination and have affirmed the right of Israelis to live in a free, democratic society at peace with their neighbors. At the same time, we have advocated in the strongest terms for the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination in a state of their own, alongside Israel, in which they also can live in freedom and at peace with their neighbors.

Underlying our advocacy has been the conviction that any acceptable peace settlement must reflect adherence to international law, respect for the human rights of all, and conformity to the parameters established by the United Nations in Resolution 242 and others that address the territorial issues.

We are fully aware of the conflicts within the Palestinian community, including the desire of the Palestinian Authority, led primarily by Fatah, to be the primary representative of the Palestinian people, over against the primary, indeed controlling role of Hamas in Gaza. We were encouraged by the democratic elections in 2006, although the reaction of the U.S. and other governments to the outcomes, followed by your own internal strife over the results, cast a pall on our hopes. It is obvious that as long as this struggle for power and authority persists, the Israeli’s accusation that they have no “partner” with whom to negotiate a peace agreement remains true.

We have been heartened in recent months by the public statements of leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of your intention to come together and forge a unity agreement. That is a prerequisite to your ability to show a united “face” to the Israelis at the negotiating table. The upcoming elections in the West Bank and Gaza — the first since 2006 — are a positive step for all Palestinians in the struggle for self-determination. Unfortunately, our hopes have been dimmed by the recent announcement that the work of the Central Election Committee has been suspended in Gaza, and that the campaigns of some candidates have been hindered in the West Bank.

Regardless of the outcome of these developments, we are writing to urge you, once again, as leaders of Fatah and Hamas to renew your efforts toward reconciliation. We continue to challenge the injustices of the Israeli occupation, the expansion of the settlements and the hardships imposed on all Palestinians. We have spoken strongly and consistently against our own government’s years of military aid and other forms of support for Israel’s violations of human rights and international law. Yet our voice is weakened and ignored as long as we cannot point to Palestinian leaders that will sit at the table with Israel as unified, viable representatives of the Palestinian people.

We urge you, with all our hearts, to lay aside your differences and give us hope for peace.

Sincerely,

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly