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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) remains committed to peace for Israelis and Palestinians

February 13, 2014

LOUISVILLE

Following the release of an independently produced study guide on Israel and Palestine, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reaffirms its commitment to a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

“Our church has a long history of engaging many points of view when it comes to dialogue on critical issues facing the world around us — it’s who we are, part of our DNA,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “There are likely as many differing opinions as there are Presbyterians — and, like many denominations, we don’t always agree.”  

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) policy calls for a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and the right for each to exist within secure and recognized borders. The church has condemned acts of violence on both sides of the conflict, as well as the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements. Our church has categorically condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the refusal to acknowledge the legal existence of the State of Israel. At the same time, we believe that condemnation of injustices perpetrated in the name of the State of Israel, including the violation of human rights, does not constitute anti-Semitism.

In 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formed the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) to help move the church toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine. The independent group — which speaks to the church and not for the church — recently published a study guide, Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study. The guide isintended to prompt discussion on the ever-changing and tumultuous issue of Israel-Palestine. The IPMN booklet was neither paid for nor published by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“There are myriad voices within congregations, and some would like to see the church go beyond that stance,” added Valentine. “But we remain guided by the policies of the General Assembly, seeking peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

There are a variety of voices and opinions within the Jewish community on this issue as well. Jewish Voice for Peace advocates for a peaceful and just solution among Palestinians and Israelis that respects human rights for all. 

“We are in opposition to the settlements and occupation, and in favor of a true and just peace,” said Sydney Levy, director of advocacy for Jewish Voice for Peace. “And we are not alone in this — Jews, Christians, and Muslims join us in the prayer for peace.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been and continues to be an advocate for a peaceful resolution to conflict and welcomes dialogue from within the church and from interfaith partners. 

  1. "Zionism Unsettled" is an excellent resource, and I'm happy to say my congregation is making use of it.

    by Peter Gilmore

    May 11, 2014

  2. Piece should be welcomed but this is an unfair and biased piece which will likely create rather than solve problems. 1. Jewish History The book paints "Zionism" as some type of strange land-grabbing movement while it is simply a response to centuries of persecution. Jews faced pogroms, laws confining them to ghettos, laws mandating certain types of dress and prohibiting certain professions, culminating in the organized murder of Jews throughout Europe. It is simply a recognition that Jews need their own country. 2. There are many countries where Christianity is openly practiced and many where Islam is also. There are 20 countries in the Middle East of which 19 are Moslem. Why can't the one Jewish country be recognized. The continued discrimination faced by Jews in Arab countries, resulting in confiscation of goods, periodic beatings and expulsion, garners little attention, again showing a lack of evenhandedness. 3. The book fails to recognize lessons of the Holocaust. Most of the world failed to intervene. Countries' borders were closed for Jews; "none is too many" is the apt title of one book. Jewish leadership failed advocating cooperation and obedience which facilitated the easy murder of millions of Jews. 4. While responses varied, most churches did not speak out actively against the Holocaust and it was organized murder in a Christian country. See Abandonment of the Jews. Against this background of suffering, Israel was formed, not from some type of aggressive ideology. 5. In ascribing intentions, insufficient attention is given to the obvious, Israel never sought any additional land before 1967. Again in the early 60's, the small country simply sought to be left alone but that was not to be. An aggressive Arab leader named Nasser galvanized a movement to destroy it. Four countries, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, were prepared to invade the little country from all sides with superior manpower. The world didn't seem to care and even President Johnson said regretfully, we are not the policeman of the world. the Soviet Union eagerly forward armaments to Egypt. In a miracle Israel won. 6. The book complains about Israeli security measures in Gaza but fails to articulate a realistic alternative. If needed items can come through without inspection, can't sophisticated weapons also, and won't they be used. 7. At the end, if Zionism is regarded as an aggressive movement of questionable purpose, those who believe that should play no role in any future piece from Israel's perspective.

    by Bobby5000

    April 26, 2014

  3. How about the land that was promised to Judah

    by M wright

    April 1, 2014

  4. Thank you for clarification of this story & issue. The top article on Google regarding this booklet suggests several things that are clearly not true. I especially like the reference to the Jewish group that is opposed to the settlements. It is very important that we understand that there is a wide & varied spectrum of opinions even within Israel regarding the issue of settlements. Our media outlets would have us believe that there's a very narrow spectrum of opinion in Israel & that's simply not factually accurate. Thanks for the balance.

    by Hill Jordan

    February 20, 2014

  5. Let me get this straight: The General Assembly formed this council, but bears no responsibility for its declarations? What a convenient way to produce political opinions that are known to contradict the will of a majority of Presbyterians and at the same time to deny that they represent the opinions of the church or its Louisville staff!

    by Rev. Ernest Williams

    February 20, 2014

  6. I am wondering why you are not allowing any comments. You have suggested that one of the reasons you will not say anything against Zionism Unsettled is because of our diversity, but you will not allow that diversity to speak. The only ones you have allowed is the Jewish Voice for Peace who are part of the booklet. Are you afraid to hear other voices?

    by Viola Larson

    February 19, 2014

  7. This study guide finally addresses the elephant in the living room of reality. It needs to be widely used in our churches. A fine piece of work. We need to say "thank you" to it's writers and artists.

    by Robert P. Coffman

    February 17, 2014

  8. I'm curious--I have left comments, and I know others have, but I do not see them. Are there REALLY no comments to this?

    by Martha E. Leatherman, M.D.

    February 17, 2014

  9. The question now being asked world-wide is why a spiritually bankrupt denomination like the PC(USA) so hates Israel and Jews. Is it part of the denomination's fall from grace?

    by Carolyn George

    February 17, 2014

  10. I pray for peace 2-4 times a day. I have been deeply let down by the PCUSA. It is not the church that brought me to Jesus. I was lucky to have been born within this church. I am almost 65 years old and have been hurt by this church to a point of making me question my faith 2 times in the last 15 years. Lucky for me, God has given me my guidance and has kept me strong in His love and law. I pray that before you make a decision that prayers will be heard. The church (Presbyterian) should not be involved in politics. Please be careful in your wording, actions and opinions. A few are not what keeps God's love in the front, but a few could destroy what God has worked in us for others. The Bible is clear and that is what God wants from us. Thank you

    by Peggy

    February 16, 2014

  11. Palestinians deserve the same human kindness almost all of us try our best to extend to our Jewish neighbors as well as the people we meet from Israel. Our national policies do not reflect this. We contribute to the scapegoating and injustices the Palestinians suffer every day. Our aid to Israel primarily serves the Zionist colonial enterprise rather than being useful to both peoples proportional to their need. Of course the pro-colonial beneficiaries disagree! Our tax money, our UN votes, our 'donated' weapons, our pressure on allies to not waver in support of the Zionist colonial enterprise are expressions of who we are. There are indications a large proportion of American Jews feel Jewish values are being trampled upon by this enterprise, and would welcome an American initiated study, discussion, and conciliation process, in the hope we can become a better, more truly helpful nation. Thank you for this great outreach & effort.

    by Dan Huck

    February 15, 2014

  12. Thank you for caring about people in their difficulties in the Holy Land.

    by Hal Smith

    February 14, 2014

  13. Is it any wonder that people continue to leave this church. They publish something that antagonizes members, then go out of their way to explain that, no, it was really just a conversation starter. Thank God for my local church.

    by Steve Gons

    February 13, 2014

  14. You sure you want to be against Israel??? GOD said He will bless those who bless Israel and curse those whp curse Israel... These are God's chosen people..He will discipline Them if He feels a need. It would be wise of you just bless Them..History shows God destroyed all who Came against Israel. I will always stand with Israel and pray you will too.

    by LyndA Lucas

    February 13, 2014

  15. Nevertheless, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PC (U.S.A.) is a Presbyterian entity and the PCUSA is selling the book Zionism Unsettled. You have said nothing in this posting about disagreeing with some of the statements in the booklet. For instance you have not disagreed with the statement that "Zionism is by nature a system of discrimination and exclusion.” (50) You have not disagreed with the statement "that the emergence of the Zionist movement in the twentieth century is a retrogression of the Jewish community into the history of its very distant past, with its most elementary and primitive forms of the concept of God. Zionism has succeeded in reanimating the nationalist tradition within Judaism. Its inspiration has been drawn not from the profound thoughts of the Hebrew Scriptures, but from those portions that betray a narrow and exclusive concept of a tribal god." And from a Christian point of view you have not disagreed with the statement that "From a logical standpoint, only someone who had entered deeply into the faith and experience of every religion could claim to know from an insider's perspective that God's revelation in Christ is “the most complete revelation.” This book advocates for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state but it does much more than that it gives an incomplete account of the problems of the region, lifts the Koran above the Bible and basically destroys our relationship with the Jewish Community. Now is the time to speak out about a wrong that has been committed. This is your time to be a brave Christian who stands up for truth. Please do so.

    by Viola Larson

    February 13, 2014

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