General Assembly Committee 8 preview

MIDDLE EAST ISSUES COMMITTEE CONSIDERS DIVESTMENT, TWO-STATE SOLUTION, CHILD-DETENTION

June 18, 2016

Portland

Thorny issues involved in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East will be among the topics under consideration when the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meets June 18–25 in Portland, Oregon.

The General Assembly Committee on Middle East Issues will review progress on the denomination’s divestment from three companies engaged in “non-peaceful pursuits” in Israel/ Palestine. Prompted by several presbytery overtures and a recommendation from the PC(USA)’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), the 221st General Assembly (2014) voted to divest from Caterpillar, HewlettPackard and Motorola Solutions after a decade of unsuccessful attempts at corporate engagement with the companies.

An overture (08-05) from the Presbytery of Flint River urges this year’s Assembly to “remove the divestment mandate” and allow PC(USA) investment in the three companies. The rationale for the overture states “these three companies cannot be responsible for how purchasers use their products.”

Overture 08-01 from the Synod of the Covenant calls for a “boycott of all products manufactured and sold by HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise until the companies cease to profit from non-peaceful pursuits and violations of human rights in Israel/Palestine.” The rationale for the overture notes that Hewlett Packard is the sole provider of computer hardware for the Israeli military. It says the company “is directly involved in widespread human rights abuses and military violence in the Gaza Strip” and also “contributes to and profits from the Israeli military’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank.”

A similar overture was voted down by the 2014 Assembly.

The PC(USA)’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) is sending to this year’s Assembly a 56-page report re-evaluating the denomination’s long-time support for a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine. The document, “IsraelPalestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace,” was prepared by the Study Team on Prospects for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, as directed by the 2014 Assembly.

The report (08-06) notes that over the years, the Presbyterian Church “has supported the international consensus favoring a two-state solution with a shared Jerusalem. Yet as situations change, the church must evaluate its positions accordingly. And in the view of many analysts, the door to a viable Palestinian state is closing rapidly, if it is still open at all.”

The report describes in detail how “Israel’s policy trajectory of continued settlements and brutal occupation” makes it “difficult, if not impossible” to achieve a two-state solution. Acknowledging this reality, the report says the PC(USA) “should advance those efforts that best accord with its values . . . including but not limited to that of two sovereign states — Israel and Palestine.”

The report recommends a list of actions the church should take in order to uphold its values—values such as dignity of all persons, self-determination of peoples through democratic means, solidarity with those who suffer, and others.

An overture (08-02) from the Synod of the Covenant, with concurrences from the Presbyteries of Southeastern Illinois and Cimarron, urges advocacy for the safety and well being of the children of Palestine and Israel, a concern also included in the report from ACSWP. The overture asserts that children “suffer widespread and systematic patterns of ill treatment and torture within the Israeli military detention system.”

An overture (08-03) from the Presbytery of New York City, with concurrences from four presbyteries, urges continuing support for the people of the Middle East. The overture calls for a variety of actions to encourage Christian presence, counter religious radicalism, promote economic development and promote long-term stability in the region.

An overture (08-04) from the Presbytery of the Redwoods, with concurrence from the Presbytery of Santa Fe, calls for the RE/MAX corporation to cease selling property in West Bank settlements.

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