GA approves report re-evaluating two-state solution in Israel/Palestine

June 25, 2016

Frances Lin (left) and Amy Fowler deliver the report of the Middle East Issues Committee.

Frances Lin (left) and Amy Fowler deliver the report of the Middle East Issues Committee. —Michael Whitman

Portland

After a debate that stretched over the dinner hour, the 222nd General Assembly (2016) approved a lengthy report containing a re-evaluation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s historic support of a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine.

The document, “Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace,” 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.”

Doug Tilton, who was part of the team that produced the report, described it as “deeply rooted in Reformed theology.” He said it builds on positions held by the PC(USA) since 1949, and “does not abandon support for a two-state solution, but seeks to move us in fresh directions.”

Approval of the report from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy came with a comment added by the GA Committee on Middle East Issues, affirming a preference for a two-state solution and a desire to stay in conversation with partners in Israel who are working for peace.

In the plenary debate, commissioners approved two amendments to the document that further emphasized the church’s preference for a two-state solution and the desire to stay in conversation with partners in the region.

Commissioners voted down a minority report that would have referred the paper to the Presbyterian Mission Agency for further study and editing, then re-submission to the 223rd General Assembly (2018). They also rejected two attempts to refer the paper to an administrative commission.

Supporters of referral said the tone and rhetoric of the ACSWP paper did not promote  reconciliation, and urged more balance in speaking about  violence and injustices committed by both Palestinians and Israelis.

Sam Jones, a member of the writing team for ACSWP, agreed that balance is critical. “However, the balance of suffering of Palestinians and Israelis simply does not exist,” he said, noting that Israel is an occupying power with much greater military might than the Palestinians have.

The final document passed by a vote of 429-129.

Also approved by a wide margin after extended debate was an overture urging advocacy for the safety and well-being of the added by the GA Committee on Middle East Issues to ensure that those who oppose the BDS movement be represented in the study.

Commissioners also voted to make the study their response to a commissioner’s resolution calling for the denomination to end outright any affiliation or support of BDS.

Two items from the Committee on Middle East Issues were on the consent agenda approved earlier in the week. One called on the realty company RE/MAX LLC to “do everything within its legal and moral power to stop facilitating the sale and rental of property in Israeli settlement colonies.” The other urged continuing support for the people of the Middle East by encouraging Christian presence, countering religious radicalism, promoting economic development, and promoting long-term stability in the region.

  1. Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I would respectfully ask you to reconsider your decision regarding boycotting Israel and supporting a two-state solution especially in light of the continued brutal murders of innocent Jewish civilians by Palestinians. A 13 year old girl was murdered in her bed. A father of 9 was murdered while driving on a highway. There is no moral justification for this behavior. The real goal of the Palestinians is not land, but the annihilation of the Jews. The Palestinians have been offered land repeatedly since 1948 but have not taken it. Instead, they continue their murderous assault on the Jewish people who have lived there for thousands of years. Why is the Presbyterian Church USA siding with murderers? The Bible tells us we are to abhor evil and cling to what is good. I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your position. Sincerely, Susan Mello Belmont, NH

    by Susan Mello

    July 9, 2016

  2. It is true that the plight of the Palestinians is desperate and must be addressed. But I agree with the minority report in that I think the material circulated by the PC(USA) has been more about assessing blame than about reconciliation. The time lines have focused on Israel aggression and nothing is included about Palestinian acts of terror. The histories you have provided either begin with 1947 or fail to fully deal with the fact that modern day Palestine was created following World War I and that Jordan annexed the "East Bank" that was designated as Palestinian territory. As far as I can tell you have never dealt with the role that other countries in the area have played in exacerbating the problem. The problem is rooted in the history and if you want to address it you must not lop off much of the history that led to the problem. It seems to me that if you are going to present background for the situation between Israel and the Palestinians you must not join Israel and the Palestinians in pointing fingers but must do so objectively. Then you can start to deal with the situation as it is today and attempt to promote reconciliation which is the only way to peace. Again in my opinion that might look like - give up the settlements, give up the return - that would be a complex and probably impossible thing to negotiate but wouldn't be the only way to make a two state solution work? At any rate, trying to "bully" Israel into doing what you think is right is probably not going to work. Some no doubt think the situation is similar to that in South Africa and that with enough world pressure Israel will "cave". I doubt it, too many in Israel feel they are right - sort of like the NRA and their guns. And while the world always seems happy to blame the Jews I doubt they will take on Israel in any meaningful way. Remember our commitment is peace and reconciliation - I think you do need to work on the second part if you ever want to achieve the first part.

    by Joanna Damon

    June 30, 2016

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