Defending the right to speak in support of Palestinians and other citizens living without full citizenship and under occupation will be on the agenda of the Committee on Middle East Issues when the 223rd General Assembly meets June 16–23 in St. Louis.

An overture from the Synod of the Covenant opposes U.S. and state anti-BDS legislation (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). The synod urges commissioners to “defend and advocate” for citizens, companies and organizations to exercise their freedom of speech without suppression. The synod also calls for the repeal of state statutes that “seek to impose civil penalties or unconstitutional restrictions” on nonviolent BDS resistance.

The Synod of the Covenant is also asking the General Assembly, through the Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, to continue to “advocate for and witness to the human rights of all Israeli citizens regardless of their religious or ethnic minority status.”

A comment on the synod’s overture from the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns cites threats to the human rights of citizens of Israel who may be Christian, Muslim, Misrahi (Eastern) Jew, Ethiopian Israeli, women, and LGBT persons. “There are more than 50 laws—and more are being proposed—that discriminate against certain minorities,” the comment says. “Discrimination in housing, employment and education are just some of the areas that are highlighted by this overture.”

An overture from the Presbytery of Grace calls for the creation of a task force of PC(USA) staff, committees and mission networks to examine a call by the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP) for ecumenical solidarity in supporting justice for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and refugee camps. The task force would make recommendations and bring a full report to the 224th General Assembly (2020).

An overture from the Presbytery of Philadelphia focuses on the protection of children in Israel and Palestine. It condemns the militarization of Palestinian children forced to dig tunnels, serve as messengers for terrorist organizations and more. It also condemns the production of propaganda that “dehumanizes Israeli or Palestinian children or attempts to ‘cleanse’ the historical narrative of the Palestinian and the Jewish people.”

Committee 12 will also consider an overture directing the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) to reach out to all U.S. government leaders, seeking an end to the conflict in Syria. It also calls on the U.S. government to reopen Syrian refugees’ entry into the United States and to expand the number of refugees admitted.

Other items on the committee’s agenda include:

  • A call for PC(USA) staff and churches to engage in dialogue with Jewish colleagues on the Israeli occupation of Palestine

  • An overture seeking action to urge the real estate company RE/MAX to stop facilitating the sale of property in Israeli settlement colonies

  • A resolution calling for various ministries to develop policy recommendations on the status of Jerusalem

Rick Jones is a communications strategist for Presbyterian Mission Agency Communications. He is covering Assembly Committee 12 for the General Assembly News.