ST. LOUIS
Members of the [12] Middle East Issues Committee hear from an overture advocate at the 223rd General Assembly on Monday, June 18.

Members of the [12] Middle East Issues Committee hear from an overture advocate at the 223rd General Assembly on Monday, June 18. —Photo by: Michael Whitman

The 223rd General Assembly’s Middle East Committee has signed off on most of the overtures and commissioner resolutions presented during its two days of meetings. The overtures covered issues around Israel/Palestine, the U.S. government’s decision to disengage with Iran and the Syrian conflict.

While the committee meetings themselves were respectful and calm, the ongoing debate over the Israeli occupation of Palestine created some concern outside committee sessions. One speaker was confronted by another individual after the group broke for lunch on Monday. Once the committee reconvened, Moderator Charon Barconey addressed the panel.

“One of our speakers shared with the committee that they were followed across the street, where an individual made a statement that could be considered a threat,” she said. “Authorities were notified, and it appears the threat was made by someone who had not registered with the General Assembly.”

A security officer was stationed in the hall for the remainder of the first day of meetings.

Eleven out of 13 overtures and resolutions considered by the committee addressed issues surrounding Israel/Palestine. The committee rejected one condemning the militarization of Palestinian children to be used in attacks on Israeli citizens.

The committee also disapproved a resolution that would no longer classify Israel as a “colonial project.”

An overture from the Presbytery of Grace was approved with amendment urging PC(USA) staff, committees and task forces to remain committed to justice for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

The committee also approved an overture urging the real estate company RE/MAX, LLC, “to do everything within its legal and moral power” to stop facilitating the sale of property in Israeli settlement colonies.

Other actions included:

  • Confirming church support for the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and defending First Amendment rights for those who exercise their freedom of speech through various measures, including economic pressure

  • Condemning violence against Palestinians during the Great March of Return protests along the Gaza strip

  • Supporting successful grassroots efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together

  • Directing the church to report to the 224th General Assembly on the United Nations’ intentions for the status of Jerusalem

  • Urging church staff and members to reach out in “open, truthful dialogue” with Jewish colleagues on the issue of the Israeli occupation

“I rejoice in reconciliation, but the elephant in the room is the occupation. If we truly seek reconciliation, that needs to be the consequence of justice, restoration of human rights and dignity,” said Victor Makari, a Missionary Advisory Delegate. “There can be cordial encounters between groups, but there can be no reconciliation unless justice is exercised.”

The committee approved an overture calling for the U.S. government to reopen and expand Syrian refugees’ entry into the United States as well as a resolution urging all parties to comply with the Iran nuclear deal. It also asks for the U.S. government to reconsider its unilateral withdrawal from the agreement.