Religion in Society

Presbyterian Dilemma: Side With Israel or Palestinians?

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WASHINGTON -- Pro-Palestinian activists are making a bid to bring the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) back into their camp. They won a victory in 2004, when the church's General Assembly authorized divestment from companies doing business with Israel. That divestment mandate was rescinded in 2006 following a major effort by opponents, including IRD.

The 2008 Assembly pledged that "we will not over-identify with the realities of the Israelis or the Palestinians" and warned against "taking broad stands that simplify a very complex situation into a caricature of reality, where one side clearly is at fault and the other side is clearly the victim."

Now the activists are back with a new report that levies a long list of demands against Israel and asks the U.S. government to withhold aid "as a means of bringing Israel to compliance." The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly will convene July 3-10 in Minneapolis.

Alan Wisdom, IRD's Vice President for Research and Programs and Director of its Presbyterian Action committee, commented:

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is among the most complicated and deep-rooted in the world today. How can we Presbyterians best be the peacemakers that Jesus calls us to be? Should we side exclusively with one party in the conflict, or should we recognize concerns from both sides?

"Most items in the report of the Presbyterian Middle East Study Committee are too one-sided to be helpful. They direct criticism, demands, and pressure almost exclusively against Israel. They have little to say about the hundreds of millions of Middle Eastern citizens who are oppressed by governments other than Israel.

"The report would convey the Assembly's endorsement of a Palestinian political manifesto that rejects the identity of Israel as a Jewish state and seems to favor a single state that would soon have a Palestinian majority."

Alan Wisdom's paper on the PCUSA Middle-East report has been sent to General Assembly commissioners and is viewable at: