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Presbyterian actions and Israel / Palestine

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PC(USA) groups call for halt to Justice Department subpoenas of pro-Palestinian activists   [1-20-11]

Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service, reports:

Louisville, January 19, 2011 — Two Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Middle East advocacy groups have called for a halt to what they say is “the misuse of the grand jury process” by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI after nine federal grand jury subpoenas were served to Chicago-area Palestinian solidarity activists in December.

According to the PC(USA)-related Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN)  and the National Middle East Presbyterian Caucus (NMEPC)  , the Chicago subpoenas bring to 23 the number of summons given to pro-Palestinian peace activists by the DOJ in recent months.

“The IPMN and NMEPC call upon its own denominational leadership, as well as Churches for Middle East Peace, the National Council of Churches of Christ and all concerned Christian denominations to join them in denouncing the DOJ's bold attempts to suppress peaceful dissent  on the part of those working for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” the groups said in a Jan. 18 press release distributed by Religion News Service.

More >>

From the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship: 

Jewish boat to Gaza arrives in Israel

Many of you know that PPF was supportive of the Jewish Boat to Gaza, a nonviolent action taking symbolic aid to Gaza. We wanted to let you know the latest news about this effort.

The boat set sail from Cyprus on September 26 and was boarded today by Israeli forces and taken to Israel in the custody of the Israeli navy.

The Israeli citizens of the boat have mostly been released, while the foreign nationals remain in custody.

Follow latest updates here >>

See the New York Times report >>

And the BBC report >>

Bolbach appoints Middle East Monitoring Group

by Sharon K. Youngs, Office of the General Assembly communications coordinator
[posted here 9-15-10]

LOUISVILLE — Elder Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008), have named the Monitoring Group on the Middle East.

Acting on authorization by the 219th General Assembly (2010), Bolbach and Reyes-Chow selected seven individuals who the assembly said need to have "demonstrated experience with and knowledge of the complex dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the larger concerns of the Middle East, and shall together comprise an authentic balance representing the fullness of the spectrum of commitments within the PC(USA) toward the people and issues in the region."

The creation of the monitoring group grew out of the assembly's actions on "Breaking Down the Walls," the comprehensive report of the Middle East Study Committee to this year's assembly.

The assembly has asked the group to "assist the appropriate General Assembly Mission Council offices and the Middle East staff team in monitoring progress and guiding actions to ensure adequate implementation of policy directions approved by this General Assembly, given the growing complexity and interrelatedness of issues in the region."

The monitoring group will work over the next two years. No face-to-face meetings are anticipated. Instead, the group will meet via teleconferencing or other means to incur minimal expense.

Named to the group:

The Rev. Roula Alkhouri (Genesee Valley Presbytery): Alkhouri currently serves as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Batavia, N.Y. She grew up in Damascus, Syria, and holds degrees from the University of Damascus and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. In addition to growing up in Syria, Roula has traveled in the region and been active in raising awareness about issues of justice and peace in the Middle East, especially as they relate to the experience of Middle East Christians. She has led many workshops about the Middle East across the country and is committed to ecumenical and interfaith connections and cooperation between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Elder Laurie Anderson (Heartland Presbytery) and chairperson of the monitoring group: Anderson is the president of the Immigrant Justice Advocacy Movement, national coordinator of the New Sanctuary Movement, and youth director for Argentine United and Southridge Presbyterian churches in Kansas City. She was a commissioner to the 219th General Assembly (2010), where she served as vice moderator of the General Assembly Middle East Peacemaking Committee. As a nationally recognized immigration advocate, Anderson presents immigration workshops and forums and moderates regional and national immigration reform dialogues. In 2009, she was named Heartland Presbytery’s Peacemaker of the Year.

The Rev. J.C. Austin (New York City Presbytery): Austin directs the Center for Christian Leadership at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He previously served as an associate pastor at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Austin co-leads an Auburn Seminary program that takes Christian seminarians and Jewish rabbinical students through the region to engage together a complex range of narratives. A Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Austin’s dissertation focuses on how global Christianity influences public policy toward entrenched social conflicts through moral argumentation, using Israel/Palestine as one of his case studies.

The Rev. Bill Borror (Philadelphia Presbytery): Borror has been pastor of the Media Presbyterian Church in suburban Philadelphia since 1995. He previously served parishes in New Jersey and Texas. He is an affiliate professor of Christian Heritage at Palmer Theological Seminary where his areas of focus have included historical perspectives on Jewish-Christian relations. Since 2005, he has been a member of the Jewish-Presbyterian dialogue group and will participate in the National Council of Churches-Jewish conversation this fall. Borror was a commissioner to the 217th General Assembly (2006), where he served on the General Assembly Peacemaking Committee that dealt with divestment.

The Rev. Laura M. Cheifetz (Greater Atlanta Presbytery): Cheifetz works at the Fund for Theological Education in Atlanta, where her responsibilities include alumni relations, development, and the Transition into Ministry program. She has been involved with the PC(USA) and the National Council of Churches in peacemaking, women's ministries, racial/ethnic specific ministries, and antiracism endeavors, including writing multiple articles and resources. Cheifetz previously served for a year as a young adult intern in the Presbyterian United Nations Office.

The Rev. Jeffrey DeYoe (Scioto Valley Presbytery): DeYoe is pastor of Worthington Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio. He previously served pastorates in Kansas, Minnesota, and Florida and has served as a commissioner to two General Assemblies. Since 2006, DeYoe has been the advocacy chairperson of the PC(USA) Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN). His travels to Israel/Palestine were in 2001 during the Second Intifada, and in 2006 to represent the Presbytery of St. Augustine at the Bethlehem Peace Conference sponsored by the PC(USA) and the International Center of Bethlehem. He helped to write and edit the 2009 IPMN publication/curriculum, "Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace."

The Rev. Ronald L. Shive (Salem Presbytery): Shive is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Burlington, N.C., where he has served since 2002. He previously served three churches in South Carolina. Shive chaired the Middle East Study Committee that was mandated by the 218th General Assembly (2008). The committee's report to the 219th General Assembly, "Breaking Down the Walls," was amended and approved by the assembly. One of the amendments was the creation of this monitoring group.

Staffing the Monitoring Group for the Middle East are the Rev. Mark Koenig, peacemaking coordinator, General Assembly Mission Council; The Reverend Victor Makari, Middle East coordinator, General Assembly Mission Council; and the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly.

Read this story on the PCUSA website >>

Christian leaders praise Obama's Middle East peace talks

PC(USA)'s Parsons joins Churches for Middle East Peace in statement  [9-2-10]

Jerry L. Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service reports:

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly stated clerk for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has joined nearly 30 other U.S. Christian leaders in welcoming the direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians being held this week in Washington.

In a letter to President Obama, the group — brought together by Churches for Middle East Peace, also noted the need for sustained U.S. cooperation with both parties if an agreement is to be reached and said the direct talks, backed by the U.S., provide a unique opportunity to resolve key issues that have been persistent barriers to peace.

"We are grateful for President Obama's tireless efforts for this hope," said Parsons. "The Presbyterian Church hopes that the talks will bring lasting peace for Israel and Palestine."

More – including the full text of the letter to the President >>

After flotilla incident, churches call for new Israeli policy on Gaza

John Dart, news editor at The Christian Century, reports:

The National Council of Churches, its key mainline members and other church organizations are calling for Israel to alter its policies on the Gaza Strip after an Israeli action against an international flotilla on the high seas resulted in nine deaths, many wounded and damaged diplomatic relations.

The New York-based NCC "has strongly supported Israel's right to exist with peace and security, but this attack on an aid convoy contributes to neither," said General Secretary Michael Kinnamon of the May 31 confrontation in the Mediterranean. "In fact, it undermines Israel's standing in the community of nations."

Kinnamon said he backed a June 2 statement by Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches and agencies, that said, "The incident highlights the need for the U.S. to work for new, constructive Israeli policies toward Gaza that end the blockade and provide for the humanitarian need of those living there without diminishing Israel's own security."            More >>

Palestinian Christians urge protests after Israeli assault on flotilla

by Judith Sudilovsky and Stephen Brown, Ecumenical News International


Bethlehem/Geneva — June 2, 2010 --- Palestinian Christian organizations have urged protests by church groups around the world against an Israeli assault on ships bringing aid to Gaza, which Israel says has led to the deaths of at least 10 activists on board the convoy.

The Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine said on May 31it “strongly condemns this massacre against unarmed civilians which visibly violates international law and human rights.”

Activists say Israeli troops came on board shooting; Israel says its soldiers were shot at and attacked with weapons, the BBC reported, quoting an Israeli spokesperson.

The YMCA and YWCA urged sister movements throughout the world as well as church leaders and groups to organize demonstrations in front of government buildings or Israeli embassies to protest against the action.

In Geneva, ACT Alliance, an international coalition organizing church-based emergency operations in Gaza, condemned the Israeli military attacks called for an independent international investigation. ACT general secretary John Nduna said those responsible must be held accountable.

Bernard Sabella, head of the ACT Forum in Jerusalem called the Israeli action “a crime by any standard,” in a statement distributed by the Geneva-based humanitarian alliance.

A statement distributed by the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center said that Palestinian Christian church and community leaders “condemn in the strongest language possible the irresponsible actions perpetrated by the Israeli forces against civilian participants of the Freedom Flotilla.”

It urged action to ensure that Israel ended its “siege of Gaza and … its military occupation of the Palestinian Territories.”

The flotilla carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian and peace activists was bearing supplies headed for Gaza, the coastal enclave that is run by Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement. Those taking part said they were seeking to break the sea blockade of Gaza maintained by Israel which they say is inhumane.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said reports from the scene “indicated that some of the participants onboard … were planning to lynch the forces.”

An Israeli commando identified as A told reporters he descended with ropes and was immediately attacked by a group of people waiting for the Israeli forces. “They beat us up with metal sticks and knives,” he said. “There was live fire at some point against us.”

Audrey Bomse of the Free Gaza movement, an organizer of the convoy, was quoted by the BBC as saying that a live video stream showed the Israelis, “coming out of helicopters and shooting immediately.” She added, “I can tell you that there were no firearms — all the boats were carefully inspected by the government before they left the port of departure.”

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem also demanded an independent investigation into the circumstances of the military action, whether the Israeli forces used proportionate force, and whether they were trained to cope with such an event. It said that IDF assertions of “extreme violence” by activists were “based solely on statements of soldiers” and that the investigation must consider all testimonies by eye witnesses.

The appeals came as the World Council of Churches was urging Christians to take part in a 29 May-4 June “World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.”

“We are uniting our voices with others, to speak with one voice against the injustices being suffered by the Palestinian people living under occupation for now more than 43 years,” the convener of the peace week, the Rev. John Calhoun, told a May 31 service at the WCC’s Geneva headquarters. “It is time for this conflict to end,” said Calhoun, a United Methodist minister from the United States who is based in Amman, Jordan.

Speaking before the service, WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit described the peace week as being “timely” given the reports of the deaths on the flotilla of ships seeking to go to Gaza. “All parties must stop violence and find the way forward,” said Tveit. The WCC says the prayer week, “calls participants to seek justice for Palestinians so that both Israelis and Palestinians can finally live in peace.”

However, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, described the churches’ peace week as “blatantly anti-Israel,” the Christian Post reported from the United States.

In its fourth year, the week is the initiative of the WCC with partners that include Pax Christi International, a Roman Catholic group.

At Bethlehem, about 100 people gathered for an ecumenical worship service on 29 May to mark the launch of the week just a few hundred meters from the separation barrier erected by Israel that in many instances intrudes into the West Bank.

“Our prayer very clearly is for all checkpoints and the wall to be eliminated. That’s the focus of our prayer,” said the Rev. Naim Ateek, a retired Anglican cleric and founder of Sabeel, the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.

Israel began building the barrier during the Palestinian uprising called an intifada during which suicide bombers crossed over from Palestinian areas into Israel causing hundreds of deaths. The barrier cuts into Palestinian land and prevents residents of Bethlehem from freely crossing into Jerusalem.

As well as Ateek, Greek Orthodox Archimandrite Attallah Hanna, and Melkite Bethlehem priest Youkob Abu Saadah, attended the ecumenical service which included readings from both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible.

The week features a prayer issued by the heads of churches in Jerusalem for Christians around the world to pray with them for justice and peace in the region.

“Free the souls and hearts of Israelis and Palestinians,” the prayer states. “Give liberation, freedom and dignity, to the people of Gaza who live under trials, threats and blockades. Guide the leaders in this land, purify their minds and hearts, to become true servers of their peoples.”

On May 30, the Jerusalem Prayer was read in Palestinian churches of all denominations as well as churches in various countries around the world including Sweden, Austria, Australia, Cuba, the United States, Canada and the Philippines.

“I believe the prayer for peace is very important,” said Zoughbi Zoughbi, director of Wi’am, the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Centre. He said it would help focus attention on, “the plight of the Palestinians and search for peace in the Middle East.”

Gabriela Steinger, a 62-year-old German member of the Pax Christi group taking part in the ecumenical prayer said, “I think we must show solidarity to the people here. We are Christian and this is something we can do together to encourage each other.”

Read the Jerusalem Prayer online.

Israel's attack on relief supplies for Gaza

Note from your WebWeaver – My wife and I were away for a long weekend, so I have not been able to post anything about this terrible event until now. Jewish Peace News offers a good selection of reports and comments:

Israeli forces’ attack on Freedom Flotilla

An update on the afternoon of June 2, 2010, from Jewish Peace News

The Israeli government is still refusing to release most of the members of the flotilla, so not much new information has emerged. But there have been a number of important reactions and comments summarized in the MERIP article “Outlaws of the Mediterranean”  and on Democracy Now . Most of the reaction – both official and unofficial – have been highly critical of Israel; but with the conspicuous exception of the United States, which officially ‘regrets’ the incident and seeks to ascertain the facts. The US has already managed to scupper a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel and calling for an independent investigation.

Yesterday’s Democracy Now features interviews with Adam Shapiro, founder of the International Solidarity Movement (whose wife was on the Flotilla), Amira Hass (the only Israeli journalist based in the Occupied Territories), Ali Abunimah (founder of Electronic Intifada) and Richard Falk (an international lawyer and UN special rapporteur for the Occupied Palestine Territories).

Hass talks about a number of protests in the West Bank (including one at which an American student and ISM volunteer was attacked by Israeli forces with tear gas canisters and lost her left eye as a result) that have called, among other things, for the PA to cease dealing with the Israeli government in either negotiations or any form of security cooperation.

Falk is especially clear that the official Israeli propaganda strategy of focusing attention on whether Israeli commandos were attacked and were acting in self-defense is morally misplaced: the Israeli government launched an unprovoked attack on an unarmed civilian vessel in international waters; the Israeli government was therefore the aggressors and its commandos had no right of self-defense. The civilians being attacked did have such a right.

And Ali Abunimah clearly articulates the rage and outrage felt especially by Palestinians both about this incident and about the euphemistic, misleading and sometimes downright mendacious language that surrounds it.

Today’s Democracy Now contains an interview with Daniel Carmon, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN giving the official Israeli justification for the attack and an interview with Edward Peck, a former US Ambassador who was on one of the smaller flotilla ships and who criticizes Carmon.

Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog >>

Stated Clerk issues statement on Gaza blockade incident

"We pray that the day for peace will come quickly"

by Presbyterian News Service  [6-2-10]

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has issued the following statement in the wake of the Israeli interception of a convoy of ships on its way to Gaza with humanitarian aid:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of ministry and presence with the people of the Middle East and has long advocated for a just and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Because of this, we express our deep concern about the events that occurred on May 31, 2010 — the Israeli interception in international waters of a convoy of humanitarian-aid ships seeking to bring supplies to a population of 1.5 million people in Gaza.

A severe blockade of Gaza by Israel in response to the free election of Hamas representatives in 2006 and the military incursions of Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009 have dramatically increased the already acute humanitarian need. We grieve the killing and injuring of participants in the humanitarian effort, as well as the injuring of members of the Israeli military forces that occurred when the Israeli forces stormed one of the ships and those on board resisted.

Our tradition, although not strictly pacifist, honors peaceful resistance, including nonviolent disobedience to unjust government policies and actions. We recognize that such initiatives as the flotillas to bring aid to the people of Gaza can be powerful instruments of such resistance. These actions sometimes incite violent responses, as in this case. The long-term success of this kind of resistance requires a nonviolent response on the part of the demonstrators, even when they are under attack.

We affirm the call of the United Nations Security Council for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation of the May 31, 2010, events, in conformity with international standards. We ask President Obama and the United States Congress to support and ensure the fulfillment of this call.

We call for an end to the blockade of Gaza and urge the government of Israel to permit the immediate delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

We call on the Hamas government to work to end rocket attacks by all parties against Israel.

We call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

We call for the release of all ships and civilians held by Israel.

We call on the United States government to play an intensive and faithful role as a peacemaker – honoring international law, supporting UN efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and working for the day when Palestinians and Israelis alike know justice, peace, and security.

We pray for those killed and injured in the events of May 31, 2010, and for those who ordered and executed the interception. We pray for the people of Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel, as well as all nations and peoples impacted by these events. We pray that the day for peace will come swiftly.

Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives’ Statement on Killings on the High Seas

by: Rabbi Michael Lerner on May 31st, 2010
Revised version, June 1.   [posted here 6-2-10]

The full text is posted below, and can be found on the Tikkun website as well.

We regret and deplore the killings which took place as Israeli troops, in defiance of international law, boarded and assaulted, wounded many and killed some of the participants in a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza (itself a morally outrageous policy) to bring humanitarian aid. We ask all people of peace to participate in memorials for those peace activists who have been killed (and we call upon all synagogues around the world to say Kaddish for those people at their Shabbat services this coming weekend), and for prayer for the speedy recovery of all those wounded in this attack (mostly peace activists, but also the Israeli soldiers who boarded the boats with violence).

We invite all peace-loving people to attend a public memorial for those who died in this assault in Lafayette Park opposite the White House on Sunday, June 13, at 11 am – 2 pm, sponsored by Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and many other groups, and which will include a larger consideration of U.S. policies. Memorial prayers and prayers for healing will be said at 1 pm.

We call upon Israel to conduct an objective, credible investigation to determine all the levels of responsibility for this criminal act, and to punish those from the top of the government down through the IDF who were responsible. If the past is any guide to the present moment, the Israel hasbara (public relations “explanation” operation) will now be working full time to put the blame on the people who sought to bring aid to Gaza, claiming that they were the violent ones and maybe even claiming that they were bringing military equipment or something of the sort.

Yet there was no need for any of this to have happened. Israel could have waited for the boats to arrive at shore and then sent military to search what was being brought to Gaza to ensure that it was in fact humanitarian aid. Moreover, as the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom pointed out on May 31, the core of the issue remains Israel’s attempt to starve and punish the entire population of Gaza for the activities of Hamas.

We call upon the international community to stop the blockade and, if necessary, to introduce an international force into Israel/Palestine to protect each side from the other, and then to implement the creation of a two state solution, freeing both sides from the violence of the other, and giving to each side the security and self-determination to which both sides are entitled. We call upon President Obama to use this moment to take decisive steps to create the Palestinian state while providing Israel with all necessary security, and providing the Palestinian people with protection from those in Israel who have used violence to prevent Palestinian national self-determination. We continue to abhor and denounce those in Israel and those in Palestine and Gaza who resort to violence to achieve their ends, including some in Hamas and including some Israeli settlers. We acknowledge that the Israeli treatment of Gaza cannot be understood separate from the violent attacks on Israeli civilians from the shelling of Israeli cities from Gaza, nor that shelling understood apart from the blockade of Gaza by Israel, nor that violence from Gaza apart from the violence of the Occupation, nor the Occupation separate from previous acts of violence by Palestinians, nor that previous violence separate from the larger context of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians by Israel during the founding of the State, nor that expulsion separate from the hostility of Palestinians to the creation of the State, and the story goes on and on. It’s time to stop with the blame game and simply put an end to the struggle on both sides.

We continue to support the State of Israel’s right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and for Palestine to exist as a homeland for the Palestinian people and the right of current Palestinian/Arab Israeli citizens to continue to reside in Israel as well as be accorded equal rights with its Jewish citizens. The violence must stop. The peace process is going nowhere. The time for decisive action to impose a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict arrived decades ago, and must be grabbed now. What level of barbarity needs to happen for the U.S. and the international community to act decisively? How many more deaths?

We mourn the lives lost, the many who have been wounded, including both those on the humanitarian aid mission and Israelis sent by a crazed and irresponsible government into actions that put their lives in danger. Israel’s security was never threatened by this flotilla of humanitarian aid, and it was only macho political motivations that led Israeli leaders to order this insane assault. Israel deserves better than Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and the world has to recognize that this current Israeli government will never bring peace or stability to the Middle East. While we continue to deplore Hamas and all that it has introduced into the equation, complicating attempts to make peace and doing what it could to stir hatred, and while we call on Hamas to free IDF soldier Jonathan Shalit, we believe that the world and the Israeli people and the Palestinian people deserve peace and justice, and that it is our human obligation to bring that to the peoples of the Middle East. A first step is to end the blockade of Gaza. We call upon all who protest Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to maintain a strict non-violent discipline, and to affirm the humanity of all sides in this conflict (including that of soldiers in the Israeli army, religious fundamentalists both Muslim and Jewish and Christian, Gaza residents who tragically support Hamas, American Jews who walk lockstep with Israel, Israelis who shut their eyes to the suffering they are causing to the Palestinian people, and the list goes on), even as we insist on bold and compelling action to stop the conflict. May God guide us.

Desmond Tutu calls for “divesting from injustice”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, has written out of his own profound commitment to both peace and justice, in support of a recent call by students at the University of California, Berkeley, for the University to divest their funds now invested in companies that engage in activities supportive of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

Thanks to PVJ member John Simpson, of Fair Oaks, CA

Desmond Tutu's statement:

Divesting From Injustice

It was with great joy that I learned of the recent 16-4 vote at UC Berkeley in support of divesting the university's money from companies that enable and profit from the injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian human rights. Principled stands like this, supported by a fast growing number of U.S. civil society organizations and people of conscience, including prominent Jewish groups, are essential for a better world in the making, and it is always an inspiration when young people lead the way and speak truth to power.

Despite what detractors may allege, these students are doing the right thing. They are doing the moral thing. They are doing that which is incumbent on them as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.

I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. Students played a leading role in that struggle, and I write these words of encouragement for student divestment efforts cognizant that it was students who played a pioneering role in advocating equality in South Africa and promoting corporate ethical and social responsibility to end complicity in Apartheid. I visited the Berkeley campus in the 1980's and was touched to find students sitting out in the baking sunshine to demonstrate for the University's divestment in companies supporting the South African regime.

The same issue of equality is what motivates the divestment movement of today, which tries to end Israel's 43 year long occupation and the unequal treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them. The abuses they face are real, and no person should be offended by principled, morally consistent, non-violent acts to oppose them. It is no more wrong to call out Israel in particular for its abuses than it was to call out the Apartheid regime in particular for its abuses.

To those who wrongly allege unfairness or harm done to them by this call for divestment, I suggest, with humility, that the harm suffered from being confronted with opinions that challenge one's own pales in comparison to the harm done by living a life under occupation and daily denial of basic rights and dignity. It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute. These students are helping to pave that path to a just peace and I heartily endorse their divestment vote, encourage them to stand firm on the side of what is right, and urge others to follow the lead of the youth.

This is also posted on Huffington Post >>


For more on the Berkeley action:

Tikkun Magazine, which is based in Berkeley, has provided a number of materials related to the proposal by the Berkeley Student Senate Bill calling for divestment from two companies that help Israel maintain the Occupation of the West Bank.

The first statement [critical of the divestment proposal] comes from J street and is signed by the New Israel Fund as well. They are important voices for peace and justice in Israel.

Following that is the resolution [for divestment] being debated.

In support of the divestment proposal they present statements from Jewish Voices for Peace, Bishop Tutu, Naomi Klein, and others.

Click here for the whole collection.

Full report of PC(USA) Middle East Study Committee is now available

‘Breaking Down the Walls’: a comprehensive report about a complex context

by Sharon Youngs, Communications Coordinator, Office of the General Assembly

LOUISVILLE— March 10, 2010 -- The full 172-page report of the Middle East Study Committee (MESC) to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is now available.

The 219th General Assembly (2010) will meet July 3-10 in Minneapolis.

The third and final portion of “Breaking Down the Walls” was posted online at the Middle East Peace Web site today. The most recent release includes committee members’ firsthand accounts of their Middle East experiences, policy recommendations, and several appendices.

“This report reflects the extensive, hard work of the study committee and the wealth of experience each member brought to our discussions,” said the Rev. Ron Shive, a pastor in Salem Presbytery who chairs the MESC. “Given the interest in this topic and the diversity of our backgrounds, our conversations were always lively. And yet, we managed to have consensus on the bulk of our report and recommendations.”

All but one of the nine-member committee voted to approve the report and recommendations.

The MESC was established by the 218th General Assembly (2008) to “prepare a comprehensive study, with recommendations, focused on Israel/Palestine within the complex context of the Middle East.” The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th General Assembly, appointed the committee in consultation with the two previous GA moderators.

In its report, the committee writes that the complex context includes:

... two, ongoing wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan and the northwest border regions of Pakistan, wars that, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, involve issues of U.S. involvement, a use of force, an occupation, and religious tension. … ongoing struggles within particular nations: between religious and ethnic groups in Iraq and to a lesser extent in Lebanon; between the rulers and the ruled in Egypt and several other Arab countries; between the native-born and the guest workers in the Gulf region; between political factions in Palestine; between Israelis and Palestinians in Israel; between the ideals of democracy and theocracy in Iran, Israel, and Palestine; and between forces of modernization and tradition in all countries. The undue influence of outside forces continues a history of colonial interference throughout the Middle East. Yet most expert observers and popular opinion polls confirm that the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is playing a central role in exacerbating region-wide grief and grievance.

The committee spent nearly two years engaging in study of the issues. They traveled to the Middle East region to see the situation firsthand. Throughout their time together, they met with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders, as well as U.S. and Middle Eastern government officials. They spent time with church partners in the region, and held vigorous discussions all along the way.

Outline of the report

The study committee’s work has resulted in the 172-page document, which is divided into three parts.

Part one contains a brief introduction to the report, a series of letters to multiple audiences, a biblical and theological reflection, and the section, “What We Have Seen and Heard,” which details the committee’s methodology and experience, including personal vignettes from four of the members.

Shive continued, “It is our hope that the series of letters will be seen as the interpretive lens through which to read this report.”
“We begin with the letters because we recognize that our ministry must be focused on relationships,” said Shive. “Our primary audience is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). But we know that others are eager to read our report and will bring their own expectations. We want to speak directly to them in a loving and truthful way, so that they might hear the rest of what we say in light of this conversation.”

The letters are addressed to audiences that include “Our American Jewish Friends,” “Our Middle Eastern Brothers and Sisters in Christ,” and “Our American Neighbors … Government Representatives, and Our American Administration.”

Part two of the report contains the MESC’s 39 recommendations to this year’s General Assembly.

Part three includes study materials and appendices that the committee is asking the General Assembly to receive and commend to the church for study.

“It is a challenge to present a report of this length,” said Shive. “The temptation to lift out a sound bite to support or defend one’s position will be incredibly strong. But we prayerfully ask that everyone read the full report for themselves and make use of the additional resources at Middle East Peace Web site.”

“The situation in the Middle East is too critical to do anything less,” he said.

Urgency of the situation

Within the report is a review of General Assembly policy statements on the Middle East, which date back to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. The committee found that these statements have consistently called for a two-state solution with rights, dignity, and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

However, the committee’s report lifts up the growing urgency to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “The real concern that we all embrace is that the window of opportunity for an end to the occupation and the viability of a two-state solution is rapidly closing. This is due in large part to the rapid growth of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the increasing number of bypass roads, the injustice of the separation barrier, and tragic numbers of house demolitions.”

The report continues, “A just and lasting peace and security for Israel is possible when the occupation has ended and the Palestinian acts of violent resistance are no longer employed. A just and lasting peace and security for the Palestinians is possible when the occupation has ended and Israel does not need to resort to military force to maintain its illegal land possession. If there were no occupation, there would be no Palestinian resistance. If there was no Palestinian resistance, Israelis could live in peace and security.”

“Inexcusable acts of violence have been committed by both the powerful occupying forces of the Israeli military and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, as well as the Palestinians, of whom a relatively small minority has resorted to violence as a means of resisting the occupation.”

The committee concludes, “Violence is not an acceptable means to peace, regardless of its rationale.”

Dwindling presence of Christian community

Another pressing issue addressed in the MESC report is the diminishing population of Christians in the Middle East.

The report says, “The Christian community has maintained an unbroken presence and witness in Jerusalem since Pentecost, gradually spreading throughout Palestine, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean world. There is continuing concern about the numbers of Christians remaining in the Middle East and particularly in Palestine. This was the message that was clearly heard from our Christian partners, particularly in Lebanon and Israel.”

“This dwindling presence of Christians in the Middle East is a deep concern due to the role that Christians have played in being a mediating, reconciling presence. Without that presence, we fear a more religiously polarized Middle East, more prone to extremism.”


The committee’s 39 recommendations to the 219th General Assembly are as detailed and extensive as the report itself.

In their introductory comments to the recommendations, committee members write that they seek to strengthen the PC(USA)’s “past positions on behalf of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the cessation of violence by all parties, and its opposition to Israel’s ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its continuing occupation of those territories.”

The comments continue, “We also call upon the various Palestinian political factions to negotiate a unified government prepared to recognize Israel’s existence. We proclaim our alarm and dismay—both over the increasingly rapid exodus of Christians from Israel/Palestine caused by anti-Palestinian discrimination and oppression, the growth of Islamic and Jewish fundamentalism, and the occupation-related absence of economic opportunity; and also over the exodus of Christians from other parts of the region caused by various military, economic, religious, and cultural factors. And we oppose the government of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, its sponsorship of international guerilla warfare, and the threat these pose both to Israel and to Arab states.”
The committee writes, “We deeply value our relationships with Jews and Muslims in the United States, Israel, and the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East. Yet the bonds of friendship must neither prevent us from speaking nor limit our empathy for the suffering of others. Inaction and silence on our part enable actions we oppose and consequences we grieve. We recognize how great a burden past misguided actions by our government have placed on Christians throughout the Muslim world. We recognize that massive amounts of U.S tax money are feeding the various conflicts in the Middle East—including two current wars of arguable necessity and Jewish settlements in Palestine.”

And finally, “We also recognize that our concern to end support for both violence in all its forms and the ongoing occupation and settlement of Palestine places demands of integrity on how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) uses its own resources and investments. Let us be clear: We do affirm the legitimacy of Israel as a state, but consider the continuing occupation of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem) to be illegitimate, illegal under international law, and an enduring threat to peace in the region. Furthermore, we recognize that any support for that occupation weakens the moral standing of our nation internationally and our security.”

Interest in the PC(USA)’s approach to an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been intensified since the General Assembly’s action in 2004 to begin the processing of divesting from companies whose activities support continued human rights violations in Israel/Palestine.

This year, two PC(USA) presbyteries are sending overtures to the General Assembly that call for divestment from Caterpillar because the company sells equipment to the Israeli army for use in the demolition of homes, the uprooting of olive trees, and the maintenance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

However, the MESC report does not endorse divestment. Instead, the committee has chosen to echo the wording of a recommendation to the assembly by the Mission Responsibility through Investment (MRTI) committee, which calls for the General Assembly to denounce Caterpillar’s continued profit-making from non-peaceful uses of a number of its products.

Shive said, “We prefer to strengthen our engagement with companies, especially Caterpillar. Let’s remain at the table and keep the conversation going.”

The MESC report will be considered by the 219th General Assembly (2010), first in committee and then on the floor of the full assembly. If the General Assembly as a whole approves the report and recommendations, it will then become official PC(USA) policy.

The committee is all too aware of the deeply felt passion on every side of these issues. All the more reason for their report, says Shive. “These are conversations we need to be having, uncomfortable as they are. It is urgent that the church speak, and do so clearly. Christians are leaving the Middle East because hope for a comprehensive peace is fading in the region.”

“We just hope it’s not too late.”


The Israel Palestine Mission Network calls upon PC(USA) leadership to stand firm

We recently reported on a statement by the Simon Wiesenthal Center which called on Jews to protest to the PC(USA), both its leadership and its members, about the yet unpublished report of the Middle East Study Group on Israel/Palestine issues, that will be presented to the General Assembly July 3-10 in Minneapolis.

The following article has been prepared by the Steering Committee of the IPMN to address “the disinformation campaign being waged by the Simon Wiesenthal Center” against the report.

In 2008 at its 218th General Assembly meeting in San Jose, California, the Presbyterian Church (USA) affirmed the obligation of the Church to speak to U.S. and foreign governments when it sees those governments violating the commandments of God; endorsed the Amman Call created in 2007 by the Christian Churches in the Middle East which then called upon our denomination to take significant actions in our policies for seeking a just Israeli-Palestinian peace, assuring that we remain active partners in this effort; called for Presbyterians to travel and take pilgrimages to Israel/Palestine in a manner that offers a full view of life conditions for both Israelis and Palestinians; and strengthened its resolve to monitor closely U.S. corporations that support or profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In addition to these justice issues affecting all Palestinians, the Assembly was very concerned that intensified Israeli control of Jerusalem and the West Bank was accelerating the shrinkage of the Christian population in the Holy Land—a matter of real urgency at this point. Thus the Assembly voted to create a Middle East Study Group (MESG), appointed by the present PC (USA) moderator and the two most recent past moderators, that would report to the 219th meeting of the General Assembly in 2010.

Since that meeting, the Middle East Study Group has met several times, traveled to Israel/Palestine, visited with both Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders and others, and spent time on both sides of the system of walls, fences and checkpoints that separate Palestinians from lives of freedom, human rights, access to life-preserving and life-saving medical care and treatment, as well as the ability to lead full lives that have access to livelihoods and the amenities of just societal living that most of us take for granted. As is true with most who travel to the West Bank, many in this study group returned to their task with eyes wide open. This does not mean, however, that all members of the study group were of one mind about how Presbyterians should respond to the injustice they could not deny is taking place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

The report of the MESG has not yet been made public. It will be released soon and formally presented and discussed at the General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Minneapolis July 3-10 of this year. Without the benefit of having seen or read the report, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, under the direction of Rabbi Abraham Cooper, has now begun a disinformation campaign regarding the Middle East Study Group and its findings. The organization’s website has sounded an alert calling upon its constituency as well as rank-and-file Presbyterians to flood the PC (USA) offices in Louisville with e-mails in opposition to MESG’s yet-to-be published findings.

This action seeks to do exactly what groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center often rail against when the same is done to the Jewish community: take an entity endowed with diverse opinion and many different gifts and turn it into a monolith for the purpose of demonization. It hopes to distract the public from the fact that the Jewish Community not only comprises those who hold these views but also involves such groups and organizations as Jewish Voice for Peace, B’Tselem, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) that stand unafraid to engage in debate about the serious violations of humans right being committed in Occupied Palestine.

Many on the forefront of the human rights struggle in Occupied Palestine know that in Israel itself there is a healthier debate going on throughout Israeli society about these issues than is taking place in the American Jewish Community. One only needs to read Israeli dailies like The Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz to know there are significant Israeli voices calling for an end to injustice in Palestine; voices of people who believe their beloved homeland has become an oppressor nation. Their motives in calling for immediate change in government policies are not only for the sake of Palestinian human rights, but also for the future security of Israel itself.

World opinion is turning against Israeli policies in the OPT and, as this occurred in regard to South Africa just a few decades ago, nothing will change that. This is the reason for the great angst, hyperbolic attacks and disinformation campaign emerging from such organizations as the Simon Wiesenthal Center; an organization once known for its pursuit of justice has now appointed itself to be a mouthpiece for a colonial enterprise and segregated political system. It is important to note that the Wiesenthal Center, which Presbyterians could once count on to express the best of the Biblical prophetic tradition, is presently trying to build a “Museum of Tolerance” on an ancient Muslim graveyard in Jerusalem. In the name of the tolerance and understanding this organization seeks, it would be important for its leadership to clarify whether or not it believes there should be a Christian presence left in Jerusalem and Palestine and, if so, explain how that presence can be maintained under the constant pressure of an apartheid system. The Israel Palestine Mission Network, along with many Presbyterians who are committed to seeing their church make a stand for justice and human rights wherever these values may be violated, calls upon Presbyterian leadership in Louisville and elsewhere to stand firm in the face of this deceptive attack by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

For further information on the current publicity and disinformation campaigns of the Israeli government, please consult:


Thank you for your consideration,

Jeffrey DeYoe, Sr. Pastor
Worthington Presbyterian Church
773 High Street
Worthington, Ohio 43085

Presbyterians favor pushing corporations not to promote violence

Poll shows strong support for ‘two-state’ solution in Israel/Palestine

Jerry L. Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service reports:

At least two-thirds of Presbyterians believe the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should try to dissuade corporations from doing things that “directly or indirectly” support violence against Israeli or Palestinian civilians, and at least three in five Presbyterians believe that the denomination should shift its investment funds away from corporations that continue to support such violence despite pleas to stop.

These are findings of the August 2009 Presbyterian Panel survey of representative samples of members, elders, pastors, and other ministers.

“Presbyterians don’t want companies supporting violence in the Middle East,” said Perry Chang, Panel administrator. “And they don’t think we should keep our investments in companies that continue to do so.”

The panel results were released before the denomination’s General Assembly Council voted Feb. 26 to ask the upcoming 219th General Assembly to denounce profit-making by Caterpillar, Inc. on sales of its heavy machinery to Israel. Caterpillar equipment is used by the Israeli government to bulldoze Palestinian homes in occupied territory and to construct the so-called “separation barrier” and settlements on disputed territory in Israel/Palestine.     The rest of the story >>

NOVEMBER 5 – 19, 2010

Received from the Rev. Len Bjorkman, for the Syria-Lebanon Network of the PC(USA)   [2-26-10]

You are invited to travel on a mission trip to Lebanon and Syria this fall to meet fellow-Presbyterians from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This venture is organized through the Iraq Partnership Network and the Syria-Lebanon Network of the PC(USA) and is sponsored and facilitated by The Outreach Foundation. The church governing bodies in the region, namely the Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Iraq and the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon have worked closely with the networks to finalize and bless these plans.

For details on this mission/learning trip >>

For the same information in a color brochure with photos (in PDF format) >>

We'd like to hear your comments,
and suggestions of other news reports or articles
that would help in responding to these actions and concerns.

Just send a note to,
to be shared here.


NOVEMBER 5 – 19, 2010


You are invited to travel on a mission trip to Lebanon and Syria this fall to meet fellow-Presbyterians from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This venture is organized through the Iraq Partnership Network and the Syria-Lebanon Network of the PC(USA) and is sponsored and facilitated by The Outreach Foundation. The church governing bodies in the region, namely the Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Iraq and the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon have worked closely with the networks to finalize and bless these plans. 

During a 3-day consultation, to be held at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, we will have face-to-face and soul-to-soul experiences with Presbyterian Church leaders from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. During our time of worship and prayer, dialogue and fellowship, we will learn of one another, learn from one another, and come away with a better sense of how we, as Americans, can best help, encourage, preserve, advocate for and protect the faithful presence of Presbyterian Christians in the region. And, through a renewed understanding of the unity of the Body, we might rediscover, together, how we can all more faithfully follow Jesus--- be it in Baghdad or Beirut, Denver or Damascus---especially within the context of the pluralist societies into which we are called to be salt and light. 

Prior to and after the consultation we will “hit the road” to encounter, in their context, the vital presence and ministries of the Churches of the Synod of Syria-Lebanon in various cities (see schedule below), and, along the way, explore the ancient wonders of the legendary sites of Byblos and Ba’albek. We trust that our fellowship with local Christians during these days will enrich and strengthen “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” to which we are called in Christ Jesus. 

This trip will be led by Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development at The Outreach Foundation and the Rev. Dr. Nuhad Tomeh, PC(USA) Mission Co-worker and Liaison for Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Gulf. The land cost of the trip, which includes 13 nights lodging (double occupancy), most meals, ground transportation, guides and site entrance fees, and pickup upon arrival at Beirut Airport is $1600 ($1300 if you plan to depart Beirut on the 16th). Additional costs include the Syrian visa ($100) [Lebanese visas are free and given at the Beirut airport upon arrival.], R/T air from your home city (approx. $1000 - $1350), tips and some meals.  

Registration forms will be handled through The Outreach Foundation and can be obtained by contacting Diane Booth: or 800-791-5023. A non-refundable fee of $150---which will be applied to the land cost of the trip---should be sent in with the registration form. The balance of the land cost should be paid no later than July 1.

Land costs paid to The Outreach Foundation will be receipted. Mission trip costs are tax deductible only to the extent permitted by the Internal Revenue Service. The donor is urged to contact his/her own tax advisor. Participants will secure their own Syrian visa and flights to/from Beirut. Please contact Marilyn Borst if you have questions: or 404-431-9402. 


The Iraq Partnership Network is an ecumenical body of Christians from the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ. The world mission bodies of these denominations have cooperated since 1924 in the United Mission in Iraq, and this newly formed mission network continues that effort. 

The Syria—Lebanon Mission Network was launched in September 2009. The 38th such mission network of the PC(USA), it welcomes participation from congregations, presbyteries and organizations who are in partnership (or seeking it) with the churches and related institutions of the Synod of Syria and Lebanon. 

Established in 1979, The Outreach Foundation is a validated mission support group of the PC(USA) and exists to help Presbyterians pray effectively for mission, support Kingdom work with financial resources, and become personally involved in what God is doing in the world. Every project and missionary we support is directly involved in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. To learn more about The Outreach Foundation, please visit our website at or give us a call at (800) 791-5023 or (615) 778-8881. 


SCHEDULE (subject to revision, if necessary) 

Nov 5, Fri         Depart USA 

Nov 6, Sat         Arrive Beirut 

Nov 7, Sun        Worship in Rabiye Church, see Synod offices, late afternoon/evening in downtown Beirut (dinner on your own)  

Nov 8, Mon      Iraq, Syria and Lebanon Networks Consultations (combined)                          Updates and current contexts 

Nov 9, Tue        Syria/Lebanon Network separate conversation (morning)                          Iraq Network separate conversation (afternoon)                          Challenges and opportunities  

Nov 10, Wed    Iraq, Syria and Lebanon Networks Consultations (combined)                          Next steps and future plans 

Nov 11 Thu         Iraq refugee ministries in Beirut, free afternoon and evening (lunch     and dinner on your own) 

Nov 12, Fri       South Lebanon visit plus Nabiteya, Sidon and Tyre 

Nov 13, Sat       Hamlin Hospital and Dhour Schwer Conference Center 

Nov 14, Sun        Worship in Minyara Church and late afternoon/early evening in     Byblos     (dinner on your own)

Nov 15, Mon        Zahle, Ba’albek, on to Damascus
                          Zahle, Ba’albek, return to Beirut for Tuesday flights out 

Nov 16, Tue      Damascus, gathering with Presbyterian Church leaders from Syria 

Nov 17, Wed    Damascus, sightseeing                          
                       (lunch and dinner on your own)

Nov 18, Thu      Depart Damascus with stops in Homs and Farouzeh churches                  Arrive back in Beirut 

Nov 19, Fri       Flights to USA 

Details on the 3-day consultation and itinerary will become available in the weeks ahead      

Middle East study team nears release of its final report

‘Time for action is now,’ nine-member panel urges     [2-26-10]

In a Presbyterian News Service report dated Feb. 2, 2010, Jerry Van Marter says that “finding consensus on how to solve the seemingly intractable conflict in the Middle East is as difficult for Presbyterians as it is for the world’s leaders.” But he says that the PC(USA)’s Special Committee to Prepare a Comprehensive Study Focused on Israel/Palestine came close as it concluded its fourth and final meeting in Louisville on Jan. 30.     For his full report >>

The news story summarizes the report’s recommendations:

The report affirms historic PC(USA) positions — an immediate cessation of violence by both sides, an immediate freeze on the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied territory, the relocation of Israel’s “separation barrier” to the internationally recognized 1967 border, a shared status for Jerusalem, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and immediate resumption of negotiations toward a two-state solution.

The recommendations also address other contributing factors to the continued conflict throughout the Middle East, such as calling for the U.S. government, among other things, to:

bulletrepent of its “sinful behavior” throughout the Middle East, including the war in Iraq, its “continuing support of non-democratic regimes,” and its “acquiescence” in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands;
bulleteliminate tax loopholes that permit U.S. citizens to make donations “to organizations that support human rights violations and breaches of international law and U.N. resolutions”;
bulletaccount for the percentage of U.S. foreign aid that supports such activities and redirect that aid toward the rebuilding of Gaza and the “dismantling of remaining settlement infrastructure; and
bullet“employ the strategic use of influence and the withholding of financial and military aid in order to enforce Israel’s compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts.”

Other recommendations address other governments in the region. Among others, they call for:
bulletthe main Palestinian political parties — Fatah and Hamas — to work toward immediate reconciliation;
bulletall parties in the Middle East, including Iran and Israel, to refrain from all nuclear arms proliferation;
bulletEgypt and Israel to end their blockades of Gaza;
bulletall parties in the Middle East to “cease rhetoric and actions that demonize others, including Iranian leaders’ holocaust denials, threats by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel, and threats by Israel to transfer masses of Palestinians to Jordan;
bulletthe Iranian government to “cease its repression of democratic and religious freedoms”;
bulletLebanon to address the plight of Palestinian refugees living within its borders;
bulletSyria and Israel to resume negotiations about the status of the Golan Heights;
bulletthe government of Iraq to “provide for and strengthen the protection of its minority communities, especially its Christian community”; and
bulletcreation of an international council for Jerusalem, which is a spiritual center for all three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For the full news report >>

So – once again Presbyterians are accused of being enemies of Israel     [2-26-10]

The Simon Wiesenthal Center accuses Presbyterians of declaring war on Israel

 Leslie Scanlon, reporting for The Presbyterian Outlook, begins her Feb. 23 story:

Once again, relations between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and American Jewish leaders have hit a rough spot – with criticism emerging of a not-yet-finished report on the Middle East that’s headed to next summer’s General Assembly.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization, posted an alert to supporters on Feb. 22, with the headline: “Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Ready to Declare War Against Israel: Take Action Now.”

The alert, regarding a report that’s not completed yet from a General Assembly Middle East study group, states that “adoption of this poisonous document by the Presbyterian Church will be nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel and her supporters.”


The Wiesenthal Center statement, noting some of the recommendations that have been approved by the study committee, says that “in 2008, church leaders supposedly seeking to balance PCUSA'a Middle East policies, instead, created a committee dominated by seven activists holding strong anti-Israel beliefs. The lone member sympathetic to Israel, quit in protest when he saw their radical agenda.”

The statement therefore warns that “adoption of this poisonous document by the Presbyterian Church will be nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel and her supporters.” And so it calls on their supporters to “protest directly to the top leadership of the PCUSA,” and to ask Presbyterian friends to “speak out against this potential rewriting of PCUSA's policy towards Israel that will destroy the era of good will that has been fostered with the Jewish community for decades.”

The Outlook report notes that the Wiesenthal Center’s call to action got results. During a number of Presbyterian meetings held in Louisville this past week, “top Presbyterian leaders ... were flooded by more than 2,700 e-mails of protest.” We can expect lots of attention to this issue, and other reports and overtures relating to Israel/Palestine, during the coming General Assembly in Minneapolis, July 3 - 10, 2010. Presbyterians, especially those committed to justice for the Palestinian people, will once again be attacked as “anti-Semitic,” and who knows what else.

But on the other hand ...

Israeli peace group sees the rise of “a new McCarthyism in Israel”

from Jewish Peace News

Jonathan Cook writes from Nazareth:

The Israeli government and its right-wing supporters have been waging a “McCarthyite” campaign against human-rights groups by blaming them for the barrage of international criticism that has followed Israel’s attack on Gaza a year ago, critics say.

In a sign of the growing backlash against the human-rights community, the cabinet backed a bill last week that, if passed, will jail senior officials from the country’s peace-related organisations should they fail to meet tough new registration conditions.

The measure is a response to claims by right-wing lobbyists that Israel’s human-rights advocates supplied much of the damaging evidence of war crimes cited by Judge Richard Goldstone in his UN-commissioned report into Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.

We'd like to hear your comments,
and suggestions of other news reports or articles
that would help in responding to these actions and concerns.

Just send a note to,
to be shared here.


Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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