presbyterian general assembly » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘presbyterian general assembly’
June 19, 2014 1

Anti-Israel Resolutions Debated at Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly

Israel is very much on the agenda at this year’s Gen­eral Assem­bly (GA) of the Pres­by­ter­ian Church USA (PCUSA), cur­rently meet­ing in Detroit.  All four­teen res­o­lu­tions, or over­tures, being con­sid­ered by the Mid­dle East Com­mit­tee con­cern the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, as does one before the Ecu­meni­cal and Inter­faith Com­mit­tee.  The PCUSA, which has had a pres­ence in the Mid­dle East since the early 1800’s, has taken up divest­ment at each bien­nial meet­ing since 2004. In 2012, the divest­ment res­o­lu­tion was nar­rowly defeated.  This year, it is once again on the agenda, as are over­tures to boy­cott Hewlett-Packard (HP), to label Israel an “apartheid state,” and to study whether the Church should main­tain its com­mit­ment to a two-state solu­tion. ADL, rep­re­sented at the GA by its Inter­faith Direc­tor, Rabbi David Sand­mel, opposes these mea­sures as unfair to Israel and con­trary to the goal of achiev­ing a two-state solution.

There are also over­tures being con­sid­ered that oppose divest­ment and sug­gest a “third way” of engag­ing the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict through sup­port­ing peace-makers, travel to the region and encour­ag­ing study­ing a broad range of views through local relations.

Dur­ing the first few days of the GA, com­mit­tees receive over­tures pro­posed by local gov­ern­ing bod­ies, hear tes­ti­mony, debate amend­ments, and even­tu­ally decide what actions to rec­om­mend the GA take regard­ing the over­tures they received.  While the com­mit­tees have a great deal of influ­ence on what finally ends up before the entire polity, it is the GA that makes the final deci­sion, which is sched­uled for Fri­day, June 20.

Pow­er­ful groups within the Church, such as the Israel/Palestine Mis­sion Net­work, which pro­duced the anti-Semitic “Zion­ism Unset­tled doc­u­ment,” sup­port divest­ment.   Due to the GA’s struc­ture, these groups have a dis­pro­por­tion­ate voice in the Com­mit­tee, and are sup­ported by the anti-Israel Jew­ish Voice for Peace, whose promi­nent vis­i­bil­ity at the GA has con­fused some par­tic­i­pants into think­ing they rep­re­sent the main­stream Jew­ish com­mu­nity.  More mod­er­ate voices within the Church, such as Pres­by­te­ri­ans for Mid­dle East Peace, have been work­ing closely with the ADL and a broad coali­tion of other major Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions and reli­gious lead­ers to bring a fairer per­spec­tive to the deliberations.

Though the Mid­dle East Com­mit­tee did vote on June 17 in favor of divest­ment from HP, Cater­pil­lar and Motorola, it also explic­itly stated “the action does not mean align­ment with the over­all strat­egy of BDS (Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions).” The over­ture that rec­om­mends divest­ment also reaf­firms Israel’s right to exist within secure and inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized borders.

There is also the large major­ity of Pres­by­te­ri­ans who sup­port the state of Israel while also sym­pa­thiz­ing with the suf­fer­ing of the Pales­tini­ans. They feel torn between their com­mit­ment to pos­i­tive Jewish-Christian rela­tions and desire to see an end to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and some have expressed feel­ing over­whelmed with input from all sides. While the bar­rage of anti-Israel rhetoric from cer­tain sec­tors has been chal­leng­ing to hear, the shrill­ness of their mes­sage may be pro­duc­ing a back­lash, espe­cially when com­pared to the more mea­sured pre­sen­ta­tion from the mod­er­ates and rec­og­nized main­stream Jew­ish organizations.

It is clear that the Church is divided on how best to address the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, as demon­strated by the con­flict­ing rec­om­men­da­tions of the Mid­dle East Com­mit­tee. The process in the com­mit­tees is dif­fer­ent than that of the GA where the debate is much more bal­anced. While in the past the GA has rejected rec­om­men­da­tions of the Com­mit­tee, what will hap­pen this year can­not be pre­dicted, and, as the vote draws near, there will likely be intense lob­by­ing of the vot­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all sides.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

July 5, 2012 6

Jewish Voice for Peace Lobbying Hard for Church Divestment

Update: The Pres­by­ter­ian Church voted against divest­ment late Thurs­day evening, July 5. While ADL wel­comed the deci­sion, we are trou­bled that the issue was decided on such a nar­row vote (333–331 with 2 absten­tions) and that the debate was biased from start to fin­ish with vehe­ment anti-Israel sentiment.  

Jew­ish Voice for Peace has been a highly vis­i­ble and vocal advo­cate in the Gen­eral Assem­bly in favor of the Pres­by­ter­ian Church’s con­sid­er­a­tion of a vir­u­lently anti-Israel divest­ment res­o­lu­tion. The res­o­lu­tion, which calls for the church to divest from three com­pa­nies that allegedly profit from Israel’s occu­pa­tion (Cater­pil­lar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard), will be voted on later today by the full ple­nary after it was passed in com­mit­tee ear­lier this week.

There is much to crit­i­cize about the prob­lem­atic nature of the res­o­lu­tion itself, but one of the more dis­turb­ing ele­ments of this cam­paign has been Jew­ish Voice for Peace’s aggres­sive lob­by­ing for it.

The group invested sig­nif­i­cant time and resources to send a del­e­ga­tion of activists to the Gen­eral Assem­bly who report­edly tes­ti­fied on the com­mit­tee floor in favor of divest­ment and are live-tweeting the con­fer­ence. A large por­tion of Twit­ter chat­ter about the res­o­lu­tion has been gen­er­ated by JVP using the hash­tag “#church­di­vest” to pro­vide updates on the res­o­lu­tion. Of tweets using that hash­tag in the last 36 hours, approx­i­mately 25% have been gen­er­ated by JVP and two of its staff people.

JVP activists have also cre­ated and dis­trib­uted a flier called “Divest from Vio­lence. Invest in Peace” which con­tains sev­eral state­ments from Chris­tians who sup­port divest­ment, and is cir­cu­lat­ing a peti­tion that calls on Pres­by­te­ri­ans to sup­port divest­ment. The peti­tion claims that the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity has failed in its efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict and it is clear that BDS (Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions) is now the only option left. The peti­tion ends with, “Can you tell Pres­by­te­ri­ans we’ve got their back?”

It is clear that JVP believes it has a very crit­i­cal role to play in the domes­tic anti-Israel agenda: JVP pro­motes itself as rep­re­sent­ing the views of Amer­i­can Jews and can be seen as try­ing to pro­vide cover against claims that the Pres­by­ter­ian divest­ment ini­tia­tives are anti-Semitic. Nobody should be fooled. JVP is a fringe orga­ni­za­tion with its own anti-Israel agenda.

Tags: , , , , ,

June 27, 2012 0

Sabeel Attacks Israel From All Angles In Its “Cornerstone” Publication

The Spring 2012 edi­tion of Cor­ner­stone, a pub­li­ca­tion of the Sabeel Ecu­meni­cal Lib­er­a­tion The­ol­ogy Cen­ter, is a full scale assault on Israel’s legit­i­macy from all angles. The Sabeel Cen­ter is a dri­ving force behind the cam­paign by main­line Protes­tant churches to divest from Israel, includ­ing a num­ber of pro­posed res­o­lu­tions being con­sid­ered at next week’s Pres­by­ter­ian Gen­eral Assembly.

The pub­li­ca­tion depicts Israel as sys­tem­at­i­cally racist, employs offen­sive Holo­caust imagery and uses the­o­log­i­cal argu­ments to demo­nize the Jew­ish State.

An arti­cle titled The Role of the Prophet, writ­ten by Sabeel Cen­ter co-founder and exec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Jonathan Kut­tab, notes that “Judaism brought [together] the two cor­rec­tives of the Law and the Prophets.” It then describes Israel as an unjust and racist coun­try that approves “laws that vio­late the inter­ests and free­doms of the indi­vid­ual or the minori­ties liv­ing among them.”

Kut­tab blames most Jews in Israel for what he per­ceives as unfair treat­ment of the Arab pop­u­la­tion, say­ing, “the major­ity of Israeli Jews, act­ing through their duly elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives are the archi­tects of these laws.”

An arti­cle sub­mit­ted by Mos­sawa, the advo­cacy cen­ter for Arab cit­i­zens of Israel, is titled Anti-Democratic, Anti-Arab Leg­is­la­tion in Israel. The syn­op­sis states “there are at least 35 laws which dis­crim­i­nate directly or indi­rectly against Arab cit­i­zens of Israel.” The arti­cle lists “four key leg­isla­tive mea­sures” as evi­dence, cit­ing as one exam­ple the Cit­i­zen­ship law, which Mos­sawa claims “dis­pro­por­tion­ately affects Arab cit­i­zens,” although it applies to all Israelis.

An Open Let­ter to For­eign Mis­sions by Taiseer Khatib, an Arab cit­i­zen of Israel, tells a story of his wife and chil­dren hav­ing prob­lems obtain­ing per­ma­nent res­i­dency inside of Israel. This prob­lem, Khatib con­tends, is a result of the Cit­i­zen­ship Law, which he claims shows Israel’s racism since its goal is allegedly to “dimin­ish the num­ber of the Arab pop­u­la­tion.” He adds that this “should remind Jews in Israel of dark times in their own his­tory, when they were them­selves sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies, never to see them again.”

A poem titled Hear O Israel by Jew­ish Voice for Peace activist David Glick also makes claims that Israel is inher­ently racist and com­pares the coun­try to Nazi Ger­many, say­ing, “But what O Israel/Have you become?/The Nazis made me fear­ful to be a Jew/but you [Israel] have made me ashamed.” He then writes “Time to con­front the dark­ness we have become./With the Holo­caust it is Never Forget/but with Deir Yassin it is Never Mind.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,