We at Presbyterians for Middle East Peace are angered by the decision of the 225th General Assembly to slander Israel as an apartheid state. This decision does not reflect the view of the membership of the PCUSA, as most members will be stunned and angered when they return home from vacation to find out about this action. They will hear from their Jewish neighbors, “Why is PCUSA so antisemitic?” PFMEP finds comfort in knowing that an overwhelming percentage of the members of our denomination will disagree with this action, and like most actions of the GA, ignore it and continue with the fine work they are doing to spread the Gospel.
Over the last twenty years, we have witnessed our once proud denomination of three million with strong theological and academic standards with well thought out policies on social justice, where the GA was a must-see event and a fertile ground for new ideas and spiritual growth, become a denomination hovering around one million, where presbyteries have to search for people willing to serve as commissioners, a GA watched by fewer than 400 people at any time, and its actions controlled by a small group of committee members and staff in Louisville. At our next General Assembly in 2024 in Salt Lake City, our numbers will likely have dropped below one million. Our GAs are doing little to help fuel spiritual and membership growth in local congregations. The intensive, ongoing theological and academic work needed to feed our people is absent.
The action taken by the GA to slander Israel with apartheid fits into this narrative. A highly controlled process, created to respond to Covid, instead became a means to silence outside groups and stifle dissent. Nary a Jewish voice was heard at the GA, experts offering countering opinions were not allowed to speak, only a select few of the Louisville staff had standing. Following in the example of the stated clerk, they disparaged the Jewish community and the State of Israel at every turn. The committee heard from three pro-overture advocates and not one overture opponent before it started its debate. No overture opponents were allowed to speak. Committee members also did not receive the deep background materials they have received in the past from advocacy groups on all sides of the Israel-Palestine issue. In short, committee members began their debate after hearing one side of the issue and without adequate background preparation.
During the plenary, once again voices opposed to the overture were silenced and the committee leaders took advantage in the introductory time to mislead the commissioners. After two very strong statements against the apartheid overture, debate was shut down. Again, voices of dissent were silenced. It saddens us that this action took place during a GA plagued by technical difficulties in which voices and motions were not recognized. How can the denomination move forward to support actions made under questionable circumstances?
There is no doubt what the impact of this overture will be:
- There will be no change to the status of Palestinians. They will continue to be oppressed by their own corrupt leaders and the State of Israel. Our actions of the past have not created any meaningful change, nor will this one. These actions make pro-Palestinian advocates in the PCUSA feel good about themselves. They accomplish nothing for the Palestinian people.
- Extremists on both sides will use this vote to further their own campaigns of violence, intimidation and bloodshed.
- The American Jewish community, in our hometowns, will label us as antisemitic, because we are. Some in the denomination will ignore it and say that we are not. Others will say, “We don’t care what Jews think.” However, if the Jewish community believes we are antisemitic then we are. Just as if the African-American community called us racists, we would be. We cannot escape the reality that the Jewish community, feeling increasingly isolated, no longer views our denomination as a friend but instead as an enemy riddled with advocates out to destroy Israel as a Jewish state.
We wish to thank all those who understand that the path to peace in Israel/Palestine will not be found on a path of anti-Israel rhetoric that offers nothing tangible to the Palestinian people. Instead, peace will be found by working in partnership with all who desire peace, including the American Jewish community, who are committed to working to improve the lives of Palestinians.
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace
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