1976-1987 ACSWP Commentary

In 1976, the PCUS Assembly condemned “. . . the exploitation of religious faith by the conflicting parties . . .” in the Lebanese and Arab-Israeli conflicts, declaring itself “unalterably opposed to religious wars.” The Assembly added: “. . . We condemn the frequent use of religion to conceal economic, political, or class struggles. We believe that God’s discipleship does not include a mandate to kill . . .” (PCUS, 1976, p. 218). The 1977 UPCUSA Assembly, the following year, addressed the Lebanese civil war and called “. . . upon all Presbyterians to pray for the return of unity and peace within the Lebanese community and for reconciliation and justice within its political and economic, religious and social life . . .” (UPCUSA, 1977, pp. 430 and 484). The 1977 UPC Assembly also reaffirmed the 1974 policy statement and called upon the U.S. government to reaffirm its commitment to Israel and its support for the concept of Palestinian self-determination. The Assembly urged the inclusion of all parties, including the PLO, in negotiations in search of a comprehensive solution to the problems of the region.

Both 1978 Assemblies recognized the Sadat/Begin/Carter peace initiatives and called upon Israel and the Palestinians to mutually recognize the rights of each other to self-determination (PCUS, 1978, p. 39; UPCUSA, 1978, p. 276). The 1979 PCUS Assembly welcomed the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel; commended the President for his leadership in helping to achieve the treaty; deplored the loss of innocent life through Palestinian raids into Israel and massive retaliation by Israel; and further deplored the continued introduction of weapons into the area, and our country’s deepened involvement in those weapons sales (PCUS, 1979, pp. 79, 190).

The 1981 UPCUSA General Assembly affirmed the statement of the Patriarch, Bishops, and Religious Leaders of Christian Communities in Lebanon, who note in part: “[We are] disturbed by the deadly events which . . . have made so many victims and caused so much ruin, we can only speak out in indignation. Equally, we deplore the continued attacks on southern Lebanon and its population, which make innocent victims of our compatriots . . .” (UPCUSA, 1981, p. 64).

In 1982, the UPCUSA reaffirmed its 1974 statement, and the PCUS voted to call “. . . upon Israel to withdraw all of its forces from Lebanon immediately; . . . upon the Palestine Liberation Organization to cease acts of violence against its neighbor; . . . upon the United States Government to enter into official contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization at such time as that organization acknowledges the right of Israel to exist within secure and recognized boundaries . . .” (PCUS, 1982, pp. 131, 93).

The 1983 Assembly of the new PC(USA) expressed satisfaction for balanced media reporting on Middle East events and once again called upon the U.S. to enforce its stated position against the establishment of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, this time by “. . . denying all forms of aid to Israel as long as that nation persists in creating new West Bank settlements . . .” (PCUSA, 1983, p. 796).

In 1984, 1986, and 1987, the Assemblies called again for the U.S. government to seek peace in the Middle East by recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, while affirming Israel’s right to exist, and by taking immediate actions to support international efforts to create an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (PC(USA), 1987, p. 870). The Assemblies stressed the need for the U.S. to talk with the PLO (PC(USA), 1984, p. 338; PC(USA), 1986, p. 877).