There have been many allegations leveled against Israel by official organs of the PCUSA calling the State of Israel an apartheid state based upon a report from Amnesty International. None of the member states of the European Union support the findings of Amnesty International, and neither does the United States, as a matter of fact they have condemned the findings as false and not helpful to bringing peace to the region.
Before his death in 2013, Nelson Mandela refused to draw a parallel between the context of apartheid in South Africa and the situation in Israel. Judge Richard Goldstone, appointed by Mandela to investigate the violence of the apartheid system and later appointed to the South African Constitutional Court, calls the claim “slander”. The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the South African Parliament, calls it a “ridiculous accusation that trivializes the word apartheid.” Even the International Red Cross, which had extensive experience dealing with apartheid in South African, said there is no apartheid in Israel. In short, there is no clear case for calling Israel an apartheid state.
This is why our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American and the Episcopal Church in America have both refused to support such allegations. Consider that the ELCA and the Episcopal Church are the two largest Protestant denominations in Israel/Palestine with most, if not all, their members being Palestinian. Yet they know the truth, Israel is not an apartheid state.
Our own Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) Board shut down two attempts by Presbyterian World Mission and the Office of Public Witness to hold webinars calling Israel an apartheid state, the first being March 15th and then again on May 3rd. The board recognized that without having a true examination of evidence and claims, the denomination cannot support such an allegation.
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace has raised concerns about the process that will be used during this year’s General Assembly, a process that will greatly hinder the commissioners’ ability to gather all the facts and evidence about overtures coming before them. If the GA officially labeled Israel an apartheid state, it will be yet another blow to the relationships between Jewish and Presbyterian congregations across the nation. This GA does not have the time or resources to investigate the apartheid issue. The proper vote is to reject the overtures calling Israel apartheid.
It would be a shame if the PCUSA were to support apartheid allegations against Israel because of a process that lacks the thoroughness, fairness and depth for which Presbyterians pride themselves. In coming days, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace will provide a guide to Overture INT 02 which will provide information and perspective on the Israel-Palestine tragedy that, sadly, the PCUSA’s pro-BDS (the secular Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement) advocates do not share.