Lately, voices within the PCUSA have been promoting the notion that Israel is a “colonial project,” not a legitimate state. On April 30, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas used the same rhetoric and declared that the Jews in Israel are not related to the Jews we read about in the Hebrew Scriptures. Israel, he claimed, is a colonial project. His comments received a sharp, angry rebuke from groups that have been very supportive of the right of Palestinians to create their own state (commonly known as the two-state solution). Most surprising were the quick condemnations from European Union leaders and the United Nation’s coordinator for the Middle East peace process who recognized the “colonial project” language as a direct assault on the legitimacy of the state of Israel.
The New York Times reported, “In strikingly blunt language from Brussels, the European External Action Service said in a statement: ‘The speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered on 30 April contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel’s legitimacy. Such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated.’”
The U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, said, “leaders have an obligation to confront anti-Semitism everywhere and always, not perpetuate the conspiracy theories that fuel it. Denying the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land and their holy sites in Jerusalem stands in contrast to reality.”
Incredibly, groups within the PCUSA are asking us to embrace the exact, hateful thinking employed by President Abbas and so widely condemned. Will the upcoming Presbyterian General Assembly this June have the wisdom and courage to reaffirm its commitment to the two-state solution, as the 2016 GA did? Will the 2018 GA have the prophetic voice to condemn the spread of a “colonial project” theory within our denomination?
Peace can only be achieved by both peoples recognizing the dignity and legitimate rights of the other. While the world was deeply offended by the Abbas’ speech, Palestinians who long for genuine peace suffered the greatest loss.