We at Presbyterians for Middle East Peace are angered by the decision of the General Assembly to call Israel an apartheid state. This decision does not reflect the view of the membership of PCUSA, as most Presbyterians will be stunned and angered when they return from vacation to find out about the action. They will hear from their Jewish friends inquiring why PCUSA is 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 taken by the General Assembly ignore it and continue with the fine work they are doing to spread the gospel. Of
Over the last twenty years, we have witnessed our proud denomination, a three million member church, with strong theological and academic standards, well thought out social justice actions and positions, where the GA was a must see event and was a fertile soil for new ideas and spiritual growth, become a denomination hovering around one million, where Presbyteries have to search for people willing to serve as GA commissioners, a GA watched online at key moments by less than 400 viewers, and its actions controlled by a small group of committee members and staff in Louisville. While thousands of visitors attended GA’s in the past, this year a lonely average of 350 viewers followed the proceedings live. With our next GA scheduled for 2024, it is highly likely that our membership will be less than a million. Our GA’s 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 mislabel Israel an apartheid states fits into this narrative. A highly controlled process, created to respond to Covid, instead became a means to silence outside groups from having a voice in the process. Nary a Jewish voice was heard during 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 invited or 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 issues. In short, committee members began their debate after hearing one-side of the issue and without adequate background preparation.
During plenary, once again voices opposed to the overture were silence and the committee leaders took advantage in their introductory time to mislead the commissioners. After two very strong statements against the apartheid overture, a commissioner called the question to shut down further debate. So again, opponents of the overture 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 such 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 as well as 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. They accomplish nothing for the Palestinian people.
- Extremists on both sides will use this vote to further their cause of terror and intimidation.
- A large portion of the American Jewish community, in our hometowns, will label us as antisemitic. Some in the denomination will ignore it and say that we are not. Others in our denomination will say, “We don’t care what the Jews think.” However, if the Jewish community believes we are antisemitic, then we are. Much like if most of the African American community in the US thought that PCUSA was racist, we would be. We cannot escape the reality that the Jewish community no longer views our denomination as a friend but instead 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 standing of Palestinians.