Presbyterians for Middle East Peace calls upon the 221st Presbyterian General Assembly to approve and adopt General Assembly Overture 22. This overture asks Presbyterians to act as peacemakers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a conflict that has gone on too long, must end, and will end when people of good will in Israel and Palestine prevail. The overture recognizes the necessity of foundation building for peace through grassroots collaboration, person-to-person contact, mutual respect, and cooperation. It calls on Presbyterians to be active and constructive participants in these efforts, as growing numbers of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians demand the peaceful future they deserve.
Overture 22 represents a peacemaking-focused alternative to a group of overtures reflecting the agenda of the international Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Movement. BDS efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel will not lead to a Palestinian state. Instead, the BDS agenda leads only to more polarization, weakens Palestinian efforts toward economic development, and hinders the peace process.
Political stability is tightly connected to economic stability. The Palestinian economy is growing in the West Bank, and continued economic growth promotes political progress and stability. With 35,000 Palestinians employed in West Bank industrial parks, Palestinian-owned companies with over $500 million in revenue operating in boycott-targeted industrial areas of the West Bank, and 100,000 Palestinians with work permits in Israel, “success” of the BDS movement would be devastating to a Palestinian economy still heavily dependent on outside aid. This in turn would accomplish nothing beyond prolonging the conflict and making peace harder to achieve.
The overture calls on the GA to explicitly state that the PC(USA) is not a part of the BDS movement. BDS proposals seeking divestment from companies doing business with Israel have been rejected at the last four consecutive General Assemblies in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012, yet they keep coming back as if none of these previous considerations, and subsequent rejections, had happened. Official committees of the PC(USA) like the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) have failed to recognize the spirit and intent of prior General Assembly actions and have continued to promote the very kind of negative approach to peacemaking that prior General Assemblies have rejected. This is wrong and must end.
We all want to see an end to the conflict and the occupation, but here a moment of truth is called for: the occupation will not and cannot end without both Israeli and Palestinian commitment to sustainable peace and coexistence. It is time to fully recognize this and focus efforts on real solutions, not simply demonizing one party to the conflict in a reckless and dishonest manner. Click here to read the overture and supporting materials.