In 2009 a group of Palestinian Christians drafted a document known as “Kairos Palestine.” In 2010, at the General Assembly of PCUSA in
Events in the 21st Century appear to be unfolding with ever increasing speed. We have questioned before and question now how a denomination of thoughtful and deliberate people can attempt to essentially legislate foreign policy for our Church or our country at periodic conferences or assemblies. What is even more troubling to us is that the Kairos document is not a balanced or scholarly work upon which to educate our membership on the causes of the conflict in the
Even more troubling is the sometimes harsh rhetoric in the document that seeks to demonize Israel while turning a blind eye to many problems within the very fractured Palestinian leadership or the many provocative and destabilizing acts of terrorism inflicted on the Israeli people by Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in Gaza and the West Bank as well as Hizbollah in Lebanon.
We also believe that the Kairos statement and the PCUSA study guide are seriously flawed because they do not address the remarkable transformation in the Middle East over the last six months which has seen an unprecedented tsunami of protest by Muslims in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and to a lesser extent in half a dozen other countries and the fall of so many regimes, with others likely in the near future. There are more security and political challenges facing the region than at any time in modern history. Ideas and plans that look sensible and achievable one day, do not for a variety of reasons weeks later. Studying the Israel/Palestine conflict without studying these challenges is a fool’s game.
Our Church has had a less than stellar history of dealing effectively with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2004, we adopted overtures that threatened divestment from US companies doing business with Israel, and then in 2006 essentially apologized to our Jewish friends for acting hastily and without proper concern for Israel’s legitimate security needs and for not acknowledging the role Palestinian terrorist attacks have played in undermining the peace process. We promised a more balanced and even-handed view of the problems in the region going forward. We very specificially did not endorse the Boycott/Divestment and Sanction movement then being considered and ultimately rejected by other prominent mainline protestant denominations.
Unfortunately, in 2008, our Church at General Assembly adopted overtures that favored the Palestinian narrative (The Amman Call) even as it adopted another overture saying that the PCUSA should not over-identify with either the Palestinian or Israeli narratives. In 2010, the GA flirted with but rejected adoption of the flawed Kairos document. Although not a well-balanced guide, the recent Kairos Study Guide carries with it the imprimatur of Church policy or collective viewpoint.
Ironically, all of these rather one-sided Palestinian initiatives come at a time when not only a sizeable majority of our government, our congregation, and the American electorate supports
Here are a few examples of the problems we find with the Karios document that have not been adequately addressed by the Study Guide or the various committees that have considered wholesale adoption of the document:
1) While great effort was expended in Minneapolis at the last General Assembly by all sides to seek compromise and collaboration, we find ourselves regressing and caught up in a polemical discourse on the Holy Land that divides the region into “the oppressors” and the “oppressed,” “the occupiers” and “the victims,” “the just” and “the unjust.” The word “evil” is used indiscriminately.
2) The Kairos document renews calls for targeted boycotts or divestment long after our Church has backed away from such extreme and one-sided measures because they do not promote our Church or our country as effective bridge builders for peace. Indeed, it is hard to imagine why any Israeli or their government would value our input if we took such measures. The Boycott/Divestment/Sanction movement is a one-way trip to irrelevancy in the peace process.
3) The Kairos document broadly labels violence perpetrated by Palestinian groups as “legal resistance.” Calls for the destruction of
4) Both the Kairos document and the Study Guide adopt the apartheid analogy with
5) There is a passing condemnation of “fanaticism and extremism” among Muslims but the document is completely devoid of any historical discussion of the causes of such fanaticism or the day to day way in which such fanaticism undermines the peace process by convincing even moderate, secular and left of center Israelis that there is no hope for peace. Nor is there any discussion about how the takeover of
6) The Study Guide commends the historical synopsis “Resolution on
7) No mention is made in the Kairos document or any other PCUSA documents on the conflict of constructive roles Presbyterians might make to the peace process, such as positive investment in cooperative economic initiatives to help improve the quality of life in the
More could be said but we will defer to future feature length articles on our website. In conclusion, all of us at Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, want peace in the Holy Land as much as everyone else but we know what history has taught us works and what does not work to get there. We do both sides a great disservice by over- simplifying problems and concerns or by taking sides in ways that demonize current adversaries and future partners for peace.
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace