What do we do now?

BACKGROUND:  Presbyterians for Middle East Peace opposes the passage of Overture INT 02 due to the damage that would be done to current interfaith dialogue and progress as well as a lack of a fully balanced conversation and dialogue.

Presbyterian tradition values stringent theological and academic debate at our GA’s, a value reinforced at the 223rd General Assembly requiring experts from both sides of a debate the opportunity to speak to the issue. While covid has impacted our lives, a victim of the pandemic cannot be our valued process. Here is just some of the information the committee did not receive:

  • The International Red Cross, with more experience with apartheid in South Africa and with the present reality of Palestinians in Israel and in the Occupied Territory than any of the other NGOs quoted by the advocates, categorically denies that Israel is an apartheid states, as well as most of NGO’s working in Israel.
  • The overture advocates offer the Nation State Law in Israel as an example of apartheid. The Israel Democracy Institute, which is highly critical of the state of Israel, says of the law, “It is not a game changer and has very little problematic implications…It won’t change how the country is run. It is not an injury but an insult. It doesn’t change anything practically.”
  • In Israel, Jews, Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, and all minorities have equal rights under the law, can vote, hold office, serve on the Supreme Court and in the military. They all have access to the same healthcare and education systems.
  • The advocates claim widespread support of the Jewish communities and Israel for defining Israel as an apartheid state, but an overwhelming number of Jews find the charge offensive, as do most Presbyterians.
  • The biases of the overture advocates ignore the reality of the national and political conflict between Israel and Palestine, now entering 100 years. Many of the divisions referenced were agreed to in the Oslo Accords, while others were the response to the violence of the Second Intifada when Palestinian extremists murdered thousands of Israeli Jews and Arabs.
  • The overture violates PCUSA policy, effectively demanding that Israel end its own existence and deny Jews the right to self-determination. It claims, “denying the right to freedom of residence to Palestinians” is a core component of “Israeli apartheid” which must be ended. In the overture’s rationale, to end apartheid, all Palestinian refugees, and their descendants (over 6 million people) must be allowed to take up residence in Israel. This would, “extinguish Israel as a Jewish state,” according to President Obama and many others.

THE IMPACT: The impact of passing such an overture are violent attacks and hate may increase against American Jews, who are already under siege and feeling isolated. Extremist on both sides in Israel and Palestine will be emboldened to fuel even more division, conflict, and violence. The PCUSA, because of the lack of real conversation on this matter, will see its integrity and relevance questioned. We cannot ignore the fact that as we have been the most vocal critic of Israel, we have lost 58% of our membership, the greatest percentage of all main line Protestant denominations. Interfaith relations will also suffer at the local level. Already, because of the committee action, major Jewish organizations, AJC, ADL and the Combat Antisemitism Movement are condemning the vote. This will only get worse.

OUR REQUEST: Vote NO! If we truly want to address this issue in a comprehensive way, we invite you to prayerfully vote down this overture and instead spend two years studying the issue and engaging in intentional conversations. Our two mission partners in Israel and Palestine, the ELCA and Episcopal Church are doing just that. If we delay until two years, then we will be able to be in communication with them and learn from their experience as the two largest Protestant Churches in Israel and Palestine.