Looming Presbyterian assault on Israel

The one-state proposition is a prescription for Israel’s end. And, as PFMEP underscores, that would be wholly “unchristian.”

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June 20, 2016 21:30
4 minute read.
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A cross and a star of david. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

 
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America’s City of Roses is hosting the biennial Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly (PCUSA), and once again an unfair and counterproductive report targeting Israel is headed for public discussion and a likely vote. It comes a month after the United Methodist Church, which also convened in Portland, Oregon for its General Conference, defeated several boycott resolutions calling for divestment from companies doing business with Israel.

Divestment, however, is not on the agenda for this week’s PCUSA gathering the way it was two years ago when the Church narrowly approved a measure to divest its interests in three US companies doing business with Israel. More than any other denomination, PCUSA has been obsessed with initiatives against Israel since 2004.

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For anti-Israel proponents within the PCUSA, boycotts are not enough. Its new initiative this year seeks to raise doubts about the viability of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and lay the foundation for support of a one-state formula. “Realism requires us to call the current entity, ‘Israel-Palestine,’” states the report to be officially presented in Portland.

The report, “Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace,” was authored by the Church’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), which concluded that “the door to a viable Palestinian state is closing rapidly, if it is still open at all.”

It holds Israel singularly responsible for the failure to realize the negotiated twostate vision of the Oslo Accords. Through more than 40 pages, the Advisory Committee presents a narrative that skews the historical record and legitimacy of Israel’s founding, distorts the causes and outcomes of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and leaves out Israel’s persistent efforts to achieve Israeli- Palestinian peace through direct bilateral negotiations, as was done successfully with Egypt and Jordan. Missing in the narrative are the landmark Israeli peace offers of 2000, 2001 and 2008. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is absolved of any blame for failure of the peace process and for refusing to take substantive actions to improve the lives of Palestinians.

Moreover, the document defends Hamas as a legitimate political actor on the grounds that it was “the winner of the only Palestinian- wide election,” held in 2006. Absent from the ACSWP report is the fact that Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza in a bloody coup, tightened its terrorist grip on Gaza, caused three wars with Israel, maintains a charter calling for Israel’s destruction and is so dangerous that even PA President Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t dare travel to this part of the putative Palestinian state.

The report also declares that the Church “can no longer consider the U.S. Government an impartial arbiter,” and warns of the “complicity of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and other U.S. Christians in enabling the continued Israeli occupation.”

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A companion study guide will soon be available “to read and discuss in congregations and communities.” That publication will likely echo the Church’s Zionism Unsettled guide that was widely distributed to bolster the 2014 General Assembly debate on Israel.

My colleague, Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of intergroup and interreligious relations, in a JTA op-ed in May 2014, called Zionism Unsettled a “screed” that makes clear that the Church’s “argument with Israel is not about the Israeli-Palestinian territorial dispute but rather the entire Zionist enterprise and Israel’s very existence.”

The Advisory Committee’s report has already generated outrage within the Church. Presbyterians For Middle East Peace (PFMEP) has produced an incisive analysis that debunks the report’s contents.

“At one time PCUSA was noted for its intellectual rigor and spiritual zeal, but this report has dashed that image,” PFMEP observes.

“What we find instead is a continuation of failed research, faulty theology and political agendas that are reminiscent of Zionism Unsettled and repeatedly seen in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which has produced this document.”

PFMEP notes that the ACSWP report “demonizes Israel by placing almost all responsibility for the conflict on it, while failing to acknowledge that the conflict has two sides and the Palestinian culpability as well.”

Significantly, PFMEP emphasizes that “the report does not represent a majority of the denomination’s membership, but more importantly, does not represent the opinion of the vast majority of Israelis and a strong majority of Palestinians who both support two states.”

PFMEP cautions delegates attending the PCUSA General Assembly that “by endorsing the report, the denomination would be taking a dramatic step back from its historic and firm support of two states.”

The PCUSA has historically devoted excessive attention to Israel and is now about to drift further away from constructively advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace. No party involved in the peace process – the US, European Union, France, UN, Israel, PA – is advocating or even contemplating the end of the two-state concept.

The one-state proposition is a prescription for Israel’s end. And, as PFMEP underscores, that would be wholly “unchristian.”

The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations

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