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Perspectives On PCUSA Support For Just And Peaceful Compromise

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									                                                          Perspec ves on
                                   Presbyterian Church (USA) Support
                                  for a Just and Peaceful Compromise
                                      of the Israeli‐Pales nian Conflict




                                          Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group
                                                                     of the Presbytery of Chicago
Photo by Jeremy E. Meyer and licensed under CC BY 2.0. | Cover design by Laura Cathey
Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group
Presbytery of Chicago

Discussion Paper: Perspectives on Presbyterian Church (USA) Support
                  for a Just and Peaceful Compromise of the
                  Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………… 1

Executive Summary……………………………………………………………………………. 2

Discussion Paper………………………………………………………………………………. 4

Responses:

     Middle East Task Force, Presbytery of Chicago………………………………….. 22

     Rabbi Noam E. Marans, Director, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations,

          American Jewish Committee………………………………………………….. 25

     Talat Othman, President, Metropolitan-Based Investment Management

          Firm………………………………………………………………………………. 27

     Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, President, Auburn Theological

          Seminary………………………………………………………………………… 30

     Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, Rabbinic Scholar, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan

          Chicago…………………………………………………………….................... 34

     Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, Director of Interfaith Affairs, Anti-Defamation

          League…………………………………………………………………………… 36

     Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism………………………. 38

     Charles Wiley, Convener, Middle East Staff Team, Office of the General

          Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian

          Church (USA)…………………………………………………………………… 41
Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group
Presbytery of Chicago

Discussion Paper: Perspectives on Presbyterian Church (USA) Support
                  for a Just and Peaceful Compromise of the
                  Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


 Is there a hopeful and humanizing perspective from which to view and engage
                         the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group (EIWG) of the Presbytery of
Chicago believes there is. The answer lies in coming to grips with two
fundamental realities:

   •   The current situation is intolerable for Palestinians, and unsustainable for
       Israel.

   •   Despite the singularity of each people, their lives and destinies are inter-
       twined. Any just and peaceful compromise of the conflict must be credible
       and real for both.

The Work Group offers this paper as a contribution to the current discussion
regarding the variety of positions within the Presbyterian Church (USA) towards
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The EIWG drafted this discussion paper in active dialogue with persons
associated with local Jewish, Palestinian Muslim and Christian communities, and
various entities within the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The EIWG is also including responses to the discussion paper from eight unique
and often conflicting perspectives, illustrating the complexities, and facing up to
the incongruities, that continue to make a just and peaceful compromise elusive.

Nevertheless, we believe that Presbyterians must fulfill their call to work on
behalf of reconciliation.

In that spirit, we propose that Presbyterians actively support on-the-ground
efforts for self-determination, human rights, and respectful co-existence, in order
to create the conditions for an achievable, just and peaceful compromise, and lay
the groundwork of the harder task of communal reconciliation, undertaken by,
and for, both Palestinians and Israelis.




                                         1
Perspectives on Presbyterian Church (USA)                            Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group
Support for a Just and Peaceful Compromise of                                           Presbytery of Chicago
the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

                                            Executive Summary
        All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to God’s self, and gave us the ministry of
        reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to God’s self, not counting their trespasses
        against them, but entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ,
        God making God’s appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)


The Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group of the Presbytery of Chicago offers this paper as a contribution
to the current discussion regarding the variety of positions within the Presbyterian Church (USA) towards the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EIWG drafted this discussion paper in active dialogue with persons associated
with local Jewish, Palestinian Muslim and Christian communities, and various entities within the Presbyterian
Church (USA).

Shared Understanding is Necessary for Compromise                                              Key Questions

•   The current situation is intolerable for Palestinians, and unsustainable for      • Is there a hopeful and
    Israel.                                                                             humanizing perspective from
                                                                                        which to view and engage
                                                                                        the Israeli-Palestinian
•   Presbyterians must listen to and honor the tragic histories and cherished           conflict?
    aspirations of each people, as they understand it themselves. We must
    not seek to deny or diminish the incongruity of these two stories, nor try to     • Is there a way for the self-
    equate the struggle and suffering conveyed in each.                                 determination of one people
                                                                                        not to delegitimize the self-
•   Despite the singularity of each people, their lives and destinies are inter-        determination of other
    twined. Any just and peaceful compromise of the conflict must be credible           people?
    and real for both.
                                                                                      • Is there a practical and
                                                                                        effective approach for
•   Such a compromise can only be achieved through the self-determination               engaging parties on all sides
    of each people, coupled with a non-negotiable commitment to human                   in the active pursuit of an
    rights and communal recognition for all concerned.                                  achievable just and peaceful
                                                                                        resolution?
•   Whatever form the final compromise may take, it will only be achieved
    through the actions taken by, and decisions made by, the two peoples              • Is there a way for
    directly involved.                                                                  Presbyterians to
                                                                                        acknowledge and serve the
                                                                                        cause of reconciliation and
•   We propose that Presbyterians actively support on-the-ground efforts for            healing for all concerned that
    self-determination, human rights, and respectful co-existence, in order to          must inevitably follow from
    create the conditions for an achievable, just and peaceful compromise,              such a negotiated
    and lay the groundwork of the harder task of communal reconciliation,               compromise?
    undertaken by, and for, both Israelis and Palestinians.


Any stances or actions taken by the PC (USA) must seek to ensure Israel’s right to exist and the end of the
military occupation of the West Bank; to resolve the question of East Jerusalem; and to reverse the economic
embargo of Gaza by both Israel and Egypt. Conversely, opposing measures that create obstacles to a two-
state compromise – such as “normalizing” the occupation, or threatening the safety and well-being of Israeli
citizens – must also be a part of the calculation.

As a denomination, Presbyterians are compelled to work on behalf of both sides for a just and peaceful
compromise. We should create the conditions that enable the pursuit of an equitable two-state compromise and
eliminate the obstacles to such an agreement in pursuit of achieving the desired goal.




                                                         2
Call to Action: Promote the Conditions Necessary for a Just and Peaceful Future

Support Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers and their initiatives
Presbyterians – in cooperation with local Jewish, Palestinian Muslim and Christian communities – can identify
and support initiatives in the region and the US, where Israelis and Palestinians are working for the economic
and social development of Palestinians, and reconciliation on behalf of both peoples. For example:

•   Work of the Children of Ibillin and Fr. Elias Chacour
•   Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund

Seek partnerships
Presbyterians can seek partnerships – regardless of ideological differences - with Jews and Palestinians in
service to any aspect of securing a just and peaceful compromise of the conflict. For example:

•   Oppose the sale of products from contested settlements in the West Bank
•   Petition Hamas to revise its charter in recognition of Israel as a Jewish state
•   Provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, refugee camps in Lebanon, and residents of Sederot

Encourage understanding of opposing views
Presbyterians can get to know all the communities involved - Palestinian Muslim and Christian, and Jewish.
They can respectfully engage those in any community who do not share their stance on resolving the conflict.
Presbyterians should speak up when any of these communities are defamed or demonized. For example:

•   Regularly visit and listen without comment to their concerns and hopes for a just and peaceful future in the
    Middle East
•   Collect and disseminate human-interest stories about the pain and suffering the conflict has inflicted on both
    Palestinians and Israelis
•   Collect and disseminate stories from those on the front lines working for empowerment and reconciliation

Establish relations locally
Establish relations with local Jewish, and Palestinian Muslim and Christian, neighbors. Interreligious encounter
is no substitute for working towards justice and peace, but it can pave the way for cooperation towards that end.
Specifically:

•   Visit each community during their religious and cultural celebrations
•   Express solidarity with each community in the midst of their own struggle or suffering
•   Encourage study groups focused on initiatives for empowerment and reconciliation

Get information first-hand from those working for a just and peaceful compromise
Seek out information from those working for the benefit of both Israelis and Palestinians, with a vision for an
equitable future – no matter how unsettling those reports may be. For example, connect with Rabbis for Human
Rights.

Visit Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza together
Visit the region together with unlikely ideological co-travelers who are committed to the principle of self-
determination for both Israelis and Palestinians. Seek to travel and meet with those who challenge your
perspective. For example:

•   Plan trips with mainstream members of all four communities – Jewish, Palestinian Muslim and Christian,
    and Presbyterian
•   Visit locations determined by each of the participating communities
•   Identify initiatives for empowerment and reconciliation to support jointly
•   Return to educate and mobilize their respective communities

Presbyterians must join together with their local Jewish, Palestinian Muslim and Christian communities, to
actively and practically support empowerment of the Palestinian people; reconciliation between Israelis and
Palestinians, from the grassroots up; and efforts by individuals and communities willing to take on this
extraordinary task, in a courageous and selfless way….before it is too late.


                                                          3
                         Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group
                                 Presbytery of Chicago

                                       Discussion Paper

                   Perspectives on Presbyterian Church (USA) Support
                                         for a
             Just and Peaceful Compromise of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

       All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to God’s self, and gave us the
       ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to God’s self,
       not counting their trespasses against them, but entrusting to us the message of
       reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making God’s appeal through
       us. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

The Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group of the Presbytery of Chicago offers this paper
as a contribution to the current discussion regarding the variety of positions within the
Presbyterian Church (USA) towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The impetus for this discussion paper comes out of our relations with local Muslim, Jewish
and Christian communities, and our shared denominational concern as Presbyterians for
justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

We intend to use this paper as a basis and blueprint for those in Chicago Presbytery who
wish to support a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict in relation to, and in cooperation
with, our local Muslim, Jewish and Christian counterparts.

We also hope that, in whatever modest and informal way, the paper may prove helpful to the
current denomination-wide discussion.

The rationale underlying this paper rests in these understandings:

•   The current situation is intolerable for Palestinians, and unsustainable for Israel.

•   Presbyterians must listen to and honor the tragic histories and cherished aspirations of
    each people, as they understand it themselves. We must not seek to deny or diminish the
    incongruity of these two stories, nor try to equate the struggle and suffering conveyed in
    each.

•   Despite the singularity of each people, their lives and destinies are inter-twined. Any just
    and peaceful compromise of the conflict must be credible and real for both.

•   Such a compromise can only be achieved through the self-determination of each people,
    coupled with a non-negotiable commitment to human rights and communal recognition for
    all concerned.

•   Whatever form the final compromise may take, it will only be achieved through the actions
    taken by, and decisions made by, the two peoples directly involved.



                                                 4
•   We propose that Presbyterians actively support on-the-ground efforts for self-
    determination, human rights, and respectful co-existence, in order to create the conditions
    for an achievable, just and peaceful compromise, and lay the groundwork of the harder
    task of communal reconciliation, undertaken by, and for, both Israelis and Palestinians.

In light of these understandings, the questions that have governed the reflections, framework
and proposals in this paper are:

•   Is there a hopeful and humanizing perspective from which to view and engage the Israeli-
    Palestinian conflict?

•   Is there a way for the self-determination of one people not to delegitimize the self-
    determination of other people?

•   Is there a practical and effective approach for engaging parties on all sides in the active
    pursuit of an achievable just and peaceful resolution?

•   Is there a way for Presbyterians to acknowledge and serve the cause of reconciliation and
    healing for all concerned that must inevitably follow from such a negotiated compromise?

The Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group is an entity of the Presbytery of Chicago
charged with fostering ecumenical and inter-religious relations.

The EIWG drafted this discussion paper in active dialogue with persons associated with local
Jewish, Palestinian Muslim and Christian communities, and various entities within the
Presbyterian Church (USA).

To further broaden the complexity and nuances of the discussion, the EIWG invited a range
of written responses that accompany the paper.

The EIWG is issuing this discussion paper solely on its own behalf, and does not claim to
formally or officially speak for the Presbytery of Chicago or the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Rev. Dr. Robert Cathey
Ms. Shelley Donaldson
Rev. Dirk Ficca, Moderator
Rev. Jay Moses
Ms. Liz Nickerson
Rev. Brian Paulson
Dr. Bo Myung Seo
Rev. Joyce Shin
Rev. Dr. Robert Reynolds, Executive Presbyter / Staff Support


(May 9, 2014)




                                                5
Mission of Reconciliation

God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ and the mission of reconciliation to which God has
called God’s church are the heart of the gospel in any age….

To be reconciled to God is to be sent into the world as God’s reconciling community. This
community, the church universal, is entrusted with God’s message of reconciliation and
shares God’s labor of healing the enmities which separate me from God and from each other.
Christ has called the church to this mission and given it the gift of the Holy Spirit. The church
maintains continuity with the apostles and with Israel by faithful obedience of this call.

The life, death, resurrection, and promised coming of Jesus Christ has set the pattern for the
church’s mission. His life as a human being involved the church in the common life of all
humanity. His service to humanity commits the church to work for every form of human well-
being. His sufferings make the church sensitive to all sufferings of all humankind so that it
sees the face of Christ in the faces of human beings in every kind of need. His crucifixion
discloses to the church God’s judgment on our inhumanity to others and the awful
consequences of its own complicity in injustice. In the power of the risen Christ and the hope
of his coming, the churches sees the promise of God’s renewal of human life in society and of
God’s victory over all wrong.

(Confession of 1967)


As Presbyterian Christians struggle to envision what it means to be a reconciling presence in
the midst of the tragic and seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, perhaps its not so
difficult to imagine Jesus working the front lines.

You could see him there, moving from Haifa to Hebron to Ramallah to Sederot to Gaza city.
Visiting the prisons and refugee camps. Comforting grieving parents and loved ones.
Listening to the aspirations of young people. Trying to get everyone to the table. Berating the
leadership. Angrily denouncing injustice and violence of any kind. Issuing dire warnings of
things to come. Becoming a target for those on all sides opposed to peace. Praying for his
enemies. Praying at the Western Wall. Praying in the Dome of the Rock. Praying at the
barrier that now stretches the length of the Holy Land.

As the Confession of 1967 states, as Jesus “…lived among his own people and shared their
needs, temptations, joys and sorrows...true humanity was realized once and for all.”




                                                6
Tragedy

We believe any approach to the compromises needed to reach a just and peaceful resolution
to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict must begin with an acknowledgment of its inherent
tragedy– in its origins, its ongoing nature, and in the fading hopes for a satisfactory and
lasting solution.

These are two peoples, seeking to fulfill their national aspirations, at the same time in history,
claiming the same sacred land as their homeland – and both rightfully so.

For Israeli Jews – for whom Israel is their homeland - and for the Jews around the world who
identify with them, their tragedy is a two thousand year odyssey as a religious and cultural
diaspora. An odyssey marked by continual persecution, displacement, oppression, and
suffering as a people, the horror of mass murder and the specter of annihilation in the
Holocaust, all amplifying an enduring longing and need to return to their ancient homeland.
The proposed 1947 UN Partition plan was seen as a first attempt at a two-state solution, but
was not embraced at the time by the wider Arab world.

For the Palestinian people – the indigenous people who call historic Palestine their homeland
- their tragedy is the decision of the international community to partition the territory and
support the establishment of the state of Israel, coupled with a pervasive indifference to their
own national aspirations and integrity as a culture and a people. In the ongoing conflict that
has ensued, the Palestinian population has been displaced from their homes and cities since
1947, borne the brunt of a demeaning occupation since 1967, and endured an unrelenting
refugee status for nearly seven decades.

There were periods when Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together peacefully in this Holy
Land. For the current and coming generations of Israelis and Palestinians, their tragedy is the
inability of their respective leadership, the neighboring countries in the region, and the
international community, to create a viable framework for a peaceful future and to summon
the political will to enact it.

To acknowledge the tragic character of the conflict is to be honest about past injustice,
present pain, and the uncertain path forward. Paradoxically, it offers a way to claim one’s own
history, identity and aspirations, and at the same time, to acknowledge and humanize the
history, identity and claims of the other. Only with such recognition of the other can an
authentic way forward be forged.

Ambiguity

This sense of tragedy is coupled with the ambiguity that always accompanies the unfolding of
history, particularly when it comes to the establishment of any nation state.

Although the persistent hope and guidance of our highest ideals are essential to working in
our world for justice and peace, this must be tempered with a measured realism about the
inherent flaws and limitations in even our best efforts. We have no choice but to live in the
midst of the ambiguity of “what is” and “what should be.” We must name it, admit to the
frustration and confusion it can create, but not be deterred by it from making the difficult
decisions crucial to moving forward.


                                                7
It is not a surprise that the crucial points of contention grow out of the ambiguity resulting
from conflicting narratives and points of view.

Take the question of the right of return for Palestinians, and the meaning and viability of a
Jewish democracy. Here are the questions that have been posed to us:

Here is are questions that have been posed to us: If Israel agrees to the right of return for
Palestinians, would it be an admission of the inherent unfairness involved in establishing the
nation state of Israel? And how will the majority needed for a Jewish state be maintained as
the Palestinian population inevitably grows?

Here are other questions that have been posed as well: If Palestinians give up the right of
return (in exchange for compensation and the prospects of a better future) would it seem to
justify their displacement in establishing the nation state of Israel? How could Palestinian
Muslims and Christians live in such a Jewish state, where they hold a minority status as
citizens, with the all the inequalities that go with it, and still be a democracy?

How do we weigh the respective importance of the right of return and a Jewish democracy in
light of a workable future? What measure of principle and pragmatism needs to be employed
in order to move realistically towards a just and peaceful future?

Realism

Naming these ambiguities is not to say that this conflict, or the possible path to justice and
peace, is entirely or substantially ambiguous. But when such ambiguities exist, Presbyterians
can call on a sense of political realism in being proactive and affirmative in their stances and
actions.

There is a nation state of Israel, where both Jews and Palestinians reside today. Its right to
exist as a sovereign nation has been consistently recognized and upheld by the international
community. At key junctures in ongoing negotiations with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has
recognized Israel’s existence, but not necessarily its right to exist.

There is a Palestinian population that has lived under occupation in the West Bank, or in
exile, now into a third generation. Because of the inability to negotiate a viable compromise to
the conflict, their sovereignty has been compromised, and their daily living conditions are
worsening.

Some would say that time is on the side of the Palestinians. The younger population is
growing rapidly, both in Israel and the occupied territories. US officials, and even
Palestinians, have stated that if Israel were prudent, it would negotiate an agreement as soon
as possible.

Others point to the instability of the region. Giving up military control over the West Bank and
East Jerusalem, removing the barrier, leaves Israel more vulnerable and exposed to militant
forces on all sides.




                                                 8
Yet still others see the continual rule of an ethnic and religious majority over ethnic and
religious minorities, through martial law, to be at odds with the ideals of a just democracy, to
say nothing of its sustainability. Israel should move to resolve the situation as soon as
possible, they argue, to lessen the prospects of regional intervention in the conflict.

The purpose here is not to argue one position or another. It is rather to point out that no
measure of suffering can serve as the justification for the domination of one people over
another. There are harsh and seemingly intractable realities that are not going to be
addressed merely through ideological argumentation, but by the actions and decisions of
those involved.

It is, in fact, easier for Jews and Palestinians, living in their respective diasporas - and not in
the midst of the conflict - as well as their Presbyterian counterparts - living in the US - to
demand a harder line, to hold up utopian and at times unrealistic standards than can be
enacted on the ground. Insight into the delicate 'dialogue of life' of those who live a day-in
and day-out existence in Israel, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, is therefore a
necessity. Otherwise, arguments from afar can become the rhetoric of double standards that
only defame one side, and potentially inflame the tensions between communities living side-
by-side in the midst of the conflict.

Responsibility
We are all involved. American Jews and American Palestinians in the United States have ties
to families and communities in Israel, in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and other
nations in the Middle East impacted by the conflict. Their ethnic and religious histories,
identities and relationships make them more than just interested parties. This goes for
Presbyterians as well, who through mission trips and projects, denominational and
organizational ties, have a personal investment in what happens to these two peoples.

Furthermore, in the American context, Jews, Muslims (including Arab and Palestinian) and
Christians (including Orthodox and Presbyterian) are all citizens of the United States. We all
should take responsibility for the role our nation plays in its foreign policy – though with
clearly varying levels of influence. Our government sends significant funds and military aid to
support Israel as a strategic partner in the region. It provides targeted humanitarian and
developmental aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It exerts influence over allies
and adversaries across the region in ways that significantly impacts both parties.

Israel is not the sole cause of the disarray and dysfunction in the West Bank, East Jerusalem,
and Gaza, Nevertheless, any responsible US foreign policy leading to a viable compromise
must not only support Israel with its security concerns, but also critique the conditions caused
by those security measures, as we would with any other country.

Palestinians want to take responsibility for their own self-development as a people and
participation as equal partners in a peace process. Yet how much of this is actually possible
when the power dynamics are so starkly disproportionate, with debilitating restrictions for
Palestinians on their freedom of movement, the unfettered exercise of their livelihoods, and
their access to educational and medical institutions?




                                                 9
While the ultimate responsibility for finding a compromise to the conflict lies in the hands of
Israelis and Palestinians, what is the nature of the responsibility of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) on behalf of the all peoples caught up in the conflict? How can Presbyterians, living in
a North American context, even have a voice in this conversation that does not in many ways
co-opt the entire narratives and lived realities of both peoples for the sake of a Christian
social ethic?

For the answer to that question, we must begin by acknowledging the current realities, in
ways that those directly involved in those realities can affirm. The true test of trust in any
conflictual situation is for each side to be able to relate the narrative of the other in a way that
is understandable by them.

When the hard work of trust is achieved, then the promising work of constructive engagement
can begin.




                                                 10
Recognizing the Current Realities…for Palestinians (in the West Bank, Gaza, and
Israel)

The current situation for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is intolerable.

Palestinians today have no place to call their own in the region that had been their homeland
for centuries. From the time of the establishment of the state of Israel, to the present day,
Palestinian families indigenous to the land have lost property, prosperity, and livelihood, with
no restitution or compensation, at the even more considerable expense of their basic human
dignity. Unrest, warfare and discontent in the region have left Palestinians as a people in an
internal state of disarray, disempowerment, and vulnerability. Israelis, on one side of the
barrier, live in relative economic prosperity and self-governance. For Palestinians, the barrier
is a symbol of communal indignity and functions as an infuriating impediment to daily life, as
they struggle in the midst of economic stagnation, social deprivation, and political instability.

Daily life for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is shaped by a military
occupation, carried out by martial law, under the jurisdiction of a government in which they
play little or no part, where check points, separate roads, identity passes, restricted
movement, random searches and detainment, and the threat of violence, are a constant. For
Palestinians in Gaza, daily life is marked by the desperation of a population far too dense and
impoverished to be viable as a workable society, a situation heightened by a military siege in
2007, restricted borders, limitations on humanitarian aid, and the continuing impact of an
economic embargos imposed by Israel and Egypt.

The internal nature of the Palestinian community is fractured politically, and surrounded by
radicalized Christian, Jewish, and Muslim factions. There is little or no viable democratic
infrastructure. Corruption is rampant. What government is in place is chaotic at best. The
leading political parties of Hamas and Fatah have competing agendas, and they have
struggled in their attempt to reconcile with each other, much less seek to broker a peace with
Israel or accept the presence of a Jewish Democracy.

Palestinians also find themselves in the midst of larger geo-political dynamics. In the ongoing
political contest between the Iranian/Shi’a and Egyptian/Sunni, the plight of Palestinians has
been identified as a symbol of US and European intervention in the region. Their situation is
often used as a justification for the demonization of Israel, the self-serving continuation of the
conflict by Arab despots, and the ever-shifting regional agenda of Europe and the US.

Daily life for Palestinians for those residing in 12 UN refugee camps in Lebanon is a
perpetual state of limbo. Palestinians living in the midst of a Jordanian citizenry face
resentment. Palestinian Muslim and Christian minorities living within the borders of Israel face
de facto discrimination as second-class citizens. Christian Palestinians face the double bind
of being Christian and Palestinian minority in Israel, and Christian minority in the West Bank
and Gaza.

Before the two intifadas and the building of the barrier, there was day-to-day humanizing
contact with Israelis. For an older generation of Palestinians, that experience is fading, and is
limited, at best, for newer generations.

These are not suitable conditions for peoplehood. They are a seedbed for discontent and
potential violence threatening on all sides.

                                                11
Recognizing the Current Realities…of Presbyterian – Palestinian Relations

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a long history of relationships and involvement in the
Middle East. The denomination has long had close ties with Palestinian Christians in the
West Bank, Jordan, and Israel. The national denominational staff, and various affiliated
advocacy groups focused on the Middle East, have been familiar with the Christian
Palestinian narrative for several decades, leading to advocacy efforts for a two-state solution,
an end to the occupation, and a resolution of the overall conflict.

As a rule, Presbyterians tend to side with those who are disenfranchised and suffering. At the
end of World War II, with the unfolding realization about the Holocaust, Presbyterians were
sympathetic to the Jewish diaspora, and then newly established state of Israel. Over the past
twenty years, however, more of the denomination at the grassroots has become familiar with
the Christian Palestinian narrative, and the nature of their plight. While still firmly supportive
of Israel, mainline Presbyterians are becoming adamant that Palestinians receive equal
consideration.

Increasingly, all Palestinians – Christians and Muslims - are being viewed by Presbyterians
as getting the short end of the stick. This goes hand in hand with greater awareness of, and
relations with, the broader Muslim community – at least with Presbyterians in metropolitan
Chicago – which took a major leap forward in the aftermath of 9/11.

Palestinian Muslims believe that the political lobby of Jewish organizations and Christian
Zionists is more powerful and influential than Palestinian and Arab advocates when it comes
to the US foreign policy concerning the Middle East. In the face of this, Palestinian Muslims
and Christians see Presbyterians as established peacemakers, influential in the US context,
and more open as US Christians to interreligious dialogue than some of their other Christian
counterparts in the Middle East.

Christian Palestinian speakers have been featured frequently at the General Assembly. Rev.
Fahed Abu-Akel, elected as moderator of the General Assembly in 2002, was a Christian
Palestinian.

The Palestinian community has applauded the repeated overtures brought before the
General Assembly calling for divestment from companies that profit from the occupation of
the West Bank, or are associated with violence of any kind.

It’s no mystery why the state of Presbyterian – Palestinian relations is at an all time high.




                                                12
Recognizing the Current Realities…of Presbyterian – Jewish Relations (in the US)

There is little or no trust today between Presbyterians and Jews at the level of their national
structures, and interaction between the two is declining, a trend that can be traced to the
2004 General Assembly deliberations on divestment. This is in spite of the fact that, since
1974, the denomination has approved numerous overtures to the General Assembly affirming
its support for a two-state solution, and continues to operate officially according to that
position.

Still, the PC (USA) has no formal denominational policy on its relationship to the Jewish
community. While the 1987 study guide document on Presbyterian – Jewish relations
functions as an informal source of guidance, subsequent policy documents were rejected.
The most recent efforts to draft such a policy have proved unworkable, due to polarization
over the Middle East.

Many Presbyterians fail to realize that the mainstream Jewish community tends to be open to
a critique of the policies and practices of Israel as a nation state, as long as they are in line
with the method of critique for any other nation state in the international community. Both in
Israel and in the US, one need only look at the Israeli and American Jewish media to find a
robust discussion about all aspects of Israeli policy and society, However, when the Jewish
community sees efforts aimed at discrediting or undermining the existence of Israel as a
nation state, or unfairly singling out Israel for criticism, the community perceives that anti-
Semitism, and not simply political critique, is at work.

These perceptions are strengthened by the highly visible and united front of support for Israel
by the mainstream Jewish community. In the past, Presbyterians have been left wondering
about the degree to which there is a diversity of perspectives among mainstream Jews about
its policies and practices and the degree to which concerns for a just and peaceful future for
Palestinians is a priority. That approach – with the emergence of J Street, for instance - has
changed, and continues to evolve.

For the Jewish community, the polity, lines of accountability, and public discourse of the
Presbyterian Church (USA) is confusing much of time. Presbyterians remain deeply divided
over how best to act as trustworthy advocates for justice and peace in the region for all
peoples. The diversity of perspectives within the denomination on Israel and Palestine, and a
variety of governing bodies, offices, church-related networks, task forces, work groups, and
institutions, each putting forward positions and agenda, makes it practically impossible to
discern the PC (USA)’s voice from one year to the next.

Recently, however, there has been progress at local levels, where interactions between
Presbyterians and Jews are not solely focused on Middle East concerns, but on a wider
range of shared activities and concerns, creating more of a climate of trust.

It’s no mystery that the state of Presbyterian–Jewish relations, at least at the national level, is
at an all time low.




                                                13
Recognizing the Current Reality…for Israelis

The current state of affairs for Israel – internally and in the region - is unsustainable.

Jews have lived in the Holy Land for three thousand years (with a presence in the four holy
cities of Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberius and Hebron). Their experience of two thousand years as
a diaspora community - with forced mass expulsions and frequent violence, the searing
memory of the Holocaust - are powerful motivating factors for creating and maintaining an
Israeli identity.

Like any other democracy, Israel is a “work in progress.” It is also a trusted ally of the US in
the region. At the same time, Israel finds itself in a situation where relations with their most
immediate Arab neighbors (Egypt, Jordan) are strained, at best. At worst, there are 60,000
missiles in southern Lebanon pointed in their direction; weapons are being transferred to
Hezbollah from Syria; Iran continues to smuggle weapons into Gaza, governed by Hamas
whose charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel; rockets fired from Gaza create
terror in the south of Israel.

Israelis find themselves as a nation caught in the midst of wider Middle East instability and
hostility, with a failed Arab Spring, civil war in Syria, unrest in Lebanon, and a potential
nuclear threat in Iran. Israelis see the continued conflict with Palestinians, in part, as a
product of proxy wars between Egypt and Iran, Shi’a and Sunni forces. More viscerally for
Israelis is the issue of terrorism. Being a nuclear power, having a superior military force, does
not protect ordinary citizens from rockets launched from Gaza, or the memories of bombing
of non-combatants in public places.

Added to that, Israel feels increasingly alienated from the international community,
particularly Europe, and now Turkey. The singling out of political Zionism as a racist ideology
and post-modern invention, of Israel as a racist nation, the constant threat of UN sanctions,
the international boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, and the recent political
recognition of Palestine by the UN, are all are sources of distress. From an Israeli point of
view, efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians has been thwarted on two
fronts:

•   The instability and lack of credible leadership in the West Bank and Gaza, and the refusal
    of Fatah and Hamas to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state;

•   The fractured nature of Israeli politics, with many small but powerful political (settlers,
    hard-line Orthodox and secular Jews) opposed to any peace agreement that includes the
    dismantling of settlements, and often using a religious rationale for the occupation of the
    West Bank.

The Israeli electorate has become more pessimistic and inflexible when it comes to the
prospects for peace. The sense of internal stability symbolized by what is to Israelis the
“security” barrier, in conjunction with the ominous external threats all around, has
strengthened the hand of hard-liners and those concerned about security alike. Still, a
majority of Israeli Jews support a two state compromise, even if they think it is unlikely to
happen. The two-state position remains the official stance of the Knesset.



                                                 14
Before the two intifadas and the building of the barrier, there was day-to-day humanizing
contact with Israelis. For an older generation of Israelis, that experience is fading, and is
limited, at best, for newer generations.

No wonder the majority of Israelis who favor a two-state compromise, and support co-
existence through self-determination and human rights for Palestinians, are discouraged and
distrustful.




                                                15
Advocating for a Two-State Compromise

Ultimately, the principle of self-determination – expressed in individual human rights and in
the right of a people to their own sovereignty – provide the theological and ethical grounds for
a Presbyterian stance towards the Palestinian – Israeli conflict.

At the current time, lacking a viable and pragmatic alternative acceptable to both sides, a
two-state compromise remains the most practical expression of self-determination for both
peoples.

Despite growing pessimism on all sides about the viability of achieving a two-state
compromise, this is the current stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and should
continue to be.

First, a two-state solution is rooted in the principle and right of self-determination of Israelis
and Palestinians as peoples.

To advocate for the self-determination of one people is to affirm the self-determination of the
other people.

To undermine the self-determination of one people in promoting the self-determination of the
other people is to undermine the principle and right of self-determination.

Second, to insure the self-determination of individuals, and majority and minority populations
within the two respective nation states of Israel and Palestine (West Bank/East
Jerusalem/Gaza), individual human rights and freedoms must be respected within a
pluralistic democratic political structure.

Therefore, democracy can be compatible with the reality of a state with a Jewish majority, if
the human rights and freedoms for Christian and Muslim Palestinians, and others, are
vigorously upheld.

Democracy within the confines of a Palestinian state would similarly need to vigorously
uphold human rights and freedoms for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others.

Fundamentally, both ethically and politically, the pursuit of a two-state compromise affirms
that the destinies of these two peoples are intertwined.

Therefore, those advocating for such a compromise are compelled to work on behalf of both
peoples for their self-determination, and call upon both Israeli and Palestinians in the West
Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza to adhere to democratic principles and practice.




                                                16
However, pursuit of a two-state compromise will not work if…

      …the occupation of the West Bank and the unresolved status of East Jerusalem (to
      which Muslims and Jews both have an historic and religious connection), the embargo
      of Gaza, and the exile of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and other nations in the
      region continue;

      …the use of military force, terrorism, or violence of any kind, is accepted as an
      inevitable or integral component of any viable and just long-term solution;

      …ideological lines of argumentation are used to undermine the political self-
      determination of Israelis or Palestinians, or, conversely, to uncritically support their
      respective policies and practices;

      …anti-Judaic or anti-Semitic language and lines of argumentation are used in the
      critique of Israel, and the support of the Jewish community of Israel, or anti-Islamic or
      anti-Arab language and lines of argumentation are used to critique the Palestinian
      community in the West Bank and Gaza;

      …educational institutions and curriculum are used to distort the history, or demonize
      the humanity, of the other;

      …tactics such as boycotts, divestment, or sanctions are used to undermine the
      legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist, rather than to leverage reform of the policies and
      practices of Israel as a nation state;

      …religious exceptionalism, in any of its manifestations (e.g. certain forms of Christian
      Zionism, messianic settler ideology, Islamism), is used as the basis for political
      exceptionalism in privileging the self-determination and human rights of one people
      over the other.

Pursuit of a two-state compromise will only work if…

      ….political negotiation, and an intentional process of reconciliation, is embraced as
      the only viable and workable path to a tenable future;

      …humanizing, not demonizing or stigmatizing, language is used in the political
      rhetoric;

      …critiques of the policies and practices of the Israeli government and the Palestinian
      Authority in the West Bank are specific in character;

      …the empowerment and self-development of the Palestinian people, through the
      governance of their own authentic and independent leadership, is viewed by Israel as
      essential to a workable solution and receives broad political and material support from
      the international community;

      …the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign and secure democratic Jewish state,
      alongside a Palestinian state, is recognized by the Palestinian people, the community
      of Arab nations, and the international community.

                                               17
Taking such a stance for reconciliation does not mean that the relative power
positions and current state of affairs for Israelis and Palestinians are equivalent.

Conditions for both Jews and Palestinians within Israel are significantly better, in virtually
every respect, than for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, or for Palestinians
living and working in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and other Middle Eastern nations. Failing to
acknowledge this inequality of power as a critical justice issue denies the Palestinian
experience of suffering. Fear that Palestinians or the international community will use such an
acknowledgement as “moral high ground” is not an acceptable justification for failing to
acknowledge the distinctive suffering of the Palestinian people.

Discussion of disproportionate power positions also requires acknowledgement of the military
threat of nations surrounding Israel, and more pointedly, the justifiable fear of terrorism.
Nevertheless, any lasting peace with Palestinians cannot finally be based on militarized
strength. It should also be acknowledged that while there is a power differential, Palestinians
in the West Bank, and especially Gaza, have posed a real security threat to Israeli citizens,
though not to the existence of the Israel as a nation state.

This discrepancy in hardship does not mean that Israelis and Palestinians are not
equally responsible for their pursuit of a compromise that is just and peaceful in both
its means and its ends.

Both parties must do everything they can in service to a future that insures their respective
self-determination, regardless of the character of their respective hardships.

Using self-determination as the governing principle for the potential future stance of the PC
(USA) in seeking a just and peaceful two-state compromise, frees the denomination from
having to choose sides.

Moreover, it compels the denomination to work on behalf of both sides for a just and peaceful
compromise. Both creating the conditions that enable the pursuit of an equitable two-state
compromise and eliminating the obstacles to such an agreement is crucial in achieving the
desired goal.

That means, for instance, any stances or actions taken by the PC (USA) must seek to insure
Israel’s right to exist, and the end of the military occupation of the West Bank, to resolve the
question of East Jerusalem, and to reverse the economic embargo of Gaza by both Israel
and Egypt.

Conversely, opposing measures that create obstacles to a two-state compromise – such as
“normalizing” the occupation, or threatening the safety and well being of Israeli citizens –
must also be a part of the calculation.




                                               18
Promoting the Conditions for a Just and Peaceful Future

Given the current realities, and embracing the principle of self-determination for both peoples
as both the means and the end, the Presbyterian Church (USA) can promote the conditions
on the ground necessary for achieving a just and peaceful compromise.

In other words:

…regardless of how Palestinians and Israelis seek to negotiate a compromise to this conflict,
and:

…regardless of differing views on a one-state or two-state solution,

Presbyterians can join together with their local Jewish, Palestinian Muslim and Christian
communities, to actively and practically support…

…empowerment of the Palestinian people;

…reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, from the grassroots up;

…the individuals and communities willing to take on this extraordinary task, in a courageous
and selfless way….before it is too late.

Practically speaking, then, for Presbyterians to take such a stance, means the following:


Support Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers and their initiatives

Presbyterians – in cooperation with local Jewish, Palestinian Muslim and Christian
communities – can identify and support initiatives in the region and the US, where Israelis
and Palestinians are working – preferably together - for the economic and social development
of Palestinians, and reconciliation on behalf of both peoples.

For example:

   •   Work of the Children of Ibillin and Fr. Elias Chacour

   •   Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund




                                               19
Seek partnerships

Presbyterians can seek partnerships – regardless of ideological differences - with Jews and
Palestinians in service to any aspect of securing a just and peaceful compromise of the
conflict.

For example:

    •   Oppose the sale of products from contested settlements in the West Bank.

    •   Petition Hamas to revise its charter in recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

    •   Provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, refugee camps in Lebanon, and residents of
        Sederot.


Humanize the other

Presbyterians can get to know all the communities involved - Palestinian Muslim and
Christian, and Jewish. They can respectfully engage those in any community who do not
share their stance on resolving the conflict. Presbyterians should be vigilant speaking up
when any of these communities are defamed or demonized.

For example:

    •   Regularly visit and listen without comment to their concerns and hopes for a just and
        peaceful future in the Middle East.

    •   Collect and disseminate human-interest stories about the pain and suffering inflicted
        on both Palestinians and Israelis by the conflict.

    •   Collect and disseminate stories from those on the front lines working for empowerment
        and reconciliation.


Establish relations locally

Establish relations with local Jewish, and Palestinian Muslim and Christian, neighbors.
Interreligious encounter is no substitute for working towards justice and peace, but it can
pave the way for cooperation towards that end.

Specifically (list):

    •   Visit each community during their religious and cultural celebrations.

    •   Express solidarity with each community in the midst of their own struggle or suffering.

    •   Encourage study groups focused on initiatives for empowerment and reconciliation.



                                                20
Get information first-hand from those working for a just and peaceful compromise

Seek out information from those working for the benefit of both Israelis and Palestinians, with
a vision for an equitable future – no matter how unsettling those reports may be.

For example:

    •   Rabbis for Human Rights



•   Visit Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza together

It is possible to visit this troubled region - and, depending on where you choose to visit and
not visit, on whom you choose to meet and not meet – and sadly, return home with one’s
chosen perspective unchallenged. Instead, visit the region together with unlikely ideological
co-travelers who are committed to the principle of self-determination for both Israelis and
Palestinians.

For example:

    •   Plan trips with mainstream members of all four communities – Jewish, Palestinian
        Muslim and Christian, and Presbyterian;

    •   Visit locations determined by each of the participating communities;

    •   Identify initiatives for empowerment and reconciliation to support jointly;

    •   Return to educate and mobilize their respective communities.




                                                21
                      Response	
  to	
  EIWG	
  by	
  Middle	
  East	
  Task	
  Force	
  (METF)	
  of	
  Chicago	
  Presbytery	
  

              The	
  Middle	
  East	
  Task	
  Force	
  of	
  Chicago	
  Presbytery	
  was	
  formed	
  in	
  1974,	
  responding	
  to	
  a	
  call	
  by	
  
the	
  General	
  Assembly	
  of	
  the	
  Presbyterian	
  Church,	
  USA,	
  (PC(USA))	
  to	
  “encourage	
  study	
  and	
  foster	
  
dialogue	
  in	
  response	
  to	
  the	
  current	
  Middle	
  East	
  conflict.”	
  	
  The	
  first	
  “Middle	
  East	
  Traveling	
  Seminar”	
  was	
  
held	
  that	
  year,	
  to	
  Lebanon,	
  Syria,	
  Jordan,	
  and	
  Israel/Palestine,	
  and	
  traveling	
  seminars	
  continue	
  to	
  this	
  
day.	
  	
  Returning	
  travelers	
  share	
  their	
  experiences	
  in	
  churches	
  of	
  the	
  presbytery.	
  	
  We	
  have	
  established	
  
partnerships	
  with	
  churches	
  and	
  organizations,	
  both	
  religious	
  and	
  secular,	
  throughout	
  the	
  Middle	
  East.	
  
Three	
  of	
  our	
  members	
  serve	
  on	
  the	
  steering	
  committee	
  of	
  the	
  newly	
  formed	
  Syria	
  Lebanon	
  Mission	
  
Network	
  of	
  the	
  PC(USA).	
  

          Members	
  felt	
  it	
  important	
  to	
  visit	
  the	
  region	
  for	
  four	
  reasons:	
  our	
  concern	
  for	
  all	
  Christians	
  of	
  
the	
  Middle	
  East;	
  our	
  denomination’s	
  involvement	
  since	
  the	
  1820’s	
  in	
  Lebanon,	
  Syria	
  and	
  neighboring	
  
countries;	
  the	
  conditions	
  under	
  which	
  Palestinian	
  refugees	
  have	
  lived	
  in	
  those	
  countries	
  since	
  1948;	
  and	
  
the	
  deepening	
  injustices	
  present,	
  especially	
  in	
  Israel	
  and	
  Palestine.	
  

	
             METF	
  began	
  writing	
  overtures	
  to	
  the	
  General	
  Assembly	
  of	
  the	
  PC(USA)	
  in	
  1978,	
  to	
  express	
  its	
  
concern	
  over	
  these	
  injustices.	
  	
  Many	
  of	
  our	
  overtures	
  have	
  been	
  adopted	
  and	
  are	
  now	
  denominational	
  
policy	
  statements.	
  	
  In	
  2004,	
  we	
  sent	
  an	
  overture	
  opposing	
  all	
  expressions	
  of	
  Christian	
  Zionism;	
  it	
  was	
  
adopted.	
  	
  Also	
  adopted	
  that	
  year	
  was	
  an	
  overture	
  sent	
  from	
  St.	
  Augustine	
  Presbytery	
  that	
  listed	
  a	
  
number	
  of	
  Israeli	
  government	
  policies	
  that	
  violated	
  international	
  law;	
  the	
  overture	
  directed	
  the	
  
denomination	
  to	
  divest	
  funds	
  from	
  any	
  companies	
  that	
  profit	
  from	
  the	
  Israeli	
  occupation	
  of	
  Palestinian	
  
land.	
  	
  The	
  overture	
  was	
  adopted	
  and	
  the	
  process	
  of	
  “morally	
  responsible	
  investing”	
  was	
  pursued,	
  
resulting	
  in	
  the	
  recommendation	
  to	
  divest	
  that	
  is	
  coming	
  to	
  GA	
  this	
  summer.	
  	
  The	
  2004	
  action	
  by	
  GA	
  
also	
  led	
  to	
  the	
  creation	
  of	
  the	
  Israel	
  Palestine	
  Mission	
  Network	
  (IPMN)	
  of	
  the	
  PC(USA).	
  	
  Funded	
  entirely	
  
by	
  its	
  members,	
  IPMN’s	
  mission	
  states	
  the	
  following:	
  	
  

            In	
  joyful	
  obedience	
  to	
  the	
  call	
  of	
  Christ,	
  and	
  in	
  solidarity	
  with	
  churches	
  and	
  our	
  other	
  partners	
  in	
  
            the	
  Middle	
  East,	
  this	
  network	
  covenants	
  to	
  engage,	
  consolidate,	
  nourish,	
  and	
  channel	
  the	
  energy	
  
            in	
  the	
  Presbyterian	
  Church	
  (USA)	
  toward	
  the	
  goal	
  of	
  a	
  just	
  peace	
  in	
  Israel	
  /Palestine	
  by	
  
            facilitating	
  education,	
  promoting	
  partnerships,	
  and	
  coordinating	
  advocacy.	
  Our	
  network	
  speaks	
  
            TO	
  the	
  Church	
  not	
  FOR	
  the	
  Church.	
  	
  (See	
  www.theIPMN.org)	
  

            METF	
  is	
  pleased	
  to	
  be	
  a	
  part	
  of	
  this	
  national	
  network.	
  	
  Our	
  “reach”	
  has	
  also	
  broadened	
  over	
  the	
  
years	
  to	
  include	
  similarly	
  concerned	
  people	
  in	
  the	
  Chicago	
  area	
  who	
  are	
  members	
  of	
  other	
  Christian	
  
denominations,	
  other	
  religious	
  groups	
  (the	
  Council	
  of	
  Islamic	
  Organizations	
  of	
  Greater	
  Chicago,	
  
American	
  Muslims	
  for	
  Palestine,	
  Arab	
  American	
  Action	
  Network,	
  Jewish	
  Voice	
  for	
  Peace,	
  J	
  Street,	
  and	
  
Students	
  for	
  Justice	
  in	
  Palestine),	
  and	
  numerous	
  local	
  groups	
  such	
  as	
  the	
  Committee	
  for	
  a	
  Just	
  Peace	
  in	
  
Israel	
  and	
  Palestine	
  (CJPIP),	
  the	
  Arab	
  Jewish	
  Partnership.	
  	
  Together,	
  we	
  have	
  offered	
  educational	
  events,	
  
speakers	
  and	
  films	
  in	
  our	
  area.	
  

	
          We	
  lament	
  with	
  you	
  the	
  lack	
  of	
  trust	
  between	
  mainline	
  Jewish	
  dialogue	
  partners	
  and	
  
Presbyterians.	
  	
  However,	
  the	
  trust	
  between	
  the	
  growing	
  numbers	
  of	
  Jewish	
  groups	
  that	
  differ	
  with	
  
Israeli	
  policies	
  and	
  Presbyterians	
  is	
  at	
  an	
  all-­‐time	
  high.	
  	
  Likewise,	
  the	
  bond	
  between	
  Presbyterians	
  and	
  
Middle	
  East	
  Christians	
  and	
  Muslims	
  has	
  also	
  grown.	
  	
  The	
  2004	
  G.A.	
  actions	
  (cited	
  previously)	
  meant	
  that	
  
Christian	
  groups	
  in	
  Lebanon,	
  Syria,	
  Jordan	
  and	
  Israel/Palestine	
  greeted	
  the	
  2005	
  METF	
  Traveling	
  Seminar	
  
with	
  expressions	
  of	
  thanksgiving;	
  they	
  told	
  us	
  their	
  Muslim	
  neighbors	
  could	
  see	
  that	
  not	
  all	
  Christians	
  




                                                                                22
were	
  indifferent	
  to	
  their	
  cries	
  for	
  justice.	
  	
  Now,	
  each	
  approaching	
  General	
  Assembly	
  is	
  watched	
  with	
  
great	
  interest	
  to	
  see	
  if	
  our	
  denomination	
  will	
  continue	
  to	
  lift	
  up	
  the	
  injustices	
  they	
  suffer.	
  	
  	
  

	
  We	
  welcome	
  EWIG’s	
  entry	
  into	
  this	
  broader	
  discussion.	
  	
  In	
  your	
  work	
  on	
  interfaith	
  dialogue	
  you	
  have	
  
dealt	
  solely	
  with	
  the	
  “mainline”	
  voices	
  for	
  a	
  religious	
  group,	
  and	
  have	
  not	
  wanted	
  to	
  engage	
  in	
  the	
  
contentious	
  political	
  realm,	
  fearing	
  that	
  dialogue	
  partners	
  would	
  be	
  offended.	
  	
  That	
  has	
  intensified	
  the	
  
split	
  between	
  EIWG	
  and	
  METF	
  in	
  this	
  presbytery.	
  	
  It	
  is	
  time	
  for	
  that	
  to	
  end.	
  	
  The	
  concerns	
  of	
  Jews	
  other	
  
than	
  mainstream,	
  Muslim	
  and	
  Palestinian	
  organizations	
  in	
  Chicago	
  must	
  be	
  part	
  of	
  the	
  “dialogue	
  of	
  life”	
  
you	
  propose.	
  	
  

            We	
  find	
  much	
  of	
  your	
  paper	
  to	
  be	
  helpful.	
  We	
  agree	
  that	
  the	
  current	
  situation	
  is	
  “intolerable	
  for	
  
Palestinians,	
  and	
  unsustainable	
  for	
  Israel.”	
  	
  We	
  agree	
  that	
  “Presbyterians	
  must	
  listen	
  to	
  and	
  honor	
  the	
  
tragic	
  histories	
  and	
  cherished	
  aspirations	
  of	
  each	
  people,	
  as	
  they	
  understand	
  it	
  themselves.”	
  	
  We	
  agree	
  
that	
  the	
  final	
  compromise	
  “will	
  only	
  be	
  achieved	
  through	
  the	
  actions	
  taken	
  by,	
  and	
  decisions	
  made	
  by,	
  
the	
  two	
  peoples	
  directly	
  involved.”	
  	
  We	
  especially	
  agree	
  that	
  “Presbyterians	
  actively	
  support	
  on-­‐the-­‐
ground	
  efforts	
  for	
  self-­‐determination,	
  human	
  rights,	
  and	
  respectful	
  co-­‐existence	
  in	
  order	
  to	
  create	
  the	
  
conditions	
  for	
  an	
  achievable,	
  just	
  and	
  peaceful	
  compromise,	
  and	
  …	
  the	
  harder	
  task	
  of	
  communal	
  
reconciliation,	
  undertaken	
  by,	
  and	
  for,	
  both	
  Israelis	
  and	
  Palestinians.”	
  

             But	
  the	
  paper’s	
  conclusions	
  do	
  not	
  follow	
  from	
  its	
  premises.	
  	
  	
  

      •      Your	
  paper	
  holds	
  out	
  for	
  a	
  two-­‐state	
  solution	
  as	
  the	
  “most	
  practical	
  expression	
  of	
  self-­‐
             determination	
  for	
  both	
  peoples.”	
  	
  We	
  hear	
  that	
  the	
  conditions	
  in	
  the	
  occupied	
  land	
  of	
  Palestine	
  
             have	
  gone	
  beyond	
  the	
  possibility	
  of	
  a	
  two-­‐state	
  solution.	
  	
  Many	
  voices	
  are	
  now	
  calling	
  for	
  a	
  one-­‐
             state	
  solution,	
  with	
  equal	
  human	
  rights	
  and	
  honest	
  democracy	
  for	
  all.	
  	
  	
  But	
  whether	
  it	
  is	
  one	
  or	
  
             two-­‐states	
  doesn’t	
  seem	
  to	
  matter,	
  as	
  long	
  as	
  human	
  rights	
  and	
  real	
  democracy	
  are	
  upheld.	
  	
  
             That	
  is	
  what	
  they	
  are	
  saying.	
  	
  By	
  ignoring	
  this,	
  you	
  do	
  not	
  leave	
  room	
  for	
  others	
  at	
  the	
  dialogue	
  
             table.	
  
      •      Your	
  paper	
  supports	
  the	
  mainline	
  Jewish	
  call	
  for	
  a	
  “Jewish	
  State.”	
  	
  The	
  phrase,	
  “Jewish	
  
             democracy”	
  is	
  used	
  repeatedly.	
  	
  We	
  find	
  that	
  to	
  be	
  an	
  oxymoron.	
  	
  A	
  “democracy”	
  promises	
  and	
  
             upholds	
  equal	
  treatment	
  for	
  all	
  citizens.	
  	
  Further,	
  the	
  call	
  by	
  Prime	
  Minister	
  Benjamin	
  
             Netanyahu	
  for	
  a	
  “Jewish	
  State”	
  in	
  the	
  current	
  negotiations	
  is	
  fairly	
  recent.	
  It	
  was	
  not	
  required	
  of	
  
             Jordan	
  or	
  Egypt	
  in	
  their	
  agreements	
  with	
  Israel.	
  	
  	
  	
  
      •      Your	
  paper	
  says	
  “pursuit	
  of	
  a	
  two-­‐state	
  compromise	
  will	
  not	
  work	
  if.…tactics	
  such	
  as	
  boycotts,	
  
             divestment,	
  or	
  sanctions	
  are	
  used	
  to	
  undermine	
  the	
  legitimacy	
  of	
  Israel’s	
  right	
  to	
  exist,	
  rather	
  
             than	
  to	
  leverage	
  reform	
  of	
  the	
  policies	
  and	
  practices	
  of	
  Israel	
  as	
  a	
  nation	
  state.”	
  	
  	
  
             	
  
             We	
  find	
  it	
  astounding	
  that	
  opponents	
  of	
  the	
  BDS	
  movement	
  continue	
  to	
  claim	
  that	
  BDS	
  
             supporters	
  are	
  calling	
  for	
  the	
  abolishment	
  of	
  the	
  state	
  of	
  Israel.	
  	
  Their	
  mission	
  statement	
  says:	
  
             	
  
                   o      The	
  campaign	
  for	
  boycotts,	
  divestment	
  and	
  sanctions	
  (BDS)	
  is	
  shaped	
  by	
  a	
  rights-­‐based	
  approach	
  
                          and	
  highlights	
  the	
  three	
  broad	
  sections	
  of	
  the	
  Palestinian	
  people:	
  the	
  refugees,	
  those	
  under	
  
                          military	
  occupation	
  in	
  the	
  West	
  Bank	
  and	
  Gaza	
  Strip,	
  and	
  Palestinians	
  in	
  Israel.	
  The	
  call	
  urges	
  
                          various	
  forms	
  of	
  boycott	
  against	
  Israel	
  until	
  it	
  meets	
  its	
  obligations	
  under	
  international	
  law	
  by:	
  
                          	
  
                                 ! Ending	
  its	
  occupation	
  and	
  colonization	
  of	
  all	
  Arab	
  lands	
  occupied	
  in	
  June	
  1967	
  and	
  
                                      dismantling	
  the	
  Wall;	
  




                                                                                   23
                       !     Recognizing	
  the	
  fundamental	
  rights	
  of	
  the	
  Arab-­‐Palestinian	
  citizens	
  of	
  Israel	
  to	
  full	
  
                             equality;	
  and	
  
                       !     Respecting,	
  protecting	
  and	
  promoting	
  the	
  rights	
  of	
  Palestinian	
  refugees	
  to	
  return	
  to	
  their	
  
                             homes	
  and	
  properties	
  as	
  stipulated	
  in	
  UN	
  Resolution	
  194.	
  
    	
  
                The	
  BDS	
  call	
  was	
  endorsed	
  by	
  over	
  170	
  Palestinian	
  political	
  parties,	
  organizations,	
  trade	
  unions	
  
                and	
  movements.	
  The	
  signatories	
  represent	
  the	
  refugees,	
  Palestinians	
  in	
  the	
  OPT,	
  and	
  Palestinian	
  
                citizens	
  of	
  Israel.	
  	
  (http://www.bdsmovement.net/BNC)	
  	
  

    Nowhere	
  does	
  Palestinian	
  civil	
  society	
  call	
  for	
  the	
  destruction	
  of	
  Israel.	
  	
  Yes,	
  it	
  could	
  lead	
  
    eventually	
  to	
  the	
  possibility	
  of	
  a	
  majority	
  Palestinian	
  population.	
  	
  We	
  presume	
  that	
  is	
  the	
  
    concern	
  of	
  those	
  who	
  support	
  current	
  Israeli	
  policies,	
  while	
  at	
  the	
  same	
  time	
  they	
  actively	
  seek	
  
    out	
  Jewish	
  populations	
  to	
  immigrate	
  to	
  Israel	
  and	
  simultaneously	
  prevent	
  Palestinians	
  from	
  
    returning	
  to	
  families	
  who	
  are	
  living	
  there.	
  	
  Isn’t	
  it	
  time	
  for	
  Israeli	
  Jews	
  to	
  get	
  to	
  know	
  their	
  
    neighbors,	
  help	
  them	
  build	
  their	
  economy,	
  and	
  establish	
  trade	
  relations	
  with	
  Palestinians	
  as	
  a	
  
    way	
  of	
  living	
  with	
  one	
  another,	
  instead	
  of	
  worrying	
  about	
  who	
  is	
  in	
  the	
  majority?	
  

    The	
  BDS	
  call	
  has	
  caught	
  the	
  attention	
  of	
  the	
  world	
  and	
  has	
  a	
  chance	
  of	
  changing	
  the	
  dynamics	
  of	
  
    the	
  conflict.	
  	
  It	
  is	
  a	
  non-­‐violent	
  form	
  of	
  resistance.	
  	
  We	
  welcome	
  that	
  non-­‐violent	
  stance.	
  	
  Sixty-­‐
    six	
  years	
  have	
  passed	
  and	
  several	
  generations	
  of	
  Jews	
  and	
  Palestinians	
  are	
  suffering	
  because	
  of	
  
    current	
  policies.	
  	
  We	
  have	
  met	
  many	
  Palestinians	
  in	
  both	
  Palestine	
  and	
  Israel	
  who	
  are	
  ready	
  to	
  
    live	
  together.	
  	
  	
  

•   You	
  say	
  “we	
  must	
  listen	
  to	
  the	
  tragedies	
  of	
  Israelis	
  and	
  Palestinians”	
  but	
  you	
  name	
  only	
  the	
  
    Holocaust	
  and	
  centuries	
  of	
  anti-­‐Semitism.	
  Until	
  you	
  mention	
  and	
  deal	
  with	
  the	
  Nakba	
  and	
  the	
  
    continuing	
  catastrophe	
  today,	
  the	
  discussion	
  is	
  still	
  slanted	
  in	
  favor	
  of	
  one	
  part	
  at	
  the	
  expense	
  of	
  
    the	
  other.	
  
•   Rather	
  than	
  calling	
  for	
  groups	
  to	
  travel	
  with	
  “mainstream	
  members	
  of	
  all	
  four	
  communities”	
  we	
  
    call	
  for	
  mainstream	
  members	
  to	
  travel	
  with	
  METF	
  leaders	
  (and	
  others,	
  such	
  as	
  “Interfaith	
  Peace	
  
    Builders”)	
  to	
  see	
  what	
  the	
  mainstream	
  would	
  prefer	
  not	
  to	
  address.	
  	
  We	
  welcome	
  your	
  
    participation.	
  
•   Please	
  add	
  to	
  places	
  to	
  seek	
  further	
  information:	
  the	
  Israeli	
  Committee	
  Against	
  Home	
  
    Demolitions,	
  Zochrodt,	
  Al	
  Haq,	
  Adalah,	
  Palestinian	
  Human	
  Rights	
  Commission,	
  B’Tselem,	
  OCHA,	
  
    UNRWA.	
  	
  




                                                                         24
Rabbi Noam E. Marans
Director, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations
AJC (American Jewish Committee)
One does not need to agree with everything or even most of the Presbytery of Chicago
Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group (EIWG) document to appreciate the courage,
thoughtfulness and indefatigability of its writers. Theirs is not a stand-alone pontification. It is
the product of a sustained journey dedicated to advancing “just and peaceful compromise” in
resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through reconciliation. Their words are not an end to
a journey, but rather, for them, a new beginning that is committed to a delineated action plan.
The EIWG has heard the Psalmist’s (34:15) charge in our shared tradition, “Seek peace and
pursue it,” and the commendation of Christian scripture, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
(Matthew 5:9) They have embraced a mission that has frustrated many, with hope that they can
make a difference.
Among other goals, the essay appears to be motivated by a desire to mitigate the crisis in
Presbyterian-Jewish relations, now in its tenth(!) year, begun in 2004, with a Presbyterian
Church (USA) General Assembly (GA) decision “to initiate a process of phased selective
divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.” There have been twists and turns,
steps forward (e.g., the 2006 and 2008 rejections of the 2004 initiative) and backwards (e.g.,
heightened vitriol in 2014) in the relationship during the past ten years. On the eve of the June
2014 PCUSA GA in Detroit, the EIWG writes candidly that, “It’s no mystery that the state of
Presbyterian-Jewish relations, at least at the national level, is at an all-time low.” The writers do
not attempt to reverse this “all time low” by embracing the policies of the State of Israel or the
American Jewish community, but rather by a balanced perspective that will leave many in the
Jewish community less than satisfied.
These peacemakers have been faithful in trying to observe Kirster Stendhal’s admonition that
interreligious understanding requires learning how your partners understand themselves and not
relying on others’ interpretations. Early on they articulate this principle as one of the paper’s
rationales, “Presbyterians must listen to and honor the tragic histories and cherished aspirations
of each people, as they understand it themselves.” (italics in original)
It is refreshing in the current extremely polarized environment to see in a Presbyterian document,
albeit an independent one, an effort at a third way. As the document states clearly in the
introduction, “The EIWG is issuing this discussion paper solely on its own behalf, and does not
claim to formally or officially speak for the Presbytery of Chicago or the Presbyterian Church
(USA).” Nonetheless, the EIWG’s intensity of deliberation and multiple public statements in
recent months reveal an impatience with and concern about the national Presbyterian
conservation on these issues. They are both right to be concerned and heroic for insinuating
themselves into a painful debate. The Chicago interreligious relations community is correctly
heralded as a model laboratory and we should pay attention.
As an advocate for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, both personally and professionally
through AJC, I find plenty to appreciate in this document. It is not a presentation that an Israel
advocate would write, and it does not have to be synonymous with Jewish communal positions in
order to be respected and appreciated. The writers reference Israel as the Jewish “homeland,” a
“Jewish state,” a “Jewish democracy,” and “a sovereign and secure democratic Jewish state.”
The paper is sympathetic to the realities of Israeli life, characterized by “the searing memory of
the Holocaust,” the threats of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, the failed Arab Spring and the specter

                                                 25
of terrorism. It rejects “anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic language and lines of argumentation” and
“tactics such as boycotts, divestment, or sanctions . . . used to undermine the legitimacy of
Israel’s right to exist.”
At the center of the essay’s advocacy is a “two-state compromise,” the long-standing position of
the American and Israeli governments and the majority position of Israeli and American Jews.
The two-state solution is the official position, as well, of both Mahmoud Abbas and the
Presbyterian Church (USA). It is not embraced by Hamas which governs Gaza with an
unwavering dedication to the destruction of Israel. The EIWG writers choose their own
formulation for the two-state solution as “rooted in the principle and right of self-determination
of Israelis and Palestinians as peoples.” (bold in original)
I will not articulate every area of disagreement with the paper lest it be misinterpreted as a
rejection of the fair-minded intentions of the writers who have surely given all parties to the
conflict and their respective supporters in the United States much to embrace. Instead, I will
focus briefly on two specific tropes that, to my mind, fall short in representing a Stendhal-like
understanding of the Jewish experience as most Jews perceive it.
In an attempt to be balanced, the writers espouse parallel tragedies for Israelis and Palestinians. I
agree with the document’s identification of the “tragic character of the conflict,” but am
uncomfortable with the implicit, perhaps inadvertent, characterization of the founding of the
State of Israel as a central contributor to the tragedy. For most Jews, even the majority who are
sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, the State of Israel is celebration, not tragedy. It marks the
historic change in Jewish self-destiny, after two millennia of longing, through reconnection with
an ancestral homeland. That this happened only three years after Auschwitz, the nadir of Jewish
history, is not tragedy, but celebration. Alas, the Jewish state did not come soon enough to save
the six million.

In a similar vein, the statement, “No measure of suffering can serve as the justification for the
domination of one people over another,” requires rethinking. This is a particularly painful
assertion, again perhaps inadvertent, that Israel, or the Jewish people somehow justify the
perpetuation of the conflict as retribution for suffering in recent Jewish or Israeli history. I hope
that was not the intention of the authors. This is language that needs particular attention because
there are those who obscenely assert that the Palestinians are paying for the crimes of the Nazis,
that Palestinian connection to the land was usurped as compensation to the wronged Jews.
Additionally, the most venomous attackers of Israel libelously compare Israelis to Nazis and use
Nazi imagery to caricature Israeli leaders as well as Israeli soldiers.
In the end though, this document has captured my attention and will engender the conversation it
desires. It is most compelling because of its humility in trying to comprehend the complex
Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the distance of the United States. In the writers’ words:
“Arguments from afar can become the rhetoric of double standards that only defame one side,
and potentially inflame the tensions between communities living side-by-side in the midst of the
conflict.”
We are ready to be partners with the EIWG and the many Presbyterians with whom their
message resonates in advancing peace for all the peoples who dwell in the Holy Land. 	
  




                                                 26
Talat Othman
President
Metropolitan-Based Investment Management Firm

First, allow me to congratulate the Presbyterian Church for initiating and acting on
supporting ways to bring about a just and final solution to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict
- or more accurately, the occupation of Palestinian land as described by the plethora of
U.N. Resolutions and International Law.

My comments seek to address the rationale underlying this discussion paper: "The
current situation is intolerable for the Palestinians and unsustainable for the Israeli's.”

More than that, it should be " unacceptable" even if it was sustainable. It would still be
wrong. Decisions were made for the two peoples involved. The world, through the
United Nations, created the situation, and the United Nations must resolve it.

How can a weak party dealing with a party having total control over them -
and supported by a major power, right or wrong – negotiate? Particularly when the
strong party continues to absorb more and more of their land and creating irreversible
facts on the ground? The Presbyterian Church should follow the only path that will
work: seek truth and justice, and then peace will follow.

Forty years ago, a negotiated settlement could have been done. Today, it is too late.
One side continues to take, while the other side has nothing left to give. The
Presbyterian Church can be most constructive by publically stating the truth,
then pronouncing a just solution, based on the teachings of the Church, international
law, the Geneva Conventions, and all that civilized society calls for. Then, and only
then, will there be reconciliation and peace.

There are realities on the ground. But those realities continue to increase unabated,
thus creating more obstacles to overcome. At some point, one has to say those realities
were created by human beings, and consequently have to be overturned by human
beings. While I appreciate looking at each party's narrative, there is a point when one’s
narrative may be more fiction, or paranoia, than real. It should not have the same weight
as the real situation.

For example, insisting that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a state for the
Jewish People. According to a local Israeli official, this translates into the reality that
Israel will always have a Jewish majority. How can that be accomplished without
restricting the birth and citizenship of Christians and Muslims? It will be considered
apartheid by another name.

I applaud the authors of this paper. They have examined every aspect of the situation
as seen through the eyes of the Israeli Jews, Palestinian Muslims and Christians. The
time comes for a decision. As Secretary Kerry has said, every aspect of this problem
has been discussed, negotiated from Oslo to Tabba to now. There are no unknowns
left; only knowns.




                                              27
Former Prime Minister Olmert said that he could have had an agreement if he had three
more months to negotiate with President Abbas. He did not have three months because
he was on the way out of office. He stated clearly that President Abbas did not say no.
He did not say yes, because I assume it was known that Prime Minister Olmert could
not deliver at that time.

The right solution, as everyone knows, and has known for a long time, as Prime Minister
Olmert stated: security for Israel can only come through peace.

Peace with two states; East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine; the Holy Shrines
administered by Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians, Saudi's, and Americans; borders
based on 1967 lines with under 5% land swaps of equal size and quality; refugees to be
compensated with a nominal number coming back (for purposes of family reunification)
over a 10 year period.

Additionally, if Israel wishes further security, then a demilitarized Palestine, with US or
NATO troops monitoring both sides of the borders.

Palestinians need security as well. This means withdrawal of Israeli troops over a three
year period but immediately from areas B&C, allowing for people and goods to move
freely in and out of Palestine in order to develop an economy and move away from
third country donations.

The Palestinians are giving up 78% of the original Palestine. They are giving up their
legal right to the return of refugees. Palestinians are willing to settle for much less than
they are entitled to by International law and the U.N. Resolutions. Israel is not giving up
anything that they are entitled to by either international law or the UN Resolutions that
created it.

I understand the rationale used. However, it justifies what is not justifiable by law and
civilized society. Consequently, looking for a politically correct way out takes decades.
Meanwhile, over time, with the worsening of the situation, there will be nothing left to
negotiate over.

I commend the Presbyterian Church for having the courage to even give voice to the
Palestinian narrative. I realize the pressure they are under from some sources. Yet if the
Church wants to live by its teachings then it has to stand up, even if it is the only one
standing. On the other hand, their stand may encourage others to stand as well.
Understandably this is easier said than done.

What the Church can do?

Implement a public Information program based on facts and justice, as they know it.

Provide information on political candidates supporting these positions and those who
oppose them (while falling short of endorsing specific candidates).

Conduct tours, youth programs, visits to the Holy Land, so that church members can
see for themselves what is happening.


                                             28
Invest in Palestine with similar amounts as invested in Israel and encourage members
to do the same.

Disinvest from U.S. and Israeli companies doing business in the settlements or with
settlers. This is not anti-Semitic; rather, this is choosing not to do business with those
that the US government considers illegal. All settlements are illegal under US and
International law. Support those groups, NGO's, companies, institutions that practice
this type of boycott. Boycott programs worked to end apartheid in South Africa.

These are some bold suggestions which will bring the wrath of the lobbies and
certain groups in the Church. But if the Church shies away from that, then is it not
practicing what it preaches. On the other hand, if it stands up, it will be admired and
supported by many for living out its beliefs and acting for what it deems to be right.

I wish you well and thank you for undertaking this very sensitive situation that is crying
out for resolution.




                                             29
  Response to Just and Peaceful Compromise – The Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, President
                                   Auburn Theological Seminary

                                              May 19, 2014


The Just and Peaceful Compromise comes at a particularly welcome moment as Presbyterians count

down to what could be one of the most polarized General Assemblies on record. If taken with the

seriousness it deserves, we could be having the hard conversations about using our collective will and

resources to pursue a mission of justice and reconciliation characterized in the confession of 1967,

instead of mounting the barricades to fight over overtures on boycott, divestment, and apartheid, and

whether to continue supporting a two-state solution. If we choose the latter course, we would take the

Presbyterian Church to such an extreme position that we might never return. The possibility for a

different Assembly and future lies in the process of the paper’s development itself which involved a local

Presbyterian group in deep conversation with ecumenical and interreligious partners about the conflict.

All the difficult questions were asked; no subject was taboo. What if instead of a scorched earth, zero-

sum, win/lose approach, we committed ourselves as Presbyterians to having the difficult conversations

about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that most Presbyterians have never had either with each other,

much less with multifaith partners? What if we pledged ourselves to being in the right relationship with

all parties, listening with humility, and learning and discerning together what actions might actually have

a hope of making a difference? “Presbyterians must listen to and honor the tragic histories and

cherished aspirations of each people, as they understand it themselves,” the report wisely says. Until

we as a denomination do this listening for understanding and building trust with Israelis and Palestinians

and the religious “other”, we have no business taking actions that will do certain harm and no

meaningful good. We place a value as a denomination on inclusivity and diversity in most matters,

realizing that we need one another to perfect our understanding and behaviors and discern the will of

God, and yet, when it comes to this issue, we tend to listen to the voices that confirm our own positions,




                                                    30
assumptions and stereotypes. The painstaking work of peacemaking outlined in the last section of the

paper may not have the immediate rush of satisfaction that a vote for boycott, divestment, and

apartheid might hold for its proponents, but neither will it be a Pyrrhic victory which will ultimately

lead to defeat. Jesus did not say, “blessed are those who feel like peacemakers;” it is our

responsibility and calling to recognize the things that truly make for peace and to focus on them,

rather than our own sense of satisfaction and righteousness.



Having focused for over thirty years of ordained ministry in the PCUSA on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I

believe that the Just and Peaceful Compromise outlines the complexities in a very clear, even handed

way, yet states in no uncertain terms that the current situation is unjust and unsustainable. It highlights

the disproportionate dynamics in Israeli power relative to Palestinians, as well as the instability in the

Middle East overall that poses a threat to Israel. Yet, it does not let either party off the hook in terms of

responsibility for pursuing a resolution to the conflict. It raises all of the challenging issues that veteran

negotiators are wrestling with like the right of return for Palestinians, the expansion of Israeli

settlements beyond the green line, the daily reality of occupation for Palestinians, and the volatility of

the surrounding neighborhood and Israeli security.



But it also holds up the mirror to those of us well-meaning Americans who often “demand a harder line

that holds up utopian and at times unrealistic standards than can be enacted on the ground.” It also calls

into question our Presbyterian proclivity to “co-opt the narratives of both peoples for the sake of a

Christian social ethic?”



What the Just and Peaceful Compromise does not do, nor perhaps should it, is to strongly address the

issues facing this Assembly related to the overtures supporting “BDS” (boycott, divestment, and




                                                      31
sanctions) and apartheid. It correctly states that support of a two-state solution will not work “if tactics

such as boycotts, divestment and sanctions are used to undermine the legitimacy of Israel’s right to

exist, rather than to leverage reform of the policies and practices of Israel as a nation state.” There is a

fallacy of logic here and a misunderstanding of historical precedent. The fact is, you can’t have a “little”

divestment, a little BDS, to leverage reform of Israel. It’s like being a little bit pregnant—you either are

or you’re not. Instead of leveraging reform, what the threat of BDS has already done is to strengthen the

hands of the hard right in Israel making them more resistant to peace negotiations for a two-state

solution, more strident and less sympathetic to the plight or aspirations of Palestinians for a state of

their own. Moreover, as was true in South Africa—the case most often cited for those in the church and

beyond who support economic sanctions—selective divestment did not change the game there; only

comprehensive BDS did, which was intended and eventually helped to bring down the South African

government. For the PCUSA to pursue divestment, BDS, and apartheid at this GA means that we must be

clear about the intended and unintended consequences of our actions over the long haul. We must ask

ourselves how far we are willing to go because you can’t just stop what you have set into motion. If we

follow the South African model, selective divestment today will lead to an “all in,” full-throttle pursuit of

policies that truly delegitimize and destabilize Israel tomorrow. When the New York Times headline

reads: “Presbyterian Church votes to support BDS,” we will be strengthening the hands of BDS

proponents who have given up on a two-state solution and are actively pursuing one state, which will de

facto mean the end of Israel. If the PCUSA pursues divestment and BDS, it means that we have given up

on the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State. In fact, the publication of Zionism Unsettled by IPMN, the

main BDS lobby of the PCUSA, reveals that there are those in the PCUSA and their allies who do, in fact,

seek a one-state solution and who do not accept Israel’s right to exist. The numbers tell the story: one

state means that there would no longer be a Jewish majority. The problem with the logic of this paper

around BDS is that there is no means test to separate the wheat from the chaff—to decipher the




                                                     32
motives of the proponents of economic sanctions or to determine their intended consequences whether

they be “leveraging reform” or actually “undermining the legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist at all.” BDS

does nothing to bring the parties closer to peace; it does nothing to protect Palestinian human rights.



What if Presbyterians at this Assembly got behind some of the actions at the end of the Just and

Peaceful Compromise that bring forth the best we have to offer as peacemakers who are in support

both of Palestinians and Israelis, that are not based on a zero-sum game where one side loses and

another wins? True justice, peace and reconciliation will come when both sides feel they have more to

gain by the thriving of the other than the demonization and destruction of the other. These actions will

call forth the best of our gifts of energy, intelligence, imagination and love that we vowed at the time of

our ordinations. What if we found partners and allies among Presbyterians and interfaith partners, all of

whom ironically will be gathered at GA, who would work to push for the freeze of illegal settlements

AND for Hamas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state? And are we willing to give serious financial

resources to support peacemakers in the region, both Israelis and Palestinians? What if we escalate our

financial investment in ventures that strengthen the ties between Israelis and Palestinians and help

create the conditions for a viable future Palestinian state? Do we dare to engage Jewish neighbors who

are victims of terror AND Palestinians who are victims of human rights abuses in serious dialogue about

reconciliation and joint action? Are we willing to take trips to the region that do not reinforce our own

preconceptions and stereotypes but that stretch our hearts and minds beyond our zones of comfort?

These are actions worthy of those who believe in a God with whom nothing is impossible and who are

guided not by a spirit of fear but by a spirit of hope.




                                                      33
Rabbi Yehiel Poupko
Rabbinic Scholar
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago


The Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group (EIWG) of the Chicago Presbytery has
fulfilled a very important function in American civic society by giving voice to certain
important principles that inform the American Jewish community’s understandings of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EIWG has been equally helpful in helping the American
Jewish community understand important principles from the perspective of the Palestinians
with whom they met. This is an important, and indeed I do not hesitate to use the term sacred,
role. This role is desperately needed as a model for other Protestant Churches. The pursuit of
mutual and reciprocal understanding is a first, difficult, and necessary step in the process of
achieving amity. The invitation of the EIWG to write a personal response to their document
is quite welcome. It is very important that the EIWG continue in its role. In this role it is
sadly almost a lone voice.

The word narrative has been bandied about too much in our culture. I frankly am not
interested in the Palestinian narrative. Nor am I interested in the Jewish narrative. A
narrative says to the person or persons listening to it, “Here is how I understand myself, and if
you don’t accept that then you are showing me disrespect and we can’t have a relationship.”
Thus there is no possible response to a narrative. Narratives end dialogue. There is something
called history. There are events of the past that are verifiable and knowable. The resolution of
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of amity between Palestinians and Jews
can only take place on the ground of truth. It is a truth that Ottoman Palestine was home to
hundreds of thousands of Arabs and tens of thousands of Jews as the modern Zionist
movement began in the 1880’s. It is equally true that when offered a two-state solution by the
Peel Commission in 1937 and by the UN Partition Plan in 1947, that the Palestinian Arabs
and the Arab states rejected that. For both Israelis and Palestinians, to understand that
acceptance and responsibility of a people’s and a nation’s history is a sine qua non for
bringing about the trust needed for a resolution to the conflict.

Palestinians have to acknowledge that before the Six-Day War there was terrorism.
Palestinians have to acknowledge that in the Six-Day War Arab nations sought to destroy
Israel. Palestinians have to accept responsibility for the terrorism of which large portions of
their society approved. American Jews and Israelis have to acknowledge and accept
responsibility for the continuing and growing Israeli presence over the 1949 Armistice Line;
for the very significant difficulties placed upon daily civilian life in the occupied territories;
for the ongoing rule of a national minority that seeks self-determination; for the ongoing
criminal behavior of some in the messianist based settler movement.

The clash between good and evil, or right and wrong, is not a tragedy. It presents human
beings with a clear choice. The clash between two goods is a real tragedy. The Israeli-
Palestinian conflict is a real tragedy. When one zooms in on the conflict, a regional power,
Israel, continues to wield sovereignty over a fairly weak Palestinian society. (One should
never ignore the power of terrorism.) When one zooms out and looks at the larger




                                                34
neighborhood, its violent upheavals, and the reality that Iran, through Hezbollah, has
purchased a border with Israel in the north, and that it has also purchased a border with Israel
in the south, in Gaza, through Hamas, then one is looking at a small state with many other
nation states either in chaos or arrayed against it. A future state of Palestine, to have integrity,
must be able to defend and police its own borders without foreign intervention. Given what
filled the vacuum of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza, it is unreal to expect that
Israel will rely on a future Palestinian state to insure that the eastern border of the Jordan
River, will be left to the Palestinians to secure against Islamist jihadists moving to within ten
miles of the Mediterranean and on the border with Ben-Gurion Airport. This is but one of
many examples that describe the clashes of goods for both parties. Until both sides can
recognize this, mutual understanding and respect cannot be achieved. Finally, moral integrity
calls for moral consistency. This requires that our Presbyterian interlocutors, and any
American Christians who want to play a role, as well as Palestinians, have to acknowledge
that the most highly educated, safe, secure, democratic guaranteed, and affluent Arab
population in the Middle East, and Christian population in the Middle East, is in the State of
Israel. This in no way mitigates the disabilities of the Arab Muslim and Arab Christian
populations in Israel.




                                                35
Rabbi David Fox Sandmel
Director of Interfaith Affairs
Anti-Defamation League

I begin by expressing my deep respect for and gratitude to the Ecumenical and Interfaith
Working Group of the Chicago Presbytery for its ongoing efforts to articulate an ethical
and faithful response to the complex challenges of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This
“Discussion Paper” presents the kind of thoughtful and constructive consideration that is
sorely needed in the American religious world. I proudly identify as a Zionist; I believe
that the Jewish people has the right to national self-expression in its ancestral homeland.
My Zionism includes the recognition of the right of the Palestinians to national self-
expression in their ancestral homeland. It is for these reasons that I find much to be
admired in this paper. There are also aspects that are problematic, that might have been
phrased differently, or that require further exploration and development.

Let me begin with the positive. First and foremost, the humility of the paper is an
important starting point. The authors recognize that they are not in a position to resolve
this conflict and that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has not of late related to the Jewish
community in a manner that inspires trust. In this regard, one hopes that asking what the
nature of the PC(USA)’s responsibility is in this situation will provoke some desperately
needed soul-searching among Presbyterians.

Calling on Presbyterians to understand both Jews and Palestinians as they understand
themselves is an important corrective to the current approach articulated by “Zionism
Unsettled” and many of the overtures presented to recent General Assemblies. The
“Discussion Paper” affirms that both Jews and Palestinians have “rightful claims to the
land,” that “recognition of the other” is the only way forward, and that the two state
solution is the most realistic solution to the conflict. It also acknowledges the suffering
and the aspirations of both peoples.

The paper also addresses a diversity of views among American Jewish supporters of
Israel (though there are examples of that diversity that significantly predate JStreet, such
as Breira in the 1970s). It also states “Israel is a work in progress like any other
democracy” (I strongly urge those who have not done so to reads Israel’s Declaration of
Independence). Its warning that “anti-Judaic or anti-Semitic language and lines of
argumentation” are both wrong and counterproductive should be heeded by all Christians.

One particularly notable aspect of the paper is its nuanced discussion of power that takes
into account not only the reality of the occupation for the Palestinians but also the larger
geo-political environment, and Israel’s legitimate security concerns. In this and other
ways, this document resists the all too common tendency to reduce the Israeli-Palestinian
situation to a simplistic and unrealistic “good versus evil.”

Among the difficulties in the document is its use of the terms “just” and “justice,” often
paired with the word “peace.” Justice is absolute; justice can be harsh. The Jewish
tradition, which holds justice to be a primary value, recognizes that justice must be




                                             36
tempered with mercy. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, pure justice is unattainable. The
document itself recognizes this when it talks about compromise and the rightful claims of
both peoples to the same land. What was the heart of ancient Israel, Judea and Samaria,
is part of what is generally recognized to be the future Palestinian state. And Palestinians
have deep roots in what is now the modern state of Israel. Certainly those on all sides
who have lost loved ones, or property, or a livelihood, as a result of the conflict are not
going to receive justice even in a best-case resolution. True justice is simply not
attainable here; indeed, talk of justice can be the enemy of peace. The unrealistic demand
for justice ultimately focuses attention on the past and on cataloguing wrongs; it makes it
difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a peaceful future.

The document includes the phrase “barrier that stretches the length of the Holy Land.”
First, I suggest that the term Holy Land is vague and should not be used in this context.
Jews, Christians and Muslims have very different understandings of what makes the land
holy, and what the boundaries of that “Holy Land” are. On the one hand, it is essential to
recognize the religious significance of the land (or lack thereof!) to all involved. At the
same time, the use of that term introduces theological concepts that may be
counterproductive to precisely the kind of discussion this paper hopes to engender.

The use of the term “indigenous” in reference to the Palestinians but not the Jews is also
problematic. If the Jews are not indigenous to what we consider the land of Israel, then
to what land are we indigenous? If, as the paper claims, Presbyterians should understand
Jews as we understand ourselves, then it should avoid the implication that Palestinians
are indigenous while Jews come from somewhere else. If both Jews and Palestinians have
a rightful claim to the land, labeling the Palestinians “indigenous” in relation to the Jews
undermines that position.

Finally, the paper refers to “periods [in which] Muslim, Christians and Jews lived
together peacefully.” This seems to suggest some golden age of interreligious harmony
and equality that somehow was lost. The historical reality is much more complex.
Whether the land was ruled by Muslims, Christians, the British (also Christians) or the
Jews, tensions between the communities ebbed and flowed and, more often than not,
legal systems privileged one group and discriminated against others. The past, especially
an ahistorical vision of it, does not provide a model for the future.

The concerns I have raised here are real and substantial. They do not, however, negate the
essential strengths that I mentioned in the first part of my response. Though the details
are important and demand further discussion, what is paramount here is the overall
approach of the paper, its honesty and soul-searching, and its desire to promote a
different kind of discussion between Presbyterians, Jews and Palestinians.




                                            37
         The Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group of Chicago Presbytery
             An Appreciation of the Document and a Yearning for Peace

Rabbi Rick Jacobs
President
Union for Reform Judaism


As people who believe that we are all God’s children, we must maintain a civil and
honest discourse that reflects and advances our shared values. As those before us —
Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad — who traversed the inspired and disputed land that
we all love so much, so must we walk together to reach peace in our lifetime.

We need honest and open dialogue. That is why this paper is such a welcome addition
to our shared struggle to achieve peace and security with two states, Israel and
Palestine, side by side. The Reform Movement stands ready to partner on a national
level— and in our communities— with those who share our goal of a two-state solution.
Let us seek, together, through our strength and our actions, to assist those on the
ground, the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, to achieve a just and lasting peace.

My faith requires me to build a world of peace by following a threefold biblical
commandment to love your God, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love the
stranger. Judaism and Christianity are both built upon these divine commandments, and
they compel us toward relationships of love and respect with all of God’s children –
including, of course, both Israelis and Palestinians.

My people have been deeply attached to the Land of Israel as Genesis describes their
arrival some three millennia ago. My own life is deeply connected to the State of Israel
having spent years living there, and working tirelessly for Israel’s security amid repeated
assaults from those who reject Israel’s very right to exist.

So, too, does my faith compel me to see the humanity in the Palestinians and to
understand their narrative. We lose our humanity if we only feel our own people’s pain.
Whether it is a child in a kindergarten in Sderot, in Israel’s South, whose school room is
blasted by a rocket shot from Gaza, or a Palestinian child who gets caught in the
crossfire of warring adults, there must be a better way. There must be, for all of our
children.

There is no doubt that the current situation is intolerable for the Palestinians, and
unsustainable for Israel. And, as the working group paper states so well, any just and
peaceful compromise of the conflict must be credible and real for both peoples.

As difficult and as challenging as it seems right now, I firmly believe that there must be a
negotiated compromise to achieve human rights and dignity for all—and to ensure a
lasting peace for the region.




                                            38
My Zionism is humanistic, based on liberation for my people, but not oppression of
another. Each people is entitled to its own narrative and it is only through understanding
of the other that we will fully understand ourselves, and be free.

Israel is the nation state of Jewish people and all of its citizens, as the founders wrote in
the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arab, most
of whom are of Palestinian heritage, add a richness to Israeli society that should be
welcomed and cherished. Inside Israel, we must support efforts to create a shared
society, where the Jewish nation state embraces and enhances equity and justice for all
its citizens.

This sentiment was embedded in Israel from the instant of its founding and is worth
fighting for. As Israel’s Declaration of Independence states, Israel “will foster the
development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on
freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure
complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of
religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language,
education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions, and it will be
faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Based on our firmly held commitment to two states and to the dignity of both peoples,
our Reform Movement has long been on record in support of a two-state solution that is
just for both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. As we reiterated in a 2012 resolution
by the Union for Reform Judaism (our congregational arm) and the Central Conference
of American Rabbis (our rabbinical association): “The ongoing failure to establish a
viable peace poses security and other risks to Israel.” Neither, we said, does it serve
“those Palestinians who desire a peaceful future for their children and grandchildren.”

Settlement expansion threatens such goals and even Israel’s basic character as a
democracy. It gives the upper hand to those who aim for an end to Israel as a Jewish-
majority state, to those who argue that the two-state solution is “impossible,” and to
those who say Israel has no intention of making peace. The majority of Jews inside
Israel — and the American Jewish community — have consistently opposed settlement
expansion at the expense of a two-state solution.

Together, let us seek to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians. Our holy
sanctuaries could serve as assembly halls, as places to gather with others from the
Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities to share concerns, ideas, and hopes for the
future. I hope that this process leads to a strengthening of ties among our communities
and I stand ready, as do my colleagues in the Reform Movement, to facilitate this type
of exchange.

We look forward to finding ways together that we can deepen our efforts to support
those on the ground who are fighting to achieve two states and peaceful co-existence in
the near future, not to struggle through decades more of oppression, fear, and war.




                                              39
Our sister Movement in Israel, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, invites
delegations of clergy to meet in the region.

In Genesis we read of Abraham’s two estranged sons, Ishmael and Isaac, who
prefigure so much of the history of this blood soaked Promised Land. Even back then,
Isaac and Ishmael were at odds, so Isaac's mother Sarah cries to Abraham to banish
Ishmael and his mother Hagar. Abraham wanting peace at all costs, sends Ishmael
and Hagar out into the desert to almost certain death.

As far as Abraham knew, his first son died in the desert. The next chapter in the Torah
tells of Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac on Mt. Moriah. You have to admit, it is rather
disconcerting that the father of the three monotheistic faiths can't think of a better way to
resolve conflict than to sacrifice both of his sons. If angels hadn't intervened in both
narratives, Abraham would be childless and we would not be here, nor would Ishmael's
descendants.

Our shared destiny was never intended to end this way. It started out with a divine
promise for both peoples. Is there blessing enough for both sons. Is divine favor so
scarce?

All is not lost, at least not in the Biblical narrative. Isaac and Ishmael are reunited in
Genesis--but this time, at a funeral. Their shared tragedy brings these two hate-filled
brothers together to lovingly bury their father Abraham.

Sarah and Abraham are our parents. Hagar and Ishmael are our cousins. We have
inherited their world and their conflicts. They made our lives possible and impossible at
the same time. We wished that they had done better. They are praying that we will do
better in their stead.

In honesty and friendship, we must move forward together toward peace.




                                             40
         On behalf of the joint Middle East Staff Team (Office of the General Assembly and
the Presbyterian Mission Agency), thank you for the hard work that the Ecumenical and
Interreligious Work Group has put into the discussion paper on “Perspectives on
Presbyterian Church (USA) Support for a Just and Peaceful Compromise of the Israeli-
Palestinian Conflict.” We are pleased that you have sought feedback from many General
Assembly staff in your continuing work to articulate Presbyterian engagement with
Israel/Palestine in a way that seeks justice for all people in the conflict. You have taken the
long-standing Presbyterian affirmation of a two-state solution as the path intended to best
provide peace and justice in this troubled region.

        We commend your effort to reach out to the many affected communities in the
Chicago area, to listen to their hopes and fears, and to attempt to forge your own document
that seeks the best path. As we all know, the situation is worsening, and some have given up
hope that a Palestinian state might emerge at all. In many ways your efforts reflect the
“Presbyterians Do Mission in Partnership” policy statement approved by the General
Assembly in 2000, which calls for an “intentional…partnership based on mutual respect and
sharing with churches around the world… Theologically and biblically, partnership is based
upon the fundamental belief that God’s desire for the world is greater than any one church
can possibly comprehend or envision. God’s purpose for us in mission is fulfilled as
different and differing communities—Christian, secular and other faith communities—find
common ground and are brought together in mutual submission and commitment to serve
the people and world God created (Phil. 2:5–11).” It is clear that you have consulted with
many in the Chicago area; our suggestion is that your consultation isn’t complete until you
have also heard from the voices of Christians in Palestine who face these realities each day.

        All work in the General Assembly agencies around Israel/Palestine is guided by the
decisions of the Assembly. The most recent, comprehensive statement is found in
“Breaking Down the Walls.” “Breaking Down the Walls” summarizes four long-standing
Presbyterian commitments:

        • To the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and legitimate
        borders, borders that are not contended for on the basis of some literal reading of
        “biblical” geography and that are arrived at through peaceful negotiation with the
        Palestinians. And accompanying this commitment have been two calls: first, one to
        Palestinians and other Arabs to recognize Israel’s existence within secure borders;
        and second, one to Israeli Jews to fulfill their “land responsibilities,” responsibilities
        that include the covenant obligation to extend to “others” in their midst—that is, to
        Israeli Christians and Muslims—a full equality of civil rights and a full measure of
        justice.

        • To the right of Palestinians to self-determination and to have their own separate,
        contiguous, economically viable, sovereign nation-state within the wider borders of
        “the land.” Arising from this second commitment has been our denomination’s
        steady call for the government of Israel to put an end to its military, political, and



                                                41
       economic occupation of Palestinian land after 1967 and particularly its practice of
       establishing and expanding settlements there.

       • To a nonviolent resolution to the conflict. The PC(USA) has continuously called
       upon all parties in the Middle East to settle their differences peacefully and also upon
       both Palestinians and Israelis to end all acts of violence against each other.

       • To the concept that Jerusalem, like “the land” as a whole, does not belong to any
       one people alone, but is rather to be shared by two peoples (Israelis and Palestinians)
       and three religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).
       [http://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/oga/pdf/middle-east-study-
       2010-2012.pdf, pp. 14-15]

         The policy of the General Assembly on Israel/Palestine has been clear, reaffirmed
and refined over time. At the moment, we are standing before another General Assembly
where this long-standing policy may be refined once again. Because there are major
proposals before the Assembly that could change our policy or its applications, we are
refraining from addressing the specifics of your proposal, as it may appear that we are
favoring a particular side in the upcoming debate. Commissioners and Advisory Delegates
are in the process of discerning the church’s mind around Israel-Palestine, and our task is to
help put feet on whatever decisions the General Assembly makes.

       “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom
of heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:9-10) May you make righteous peace.

                                               Grace and Peace,


                                               Charles Wiley, Convener
                                               Barry Creech, Co-convener




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