Dear Friend by lonyoo


									Dear Friend:

The American Jewish community joins in prayer for you, as you prepare for your service
as a delegate to the 2008 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

We write to you as organizations that represent more than ninety percent of affiliated
Jews in America across a broad range of religious and political perspectives. We are
united by our support for a two-state solution; by our deep concern for the suffering of
both Palestinians and Israelis, Christians, Muslims and Jews; and by the hope that the
218th General Assembly of the PC(USA) will take balanced steps to further the cause of
Israeli-Palestinian peace and interfaith relationships. We believe that we can all be
constructive friends of Israelis, Palestinians, and of peace, without contradiction.

Presbyterians and Jews have so often worked in common cause. We share a commitment
to bring the prophetic voice to bear upon a nation and a world so often deaf to God‟s
teaching. Together, we demand that America fulfill her promise as a land of equal
opportunity for all. Our shared values do not begin at the national level nor do they end
at our nation‟s borders. We are called to join in seeing to the welfare of men, women and
children in need, wherever they live.

We have been grateful for your church‟s focus on Presbyterian-Jewish relations, as set
forth in the 1987 teaching, “A Theological Understanding of the Relationship between
Christians and Jews.” This seminal work affirms the ongoing Jewish covenantal
relationship with God, acknowledges Christian complicity in anti-Semitism across the
centuries, and affirms God‟s “continuing promise of „land‟” to the Jewish people.

It was for this reason that we were distressed when in 2004 the General Assembly moved
toward selective divestment that unfairly singled out corporations operating in Israeli. At
the 2006 General Assembly, Presbyterians came together to recognize the pain caused by
the prior action and replaced the call that singled out Israel with language that spoke in
balanced terms and focused on existing socially responsible investment practices,ii as
well as asked for a “new season” of mutual understanding and dialogue.iii As a result, our
relationship was righted, but still left fragile.

In the past two years, there have been moments of progress – including the adoption of
numerous dialogic and programmatic initiatives on the national and local levels. A
statement by the PC(USA) interfaith office, “Vigilance against anti-Jewish ideas and
bias,” included many important recognitions about anti-Jewish bias in the way the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict has been presented. However, recent revisions to that statement
removed critical sentiments and added numerous often inflammatory comments that
significantly weaken this document.

But we have also differed significantly. For example, a disturbing church statement
termed the rockets that Hamas has fired from Gaza into Israel as “provocative acts of
retaliation.” The Middle East study resource, “The Cradle of Our Faith” details
thousands of years of Christian and Muslim connection to the Holy Land, but ignores any
Jewish connection until sixty years ago. The independent, but PCUSA staffed, Israel-
Palestine Mission Network featured a presentation that expresses a preference for a one-
state solution and admonishes Jews in the Diaspora to “get a life.” The presentation was
taken down only after Jewish leaders registered repeated complaints.

Indeed, much has happened here and in the Middle East since the 217th General
Assembly. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza, completely dismantling settlements, and
removing all of its civilian and military forces. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert came into
office on a platform of continued withdrawals for peace. Unfortunately, Palestinian
elections gave a majority of seats to Hamas, a group committed to the destruction of
Israel. Subsequently, Hamas violently seized control of the government in Gaza and has
used its autonomy to fire rockets into civilian populations in Israel. Still, Israelis and the
Palestinian Authority, which remains in the hands of the more moderate Fatah party, have
been in active negotiations to reach peace.

At the 218th General Assembly, you will consider overtures that advocate for balance and
non-partisanship with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, without muting the
Presbyterian passion for peace. These overtures ask that the church not over-identify
with the realities of either Israelis or Palestinians such that Presbyterians are drawn into
the conflict. Rather, they seek to find ways in which Presbyterians can play a
constructive role in peace-making without alienating ecumenical and interfaith partners.

There are other overtures that, if adopted, could pose serious setbacks to the Presbyterian-
Jewish relationship and, we believe, the role of Presbyterians as constructive advocates
for peace. Generally speaking, these overtures are a) unbalanced in their criticism, b)
ignore the complexity of the conflict and/or c) recognize the needs of one side only.

Some overtures call for divestment targeted against Israel. Divestment severely distracts
from the goal of peace and a two-state solution. Divestment is singularly ill suited to
move either party in the conflict toward compromise. Divestment also has deeply
negative implications for domestic interfaith relations. Regardless of intent, its
imbalance has an uncomfortable resonance with the Jewish community, as divestment
evokes memories of anti-Jewish boycotts of the recent and distant past.

Some overtures call upon the United States government to play a role in peace-building.
These overtures rightly identify the central role that the U.S. can play in negotiations.
However, overtures which encourage the U.S. government to withdraw support for Israel,
singles out Israel for punishment and is an example of imbalance in the extreme.

Peace must be our number one priority. We pray that you and your fellow delegates will
engage in dialogue with rabbis and Jewish community leaders who are your friends and
neighbors, before you set off for the General Assembly. Please ensure that Presbyterians
and Jews can continue to work together, and not at odds with one another, to achieve our
shared goal of a secure Israel at peace with a sovereign and stable Palestinian state in
which its own people may achieve their dreams.
Thank you for considering our concerns and for your ongoing partnership.
  216th General Assembly: Overture on Geneva Accord Item 7: “Refers to Mission Responsibility Through
Investment Committee (MRTI) with instructions to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in
multinational corporations operating in Israel, in accordance to General Assembly policy on social
investing, and to make appropriate recommendations to the General Assembly Council for action.”

  217th General Assembly: Overture on _____” to have those financial investments of the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.), as they pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, be invested in only
peaceful pursuits, and affirm that the customary corporate engagement process of the Committee on
Mission Responsibility Through Investments of our denomination is the proper vehicle for achieving this

  217th General Assembly: Overture on _____ “We acknowledge that the actions of the 217th General
Assembly caused hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community and within
our Presbyterian communion. We are grieved by the pain that this has caused, accept responsibility for the
flaws in our process, and ask for a new season of mutual understanding and dialogue.

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