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. i 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.” ii 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 goal. iii 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.
Pages to are hidden for
"Dear Friend"Please download to view full document