11-06 On the 218th General Assembly (2008) Being a Voice for the Victims of Violence in Israel and Palestine.
Source: Presbytery Event:218th General Assembly (2008)
Committee:
[11-06] Peacemaking and International Issues
Sponsor:
National Capital Presbytery
Topic:Unassigned Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
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Assembly Action
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Approve
Voice Vote
Committee Recommendation
On this Item, the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee, acted as follows:
Approve
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Affirmative:47
Negative:15
Abstaining:1
Recommendation

The Presbytery of National Capital overtures the 218th General Assembly (2008) to do the following:

1.   Be a voice for the victims of violence in both Israel and Palestine. We ask PC(USA) members, congregations, committees, and other entities to become nonpartisan advocates for peace. As such, we will not over-identify with the realities of the Israelis or Palestinians. Instead we will identify with the need for peacemaking voices in the midst of horrific acts of violence and terror.

2.   Focus our energy on the United States government, demanding that it assume an intensive and unrelenting role as a peacemaker, bringing together the opposing parties in forums where reasonable people can reach reasonable compromises about highly complex issues.

3.   Condemn all acts of violence against innocent civilians. We will avoid taking broad stands that simplify a very complex situation into a caricature of reality where one side clearly is at fault and the other side is clearly the victim.

Rationale

This overture represents a humble confession of the very limited role the PC(USA) can play in solving the problems in the Middle East. Seeking to be part of the solution rather than inflaming the problems, we will join with and support any and all others in the world who seek a solution that creates two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and justice. We will call on all who, clinging to narrow self-interests, stand in the way of such a solution to consider the interest of all God’s children in the region.

Comment
Advice and Counsel on Item 11-06—From the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP).

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) agrees with the concerns of Item 11-06 calling for fairness and for concern for victims.

The ACSWP advises that Item 11-06 be answered by approving the following alternate resolution:

“The 218th General Assembly (2008)

“1. Expresses its concern for the victims of violence in Israel and Palestine by affirming that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does have a prophetic role to be the voice of the voiceless and all victims.

“2. Observes that in the current dynamics of the Palestinian/Israeli situation, the voices of our Arab brothers and sisters, both Christian and Muslim, are muted, thus creating distorted perceptions of the reality on the ground.

“3. Calls for the United States government, in increasing its role as a peacemaker, to examine its policies and agreements with the Israeli government, the elected leaders of the Palestinians, and other regional nations and actors in light of justice and human rights for all people.

“4. Calls upon the United States government to be respectful of international policies and decisions and to seek to dialogue with all parties within the political dynamics of Israel, Palestine, and other regional nations and actors. Similarly, representatives of the church are also called to seek to establish lines of communication and understanding across all barriers, remembering Jesus’ words that we should ‘love your enemies,’ even if we do not agree with them.

“5. Lifts up the example of President Jimmy Carter, as a person of faith, for his efforts to promote peace in the Middle East by opening channels of communication, and recalls that The Confession of 1967 challenges the church as it seeks to embody the reconciliation obtained in Christ: ‘This search requires that the nations pursue fresh and responsible relations across every line of conflict, even at the risk of national security, to reduce areas of strife and to broaden international understanding’ (The Book of Confessions, 9.45). A dialogue in which all voices are heard is essential for justice to become reality and human dignity to be restored and reconciliation to be achieved among all peoples.”

Rationale

The ACSWP makes several observations regarding language within the overture:

1.   “non-partisan advocates for peace” (Recommendation 1.)—When issues of justice and human rights are the concerns being addressed, Christians must be advocates for the Gospel, for the victims of injustice, and for those denied human rights.

2.   “the very limited role the PCUSA can play” (paragraph in the Rationale section)—We believe that the prophetic role calling for justice is not to be regarded in the diminished way the overture seems to imply. Despite dismissals and limited voices, the prophets of the Old Testament confronted the powers of injustice and inequality in the name of God.

3.   The Christian Gospel calls us and compels us to be attached to “the least among us,” to be the incarnation of God’s transforming redemptive grace and love, and to be partners of God in the creation of a new world in prophetic promise and hope. Christ sends us into the world, as he had been sent, to be advocates for the oppressed, the victims of injustice and those denied human rights, in service to the “abundant life” he promises.

The ACSWP is concerned about establishing a balance in the understanding of the relationship between Palestine and Israel. In order to develop this balance, ACSWP encourages the 218th General Assembly (2008) to urge all entities within the PC(USA) to study the relative conditions present in Palestine and Israel in these areas:

  • economic levels of people;
  • access to medical, water, food, and other essential life-resources;
  • extent of suffering of innocents and deaths within each population;
  • funding from the United States government;
  • security resources for independence within Palestine and Israel; and,
  • mobility and access to Jerusalem, an international city with religious significance for three major faith communities.
Concurrence
Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley
Presbytery of Sierra Blanca