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ADVOCACY

Presbyterian Overture Process and the 2022 General Assembly

ga225 circle color vector fin NEW COLOR 1E647BEvery two years the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a General Assembly (GA) where commissioners and delegates elected from each Presbytery meet and review church governance, polity and policies. The GA also resolves controversies in the church, and takes actions for matters of common concern for the whole church. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies. Any Presbytery in the church can "overture the assembly" and ask the highest boy in our denomination to take a particular action regarding an issue before the church and the world. These asks of our representative voting assembly are called overtures. If another Presbytery concurs on that overture, it will be debated and voted on at the GA.

According to our GA mandate passed at the 2004 Assembly, this network (IPMN) has used the overture process to change Presbyterian policies by asking the GA to take specific actions regarding Palestinian human rights and ending to the occupation of Palestine. Overtures that have passed the GA include directing the Board of Pensions and The Presbyterian Foundation to divest from stocks in companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine, asking Presbyterians to boycott Israeli products made in West Bank settlement colonies, and asking the U.S. government to end military aid to Israel until human rights violations against Palestinians are ended.

For the 2022 GA, here are the new overtures needing concurrance:

(check back to see new ones added as they are approved by one presbytery).

There are two overtures regarding Israel-Palestine from 2020 which were never considered due to the pandemic.  They have already had more than 2 presbyteries concur on them. They are:

  1. A Call for Ending the Siege of Gaza and Collective Punishment
  2. Recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People

Each overture has a short “Recommendation” section the asking the PCUSA to take a specific action or position on an issue. There is also a longer “Rationale” section that contains background information that supports the recommendation.

The overture process is an effective way to educate churches, presbyteries, and GA commissioners and delegates about the facts on the ground in Israel-Palestine and to advocate that the church seek justice and speak out forcefully for Palestinian human rights.

Please read the overtures and see if you can take the lead for having them considered at your church. You may be surprised on how many allies you have when people have to debate and vote “yes” or “no” to concur on an overture as opposed to a wide-ranging discussion of Israel-Palestine issues.

You may contact Dave Jones at djones1948[at]sbcglobal.net or call him at 415-453-2079 if you would like to use the overture process to educate your church or presbytery. He has taken Palestinian human rights overtures to his presbytery for the last six GAs and can walk you through the process.

 

 

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ga225 generic sq 800IPMN Advocacy Planning

Saturday, April 10, 2021

11 am – 12:30 pm EDT

Join us for a virtual gathering on Saturday, April 10, 2011, 11 am – 12:30 pm EDT to get ready for General Assembly in 2022.  Because presbyteries have different deadlines for the overture process, we want to think together about how best to proceed and do it early.  How do we advocate for a just peace in Israel and Palestine through the Presbyterian Church, USA?

In addition, how might our overtures provide education opportunities for our congregations and Presbyteries, even if they never proceed to GA?

Registration Link 

 

Registrants will be asked to sign a statement of support for the purposes of IPMN.

 


Here’s what we know:

Committee meetings will be held I person in Louisville, KY, on a staggered schedule, three at a time from June 19 to July 2, 2022. Final scheduling will be known by April 15, 2021. It is expected that each committee will meet for three days.

Importance of Overtures:  The process begins with a local church Session who must agree to send it on to the presbytery for consideration.  From there, the presbytery discusses the overture and decides whether to send it on to General Assembly. At GA, a committee of commissioners will review it, listen to testimony, and decide whether it should go to the floor of GA for consideration.  All these steps are opportunities for education, even if the overture fails to gain approval.  If it is passed, it becomes part of church policy and advocacy is based on it.

Three overtures are already waiting:

  • Palestinian Nakba Remembrance Day (OVT-10 )

     Passed by the Synod of the Covenant

  • A Call for Ending the Siege of Gaza and Collective Punishment of Innocent Palestinian and Israeli Citizens  (OVT-26)

     Passed by New Castle Presbytery

     Concurrence by Redwoods, San Francisco, and New Brunswick Presbyteries

  • Recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People (OVT-51)

     Passed by Grace Presbytery

     Concurrence by San Francisco, New Castle, and New Brunswick presbyteries


 

These rules for 225th GA in 2022 have been announced:

  1. By default all three items will be considered at the 225th GA in 2022 as submitted to the last assembly
  2. Each item of business can be referred with an updated “rationale” section, but the recommendation will remain the same.
  3. The item can be removed from consideration and replaced by a new item entirely.
  4. The item can be removed from consideration without a replacement.

We will be listening for ideas for additional overtures and there will be time for discussion.

We anticipate using Breakout Sessions to allow smaller groups to discuss plans.

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Colonialism exposed as Gaza resists and protests

Colonialism - the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country or people, occupying it with temporary or permanent settlers, and exploiting it economically or otherwise, not allowing the colonized to gain citizenship or determine their own fate, present or future.

The Great March of Return at the Gaza border in May 2018 brought into stunning focus the current realities undergirding the new IPMN study guide, Why Palestine Matters, The Struggle to End Colonialism

The split screen US television coverage on May 14, 2018 featured the spectacular drama of colonialism unfolding in real time, with a terrible contrast:

On screen #1, the US administration celebrated moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and unilaterally and in contravention of international law, recognized the contested city as Israel's capital. 

On screen #2, unarmed and mostly non-violent protesters ran for cover in Gaza as tear gas rained down and Israeli snipers took aim at them.

The whole world watched the unabashed arrogance with horror as the powerful did as they pleased at the expense of the powerless. Reminiscent of the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 in South Africa, nonviolent demonstrations turned deadly, as Israeli snipers with orders of ‘shoot to kill’ quickly killed dozens of Palestinians, and shot at thousands more in the days to come. 

Here are some frequently asked questions:

What is the Gaza strip? 

The Gaza Strip is a narrow strip of Palestinian territory along the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Just 25 miles long and six miles wide, the tiny coastal enclave is one of the most densely populated places on earth and is home to approximately 1.9 million people, mostly refugees who trace their displacement to the creation of Israel in 1948.

What is Land Day? 

The date of the Great March marked what Palestinians call Land Day which began as a 1976 protest of Israel’s  appropriation of Palestinian land in the Galilee, inside Israel. Six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were protesting the land grab were shot and killed by Israeli border patrol. Since then, March 30 is commemorated as Land Day annually for a continuing, nonviolent fight for the land. The  six-week nonviolent protest in 2018 began on Land Day. 

How is it colonialism? 

  • Israel maintains control of Gaza’s borders, airspace, and sea access, upheld through military incursions. Gaza’s economy is captive to Israel.
  • Israel is responsible under international law for the welfare of Gaza’s population and controls everything that enters or leaves.
  • Israel is the controlling power and exemplifies the worst kind of colonial overlord in modern times.
  • The people are ‘subjects’ under the control of Israel but can never achieve citizenship.

Isn’t Hamas to blame? 

Contrary to popular opinion, Hamas was not the originator of The Great March of Return. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has catalyzed Palestinian civil society there to action. The groups organizing the March include vibrant social groups and organizations, women’s organizations, trade unions, youth organizations, sports clubs, etc. They have decided to march to the fence at the ‘border’ to demand their Right of Return. 

What is the purpose of The Great March of Return?

As is their right by international law, Palestinians have developed a robust and long-standing tradition of non-violent resistance. A current example of non-violent resistance, the 2018 Great March of Return intent was to highlight:

  • the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’ referring to the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land in 1947 and 1948 when Israel declared itself to be a Jewish state in historic Palestine. 
  • the Palestinian Right of Return, a right enshrined in international law according to UN Resolution 194. Israel has never allowed Palestinian refugees to return but maintains the right of any Jewish person from anywhere in the world to.

What are the casualty numbers for 2018 protests?

As of June 3, 2018, Israeli soldiers have:
  •  killed 121 Palestinians, and injured over 14,000
  •  snipers alone killed 13 Palestinian children and injured 2,096 others, including 1,029 women
  •  332 of the wounded Palestinians suffered life-threatening injuries
  •  3,422 suffered moderate wounds 9,436 suffered mild injuries
  •  5,572 suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation. 
source for casualty figures: 
 


 

najjar3Why are the Palestinians in Gaza protesting?

 

More than 50 years of occupation and 10 years of blockade have made the lives of 1.9 million Palestinians living inside the Gaza Strip unbearable. That is why they are now protesting and risking their lives.  ~Norwegian Refugee Council

 

1.9 million people are confined

Gaza is described by many Palestinians and humanitarian actors as the world’s largest open-air prison, where 1.9 million Palestinians live behind a blockade and are refused access to the other occupied Palestinian areas and the rest of the world.

7 out of 10 are refugees

Most Gazans come from families who were forced to leave their villages in 1948. Many have also been forced to leave their homes due to war and violence. Four years after the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2014, 23,500 Palestinians in Gaza are still unable to return to their homes.

700 children have been killed

The oldest children in Gaza have lived through three wars that have killed more than 3,800 Palestinians. More than 700 of these were children. Many children have seen family members, relatives, friends or others be killed or seriously injured. 

50% are traumatized by war

Half of all children have been psychologically traumatized by war, occupation and blockade. Close to 300,000 children need psychosocial help.

70% of all schools run double shifts

Close to 70 per cent of all schools run double or triple shifts due to a lack of schools. In addition, lack of electricity reduces the students' chance to learn or do homework. The blockage also stops young people from studying on the West Bank or abroad. According to the UNRWA, the UN's organization for Palestinian refugees, the large cuts in donations from the US may lead to the organization being unable to deliver diesel to 275 schools. These schools may be forced to close down if other countries do not contribute.

42% unemployment

The people in Gaza face the world's largest unemployment rate. 42 percent of the capable, adult population stand without compensated work. For those between 15 and 29 years old, the unemployment rate has risen to 62 percent. Today, the people in Gaza are 25 percent poorer than they were when the first part of the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993.

84% are in need of humanitarian aid

1.6 million, or 84 percent, of the population in Gaza need humanitarian aid. The number is increasing, and the UN calculate that more than two million people will need humanitarian aid by 2020.

41% have too little food

4 out of 10 families struggle to acquire enough food. In Gaza, more than 830,000 Palestinians need assistance in the form of food or nutritional supplements. According to UNRWA, the UN's organization for Palestinian refugees, the large cuts in funding from the US will cause the UN to have to reduce food support. Most of those who will be affected are already living below the poverty line.

98% of ground water is undrinkable

98 percent of the water in Gaza is contaminated and undrinkable. Gaza had beautiful beaches, but every day now, 24 million gallons of unfiltered sewage is pumped out along the shoreline.

2 - 4 hours of electricity

The Gazan population cannot count on more than 2-4 hours of continuous electrical power a day. Every day, Gaza experiences up to 22 hours of power outage.

35% of arable land is unavailable

35 percent of the land eligible for farming is unavailable and fishermen are blocked from 85 percent of the waters on the coast of Gaza due to Israeli security zones. 

7% of the children suffer from stunted growth

Poverty and lack of food has led to 7 percent of the children suffering from stunted growth due to long-term malnutrition. 60 percent of the children are anaemic.

45% are refused medical treatment outside Gaza 

Those in need of specialized medical treatment must apply for permission from the Israeli government to leave Gaza. Many applications are declined, or at best delayed, and many risk dying while they wait. In October 2017, the World Health Organization reported that only 55 percent of the applications to leave Gaza for medical treatment were granted.

source: Norwegian Refugee Council at nrc.no

IPMN Endorses Rep. Betty McCollum’s Legislation on Treatment of Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Detention

HR 2407The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) decisively endorses Rep. Betty McCollum’s (MN) legislation, HR 2407, “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation.”

Introduced on April 30th, the bill “amends a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act known as the ‘Leahy Law’ to prohibit funding for the military detention of children in any country, including Israel.” Additionally, the legislation authorizes the appropriation of $19 million annually to NGOs in Israel/Palestine who monitor the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention and who are qualified to provide psychological and emotional support to children returning from military detention.

The 222nd General Assembly of the PCUSA (2016) overwhelmingly adopted an overture in support of the safety and wellbeing of children of Palestine and Israel, “calling on the government of Israel to change its military detention system [so as] to stop night arrests, stop blindfolds and restraints, stop separation from parents and legal counsel, stop physical abuse and verbal threats, and stop isolation and coerced confessions.” Unfortunately, in the nearly three years since its passage, there have been no improvements in the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.

In her Press Release, Rep. McCollum notes “Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children. Congress must not turn a blind eye to the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.”


IPMN calls on all Presbyterians to support Rep. McCollum’s legislation and encourage their own Congressional representatives to co-sponsor HR 2407.

Click here to contact your members of Congress through the Action Alert from Churches for Middle East Peace.

Gaza: Statement of U.S. Churches and Christian Agencies

April 12, 2018 — Members of the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, a network of Christian denominations and organizations working for a just peace in the region, issue the following statement on the latest violence at the Gaza border fence.

Right of Refugees, Right to Demonstrate Peacefully, Right to Dignity
A Statement of U.S. Churches and Christian Agencies on Gaza

Faith forum on middle east policyFriday, March 30, thousands of Palestinians participated in the first of several weeks of planned nonviolent demonstrations in Gaza near the fence with Israel. These demonstrations are expected to continue until May 15, when Palestinians mark Nakba (“catastrophe”) Day, remembering the 1948 displacement and dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians, and resulting in a Palestinian diaspora and a refugee population that today numbers over five million, including descendants. At the same time Israel will celebrate 70 years since its establishment on May 14, 1948. 
More than 1.3 million of Gaza’s nearly 2 million people are refugees. The Gaza demonstrations are an assertion of Palestinian rights: the rights of refugees, the right to demonstrate peacefully against injustice, and the right to live in and with dignity, not under closed military confinement or blockade.
In the first week of demonstrations, at least 16 people were killed and, according to the International Committee for the Red Cross, approximately 1500 people required medical assistance, with approximately 800 injuries resulting from the use of live ammunition. Reports indicate that the firing came from the Israeli military in an indiscriminate manner. A group of United Nations human rights experts stated, “There is no available evidence to suggest that the lives of heavily armed security forces were threatened.” The United States stood by and allowed Israel to carry out these attacks without any public criticism or challenge. Such U.S. complicity is a continuation of the historical policy of active support for Israel’s occupation and U.S. disregard for Palestinian rights. This complicity builds resentment and damages U.S. national security. Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes, and to compensation for loss of property, as laid out in UN General Assembly resolution 194.
As U.S. churches and Christian agencies, we support the Palestinian people as they courageously stand up for their rights. We have worked in our own context in the cause of justice, peace, and equality, and continue to do so even as we recognize we have too often fallen short in these efforts. We reject the use of violence by individuals, groups or states. In the wake of demonstrations that have resulted in tragedy and death, and anticipating the continuation of Palestinian protests over the coming weeks, we cannot be silent.
  • We oppose in no uncertain terms the use of violence against the protesters, especially the lethal use of weapons and force by the Israeli military, and call for it to end that practice. We support the call by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, to Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to shoot when it said, “Soldiers must not be ordered to use lethal force other than in life-threatening situations. As a rule, demonstrations inside the Gaza Strip, approaching the fence or even sabotaging it, do not constitute such situations. … [W]hen the government betrays its soldiers’ trust and arms them with unlawful orders, we are here to remind not only of the rules of morality but also of legal requirements: A patently unlawful order must not be obeyed.”
  • We call for an investigation into the deaths and injuries suffered resulting from the use of force. 
  • We concur with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court who recently has said “Violence against civilians - in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "the Court"), as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities…. My Office will continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force. I urge all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this tragic situation.”
  • We call upon the United States, and particularly President Trump and members of Congress, to censure the violent and indiscriminate actions of the State of Israel in response to the demonstrations which in no way threaten the security of the state or its citizens, and to hold Israel appropriately accountable, ensuring that US aid isn’t used in ways that contravene established US and international laws, given the more than $3 billion in military aid the U.S. disburses to Israel annually.
  • We call on the U.S. to support the rights of refugees, including Palestinian refugees, based on international law and conventions, through the fora in which the U.S. participates.
  • In keeping with the imperative to support refugees’ rights, we call upon the United States to resume its full funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which supports schools, hospitals, and other essential services for Palestinian refugees. The U.S. recently announced that it would provide $60 million to UNRWA with no assurance of further funding for 2018. If the U.S. provides no additional funds in 2018, this would mean an 83 percent funding cut over the 2017 contribution of $365 million. 
  • We call upon the international community, including the U.S. government, to insist on an end to the blockade of Gaza, which has resulted in uninhabitable conditions for the people there, including poverty and lack of sufficient access to clean water, food, medicine and medical supplies, electricity, fuel, and construction equipment. The United Nations concluded as early as 2012 that Gaza was on track to be unlivable by 2020, and noted in 2017 that the trends of deterioration had accelerated. 
In demonstrating, Palestinians have sought to bring the world’s attention to, and to recover, their rights—rights as refugees, to demonstrate, and to live in dignity. They have been met with an immediate and tragic rejection of those rights, but as people of hope, and in the season of Easter, we believe that those rights will ultimately prevail. In this time, we pray fervently, speak clearly, and act diligently in support of peace, justice, and equality.

Alliance of Baptists
American Friends Service Committee
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
National Council of Churches
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Reformed Church in America
The Episcopal Church
The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United Church of Christ

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