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IPMN Statement on MESC

THE ISRAEL PALESTINE MISSION NETWORK CALLS UPON PC(USA) LEADERSHIP TO STAND FIRM

In 2008 at its 218th General Assembly meeting in San Jose, California, the Presbyterian Church (USA) affirmed the obligation of the Church to speak to U.S. and foreign governments when it sees those governments violating the commandments of God; endorsed the Amman Call created in 2007 by the Christian Churches in the Middle East which then called upon our denomination to take significant actions in our policies for seeking a just Israeli-Palestinian peace, assuring that we remain active partners in this effort; called for Presbyterians to travel and take pilgrimages to Israel/Palestine in a manner that offers a full view of life conditions for both Israelis and Palestinians; and strengthened its resolve to monitor closely U.S. corporations that support or profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In addition to these justice issues affecting all Palestinians, the Assembly was very concerned that intensified Israeli control of Jerusalem and the West Bank was accelerating the shrinkage of the Christian population in the Holy Land—a matter of real urgency at this point. Thus the Assembly voted to create a Middle East Study Committee (MESC), appointed by the present PC (USA) moderator and the two most recent past moderators, that would report to the 219th meeting of the General Assembly in 2010.

Since that meeting, the Middle East Study Group has met several times, traveled to Israel/Palestine, visited with both Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders and others, and spent time on both sides of the system of walls, fences and checkpoints that separate Palestinians from lives of freedom, human rights, access to life-preserving and life-saving medical care and treatment, as well as the ability to lead full lives that have access to livelihoods and the amenities of just societal living that most of us take for granted. As is true with most travelers to the West Bank, many in this study group returned to their task with eyes wide open. This does not mean, however, that all members of the study group were of one mind about how Presbyterians should respond to the injustice they could not deny is taking place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

The report of the MESC has been released and formally presented to the General Assembly Mission Council and it will be discussed at the General Assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Minneapolis July 3-10 of this year.  It can be accessed at www.pc-biz.org under “Committees.”  Click on Committee 14, Middle East Peacemaking Issues, and then on “Business.”  The MESC Report is item 4-08, “Breaking Down the Walls.”  In response to its mandate, there are eight recommendations with subheadings under each that summarize previous actions taken by our church, and direction for the future.  Committee 14 has the responsibility of bringing it to the plenary for adoption, modifying its contents, or rejecting it.

Prior to having seen or read the report, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, under the direction of Rabbi Abraham Cooper, has now begun a disinformation campaign regarding the Middle East Study Group and its findings. The organization's website has sounded an alert calling upon its constituency as well as rank-and-file Presbyterians to flood the PC (USA) offices in Louisville with e-mails in opposition to MESC's yet-to-be published findings.

This action seeks to do exactly what groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center often rail against when the same is done to the Jewish community: take an entity endowed with diverse opinion and many different gifts and turn it into a monolith for the purpose of demonization. It hopes to distract the public from the fact that the Jewish Community not only comprises those who hold these views but also involves such groups and organizations as Jewish Voice for Peace, B'Tselem, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) that stand unafraid to engage in debate about the serious violations of humans right being committed in Occupied Palestine.

Many on the forefront of the human rights struggle in Occupied Palestine know that in Israel itself there is a healthier debate going on throughout Israeli society about these issues than is taking place in the American Jewish Community. One only needs to read Israeli dailies like The Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz to know there are significant Israeli voices calling for an end to injustice in Palestine; voices of people who believe their beloved homeland has become an oppressor nation. Their motives in calling for immediate change in government policies are not only for the sake of Palestinian human rights, but also for the future security of Israel itself.

World opinion is turning against Israeli policies in the OPT and, as this occurred in regard to South Africa just a few decades ago, nothing will change that. This is the reason for the great angst, hyperbolic attacks and disinformation campaign emerging from such organizations as the Simon Wiesenthal Center; an organization once known for its pursuit of justice has now appointed itself to be a mouthpiece for a colonial enterprise and segregated political system. It is important to note that the Wiesenthal Center, which Presbyterians could once count on to express the best of the Biblical prophetic tradition, is presently trying to build a "Museum of Tolerance" on an ancient Muslim graveyard in Jerusalem. In the name of the tolerance and understanding this organization seeks, it would be important for its leadership to clarify whether or not it believes there should be a Christian presence left in Jerusalem and Palestine and, if so, explain how that presence can be maintained under the constant pressure of an apartheid system. The Israel Palestine Mission Network, along with many Presbyterians who are committed to seeing their church make a stand for justice and human rights wherever these values may be violated, calls upon Presbyterian leadership in Louisville and elsewhere to stand firm in the face of this deceptive attack by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.   For further information on the current publicity and disinformation campaigns of the Israeli government please consult:

The Israel Palestine Mission Network is committed to full and open debate about what makes for peace and security in both Israel and Palestine. As part of this commitment we offer the following link to voices of opposition. Although we respectfully disagree with their criticisms and characterizations of sincere IPMN and PC(USA) concerns and positions, we respect their right of disagreement.

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