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Voter Guide 221st GA

IPMN Voter Guide for 221st GA Commissioners

 

May 19, 2014

 

Greetings,

 

This summer, the 221st General Assembly marks the tenth anniversary of the 216th General Assembly’s call for a “mission network for the purpose of creating currents of wider and deeper Presbyterian involvement with Palestinian partners, aimed at demonstrating solidarity and changing the conditions that erode the humanity of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.”

 

The Moderator of the 216th General Assembly, Rick Ufford-Chase, has said that this was a prophetic stance that almost no one was taking in 2004.  We agree.   Our church led the way and the world has now taken notice.  Hundreds of ecclesiastical bodies and secular organizations are calling for justice in Palestine.  It is time for the PC(USA) to complete its witness.

 

Whether or not you serve on Committee 4 (Middle East Issues), you will be asked to make some important historical decisions this year that will be as significant as those that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.   The purpose of this letter is to share with you the thoughts of the Israel Palestine Mission Network regarding overtures that are before you and speak to our longstanding concerns about peace and justice in both Israel and Palestine.  We will do that in two formats:  A quick reference table as well as some narrative explanation.

 

The Israel Palestine Mission Network celebrates with you your call to serve as a General Assembly Commissioner.   We are aware that your decision on the issues for which we offer unsolicited counsel is governed by the living Spirit of Jesus Christ in our common life together.   We are glad to be part of this challenging and important journey with you and wish you God’s blessings in this important work.

 

Sincerely,

The Israel Palestine Mission Network

of the PC(USA)

voter_guide_chart

 

 

Item 04-01: On Reviewing General Assembly Policy Regarding the Two-State Solution in Israel Palestine.

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL.

This overture simply makes the observation that the PC(USA) policy regarding the two-state solution is woefully under-informed.   When the policy was established decades ago, everyone believed such a solution was possible.   The facts on the ground have changed the landscape drastically so that many question whether this policy is even realistic.   This overture does not seek to favor one policy over another (one-state vs. two-state, for instance).   It simply calls for an in-depth analysis of the present situation and whether or not the PC(USA) should be prescribing political solutions for peoples who are not in agreement with each other.

Item 04-02: On Divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL.

Since 1967, PC(USA) policy has demanded that the church divest from companies that sell firearms, alcohol, tobacco, promote gambling or profit from non-peaceful pursuits. The PC(USA), accordingly, divested from companies profiting from human rights abuses in apartheid South Africa and in Sudan.  No one can deny that the three companies named are engaged in non-peaceful pursuits in Palestine. We do not invest in violence.   Occupation is violence.  In addition, a church cannot participate in positive investment and negative investment in the same place at the same time.  One has to go, and given our church’s historic peacemaking stance, it must be negative investment in violence.

 

Item 04-03:  On Engaging Presbyterians to Witness for Palestinian Human Rights and for Ending the Occupation of Palestine

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL.

The occupation of Palestine since 1967 is only the first problem.  The second is the violation of international law about occupation.    Israel’s military has occupied Palestine for so long that the government acts like it believes Palestine belongs to Israel.   When tourists buy a Holy Land map in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, the map does not show the boundary lines that delineate Israel and Palestine.  Because these attitudes are ingrained among those who make and implement government policy, the violation of Palestinian human rights not only persists, but increases as a result of the Israel government’s continuing campaign to pretend Palestine does not exist.  This overture strengthens the prophetic witness of the PC(USA), in response to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that human rights, freedom and security are given by God, not only for one people but all people.

 

Item 04-04: On Supporting Middle East Peacemaking

WE RECOMMEND DISAPPROVAL

This overture suffers from some fatal flaws: 1) It asks for a commitment to a two-state solution, ignoring that Palestine is no longer contiguous and cannot be considered even potentially a “state” by any stretch of the imagination. One only needs to look at the map that shows how it is divided into militarily controlled Palestinian cantons, as well as Israeli colonies that are connected to each other and to Jerusalem by Israeli-only highways.  2) Language about a two-state solution that does not identify the imbalance between oppressor and oppressed empties that language of any significant meaning. 3) In calling for the 221st General Assembly to not endorse boycotts of Israeli products manufactured in illegal settlements, this essentially means that commissioners are being asked to contradict the overwhelming action (a 71% majority vote) by the 220th General Assembly to boycott products that come from illegal Israeli settlement colonies in the Occupied Palestinian territories.

 

Item 04-05: On Calling for a Boycott of All Hewlett-Packard Products

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL

Occupation is violence. As members of a peacemaking church Presbyterians are called upon by longstanding church policy to refrain from buying products or investing in companies that profit from non-peaceful pursuits.   Hewlett-Packard provides equipment and technology to the Israeli military for the maintenance of the illegal occupation of Palestine.  This equipment has been involved in the interdiction of humanitarian supplies to Gaza and the humiliation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people and violation of their rights at the countless checkpoints throughout the West Bank.   Hewlett-Packard is also one of the companies named by the PC(USA) Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee as being completely uncooperative in regard to corporate engagement with companies for which we hold stock as a denomination.

Item 04-06: On Affirming Occupation-Free Investment in Palestine

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL

By an historic 3-1 margin, Committee 15 (Middle East Issues)  of the 220th General Assembly (2012) voted to present both divestment and positive investment as hand-in-hand proposals.   Parliamentary maneuver separated these measures.   What this overture seeks to do is shine a spotlight on the reality that true, “positive” investment will not yield desired outcomes if the matrix of occupation in Palestine remains in place.   Positive investment in Palestine must strive for the dismantling of the occupation.  That cannot be accomplished, however, without eliminating the tools of occupation.   Because the church contributes to the provision of those tools through its investments in American companies profiting from non-peaceful pursuits, the PC(USA) is not actually affirming “occupation-free investment” in Palestine at the present time.  Rather, it is paying lip service to the idea of a “positive investment” plan that ultimately cannot succeed given the facts on the ground.   As a church we cannot at the same time invest in companies profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Palestine and also say that we are only committed to positive investment.

 

Item 04-07: On Adopting the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) Recommendation on Divestment

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL

The Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee has sought to be corporately engaged with companies profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel and Palestine for an entire decade.  In 2004, MRTI was instructed to come back to the 217th General Assembly in 2005 with a recommendation.   As a result of ongoing conversations with named companies, MRTI chose not to return that year with a recommendation, and made no recommendation for divestment until 2012.  In other words, MRTI has been very patient, very careful and very responsible in regard to its original mandate.   For the second time in a row, however, MRTI is telling a General Assembly that the named companies have no desire to cooperate. We need to listen to the wisdom, offered to the church yet again, of one our most important social witness committees.  Presbyterians trust the work of their committees.  This is especially true when it is noted that in regard to every other divestment decision pertaining to issues completely unrelated to Israel and Palestine, General Assemblies have never balked at MRTI recommendations.   MRTI does its homework based on the facts.   Balking on the facts is fueled by ideological concerns, and that is not appropriate when it comes to the peacemaking efforts of the PC(USA).

 

Item 04-08: Mission Responsibility Through Investment: Engagement with Corporations on Israel-Palestine Issues from 2004-2013

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL

In yet another historic denominational action, the Presbyterian Mission Agency has chosen to publicly embrace and commend to the 221st General Assembly the good work of its Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee.   By directing MRTI “to continue the corporate engagement process with corporations operating in Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank”, the Presbyterian Mission Agency confirms the call to divestment as part of that corporate engagement process.    The PMA also correctly calls upon the PC(USA) Foundation to continue its efforts in identifying good and peaceful investments that benefit Palestinian people and society.  It clearly understands that our church has in its possession the non-violent tools of boycott, divestment, sanctions and positive investment, and that all these non-violent options must be exercised, not just one.   As a church that condemns violent solutions to global human struggles, we can never be in the business of eliminating any tool of peacemaking that can bring positive change through justice, peace and the upholding of human rights wherever they are violated.

 

Item 04-09: Resolution on Equal Rights for All Inhabitants of Israel and Palestine and on Conversation with Prophetic Voices

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL

In Israel, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship do not have the same rights as Israeli Jewish citizens.  Just recently, the Israeli Knesset passed a law giving more rights to Christian Palestinians than are given to Muslim Palestinians.   In the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians have no equal rights whatsoever.   This overture reaffirms longstanding Presbyterian policy regarding human rights anywhere in the world, and in relevant ways focuses on the violations occurring in the lives of Palestinians in both Israel and Palestine.  The 219th General Assembly (2010), for instance, called for respect and non-coercion among all religious faiths long before the recent action of the Knesset cynically sought to divide Palestinians from each other according to their religious faith.  We agree that this is the time to call out such errant behavior by an Israeli government seeking to divide and conquer the Palestinian people by any means possible.

 

 

Item 07-01: On Distinguishing Between Biblical Terms for Israel and Those Applied to the Modern Political State of Israel in Christian Liturgy

WE RECOMMEND APPROVAL

 

In a society in which the theological views of many rank and file Presbyterians are influenced by Zionist and Christian Zionist claims that they may not fully understand, it is important that liturgical and study material of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) correctly points out the inconsistency between such claims and Reformed theology.   The view, for instance, that Biblical Israel is the same as the modern state of Israel, and that possession of that particular region by a certain people is necessary for the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom is simply not consistent with responsible Presbyterian theological understandings.   We reject the theological position of organizations like Christians United for Israel (CUFI), for instance, that when Christ brings his promised kingdom to an Israeli state fully occupied by the Jewish people that they must ultimately convert to Christian faith or be eternally destroyed.  Additionally, such views reinforce attitudes and beliefs that the modern state of Israel has the right to cleanse itself of all but a Jewish presence in Israel and Palestine. This overture seeks to educate and correct false understandings through the appropriate use of language in liturgy and the teaching of the church.

 

 


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