We have just returned from Portland and the 222ndGeneral Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). For supporters of justice in Israel / Palestine, this last week was an important one. We are grateful for the hard work of the commissioners, particularly those on the Middle East Committee, for their faithfulness to the Gospel and for their continuing recognition of the rights of our Palestinian sisters and brothers.
Among the actions passed by this Assembly are the following:
08-02: On Advocating for the Safety and Well-being of Children of Palestine and Israel This overture calls on the PC(USA) to affirm support of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and calls on the government of Israel to end ill-treatment and torture of children within its military detention system. This action passed 464-95
08-03: On Upholding Peoples and Partners in the Middle East and in the United States
This overture calls on the PC(USA) to “affirm and encourage the Christian presence in the area through strengthened ties between the PC(USA) and the historic and reformed church of the region.” This action passed by consent.
08-04: On Calling for the RE/MAX Corporation to Cease Selling Property in West Bank Settlements
This overture calls on the RE/MAX corporation to do everything within its moral and legal power to stop the sale and rental of properties in the illegal settlements and commends RE/MAX for its positive engagement thus far. This action passed by consent.
08-06: Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace
This report, from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, while noting a preference for a just two-state solution, documents the continuing threats to such an outcome. It calls on the church to uphold human values and includes a lengthy list of action items including measures that revoke tax deductions and 501(c) 3 status to organizations that promote and finance illegal Israeli settlements, encouraging Congress to investigate the use of US-made equipment in Israeli human rights violations, and supporting the enforcement of laws requiring the correct labeling of settlement products. This action passed 429-129.
08-07: On Prayerfully Studying the Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
This overture calls for a prayerful study of the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel. The study will engage as dialogue partners the authors and signatories of that call as well as interfaith partners who oppose BDS. This action passed 407-146
12-05: On Affirming Nonviolent Means of Resistance Against Human Oppression
This overture acknowledges that boycott, divestment and sanctions have historically been used as tools of nonviolent resistance to oppression by the PC(USA) and calls on the church to create resources focused on the theology of peacemaking and nonviolence related to boycott, divestment and sanctions. This action passed by voice vote.
It is also important to note what did not happen at this General Assembly.
The church DID NOT back away from its 2014 action divesting from several companies who profit from the illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. An overture asking for this action did not get the necessary support to be considered by this Assembly
The church DID NOT categorically reject the BDS movement. There were numerous attempts, both in the Middle East Committee and on the floor of the General Assembly, to denigrate BDS and its supporters. All proposed amendments to such effect failed overwhelmingly.
The church DID NOT sever its connections with the US Campaign to End the Occupation. A Commissioner’s Resolution, misrepresenting the work of the campaign and slandering its supporters, was defeated.
The PC(USA) continues to be an important voice for peace and justice in Israel / Palestine. There is much more to do, but through your help and support we will continue to move forward. In the words of Dorothy Day:
People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.