PORTLAND, Ore. — A measure that would ratchet up pressure on Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinians will face competition from an alternate plan on the floor of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The main proposal (08-06) was approved June 20 by the Middle East Issues committee. Its wide-ranging recommendations call for, among other things, an end to Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians and its alleged abuses of children.
The church would also seek: congressional review of Israel’s use of U.S.-made military and police equipment; changes in tax and trade policies that would discourage Americans from investing in or doing business with Israeli settlements; and an end to the U.S. threat to veto full United Nations membership for Palestine.
Before the committee members voted 58-18 for that plan, they rejected a request that they instead send it to the Presbyterian Mission Agency for improvement over the next two years.
Panel members who sought the review said parts of the document — drawn up by the church’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) — were awkwardly written or potentially offensive. They also said it waffled on the denomination’s longstanding claim that the formula for lasting peace must hinge on the creation of two states, one for Jews and one for Palestinians.
Two of the General Assembly commissioners who saw that alternate plan defeated on a 68-5 vote in committee have brought the same plan back as a minority report to the full General Assembly, as GA rules allow them to do.
Sponsored by Brian Paulson of the Chicago Presbytery and Isaac Chung of the Detroit Presbytery, the minority report says PMA, with help from leaders of ACSWP and the Office of Theology and Worship, should edit the original document in several ways, including purging it of any language that could be read as anti-Semitic.
“We recommend a wise, passionate, and timely rewrite of the report in order to preserve our efforts of reconciliation,” the minority report authors say in a written rationale.
Paulson and Chung say in the minority report that the ACSWP document questions Israel’s claim to be a democracy. They call ACSWP’s handiwork “a pugnaciously flawed document” that potentially “undermines the PC(USA) work of reconciliation.”
Some members of the Middle East Issues committee argued June 20 that it was urgent for the PC(USA) to act now, given the ever-worsening plight of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories.
But Paulson’s and Chung’s report instead states their belief that “our action must reflect the integrity of our Presbyterian communion and not sacrifice the breadth of our faithful and biblical convictions in the name of urgency.”