GA News: Presbyterian General Assembly calls for both balance and justice in dealing with issues on Israel/Palestine

SAN JOSE – “It is no accident that the Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues takes so much time,” said Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick.

“I think it speaks to the intensity with which Presbyterians care about these matters and our extensive involvement with Christian partners around the world,” he explained. 

            The General Assembly of the P.C.(U.S.A.) spent a significant portion of their afternoon plenary deliberating over resolutions relating to peacemaking in the Middle East, specifically in the situation between Israel and Palestine.  The Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues communicated their strong desire to express a balanced perspective that called for both justice and mercy in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.

            Committee moderator Rev. Nancy Kahaian addressed the assembly by noting the words of one of the committee’s youth advisory delegates that even amongst Israelis and Palestinians there is no monolithic voice on issues of peace in the region.

            The General Assembly expressed that it, as well, did not speak monolithically, but from a spectrum of diversity.  The assembly voted against a resolution that called for suspension of military aid to the state of Israel. This vote can be seen as a win for those who urge strong support for the state of Israel.

            Prior to that vote, however, Resolution 11-01, “On Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel,” which includes a call to endorse the Amman Call regarding Arab-Israeli peace, was passed by the assembly and allowed to address a number of the other resolutions.  In supporting the Amman Call there are those who would argue that the assembly voted in line with those who support the Palestinian side of the issues.

            The previously controversial issue of divestment was addressed by the assembly with relatively little discussion or debate. The assembly voted to receive the MRTI (Mission Responsibility Through Investment) report which urges continued dialog with companies such as Caterpillar, Inc., and Motorola, Inc as opposed to divestment or sanctions.

            The actions of the assembly, “represent our concern to speak both for issues of justice,” said Kirkpatrick, “but always to do that in a balanced way.” He noted that the Presbyterian Church does not take a stand on the issue of the occupation because it favors Palestinians over Israelis, asserting that the church and the world need to be committed to both. Kirkpatrick also noted that as a church, “we have a particular commitment and burden to the Christian community in the region that is suffering greatly because of a failure to reach peace.”