GA 2010: Assembly hears praise, criticism of Middle East report

MINNEAPOLIS – Ron Shive says his committee’s report on conflict and peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians lives up to its title, “Breaking Down the Walls.”

          Bill Harter says the work of the Middle East Study Committee risks a different sort of demolition. He claims it could blow up Presbyterians’ credibility as a meaningful partner in peacemaking efforts.

          Speaking Monday (July 5) during the church’s General Assembly here, Shive, of Burlington, N.C., defended his nine-member panel’s work over the past two years. He said a fair reading of its report would refute charges that it was marred by a heavy pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli bias.

          The report calls for “evenhanded application of justice to both sides,” whether through demands that Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territory or calls on the Palestinian political parties, Fatah and Hamas, to reconcile with each other and pursue peace with Israel.

          Harter, of Chambersburg, Md., recited a litany of what he regards as damning flaws in the report, which is up for adoption during this week’s GA.

Testifying to the Committee on Middle East Peacemaking Issues, he said the report backs away from the church’s commitment to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and makes the “incredibly naïve basic assumption that if the occupation should end tomorrow, peace would break out in the Middle East.”

The church has done a better job in the past of contributing to peacemaking efforts, and it should take the time necessary to do a better job again, Harter said.

“Lay this report aside and look for genuine balance,” he said.