Stated clerk issues new video statement on Israel/Palestine

In a new video statement released Feb. 10, J. Herbert Nelson, the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), responded to criticism of earlier statements he released in January, in which he described the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel as “21st century slavery.”

The statements Nelson released – the first on Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the second on Jan. 24 – drew sharp criticism both from Jews and some Presbyterians, who called his remarks antisemitic.

Other Presbyterians have supported Nelson’s remarks. And on Feb. 9, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly issued a statement affirming that Nelson, the PC(USA)’s officer, is authorized to speak on behalf of the church.

In the new video statement, which lasts over seven minutes, Nelson responds to a series of prompts – including:

  • Some have called your comments unfair and dangerous.
  • Can constructive conversations around Israel/Palestine still take place?
  • Some feel the distinction should be made between the Israeli government and the Jewish people.

Some of what Nelson says on the video:

In the occupied territories, “people do not have freedom to be who they are in community with everybody else. They are limited. That is slavery.”

What will it take to see movement in Palestine?

“One word: freedom.”

If people don’t work for freedom for all, “that is sin, that is brokenness, that is pain. … It is wrong, it is ungodly, it is sinful.”

“It was not about trying to bring down the Jewish community. It was a plea to the Jewish community to do something here in the United States – something about what is taking place in Palestine-Israel. We know, we know this is not right. We know people are being deprived of human rights. And we need to get engaged, quite frankly, in helping to free the captives. That is biblical. That is what Jesus called for.”


Here is Nelson’s Feb. 10 video statement.