Latest News on Middle East Study Committee
Yesterday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center launched a distortion campaign against the Presbyterian Church's Middle East Study Committee, which I've been working on for close to two years. When Elizabeth and I lived in Palestine and wrote about the experience of living under Israeli occupation, we became all too familiar with such attacks. It is, in a nutshell, unpleasant. Agreeing to serve on this committee, I expected some of this again. But I can't say it's fun. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, has a wonderful response to the attack which I have posted below. You can also read the Wiesenthal Center's claims about our report, as well as a further smear piece from its director Rabbi Abraham Cooper, which I've provided links for:
Please help spread the word about this, so that cooler heads might prevail: A statement from the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regarding the work of the General Assembly Middle East Study Team.
A human rights organization within the Jewish community has issued a statement about the report to the 219th General Assembly (2010) from the General Assembly committee to prepare a comprehensive study focused on Israel/Palestine . The statement says, “…we are deeply troubled that current moves underway in the Church radically depart from its 2008 commitment that its review of Middle East policies would be balanced and fair.”
We want to be sure to say to you in no uncertain terms: We support the existence of Israel as a sovereign nation within secure and recognized borders. No “but,” no “let’s get this out of the way so we can say what we really want to say.” We support Israel’s existence as granted by the U.N. General Assembly. We support Israel’s existence as a home for the Jewish people. We have said this before, and we say this again. We say it because we believe it; we say it because we want it to continue to be true.
The team, which engaged in intensive study, meetings, and travel to the Middle East since their appointment following the 218th General Assembly (2008), continues:
And, at the same time, we are distressed by the continued policies that surround the Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights, in particular. Many of us come to this work out of a love for Israel. And it is because of this love that we continue to say the things we say about the excesses of Occupation, the settlement infrastructure, and the absolute death knell it is sounding for the hopes of a two-state solution, a solution that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has supported for more than sixty years.
Several previous General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have adopted statements about Israel/Palestine. Two excerpts:
In 2004: The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved numerous resolutions on Israel and Palestine, repeatedly affirming, clearly and unequivocally, Israel’s right to exist within permanent, recognized, and “secure” borders (for example: 1969, 1974, 1977, 1983, 1989, etc.). It has deplored the cycle of escalating violence—carried out by both Palestinians and Israelis—which is rooted in Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories (cf. statements of successive assemblies since 1967). Presbyterians have continued to be concerned about the loss of so many innocent lives of Israelis and Palestinians (see “Resolution on the Middle East,” approved in 1997, and “Resolution on Israel and Palestine: End the Occupation Now,” approved in 2003).” GA Minutes, 2004, p. 66.
In 2006: We call upon the church…”To work through peaceful means with American and Israeli Jewish, American and Palestinian Muslim, and Palestinian Christian communities and their affiliated organizations towards the creation of a socially, economically, geographically, and politically viable and secure Palestinian state, alongside an equally viable and secure Israeli state, both of which have a right to exist.” GA Minutes, 2006, p. 945.
I join the Middle East Study Team that will be reporting to this summer’s General Assembly in asking all people to continue to pray, and work, for the peace of Jerusalem.
The Reverend Gradye Parsons is Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).