Letter to Our American Jewish Friends
The Middle East Study Committee Report begins with eight letters addressed to different communities. The PCUSA site has them posted, but for some reason, is currently down. I'll post all eight of them one by one. Please check back to www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace for a fuller update. I expect the site should be back up and running soon. For decades we have worked side-by-side in innumerable causes in our own nation for the sake of justice and human well-being. And yet, with the introduction of the corporate engagement process in 2004 (and the use of the word “divestment”), this relationship has been seriously tested.
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.
And, at the same time, we are distressed by the continued policies that surround, sustain, and consolidate 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 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.
We also want to make it clear that what we say in moral criticism of policies and actions of the Israeli government should not be used as a battering ram against Israel’s right to membership in the community of nations nor to deepen anti-Semitism or any categorical blame of the Jewish people for the ills of the world. As those whose faith originated in the synagogues of the Fertile Crescent, our love of our common heritage is precious. Anti-Semitism has no place in faithful Christian expression.
Our hope is that we can work together for a more just and secure Israel. We have found this to be possible with local networks more often than with national organizations within the mainstream Jewish community. We are hard-pressed to find statements from such organizations that are willing to oppose the occupation or the settlement policy that has dominated Israel since 1967. Even so, we are hopeful as organizations like J-Street, B’Tselem, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others continue to raise the banner that being pro-Israel and being truly Jewish is not tantamount to complicity in the excesses of Israeli policy. It is our hope that the leadership of mainstream American Jewish organizations will catch up with this growing reality of Jewish identity in the U.S.
We are aware that our report will likely draw such critiques as being “unfair” or “imbalanced.” We believe that our report, however, is quite fair. Our analysis, both through careful research and through our experience of being in the Middle East, is that Israel is the most powerful party to the conflict. Therefore, Israel has both the responsibility and the ability to reverse the course of the current precipitous decline throughout the region.
May we continue to pray, and work, for the peace of Jerusalem, the Middle East, and our world.