Letter to Our Israeli 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. Much of what we have said to our American Jewish friends we say to you. We are strong advocates for Israel’s secure existence. The fact that we are deeply troubled by Israeli policies should not diminish this advocacy in any way, shape, or form. We continue to speak out against anti-Semitism, knowing that it is an evil which our forbears in faith inflicted upon you and your ancestors. We are fervent in our hope that Israel would continue to be a homeland for the Jewish people.

We say all this because we believe it. And we stand by it in word and in deed. Our corporate engagement process has been handled carefully so as to focus our attention on companies who profit from practices we do not support. We have also encouraged positive investment in the region, including companies whose policies and practices of coexistence within Israeli society’s diverse tapestry and between Israelis and Palestinians are ones we can wholeheartedly support.

We grieve when anyone is a victim of violence, but especially civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli. The number of casualties may give evidence to the imbalance in the conflict; however, each person is created in the image of God. We know that God’s heart must be the first to break. Trauma is trauma, no matter who experiences it. They cannot compete with one another; instead, our hope is that trauma may lead to healing across divides, bound by a common humanity.

Our recent trip to the region, and to Israel and the Occupied Territories in particular, was marked by our own heartbreak. The situation on the ground is changing rapidly. The rise of the extremist settler movement within Israel belies the Israel as a nation for all of its citizens we so long to see. The ongoing land expropriation and settlement expansion, in East Jerusalem in particular, continues to undermine, and indeed, destroy the possibility for a just and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The Separation Barrier (part wall, part fence) and its route are evidence of this. Beyond this, we are increasingly troubled by the rhetoric and actions that support and facilitate a growing radicalized settler population. Your government cannot credibly claim that the incumbent violence against and dehumanization of Palestinians are happening without their knowledge; indeed, your government is aiding and abetting these basic violations of human rights.

And just as we have spoken and acted against our own society’s vision of itself as a nation when it behaved as though it were “above the law,” we will do the same for Israel. We both have a place in the community of nations. Let us act as though we do.

We truly yearn for the day when Israel is secure, and when Israel and Palestine live side-by-side in peace and justice and mutual respect. And we will continue to work for that vision. We hope that we can work together in this endeavor.