Letter to Our Palestinian 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. Our history in the Middle East goes back to the 1820s. For many of us, our personal histories and those of our Presbyterian forebears goes back nearly that far to Israel/Palestine. From 1948, we have made our stance clear on the unjust situation of Palestinian refugees since the Nakba. Your experience is one of displacement; as a people of faith, we are kinsfolk. Our challenge is to accompany you in exile.

For us, this is not only an issue of sympathy in the midst of suffering. We have come to know Palestinians as our brothers and sisters in our congregations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Their stories and witness have strengthened us. And yet, we confess, there are many in our own number who remain unaware of this.

Year after year our General Assembly has made our position known to the world, that the Palestinian people deserve justice and the right to their homeland. We have advocated for a two-state solution that affirms the right of return for Palestinian refugees, so long deprived of their home and their dignity. And when we included corporate engagement in these statements in 2004, you rejoiced in this act of solidarity. You let us know how pleased you were.

Because of this, we want to be clear to you: we hold in tension the rights and aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis to have safe and secure lives. We know that there is consensus in the international community around this, and we continue to work for this. Our corporate engagement in Israel/Palestine, reaffirmed by General Assemblies since 2004, focuses attention on companies that profit from the violence of the occupation. Our efforts that focus on Israel are those that focus on unjust policies, not on Israel as a nation.

We still see the occupation as the major obstacle to regional stability, and to the just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We do not see it as the only obstacle. Being oppressed does not justify using the means of the oppressor; nor does suffering from the breach of international law permit similar breaches, even if smaller in scale. We are alarmed by acts of violence committed by militants and extremists.

We are also alarmed when we hear some Palestinians use anti-Semitic language against Jews and Israelis. We know that you are well-versed in the language of human rights; it has meant the building of a strong civil society in the face of incredible odds and overwhelming oppression of occupation. We hope that this zeal for equality would include all.

We have had experiences and know of Palestinian Christians and Muslims living side-by-side in peaceful coexistence. Yet we are also alarmed by the increase of targeted violence against Palestinian Christian institutions, be they from traditional or evangelical communities. For us, the presence of the Christian community is more than nostalgia for the time of Jesus; it is a vital part of the Palestinian fabric of society alongside their Muslim neighbors.

We commit ourselves both to pray and to work for the day that Palestine will be free and independent. May it come soon!