Statements   
Major written statements and reports published
by churches, governments, organizations
and the United Nations. 
  
Presbyterian Church USA
Breaking Down the Walls
Report of the Middle East
Study Committee
to the
219th General Assembly (2010)
of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


Excerpts only

download the full report at:
http://www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace/
 

PART ONE: WE BEAR WITNESS
Go to PART TWO: RECOMMENDATIONS

A. Introduction

....Our voice is one that has a definite sense of urgency. The time for action from all parties is
now. We are witnessing a rapidly closing window of opportunity for action. Events are
happening every day now in Israel and Palestine and the Middle East that are making it
increasingly difficult to bring about this just peace for which we all pray. If we do not act now,
our fear is that we will all look back with deep regret and shameful guilt. Our spirit, though, is
not one of fear, but rather of hope. We do believe that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) will once again speak with a clear, priestly, prophetic, and pastoral voice....


Letter to Our American Brothers and Sisters in the Ecumenical Community,
For many years, we have partnered with you through the National Council of Churches and
World Council of Churches in matters of common concern in the Middle East. It is our hope that we can continue to do so. We are aware that our polities and structures are different. And while we do not always agree on details, we know that we share a common passion for the region and for the justice with peace.

Our practice has been to focus on those things that unite us; this not only makes sense
practically, but also theologically. Now, with a regional situation that is so critical, and with a
rapidly disintegrating hope for a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, we think the time has
come for us to study more closely those places where we might have different approaches so that we might challenge and encourage one another and grow in our unity for the sake of Christ our Lord. We also know, within your own polities, you continue to study the issues and make recommendations as well. There are subtle differences between our conclusions. And
unfortunately, where we have disagreed on matters of practice and policy, this has become an opportunity for those who do not share our concern for all parties in the region to divide us and even to manipulate one denomination’s policy to criticize another denomination’s approach. Let us be of one voice.

In addition to what we in the United States have to say, there are the voices of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East. In our regional travels, we have been encouraged by their steadfastness, distressed by their challenges, and moved by their diversity, but also their unity.  As their ecumenical voices have spoken, from the Amman Call to the Kairos Palestine document, the Middle Eastern Church has spoken clearly and directly to us. We ignore their voice at our own peril. Let us do all we can to show our oneness with them in Christ.

We know that you have been and continue to be engaged in the Middle East. Our hope is that our work will both encourage and challenge you and your members to deepen that engagement.

Letter to Our American Jewish Friends,
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.

Letter to Our American Muslim Friends,
Our relationship in the Western Hemisphere is a more recent one than that of our connection
with our Jewish neighbors. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has worked through the years for increased interfaith understanding in Muslim-Christian relations, and will continue to do so. Our sponsorship of the Interfaith Listening Program, bringing Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world to the U.S. to model what our society might look like, is evidence of this.

We are also encouraged by the open letter to the Christian churches, “A Common Word Between Us and You.” Our church responded favorably and continues to encourage our members and congregations to explore common ground with our Muslim neighbors.

We have resisted those who have attempted to stoke the fires of cultural conflict. We are aware that American Muslims have come under more scrutiny, pressure, and, indeed, racism since the tragedies of September 11th. Violence is a phenomenon of the human condition, not the exclusive domain of any religion or people group, as our own Christian history attests. We hope that we can continue to explore ways we can work together to bring attention to these injustices and work together for a future in which all of humanity is granted the dignity it deserves.

We also challenge you, especially those of you in the West, to take seriously your call to be
bridge builders: both within the Muslim world (e.g. between Shiite and Sunni) and between the East and West. We know that more, much more, can be done. And while we are deeply aware of our own complicity (both for historic Western colonial influence in the Middle East and for more recent American intervention in the region), we are hopeful that more can be done from within the Muslim world to address the ongoing divides that erode our humanity.

We are grateful for American Muslims who continue to decry violence perpetrated in the name of Islam. We want to partner with you in amplifying your voices. And we would like to hear more, including voices from those in the Middle East where, as in our own country, violence, too often, can be a watchword and where religion, too often, can be used as a battering ram. We look to you, as leaders of the Islamic world, to speak and act strongly on behalf of justice for all, including Christians and your fellow Muslims.

We hope that you hear these words of challenge as from those who seek mutual friendship. May the common words between us and you be love, peace, and justice.

Letter to Our Middle Eastern Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
You are the living stones of the Church. You are the salt of the earth, giving flavor to the whole region, despite your numbers or proportions. We have visited with you. You have challenged us. You have welcomed us. And you have taught us immeasurably.

We cannot fully identify with the struggles of being a minority religious community. As
American Christians, we are only recently coming to terms with the possibility that we, too,
might have to face this reality. And so we have much more to learn from you and your model of faithfulness. And we cannot imagine the land of Christ devoid of the body of Christ. May our ongoing partnership be one that encourages your steadfast witness, not only on behalf of your own flocks, but on behalf of the worldwide body of Christ.

You cherish your national culture. This is a challenging word to us who can act as though the
gospel originated in the West. And yet, as part of a society that has confused our culture with our faith at times, we feel that we have something to offer you. Be careful; be faithful. We often fall into the temptation to be more in line with culture. However, we also know that the gospel calls us to faithful obedience, even when facing risk to our own selves on behalf of Christ’s truth. But when the wider society advocates violence, or when it seeks to marginalize one group or another, our encouragement to you is to discern the Spirit’s call in the face of such circumstances. We pray that you will be led and strengthened in faithfulness.

To our Palestinian brothers and sisters in faith, we particularly want to commend the words
above. We also want to commend you to unity. As Presbyterians, we have come to Israel and Palestine as partners; not seeking to establish our own congregations, but to support you in your continued witness. We pray for your unity. We encourage you not to compete over an increasingly shrinking number of Christians or over a decreasingly smaller influence in regional politics. We beseech you to remain focused on preaching Christ and him crucified, and risen. It is your own experience of his suffering that can teach us all. We will do what we can do amplify the word you preach from the heart of suffering, the Kairos Palestine document, and your resurrection hope.

We also know, our dear Palestinian friends, that your suffering is primarily under the weight of occupation. But we also know that this is not the only cause of suffering. At best, your numbers leave you marginalized by the wider Palestinian society and many ignorant of your practices and faith. At worst, there are elements that seek to eliminate the Christian presence from the region altogether. To you, we commend the example of our Lord, who, even faced with the loss of his own life, preferred to be an agent of healing, restoring the centurion’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. Do not be afraid to speak out against injustice. But do not let temptation to injustice overtake you.

May your witness continue to encourage us; and may we continue to show our debt to you as our spiritual forebears.

Letter to Our Palestinian Friends,
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!

Letter to Our Israeli Friends,

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.

.....

A Time for Action
One last observation that the Middle East Study Committee encountered in the Middle East
was the disparity between the fierce urgency felt by many whose lives focus on solving the
conflict and the lack of urgency felt by many others whose lives are more removed from day-to-day contact with the conflict. Many give so much energy to the ending of the occupation and the resolution of a just peace; and, on the other hand, many simply are willing to live with the disparity of justice, perhaps because the insecurity of the current status quo is perceived to be better than the fear of the unknown that a dramatic change would bring.

On the floor of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the words attributed to
Martin Niemoller, which he wrote as an anti-Nazi German pastor, read:

First, they came for the socialist, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionist, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade
unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

We all do have a shared responsibility to guard human rights everywhere, and now is the
time for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to speak out, stand up, and take action. We must be those who will say, “Never again” not just for the Jew, but for every suffering victim in the
world today,” including the Palestinians. 

PART TWO: RECOMMENDATIONS

....To summarize at the outset our principal concerns, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seeks to strengthen its past positions on behalf of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the cessation of violence by all parties, and its opposition to Israel’s ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its continuing occupation of those territories. We also call upon the various Palestinian political factions to negotiate a unified government prepared to recognize Israel’s existence. We proclaim our alarm and dismay: both over the increasingly rapid exodus of Christians from Israel/Palestine caused by anti-Palestinian discrimination and oppression, the growth of Islamic and Jewish fundamentalism, and the occupation-related absence of economic opportunity; and also over the exodus of Christians from other parts of the region caused by various military, economic, religious, and cultural factors. And we oppose the government of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, its sponsorship of international guerilla warfare, and the threat these pose both to Israel and to Arab states. 


We deeply value our relationships with Jews and Muslims in the United States, Israel, and 

the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East. Yet the bonds of friendship must neither prevent us from speaking nor limit our empathy for the suffering of others. Inaction and silence on our part enable actions we oppose and consequences we grieve. We recognize how great a burden past misguided actions by our government have placed on Christians throughout the Muslim world. We recognize that massive amounts of U.S tax money are feeding the various conflicts in the Middle East—including two current wars of arguable necessity and Jewish settlements in Palestine.


We also recognize that our concern to end support for both violence in all its forms and the
ongoing occupation and settlement of Palestine places demands of integrity on how the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) uses its own resources and investments. Let us be clear: we do affirm the legitimacy of Israel as a state, but consider the continuing occupation of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem) to be illegitimate, illegal under international law, and an enduring threat to peace in the region. Furthermore, we recognize that any support for that occupation weakens the moral standing of our nation internationally and our security.


Given the complexities of the issues of the Middle East and the diversity of this study
committee, it was inconceivable that we achieve unanimity on all the details of the report’s
recommendations. However, every good faith effort has been made to negotiate differences,
honor majorities, and come to consensus without forsaking our deepest convictions.


In service to its ever-linked concerns for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel, and its
concern for the enduring integrity and witness of the Christian Church there and in the United
States, the Middle East Study Committee recommends that the 219th General Assembly (2010) approve the following recommendations:


I. Affirmation of Human Rights & Moral Principles:
In accordance with past policy statements and the theological-ethical bases of our
confessions, the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirms the following human rights, moral principles, and goals guiding its recommendations:


a. The human right to self-determination through free elections and the rule of law,
including the right to enjoy such basic freedoms as those of speech, press, and assembly.


b. The human right to religious freedom, including full access to religious sites and freedom
from all discriminatory practices based on religious identity.


c. Those additional rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
international human rights conventions, including the principle of universal jurisdiction.


d. The moral principle of applying humanitarian laws regarding warfare to all nations.
These laws protect civilians and nonmilitary facilities prohibit such internationally
recognized violations as the use of anti-personnel weapons and weapons of mass
destruction, the assassination of political opponents, collective punishment, detention
without due process, and the torture or abuse of prisoners.


e. The moral principle of applying these same humanitarian laws regarding warfare to
nongovernmental combatants as well. These laws prohibit such practices as suicide
bombing, kidnapping, shelling civilian populations, and torturing or abusing prisoners.


f. The moral principle of granting to Red Cross, Star, or Crescent inspection teams access to
all prison facilities.


g. The moral principle that all refugees have an individual right to return or to adjudicate or
negotiate compensation for the loss of home and homeland, wherever those may be.


h. The moral goal for nations to create a nuclear-free world and, toward that goal, to sign
and comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other relevant treaties.



Download the full report at:
http://www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace/