AJC Welcomes Presbyterian Move Toward Balance

July 1, 2008 - New York - The American Jewish Committee welcomes the important step forward taken by the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in which PCUSA charges its congregations, members, and associated bodies not to “over-identify” with either party in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but instead strive to serve as “nonpartisan advocates” for peace and compromise.

AJC is heartened to hear PC(USA) state in unequivocal terms that the conflict should not be reduced to “a caricature of reality where one side clearly is at fault and the other side is clearly the victim.”

Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, AJC’s U.S. Director of Interreligious Affairs, said “We are thankful to the many hundreds of Presbyterians throughout the nation and at the General Assembly who made their voices heard in recognizing the need for a fair and responsible approach to this complex issue. We look forward to strengthening the Presbyterian-Jewish relationship as PC (USA) adopts this approach in all of its peacemaking efforts.”

“Now is the time for PC(USA) to hear and act on the strong majority of voices within the church seeking change through interreligious engagement, investment and a more balanced understanding of the hopes and aspirations of two peoples,” Rabbi Greenebaum said. “The cause of a negotiated, secure and just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians, a goal AJC shares with PC(USA), is strengthened by PC(USA) actions toward a more nuanced approach.”

The Presbyterians also voted down new resolutions that called for divestment from various companies operating in Israel and a temporary suspension of American military aid to Israel, and approved a new, comprehensive two-year study of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “within the complex context of the Middle East.”

While AJC welcomes the call for balance and study, concerns remain. Specifically, the GA also passed a resolution endorsing a World Council of Churches (WCC) statement known as “The Amman Call.” The statement, while purporting to advance peace, espouses positions incompatible with a negotiated settlement creating a Jewish state alongside an independent Palestinian state by calling for an unqualified “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.
AJC hopes PC(USA) will act quickly to reconcile the embrace of the Amman Call with the pledge of balance and nonpartisanship.

AJC is also concerned over PC(USA)’s vote to continue its policy of “corporate engagement” with American companies whose products or services are used to “support or facilitate violent acts by Israelis or Palestinians against innocent civilians” because in practice such “engagement” focuses solely on companies doing business with Israel. AJC would hope that the new policies of balance and nonpartisanship will motivate the church to recognize the need to exert pressure on companies operating in Iran and Syria, state sponsors of terrorism.

AJC is optimistic that after their two year study of the Middle East conflict, the PC(USA) will look at the issue with a fresh perspective. AJC remains hopeful that PC(USA) will conduct the comprehensive study in good faith and in consultation with Israeli and American Jews, in addition to the church’s Christian and Muslim partners here and in the region.

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