Presbyterian Church USA Middle East Study Committee recommends Kairos Document adoption for study by General Assembly 2010 by Peter Menkin

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.”

The committee writes, “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.”

And finally, “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.”

Interest in the PC(USA)’s approach to an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been intensified since the General Assembly’s action in 2004 to begin the processing of divesting from companies whose activities support continued human rights violations.

The Presbyterian Church USA was stung by statements in the Jewish Community (USA) that they are anti-Semitic. In another lengthy statement, made in February, 2010, the Presbyterian Church replied to the assertion of anti-Semitism on the part of The Wiesenthal Center, a respected human rights organization. This is their lengthy reply to that complaint, painfully made by The Wiesenthal Center.

February 23, 2010

A statement from the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regarding the work of the General Assembly Middle East Study Team.

A human rights organization within the Jewish community has issued a statement about the report to the 219th General Assembly (2010) from the General Assembly committee to prepare a comprehensive study focused on Israel/Palestine. The statement says, “…we are deeply troubled that current moves underway in the Church radically depart from its 2008 commitment that its review of Middle East policies would be balanced and fair.”

The Middle East Study Team’s report, which …contains a letter to the American Jewish community. The study team begins the letter by saying:

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.

The team, which engaged in intensive study, meetings, and travel to the Middle East since their appointment following the 218th General Assembly (2008), continues:

And, at the same time, we are distressed by the continued policies that surround 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 excesses of 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.

Several previous General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have adopted statements about Israel/Palestine. Two excerpts:

In 2004: The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved numerous resolutions on Israel and Palestine, repeatedly affirming, clearly and unequivocally, Israel’s right to exist within permanent, recognized, and “secure” borders (for example: 1969, 1974, 1977, 1983, 1989, etc.). It has deplored the cycle of escalating violence—carried out by both Palestinians and Israelis—which is rooted in Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories (cf. statements of successive assemblies since 1967). Presbyterians have continued to be concerned about the loss of so many innocent lives of Israelis and Palestinians (see “Resolution on the Middle East,” approved in 1997, and “Resolution on Israel and Palestine: End the Occupation Now,” approved in 2003).” GA Minutes, 2004, p. 66.

In 2006: We call upon the church…”To work through peaceful means with American and Israeli Jewish, American and Palestinian Muslim, and Palestinian Christian communities and their affiliated organizations towards the creation of a socially, economically, geographically, and politically viable and secure Palestinian state, alongside an equally viable and secure Israeli state, both of which have a right to exist.” GA Minutes, 2006, p. 945.

I join the Middle East Study Team that will be reporting to this summer’s General Assembly in asking all people to continue to pray, and work, for the peace of Jerusalem.

The reader can readily see, the PC (USA) committee report was controversial and criticized even before officially released in March. In February, 2010 The Wiesenthal Center offered this letter by one of its people:

I am deeply disturbed by the dangerous campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State and her supporters launched by a committee that is dominated by activists openly hostile to Israel. They are poised to place the policy of PCUSA on a collision course with Israel’s survival.

The adoption of the findings proposed by the committee charged to reexamine PCUSA’s Middle East policy will be nothing short of a declaration of war on the Jewish State. It will encourage extremists in the Middle East, demonize supporters of Israel in America, and destroy the era of good will that has been fostered with the Jewish community over decades.

I urge PCUSA to live up to its 2008 General Assembly commitment to listen to many voices on the Middle East and adopt policies fair to both Israelis and Palestinians.

Rabbi Yitzoch Adlerstein in email correspondence with this writer noted areas of the Kairos Document that he says are repugnant and destructive to the peace process. The Rabbi is on the staff of The Wiesenthal Center and specializes in interfaith relations. Wikipedia says this of Rabbi Adlerstein: Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein (b. 1950 in New York) is an Orthodox rabbi who has played an important role as spokesman, teacher, and writer on behalf of Orthodox Judaism as well as for the Baal teshuva movement in the United States. He is a leading exponent of the moderation of Haredi Judaism in relation to the outside world.

“He writes prolifically for a wide spectrum of Orthodox Jews and his essays have been published in Jewish Action (the official magazine of the Orthodox Union); The Jewish Observer (the official magazine of Agudath Israel of America); the Torah u-Madda Journal (of Yeshiva University); Tradition journal (of the Rabbinical Council of America); the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, The Jewish Press (an English-language weekly with the largest circulation); in the publications of the National Council of Young Israel and in many other print and online forums. He is the co-founder and a featured writer on Cross-Currents[1], an online journal of Orthodox Jewish thought published in blog format.

He has eight children, Wikipedia also says, “Adlerstein is the director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He holds the Sydney M. Irmas Adjunct Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at Loyola Law School and teaches senior high school girls at Yeshiva of Los Angeles.

“He writes regularly for the Cross-Currents[1] online journal, and writes the “Bytes & PCs” column in the quarterly Jewish Action magazine. He is frequently quoted by the Los Angeles Times and many other print and online publications as a voice of Haredi Judaism [14].

“In 2000, his elucidation of “Be’er Hagolah” (ISBN 1-57819-463-6) the classic defense of Rabbinic Judaism by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel (1525–1609) (known as the Maharal) was published by Mesorah Publications, a subsidiary of ArtScroll the leading publishers of English language Orthodox Judaica.

“He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Reena, known for her exceptional culinary skills and hospitality.”

The comments by Rabbi Adlerstein on excerpts from the Kairos Document as sent to this writer. First the introduction to the Kairos Document: