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

towards us, not to twist the truth of reality of the occupation by pretending that it is a battle against terrorism . [YA: Funny, I could have sworn that it was about terrorism. Ask (and polls have!) how large a majority of Israelis agree that they should trade land for peace, and agree to a Palestinian state. Then find out how many – how few –Palestinians are willing to acknowledge the right of a Jewish state to exist.] The roots of “terrorism” are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation. These must be removed if there be a sincere intention to remove “terrorism”. However, it is also a call to repentance; to revisit fundamentalist theological positions that support certain unjust political options with regard to the Palestinian people.

6.3 We condemn all forms of racism, whether religious or ethnic, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

9.3 Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion , [YA: Hmm. Always wondered about countries like the UK (Anglican) Norway (Church of Norway) and about 20 other democracies. Of course, none of the dozens of Muslim states are democratic. Maybe that is their point.] preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all its citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority.

The Jewish protest that expresses its distaste of the Kairos Document and the Presbyterian Church USA acceptance of same continues, as this Press Statement from B’nai B’rith demonstrates:

B’nai B’rith International is urging delegates to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to oppose the adoption of reports and resolutions that demonize Israel and target it with such measures as a proposed suspension of American military aid. The mainline Protestant denomination’s biannual convention gets underway July 3 in Minneapolis.

Among the materials slated for consideration by the assembly is a Middle

East Study Committee report whose content dramatically emphasizes

perceived Israeli wrongdoing and Palestinian suffering, while belittling

Arab obligations, historical Jewish roots in the land, and the Jewish

state’s efforts for peace in the face of terrorism. The report also fails to recognize that Israel is the Middle East’s only free, pluralistic society and the only country in the region whose Christian population has grown in actual numbers.

The 172-page report positively cites “Kairos,” itself a highly inflammatory Palestinian Christian document, and endorses the recommendation of the church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee to enounce one company for its lawful sale of products to the Israel Defense Forces. Individual presbytery overtures go even further, calling for outright divestment from the company and explicitly endorsing “Kairos,” which refers to terrorism as “resistance,” embraces outdated supersessionist ideas, calls for boycotts against the Jewish state, and labels Israeli policies a “sin against God.”

Writers for “The Washington Post’s” “On Faith” find the Middle East Study Committee Report distasteful at best. Katharine Henderson and Gustav Niebuhr in their guest article of June 22, 2010 titled, “Peacemaking is more than pointing fingers,” say:

(Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson is President of Auburn Seminary. Gustav Niebuhr is an associate professor of religion and the media at Syracuse University, author of “Beyond Tolerance: How People Across America Are Building Bridges Between Faiths,” and a member of the Auburn Board of Directors. Both are On Faith panelists.)

How best to encourage peace in the Middle East? The week of July 4, Presbyterians will tackle this most daunting of questions when they convene their denomination’s General Assembly–its top policymaking body–in Minneapolis. Awaiting the 600 commissioners–as representatives of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are called–will be a scaldingly critical 150-page report. It rebukes Israel for its treatment of Palestinian neighbors and calls for the denomination and the American government to squeeze the Jewish state financially.

We do not like it, and have signed a letter circulating among Presbyterians nationwide, calling on the General Assembly to reject the Middle East Study Committee’s report. Why? Because we find that report to be unbalanced, historically inaccurate, theologically flawed and politically damaging.

The previous Presbyterian Church General Assembly Moderator in February, 2010 introduces the Middle East Study Committee members. Bruce Reyes-Chow said in that statement:

Members of the Committee to Prepare a Comprehensive Study Focused on Israel Palestine:

Reverend Dr. Susan R. Andrews, Hudson River Presbytery, Synod of the Northeast

Elder Dr. Frederic W. Bush, Los Ranchos Presbytery, Synod of Southern California and Hawaii

Elder Dr. Nahida H. Gordon, Muskingum Valley Presbytery, Synod of the Covenant

Reverend Dr. John Huffman, Los Ranchos Presbytery, Synod of Southern California and Hawaii

Elder Lucy Janjigian, Palisades Presbytery, Synod of the Northeast

Reverend Rebecca Reyes, New Hope Presbytery, Synod of Mid-Atlantic

Reverend Marthame Sanders, Greater Atlanta Presbytery, Synod of South Atlantic

Reverend Dr. Ronald L. Shive, Chair, Salem Presbytery, Synod of Mid-Atlantic

Reverend Dr. John W. Wimberly, Jr., National Capital Presbytery, Mid-Atlantic

We have asked Ron Shive to chair this committee.

Committee Chairman Ron Shive said in an article appearing in “Jewish Week” by Stuart Ain that his “…committee was careful not to endorse any other parts of the Kairos Palestine document. The Reverend Doctor Ron Shive said Kairos was endorsed in part in an effort to “stand with our Christian partners in the Middle East” who wrote it. The one member of the committee who voted against the recommendations, Rev. Byron Shafer, a retired Bible teacher at Fordham University, said he did so because it is tipped in favor of the Palestinians.

“If it were adopted by our GA in July, it would be identifying the church with one side in the conflict — namely the Palestinian-Christian side,” he said. “Missing from this report is a narrative balance. I don’t find an acknowledgement of the ways in which some Palestinian and Arab nations have contributed to the conflict. The focus is on Israel as the more powerful party and the one that is guilty.”

Chairman Shive disagreed with that conclusion, insisting that the report adopted a “balanced approach.” So reports, “Jewish Weekly.”

“We attempted to listen to a number of different groups of people — and be assured we listened to Jewish, Muslim and Palestinian voices. There was earlier criticism that we did not speak enough with American Jewish voices, but our real concern was to talk with Israelis who were in the middle of the conflict.

“We talked to Jewish voices in Israel and most were American born. It made sense to speak with Jews in the thick of things. Our limited time and resources prohibited us from more than a limited engagement. And we did not hear the extensive views of American Muslims either.”

In the blog, “The Reformed Pastor,” the author makes numerous comments on the Presbyterian Church USA committee report and chooses sections from the Kairos Report he finds relevant. This writer thought his comments, and especially his choice of selections worth noting here in this commentary and report.

“The “Special Committee to Prepare a Comprehensive Study Focused on Israel/Palestine” is getting ready to belch forth its report, and the Presbyterian News Service has advance details:

“With several sections of its massive final report still to be completed and edited, the committee approved with just one dissenting vote a package of 30+ recommendations calling for an immediate end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; endorsement of the emphases on hope, love, non-violence, and reconciliation found in an ecumenical statement by Palestinian Christians called the Kairos Palestine Document; and urging the U.S. government to take swift action toward a just peace that guarantees secure states for both Israel and Palestine — the commonly called ‘two state solution.’

“This committee brings such a diversity of opinion and a wealth of experience from the region of our concern,” said Committee Chair the Rev. Ron Shive (Salem Presbytery) in a press release issued by the committee. ‘Given the variety of personal experience we bring to these conversations, the fact that we were able to reach such strong consensus on our report and recommendations demonstrates the unity of the Spirit and our witness for justice and peace for all peoples.’

“The report affirms historic PC(USA) positions — an immediate cessation of violence by both sides, an immediate freeze on the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied territory, the relocation of Israel’s “separation barrier” to the internationally recognized 1967 border, a shared status for Jerusalem, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and