Presbyterian Church USA Middle East Study Committee recommends Kairos Document adoption for study by General Assembly 2010 by Peter Menkin
Presbyterian Church USA Middle East Study Committee recommends Kairos Document adoption for study by General Assembly 2010
by Peter Menkin
The Kairos Document is a work that is a kind of Christian peaceful means of declaring war based on various “peaceful methods” of protest and action regarding an unfair and unjust nation’s activities in its own national self-hood, in its own national actions and policies against its citizens, and in its own national actions against another people. The Kairos Document is a work created by Palestinian Christians and aimed at Israel, as a State, a government, and this writer thinks also in its reflection on its Jewish citizens and Jews in general regardless of nationality.
That latter statement about it is a reflection of Jews as people, rather than the government of Israel and Israeli actions towards Palestine is probably the widest area of judgment against what is in many respectable quarters considered a radical document that should not be adopted as recommended by the Presbyterian/Israel policy committee on the Middle East by the Presbyterian Church USA at their General Assembly meeting July, 2010. All of the parts of the Kairos Document have been strongly criticized, and held as anti-Semitic by major mainline Jewish organizations in the United States, including the respected human rights organization, The Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles.
This article is the third in a series of three on the Middle East Policy Committee of the Presbyterian Church USA paper that is more than 150 pages long and can be found here. It is the final of the three reports in this series, and for readers not familiar with the Kairos Document, a PDF of the Document is found here. This is an important Document, supported by many Presbyterians, obviously since it appears in their recommendations for policy towards Israel, and is popularly support by numerous “peace” groups in the United States, and even in Europe and the Middle East.
In an effort to be more transparent in this last of the series, this writer offers an opinion regarding the Israeli need for peace, and peace for all the Middle East. With the proviso that this is a commentary and report, not an editorial or opinion piece reflecting the writer’s views, nonetheless, it is appropriate to say that the key element for work towards peace in the Middle East is continuing dialogue, lack of hostilities, which means truces and aspects of various kinds of truces. This takes a mature diplomatic series of helpful actions on the part of nations. The effort of the Presbyterian Church USA in its policy recommendations is an effort to work towards peace, as is the intent of the Presbyterian Church USA. No doubt of their sincerity, in this writer’s estimation, and is the clear work of the Presbyterian as they form Christian responses to Israel and Middle East issues.
Readers who are familiar with the Presbyterian Church USA policy report and have followed it as it has developed know it is a controversial document made all the more controversial by its inclusion this year with the Kairos Document as part of its recommendation for adoption. One recognizes Jewish Community fear and repulsion of what it believes is anti-Semitism and a planned policy that will get rid of the State of Israel. The list of organizations believing this act of affairs is long, and this writer prefers to stay with one example, The Wiesenthal Center. After all, this is a commentary and report for the web and as such requires out of fairness a statement and statements that reflect this major concern and shocked series of observations resulting in opinions held by Israelis and significantly for this writer, noted Jewish organizations in the United States. They are joined by many other voices who find the report unbalanced and unfair to Israel and the Jewish Community. That said, and with the hope that there is much of worth in the report that Christians and Presbyterians need to read and even adopt, in all fairness to the Presbyterian Church USA, this commentary and report will go on with the effort to tell about the Committee recommendations in this space of words. Please note this article also is a compilation of other comments and reports on the Kairos Document in an effort to outline and illuminate the issues.
The “Christian Century”, a more liberal American magazine has looked at the report and two writers who are themselves respected academics comment on the paper coming before the General Assembly. The writers are: Ted A. Smith and Amy-Jill Levine. The title of their article is: “Habits of anti-Judaism: Critiquing a PCUSA report on Israel/Palestine.”
The assembly charged the committee with preparing “a comprehensive study, with recommendations, that is focused on Israel/Palestine within the complex context of the Middle East.”
The study committee made several moves that demonstrate its desire to avoid some of the most common forms of false witness against Jews. For example, it notes that most Presbyterians reject supersessionist narratives in which “Christians have supplanted Jews” to become “the only legitimate heirs of God’s covenant with Abraham.” Signaling this rejection of supersessionism, the report speaks of “Older Testament” and “Newer Testament” in its biblical references. Such language is neither necessary nor sufficient for avoiding supersessionism, but it at least suggests a desire to proclaim a gospel that does not begin with God’s rejection of Jews.
Though critical of the Middle East Study Committee report, the academics who say much in their Christian Century article given the Presbyterian Church USA good marks for a good attitude.
What the Presbyterian Committee itself asks is that Presbyterian Church USA members, and Christians in general, take time to look at this report. The Reverend Doctor Ron Shive, in a Press Statement, says, “It is a challenge to present a report of this length,” “The temptation to lift out a sound bite to support or defend one’s position will be incredibly strong. But we prayerfully ask that everyone read the full report for themselves and make use of the additional resources at www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace.”
“The situation in the Middle East is too critical to do anything less,” he says.
Here in the same Press Statement is a good representation of the Middle East Study Committee interests and perspective:
Within the report is a review of General Assembly policy statements on the Middle East, which date back to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. The committee found that these statements have consistently called for a two-state solution with rights, dignity, and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
However, the committee’s report lifts up the growing urgency to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “The real concern that we all embrace is that the window of opportunity for an end to the occupation and the viability of a two-state solution is rapidly closing. This is due in large part to the rapid growth of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the increasing number of bypass roads, the injustice of the separation barrier, and tragic numbers of house demolitions.”
The report continues, “A just and lasting peace and security for Israel is possible when the occupation has ended and the Palestinian acts of violent resistance are no longer employed. A just and lasting peace and security for the Palestinians is possible when the occupation has ended and Israel does not need to resort to military force to maintain its illegal land possession. If there were no occupation, there would be no Palestinian resistance. If there was no Palestinian resistance, Israelis could live in peace and security.”
“Inexcusable acts of violence have been committed by both the powerful occupying forces of the Israeli military and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, as well as the Palestinians, of whom a relatively small minority has resorted to violence as a means of resisting the occupation.”
The committee concludes, “Violence is not an acceptable means to peace, regardless of its rationale.”
It is clear that the report is a “peace” document, for it says, “Violence is not an acceptable means to peace, regardless of its rationale.”
A reader can see in the Press Statement the explanatory position regarding the report and its intention, seen by its Chairman Ron Shive. The Reverend Doctor Ron Shive makes a good spokesman for the statements released by the Presbyterian Church USA. Their Statement regarding the report continues at length:
The committee’s 39 recommendations to the 219th General Assembly are as detailed and extensive as the report itself.
In their introductory comments to the recommendations, committee members write that they seek to strengthen the PC(USA)’s “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.”
The comments continue, “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