A Breath of Fresh Balance
The group issuing the statement—in the form of a letter—was composed of elders, parish pastors, a former presbytery moderator, and the general presbyter. They actually WENT to Israel and Palestine to talk with persons on all sides of the issues. They traveled with and continued in dialogue with Jewish leaders and friends.
They did their homework, and the result was a far more sensible document, with such fresh and balanced observations as:
· “The main thing that we all learned is how complex the situation in the Middle East is. Slogans such as ‘end the occupation now’ are naïve and hollow.”
· “… it seems that only the Palestinian plight was considered [at General Assembly]. In fact, the divestment resolution said that the occupation ‘has proven to be at the roots of evil acts…’. We believe that the conflict involves many factors that could be attributed to both Israelis and Palestinians.”
· “Misleading information has been disseminated by our church.” And they provided concrete examples.
· “Instead of punishing one of the parties in the conflict, perhaps our church should be looking for positive ways to help both sides. Investment instead of divestment could be one positive method.”
· “Our church appears prejudiced against Jews when it chooses to listen to and address only one side of the situation. What we did not do in this case, in our opinion, was to extend hospitality and fairness to include all of the voices involved in the Middle East in our debates.”
The group offers modest proposals that ought to be self-apparent but actually would bring needed change, such as:
· “When testimony is given in GA committees, resource personnel should strive to include representatives from various groups affected by the motions being considered.” Yes! It’s well overdue.
· There should be a “statement recognizing that the purpose of the security barrier is to save lives without violence, that it is working, and that Israel has the right and obligation to defend its citizens….” It’s only fair to say so.
· And “the General Assembly Council should advise the MRTI Committee that the concerns presented by Caterpillar no longer exist, and therefore it should redirect its energy to a more positive investment initiative.” Israel has abandoned Palestinian home destruction as a tactic. Just the other day, bulldozers (I wonder what brand?) were razing former Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, so Jewish settlers couldn’t reoccupy them, and months ago a bulldozer (could it be Caterpillar?) cleared a spot in Yasser Arafat’s courtyard for the MEDEVAC helicopter that sped him to treatment.
This is the kind of level-headed, realistic thinking we Presbyterians are so very capable of producing. I commend the leaders in Houston for the obvious effort and thought they put into their letter.
Now, is anyone listening?