Israel Under Attack: The Presbyterian Church USA

Israel is, once again, under attack.  This time I refer not to the rockets which have been fired at Israel from Gaza and from the Sinai Peninsula.  These new attacks are coming from our neighbors here, the national organizations of the Methodists and the Presbyterians (PCUSA), the liberal Protestant denominations in this country.  Each organization is considering resolutions comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of South African Blacks during Apartheid. Each has called upon its constituents to boycott Israel until Israel admits to adhering to racist policies. Only after such admissions, according to these resolutions, can Israel and the Palestinians work toward peace.

Our representatives in the negotiations with these national organizations, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), are involved in ongoing discussions with these denominational bodies, trying to explain the damaging and hurtful effects of these anti-Israel resolutions and attempting to convince them to rescind their amendments before the vote.  The success of the JCPA is, in no way, assured.  Already the National Middle East Presbyterian Caucus endorsed a divestment resolution and told Presbyterians that, “to recognize that Israel’s laws, policies and practices constitute apartheid against the Palestinian people is a prerequisite to peace and justice.”  The Social Witness Policy Committee of PCUSA has also endorsed a resolution calling for divestment from Israel and has attacked “Israel lobby groups such as JCPA.”

These sorts of resolutions are both untrue and counter-productive.  To single out Israel as a target of divestment paints Israel as the pariah, to be shunned by all good, peace-loving nations is to turn truth on its head.  Indeed, such pronouncements paint Israel as if it is solely responsible for the Middle East conflict.  Such measures do nothing to foster justice or peace.  Indeed, they serve to exacerbate hostilities while further polarizing those who genuinely want and search for peace.

There are, to be sure, many within these church hierarchies who are supportive of Israel and are interested in a fair and balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  But those voices are few and far between.  Last week, prior to the votes on the resolutions of the Middle East Caucus and the Social Witness Policy Committee, 14,000 Jews and Israel supporters signed a letter showing the unity of our community in condemning these resolutions.  These resolutions will now come before the national conventions of PCUSA and the Methodists.  Although we are still somewhat optimistic regarding our ability to encourage the Presbyterians to reject the resolution, we have much less confidence regarding the Methodists.  Only with a unified voice and effort will the strength and vehemence of our protest be heard.

In order to make a difference, therefore, we are asking all of our members and friends to sign a letter. Please follow this link to show your support.

It is, of course, not at all clear that we shall succeed.  Yet, for the sake of those who favor the passage of this resolution, we must make it absolutely clear that on issues such as this, when Israel is unfairly and unilaterally attacked and condemned, the Jewish people and all who love Israel, stand with her.  In addition, our unity resonates among our brothers and sisters in Israel, in the deepest and most profound ways.  Our signatures attest to the fact that an attack on Israel is an attack on us all.

I thank you for your ongoing support and love for Israel.



  1. Benjamin Surato says

    — by Benjamin Surato, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

    In just one week, over 12,000 Jews throughout the country have signed a “Letter in Hope” to delegates to the biennial Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, encouraging them to embrace reconciliation and reject an anti-Israel divestment resolution. The letter calls divestment a “counterproductive proposal” that would delay action towards peace.  The letter and its thousands of signers ask the Presbyterians to “deepen our understandings of the multiple narratives in the region” and focus on positive steps including economic development, Palestinian state building, and a return to negotiations.

    “The rapid outpouring of support for this letter reflects the deep and widespread opposition to divestment in the Jewish community and well beyond,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow.  “The letter points out that divestment promotes a lopsided assessment of the causes of and solutions to the conflict, disregarding the complex history and geopolitics.  Furthermore, it shamefully paints Israel as a pariah nation, solely responsible for frustrating peace. It is a blunt tool that is more likely to encourage those with more extreme aims than to foster reconciliation.”

    The letter is sponsored by the JCPA and the Israel Action Network, an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the JCPA.

    “The letter’s message of hope resonates within the Jewish community” continued Gutow, “mobilizing community relations councils in towns and cities across the country and spreading online through social media. It is clear – Jews are united in the quest for peace and our opposition to divestment.”

    “This letter represents the Jewish community’s values of friendship and hope,” said JCPA Chair Larry Gold. “Peace is our mutual goal. Divestment is the wrong means for achieving it. We are reaching out to our friends in the PCUSA and asking that they not let this misguided policy compromise our relationship. Peace requires cooperative efforts to foster coexistence, not distrust.”

    The “Letter in Hope” builds on a letter signed by 1,300 Rabbis, covering the entire political and religious spectrum, sent to the PCUSA earlier this summer.  A similar letter was sent to the delegates to the United Methodist Church before their General Conference last month at which a similar divestment resolution was defeated by a 2-1 margin.

    “We hope that with this even broader request for productive peacemaking without divestment will yield similar results in the Presbyterian Church (USA),” said Gold.

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