The Presbyterian Church USA passed several resolutions critical of Israel during the denomination’s 223rd General Assembly held in St. Louis, Mo.
The church assembly consists of commissioners elected by the individual presbyteries or churches.
The denomination continues to hemorrhage members, having lost 1/3 of all members in the last ten years as it took a lurch to the left, leaving the mainstream of Christian thought on social and political issues. The denomination dropped from 2,219,000 members in 2007 to just over 1.4 million in 2017. At the current rate, it is possible the denomination could evaporate within 30 years.
While it would have been expected that the assembly discuss issues that are causing members to leave, it somehow left its most harsh criticism for Israel.
In all, the assembly passed 13 resolutions dealing with the Middle East, including one that referred to Israel as an apartheid state, Haaretz.com reported.
The church also voted against resolutions that it said were not sufficiently critical of Israel because they also mentioned Palestinian transgressions
The church also voted against resolutions that it said were not sufficiently critical of Israel because they also mentioned Palestinian transgressions, particularly the terrorist group Hamas, according to the newspaper.
A resolution on the recent violence between Gaza Palestinians and Israeli troops on the border with the coastal strip was stripped of references to the terrorist organization Hamas, which has fomented violence on the border. The amended resolution completely removing Hamas, about which some members of the Middle East Committee expressed misgivings, passed by a vote of 438-34, according to the Presbyterian Outlet news service.
In addition, the assembly also passed two resolutions drawn up by its Middle East Committee that were not Israel-related, one dealing with the crisis in Syria and one on disengagement from Iran.
The assembly approved by a vote of 442-18 a measure urging Presbyterians to “reach out in open, truthful dialogue with Jewish colleagues,” to discuss the issue of the Israeli “occupation” of Palestine.
Ethan Felson, executive director of the Israel Action Network, noted that the reconciliation, foreign aid, and Syria resolutions were positive developments for a body that in recent years has been sharply at odds with the pro-Israel community.
“We are heartened that the GA commissioners called for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation over the objections of PCUSA leaders,” he said in a statement.
However, leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, were disappointed with a resolution opposing anti-boycott laws on free speech grounds, as well as one that calls on the Re/Max real estate company to stop facilitating the sale of property in Israeli settlements, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
A coalition of pro-Israel activists and Presbyterians for Middle East Peace stood up against the institutional bias and threats.
But not everyone in the room was on board with the vitriol against Israel. A Palestinian-Muslim human rights pioneer, activist Bassem Eid, and a coalition of pro-Israel activists and Presbyterians for Middle East Peace stood up against the institutional bias and threats within the 223rd General Assembly.
A grassroots group of Presbyterian lay and clergy volunteers, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace – a group committed to a two state solution that opposes the BDS movement pushed back against anti-Israel extremists within the General Assembly.
Other Israel supporters at the GA stood up against the bias, including the guest of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid, a Jerusalem-based political analyst and expert on Arab and Palestinian affairs.
Eid gave testimony on June 18 opposing an anti-Israel resolution and following his presentation, a Palestinian Arab living in St. Louis who was at the GA with the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and the Israel-Palestine Mission Network – a pro-BDS group – threatened him in Arabic and accused him of being a “Zionist collaborator.” But instead of reprimanding the individual who threatened Eid, PCUSA leadership took no meaningful action.
Dr. Michael Gizzi, an elder in the Presbyterian Church and member of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, spoke out against the death threat and victim blaming by the Church, which he called “not only inadequate, but disgusting.”
The Presbyterian assembly also voted down a resolution that would have terminated the church’s classification of Israel as a “colonial project.”
The American Jewish Committee condemned the Presbyterian assembly for the resolutions.
“The Church remains obsessively critical of Israel in its national utterances,” AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, Rabbi Noam Marans, said in a statement. “For many years and in myriad ways, the PCUSA has gone beyond legitimate criticism of Israel and embraced demonization of the Jewish state.”
–Metro Voice and wire services