Mixed views of Presbyterian assembly

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Jan Edmiston (left) and Denise Anderson were the moderators for the 222nd Presbyterian General Assembly. Photo by The Layman
Jan Edmiston (left) and Denise Anderson were the moderators for the 222nd Presbyterian General Assembly.
Photo by The Layman

Jewish organizations are praising the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America for moderating its highly critical stance on Israel.

The 222nd Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly, held in Portland, Ore., from June 18 to 25, adopted a resolution in “opposition to any efforts to deny or undermine the rights of the Palestinian people or the Jewish people to self-determination.”


But overall, the American Jewish Committee and other Jewish groups that were present at the assembly opposed the resolution “Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace,” calling it anti-Israel. The resolution passed 429 to 129.

The resolution affirmed that the church “stands with the people of Israel, affirming their right to exist as a sovereign nation” as it does with the Palestinian people.

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“Just two years ago a group chartered by the Presbyterian Church issued an anti-Zionist screed called ‘Zionism Unsettled,’” said Ethan Felson, executive director of Israel Action Network. “This general assembly said they oppose any anti-Zionism. That’s a significant shift in two years.”

Charles Wiley, a church spokesperson, said the assembly left the church’s policy on the two-state solution remained largely unchanged, and that the church has “a longstanding commitment to affirm the two-state solution as a part of that self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians.


“There was research and reflection on what the current possibilities were for two states, but there was no change in our general policy,” Wiley said. That policy “is an affirmation for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peaceful self-determination and for oppressive practices on all sides to stop.”

Jewish groups condemned a four-minute video, “Wala,” shown at the assembly. The Israel Action Network and the Anti-Defamation League said the video, by Palestinian American poet Susan Abulhawa, was “egregious” for its comparison of Israel’s Palestinian checkpoints with the Nazi cattle cars that carried Jews to concentration camps during World War II.

“We would hope that church leaders might have recognized what a profound offense this was, not just to Jews but to everyone,” the Israel Action Network said in a statement. “Gratefully, a majority of the commissioners did realize how offensive it was and voted down a boycott resolution to which the video was directed.”

Wiley said the video was shown in support of a resolution to boycott Hewlett-Packard products. The action failed in plenary by a vote of 483 to 72.

“Advocates are free to advocate for their issue, however they choose, within their time limits,” he said.

Other resolutions included a call for a “prayerful study” of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, which was amended to include a study of the opposition to BDS.

And another resolution urged the realty company RE/MAX to stop its sales of property within Jewish settlements. Supporters of the resolution reportedly said they received a letter from RE/MAX CEO Dave Liniger before the general assembly, stating that the company “will no longer receive any income from the sale of Jewish settlement properties in the West Bank,” according to JTA.

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