July 9, 2010
Presbyterians Adopt Middle-East Report
Original report, accused of bias and imbalance, was heavily revised before vote.
Just before breaking for lunch today, the 219th Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly approved a radically revised version of the report from its Middle East Study Committee (known in procedural code as 14-08). The vote was 558 affirmative, 119 negative, 7 abstaining. The revised report can be found here.
Jewish leaders had complained about the initial report’s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias. See, for example, this March 15 release from the Jewish Council on Public Affairs.
The original report also met resistance from key leaders within the PC(USA). In mid-June, eight former moderators of the General Assembly circulated a critical letter. Then, yesterday, following sustained negotiations, the eight moderators issued a public statement calling for support of the heavily revised document. As a result, General Assembly debate referred repeatedly to the work of the Holy Spirit in bridging differences.
After major surgery, the report no longer gives a general endorsement to the Palestinian Christian Kairos document, which had accused Israel of practicing apartheid. It also no longer calls for Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza but now asks Israel and Egypt to “limit their blockade to military equipment and devices and to guarantee adequate levels of food, medicine, building supplies and other humanitarian supplies…” The controversial theological and historical sections of the document are now to be received as a rationale for the recommendations, but not to be adopted as policy. In addition, an unmistakably clear recognition of “Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders in accordance with United Nations resolutions” has been added.
Unofficial communication reports that the American Jewish leadership is welcoming the changes in the document and considers today’s action as the foundation for future dialogue.
UPDATE: The Jewish Council on Public Affairs and 12 other Jewish organizations have now released a joint response to the PC(USA) vote.