Friday, June 6, 2014

Middle East Committee - Advocacy as Discipleship

This post is a continuation of Advocacy as Discipleship Pre-GA Issue. This edition of this publication seeks to provide an preview of the social justice business before the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Middle East Issues – Committee 4

Israel/Palestine Divestment
The Middle East Issues Committee will consider five business items (04-08; 04-02; 04-07; 04-04; 04-06) addressing the topic of Israel/Palestine divestment. The Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) will present its Report recommending that the PC(USA) place Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions, and Caterpillar, on the General Assembly divestment list “until such a time as they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine, as defined by previous General Assembly action.” MRTI’s report comes after a long process of corporate engagement with the three companies.

Overture 04-07, sponsored by the Synod of the Covenant, calls for the General Assembly to adopt the recommendations proposed by MRTI and to commend MRTI for its diligent work. Overture 04-02, sponsored by San Francisco Presbytery, likewise calls for the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church to disinvest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. The overture provides an extensive overview of the process of corporate engagement with the companies.

Overture 04-04, sponsored by New Covenant Presbytery, calls on the Assembly to “reject any proposed divestment and economic sanctions against the state of Israel or any application of the PC(USA)’s corporate engagement policies toward such ends.” Critiquing the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) as targeting Israel unfairly, overture 04-04 argues that the PC(USA) must not overlook the human rights record of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Sponsored by Mackinac Presbytery, overture 04-06 calls for the PC(USA) only to support investments in the West Bank that protect the rights and welfare of Palestinian people. This overture would forbid any investment that contributes to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, especially as it relates to the development of Israeli “settlements and barriers built on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

Boycott of Israeli Settlement Products
Two overtures coming to this Assembly address boycotts. Overture 04-04, sponsored by New Covenant Presbytery, rejects the boycott of products or companies engaged in business in settlements or the Occupied Palestinian Territories (as approved by the 220th GA in 2012), arguing that positive investment in joint Palestinian-Israeli economic ventures will ultimately buttress the Palestinian economy.

Overture 04-05, sponsored by New Brunswick Presbytery, calls for a boycott of all products made and sold by Hewlett-Packard “until the company ceases to profit from all non-peaceful pursuits in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the violation of Palestinian human rights.” The overture is specifically directed toward HP because of its involvement with several projects that profit from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. 

On the Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestine
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presently supports a two state solution to end the conflict in Israel/Palestine. Overture 04-01, sponsored by San Francisco Presbytery, asks that the Assembly, under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), “provide a comprehensive history of” the General Assembly adoption of “policies favoring a two-state solution in Israel Palestine.” Additionally, 04-01 calls ACSWP to prepare a report, to be presented to the 222nd General Assembly (2016), to provide up-to-date information regarding the situation in Israel/Palestine, with a recommendation as to whether or not the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should continue its support for a two-state solution or remain neutral, allowing Israelis and Palestinians to decide for themselves what solution is best.

Overture 04-04, sponsored by New Covenant Presbytery, calls upon the GA to reaffirm PC(USA) support for a two-state solution “in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people.” This overture argues that the two-state solution as the “best path to sustainable peace.” As such, overture 04-04 is opposed to divestment and economic sanctions directed toward Israel.

On Human Rights and International Law in Israel/Palestine
Overture 04-03, sponsored by Grace Presbytery, calls upon the church to live into its God appointed role of being an agent for reconciliation, hope, and repentance as it works for peace and cooperation among all nations. Understanding Christ to have worked against racism, it calls on the GA to “respect the human rights of the Israeli people.” Simultaneously, 04-03 “[deplores] the violation of the human rights of Palestinians by the government of Israel.” Explaining the various ways in which the government of Israel unjustly treats Palestinians, 04-03 recommends that GA “acknowledge that the actions of the Israeli government…meet and surpass the United Nations definition of apartheid.”

In item 04-09, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy calls on the GA to support equal rights and full economic participation for all inhabitants of Israel and the occupied territories including Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Additionally, the Report calls for the PC(USA) to support an open and faithful discussion of the need for

equal rights and legal standing within congregational and forums. Such conversations, the report advocates, should include a diverse view of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish viewpoints through partnership with synagogues, temples, and mosques.

To read the complete items of business before the Middle East Committee, visit the General Assembly's business website at