Committee proposes two resolutions on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Deputies to consider legislation July 9

By Matthew Davies
Posted Jul 8, 2012

[Episcopal News Service — Indianapolis] After hearing public testimony on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and considering all the related legislation, the National and International Concerns Committee has proposed two resolutions for consideration by the houses of General Convention.

A substitute of Resolution B019 affirms positive investment “as a necessary means to create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure” in the Palestinian Territories. The content of the resolution is consonant with what was endorsed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal Church’s chief operating officer, in testimony read at a July 6 public hearing.

The resolution urges all congregations to seek, over the next triennium, “to engage with local Jewish and Muslim congregations to study peace with justice in the Middle East,” and urges that the narratives and theologies that inform the conversation on peace with justice in the Middle East be particular focuses of attention.

It calls on the church to support “the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian study on peace with justice in the Middle East,” and to produce an annotated bibliography of resources.

The committee massaged the language in Resolution C060 to call on the church to engage “in corporate social responsibility by more vigorous and public corporate engagement with companies in the church’s investment portfolio that contribute to the infrastructure of the Occupation.” The original legislation had specifically mentioned companies that “do business in illegal Israeli settlements.”

C060 is based on a template resolution from the Palestine Israel Network (PIN) of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship that had been submitted by 10 dioceses for consideration at General Convention.

The main thrust of the resolution is calling on the church “to develop and implement a strategy of advocacy and engagement” during the next triennium “to further a just resolution of the conflict utilizing existing policies and resources,” including “a robust use” of the Episcopal Public Policy Network.

The revised legislation retains language that would have the church “assist individual Episcopalians by providing information on products made and distributed from illegal Israeli settlements so that they can make informed consumer choices.”

Opponents to PIN’s template resolution had raised concerns about two documents it was recommending for study by the church in the coming triennium because the texts present perspectives that they believe are not helpful.

Supporters have said that the Palestinian perspective is rarely heard in the United States and that the two documents help to present that narrative.

The texts are Kairos Palestine’s “A Moment of Truth” and the Presbyterian Church USA’s “Steadfast Hope.” that include information about using boycotts, sanctions and divestment to pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Some National and International Concerns Committee members expressed a desire to produce a report to address areas in which they believe Resolution C060 did not express a strong enough critique of Israeli policy.

Resolution B019 reaffirms the church’s official policy, based on resolutions passed at its previous General Conventions, committing to 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, with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both.

The church also has official church policy dating to 2005, when Executive Council, as recommended by its Social Responsibility in Investments Committee, commended a report calling for “corporate engagement” and “positive investment” when dealing with companies in which the Episcopal Church owns assets and shares.

For previous stories on resolutions and public testimony related to Israel and Palestine click here.

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (15)

  1. Rev. Vicki Gray says:

    Having sat in on the late night deliberations on this last night and seen the totally inadequate words they produced, I am – to put it mildly – disgusted by the gutlessness of this church…a church not even willing to read the cry for justice from our Palestinian sisters and brothers, much less act on it. They are dying and we offer them nothing, not even the coutesy of our attention.

    We all know why that is so. We are afraid of being called anti-Semites. To criticize the illegal and immoral policies of the Israeli government is not, however, anti-Semitism. But, not to criticize and to remain silent in the face of injustice is the real sin. It is high time we reject that calumny and act courageously…like the prophets the Presiding Bishop invoked in her sermon this morning. It is high time we speak the truth before us and act!

    1. Rev. Donor MACNEICE says:

      The Reverend Vicki Gray is right “on the ball” in what she says. In the United States if Israel is criticized the the person doing the criticizing is instantly regarded as being anti-Semitic. The Jewish community in America holds the purse strings when to comes to politics, so under no circumstances can they be upset. The Episcopal Church should be outside of politics and do what is right and not bend to pressure, but it seldom does. The Palestine people suffer beyond measure, they are bound by walls – literal walls built by the Israelis. According to Israeli law their children can be imprisoned at age 12, but Israeli children cannot be touched until age 16. Yet nothing is said. It is about time the Church really and truly stood up and spoke for the people who have not, rather than just those who have.

    2. Charles Smith says:

      Actions speak louder than words. Rather than the bishops calling for Obama to solve the funding problems of the Gaza hospital, and the Anglican church in Canada and the UK calling for their leaders to do the same, perhaps the church would be taken more seriously if instead of looking for someone else to solve their concerns, instead dug into their own budget and came up with the 1.3 million the UN cut.

  2. Mary Beth Alban says:

    I hope they listened carefully to Deacon Vicki Gray on this subject.

  3. Rev. John Conrad says:

    The questions remain:

    “Why can’t we speak the truth to power?”
    “Why can’t we speak the truth in love?”
    “Why can’t we give a voice to the suffering of the powerless and the oppressed?”
    “Why can’t we simply list the injustices of the Occupation, things that are certainly true, facts on the ground, and then humbly ask, beg, in the name of God, that that the Israeli Government cease and desist?”

  4. As a South African, may I encourage you (Deacon Vicky) to not become discouraged. Even the stones will cry out when the church refuse to do so, so thank God that the good news is not confined to the institutional church! The church is waking up slowly and I encourage you to identify with and to continue the work that others are refusing to do. But things are moving on in civil society whether the institutional churches like it or not, and later this year the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will convene in New York City to consider some of these questions and in November there will be a global meeting in Brazil as well. Keep the faith! The injustices being perpetrated against our Palestinian sisters and brothers will come to an end. At the very least, the mono-narrative has been broken. Rev Edwin Arrison

  5. Thomas R. Getman says:

    If it is true and trustworthy that “perfect love casts out fear” then it is time to read and digest what Palestinian are crying out to us of their suffering and act decisively on their behalf. If we operate out of fear because of what someone is going to call us (“anti-Semites”) then is it not time to embrace the truth in love that Arabs/Palestinians are Semites or more so than many Israelis like my forebears who are Ashkenazim from Europe.

    Allowing our Israeli friends to criminally drive drunk toward a cliff of self destruction and insist we ride along threatens their state and our authority as a faithful Christian body. My heart sank and eyes filled with tears when I read the equivocation of our watered-down resolutions that turned a blind eye to the oppression of illegal occupation. Stand up people of God before it is too late and all our “sustainable infrastructure” development money to Palestine does nothing but create more incentive for Israeli settlers to freely steal or destroy. “The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble…he loves justice”. Psalm 99

  6. Charles Smith says:

    I view the current stance of ECUSA on this issue in a similar fashion to how I would have felt about supporting Germany in 1941.

    Hamas, a group on the US State Department’s List of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, is the ruling party in Gaza. I think any organization on that list counts as an enemy of the United States. Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution provides that treason against the United States “shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies giving them Aid and Comfort. 18 USC § 2339B states, in part, “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both…” I believe a case could be made that ECUSA actions do, indeed, provide material support to a terrorist organization as determined by the US State Department, and would call for enforcement of this law, other than ECUSA appears to have no influence on policy and little impact other than a group of liberals making feel-good noises.

    I support policies that support US national interests and our ally Israel. Carter and his policy of placing his human rights agenda before US interests gave us an Islamic “republic” in Iran. The world does not need another Islamic “republic”.

  7. Wayne Sistrunk says:

    I must have missed something.

    In Genesis 15:18-21, God made a covenant with Abram, saying,”Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates; the Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girashites, and the Jebusites.”

    Then again in Genesis 17:8, “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaah, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

    So I must have missed where God said, “Oops, I take it all back,” and if God didn’t take back his covenant, then why is Israel said to be in the land “illegally?”

    And lastly, God told Abram, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – I need that blessing and America needs it too, maybe now more than ever.

    1. Thomas R. Getman says:

      You might want to check Romans 4:16-18…where indeed Abraham is the father of “many nations” and Romans 2 where “a man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly…circumcision is circumcision of the heart”. Many Palestinians and even those of us from Jewish heritages thank the Lord are “circumcised by the Spirit not by the written code”. Abraham is indeed the father of all those who believe and we are all inheritors of the blessing. That is such a great gift aye!? tg

    2. Wafa Danner says:

      Perhaps you missed the fact that we are also Abraham’s seed. Or, that we have a new covenant in Jesus Christ. The Old has passed, behold the new! God is not interested in politics or real estate! We are all children of God, no one has any special priviliges. The Bible is not static but a living story of the people of God with continuing new understandings and revelations. I am sorry that you are still stuck in the tribal understanding phase of God.

  8. I posted a long comment to another post on this topic and what TEC is doing about Palestine / Israel and it wasn’t approved. Maybe if I shorten it it will be approved?

    A) The two state solution is not going to work. I am a member of the TEC but I go to a PCUSA church. Both churches support the two state solution, but when pressed on *how* that will happen, I have yet to get an answer. Maybe I’m missing something here, I really hope I am, because removing 250,000 people from the West Bank isn’t going to be easy. It took 5,000 IDF soldiers to remove 500 settlers from Gaza. How will the two state solution work? I am a one-stater myself.

    B) I find it rather heinous that a bunch of folks sit around and debate language to this issue when the Palestinian people need our help now. In May I was honored to go on a visit to the Baqa’a Refugee Camp outside of Amman. Some houses in the camp were fine, others were in horrendous shape. What was asked of me was “how are you going to help us?” It was relayed back to them that I was there to witness and that I couldn’t do anything except tell their stories. I can guarantee you that all the time that was just spent by a bunch of well to do Americans isn’t going to make a difference right now. Plus, even the most educated Palestinians aren’t aware of the work being done. My dear friend that I was visiting in Jordan is Palestinian, educated, an educator at that, and none of her family knew what TEC is doing or any other churches. Now, this is a family that doesn’t need humanitarian help, but how is the TEC and the broad spectrum of faiths which it works within going to reach people to give them hope? How is TEC going to help the Palestinians in the Baqa’a camp, which really after 40 years (yes, Baqa’a is *only* 40 years old) they shouldn’t even be in anymore?

    C) Rev. Gray. Thank you for your comments. As you very well know to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-Palestinian as well as anti-Jewish. We need to be courageous, we need to stop talking and we need to use the power that we have as people of faith to reach out and help the Palestinians. We need to stop what is going on in the West Bank and Gaza, and Nahr el-Bared camp in Lebanon, and and and. The Palestinian people are blessings on this earth. I am just one person, and I can’t do much. I do have a PhD which opens doors that otherwise wouldn’t be open, but I’m only one. What can we as people of faith do to help now? I am set to go back in August for an extended period of time to visit and possibly find a job in Jordan. What shall I tell the people of Baqa’a when they ask me what I’m going to do for them? What shall I tell my friend’s father when he talks of Ein Karem and his wish to go back? What should I tell them about what my church is doing?

    oops, it was long again.

  9. Robert Small says:

    Rev. Donor Macneice’s comment is shameful. You want to avoid the label of an anti-semite but you are comfortable stating that Jews in America hold the “purse strings”! Yes, that is the quintessential rhetoric used by anti-semites.

  10. Edward McCarthy says:

    The ENS story and comments call for a range of responses. If the gentleman who quotes Genesis in support of the modern State of Israel’s occupation and settlements in the West Bank and, effectively, Gaza proposes to justify theft of others’ property provided the thieving is done by Jews, then he is welcome to do that. Many a Christian Zionist would agree. On the other hand, many fairminded Christians and Jews sensitive to the pitfalls of quoting the Bible selectively might see in such an approach an exercise in trivializing God’s Word and undermining its central values. The quoter of Genesis misses a basic point: God’s work did not stop with the Biblical period. History has ordained that both Jews and Palestinians have a legitimate place in the Holy Land. The question, particularly in the short term, is how the two peoples can live together on a basis of peace and justice. It is to be hoped that one day the two will come together as one but, as with other conflicted situations, a time of substantial separation is probably necessary for wounds to heal. That is why a 2-State solution, soon achieved, is required.

    The writer who professes to support US national interests “and our ally Israel,” and sees the inclusion of Hamas on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations as establishing that Hamas is an enemy of the United States takes a position with which many American politicians are comfortable, though perhaps not with saying that current ECUSA stances amount to treason. The writer’s assertions rely on some dubious assumptions. One is that US interests are wholly the same as Israel’s. At the least, a good case can be made that Israel is as much burden as asset to the US in the Middle East. The writer also assumes the objectivity of the State Department list. The list is more than a little arbitrary, and serves the purpose of delegitimizing organizations placed on it. Those organizations can be removed from the list if it suits the purposes of US foreign policy. Despite our uncritical support for Israel, Hamas has never attacked the US. Hamas is recognizable as a national liberation organization; its quarrel with Israel is a local one, and universalizing local conflicts is a dubious proposition. The Israelis, who are themselves not lacking in a penchant for violence, evidently hope to dislodge Hamas from power in Gaza and indeed to destroy it. Aside from the further cost in civilian lives likely as the result of such an undertaking, there is much to suggest that is not practical, and that removing Hamas from the list and including it in negotiations would be conducive to peace. Not long ago, we were reminded of what can be accomplished when a more flexible approach is taken: Queen Elizabeth shook the hand of former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness. The road to that handshake began when the political arm of the IRA, Sinn Fein, was removed from a British list of proscribed organizations, and McGuinness and other Irish Nationalist leaders were allowed to make their case and, eventually, sit in the Government of Northern Ireland—without having to renounce their commitment to complete Irish independence. The writer, and the US Government, would do well to reconsider policy toward Hamas.

    In great measure, I understand and share the frustration and anger of those who find the resolutions to be adopted by the Convention inadequate. It is all well and good to encourage study concerning Israel/Palestine, but there may not be the luxury of time to do that. The fine Jewish newspaper The Forward has a recent article describing East Jerusalem’s economy as in a “tailspin,” and there are many accounts of aggressive Israeli settlement-building as well as unfair treatment of Palestinians in the housing sector. Action, not study, is needed, and action specifically toward agreement on a 2-State solution. It was good to see the Church’s backing for such a solution reiterated, but the Church and many others who see that solution as the only practical one need to be more focused on getting the US Government and others concerned with the Middle East to move forward as soon as possible. Those who have pushed hard for divestment also should ask themselves how useful that push has been. Even if the efforts toward divestment had been more successful, the impact would primarily have been on companies doing business with Israel, and not on Israel itself. The Israelis can buy their bulldozers elsewhere—while continuing their counterproductive policies. At the Convention, pro-BDS overtures have been countered by an emphasis on positive investment, a good in itself but in its way also a distraction from the core necessity of moving toward a political settlement as soon as feasible. In this connection, I am troubled to some degree by the Presiding Bishop’s repeated insistence that a solution can only be reached by negotiation between the parties. There is a basic truth in this, but it also true that the level of mistrust between the parties is high, and that the Israelis in particular are much tempted to perpetuate and consolidate their occupation. Both sides need to be encouraged to progress. The encouragements offered, including by the US, will probably require a degree of “tough love,” most notably by the US Government. The Church should make clear to our Government that it will have Church backing when it chooses to act vigorously in the pursuit of a just peace. As a corollary, the Church should help to shape US public opinion in support of such pursuit. It is with that kind of backing that peace can truly be reached.

  11. Nancy McReynolds says:

    I was so moved by the testimony of Vicki Gray in our committee meeting as well in the House of Depupties. I applaude her courageous statements of truth for our brothers and sisters in Christ. I was very disappointed in the final outcome but her voice was heard by many and I can only hope that many were as touched as myself to begin proclaiming the truth, however small it may sound.

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