Presbyterians urge Israel to stop settlement expansion
Presbyterian leaders issued a report recently that stressed that the U.S. should stop sending aid to Israel if it continues to build settlements in the West Bank.
The 172-page report was drawn in the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and stated the church’s stand regarding the Middle East.
The assembly stressed however that the intention of the report is to mend fences with Jewish groups with whom they have had contentious relations, the AP said.
The report was approved by 82 percent of the assembly participants and will serve as a guide to over 2 million of their church members, the AP said.
A number of Jewish organizations monitored the convention proceedings and expressed satisfaction with changes that were made in the report, the Los Angeles Times said.
They applauded in particular the church decision to include four narratives by Israelis and four by Palestinians to illustrate the region’s diversity. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles said, “To me, that’s tremendously exciting, and everything that the Jewish community could have wanted,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Anti-Defamation League said the church “averted a rupture with the Jewish community,” the Los Angeles Times said.
The church had been at odds with Jewish groups since 2004 when their general assembly approved of “phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel,” because of their policies toward Palestine, the AP said.
The report also eased tensions within the U.S. Presbyterian Church, which had been polarized over the church’s previous sharply critical stance against Israel.
The new resolution placates both sides of the divide and some call it a “miracle,” the Los Angeles Times said.
Some groups however have expressed reservations. Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs said “Concerns remain, but I have hope that authentic dialogue and better relations can come of this,” the AP reported.
Ron Shive, chairman of the committee that drafted the report, expressed satisfaction with the document and said it could serve as a model for building harmony and agreement where it had been previously nonexistent.
He said, “We were able to build a consensus between people who had never agreed before,” the Los Angeles times reported.