« J Street Condemns PC(USA) Middle East Document | Main | Committee Calls for Caterpillar to be "Denounced" »

July 04, 2010

Committee Member Rejected Report for Failing to Affirm Israel's Right to Exist

The moderators of the PC(USA) who apparently have not read the Middle East Study Committee’s report on the Arab-Israeli conflict have endorsed the document, but one member of the committee that prepared the document voted against submitting it to General Assembly.

The report was just too one-sided and did not explicitly affirm Israel's right to exist.

Byron E. Shafer, pastor emeritus of the Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York City, told his story at a breakfast held on on July 4, 2010. The breakfast was sponsored by Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, an organization that is calling on the PC(USA)’s 219th General Assembly to reject the report. Rev. Dr. Shafer spoke at the same event where Rachel Lerner, vice president of J Street, condemned the report for its one-sided portrayal of the conflict.

Shafer is critical of both Israelis and Palestinians and asserts that both groups are so locked into their particular perspectives on the history of the region and the current situation that they need the help of third parties to understand “what is right in the other party’s perspectives and what is wrong in their own perspective.�?

The only way the PC(USA) can fufill this task is if it regards both the Israelis and the Palestinians with love, Shafer said.

To this end, the PC(USA) needs to refrain from taking one side or the other in the dispute and provide “an independent perspective on what seems to us right and what seems to us wrong in their dramatically differing narratives and perspectives.�?

It is for this reason that Shafer, a member of the Middle East Study Committee voted against forwarding the report and its recommendations to the General Assembly. “I believe this report has chosen one side over against the other and does not express a deep love for Israel.�?

Past General Assemblies have, for the most part, tried to strike a balance between support and criticism of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, Shafer asserted, “some [General Assemblies] more successfully than others,�? he conceded.

If the General Assembly approves the MESC report, Shafer said, it would be taking the Palestinian side over the Israeli side.

It would be expressing love and concern for the Palestinians without also expressing love and concern for the Israelis,�? he said. “In my view, any such action would have the effect of pouring fuel on the fire rather than contributing to the making of peace.�?

Shafer offered three examples to prove his thesis. First, while other General Assemblies have affirmed the right to exist as a sovereign nation, the Middle East Study Committee has “drawn back from that position and does not explicitly reaffirm Israel’s right to exist. The phrase ‘right of Israel to exist’ appears in only one place--a summary of past actions of the GA. And it took considerable discussion within the committee to preserve it there. The phrase was removed from several other places where it occurred in preliminary drafts.�?

The reason, Shafer suggests, is “because most Palestinians are prepared to acknowledge the fact of Israel’s existence without going on to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist.�?

To buttress his point, Shafter directed his listeners to page 44 of the report which lists a number of reaffirmations of previous General Assembly statements. “’The right of Israel to exist is not included in the committee’s list. “Indeed, one member of the committee has stated to me quite clearly that the most significant disagreement between the two of us is precisely on this issue of whether or not Israel does have a right to exist.�?

If the General Assembly retreats from its historic position of affirming Israel’s right to exist, Shafter says, it will be telling the public at large that the PC(USA) is not both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli.�?

Shafer’s second piece of evidence to buttress his point that the MESC report does not affirm both Israelis and Palestinians is that it repeats, without challenge the Palestinian claim that “If there were no occupation there would be no Palestinian resistance.�?

This might describe some Palestinians, but not Hamas supporters, Shafer said.

“Furthermore, the report labels the Israeli occupation ‘sin’ while calling the Palestinian violence simply ‘resistance. Thus the report does not own up to what I and many others perceive to be the reality of the immense threat to peace in the region posed by Hamas.�?

To make the problem worse, the study materials that accompany the report tell the conflict from the perspective of the Palestinians.

“Page sixty-three reads simply, “Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria.’ Period. The end of description. All of the events in the Arab world that led up to June, 1967 including the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran and various threatening military maneuvers by Egypt and Syria and hateful speeches against Israel and its existence of those countries -- all of these actions against Israel are left unreported.�?

The last piece of evidence Shafer offered to show that the report expressed more concern for the Palestinians than the Israelis relates to the amount of materials detailing the Israeli perspective of the conflict. The committee, Shafer reported, decided at the last minute to solicit an article from an Israeli author to offset the one-sided historical narrative that showed only the Palestinian side.

“The scramble to solicit an Israeli perspective was, to say the least, hasty and placed its author [Ron Kronish] at quite a disadvantage, especially since the existing account was not shared with him. The final result is a study-material section containing eight pages of Israeli narrative in contrast to 77 pages of Palestinian-type narrative including maps,�? Shafer said.

Shafer seemed intent on modeling the language Presbyterians need to affirm the rights of the Palestinians without demonizing Israel. He stated that the PC(USA) must, out of love for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, work for a negotiated two-state solution, work to preserve the Palestinian Christian community and be willing to criticize the actions of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. And while he raised concerns about settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he didn’t stop there, but drew attention to “the policies of Hamas [that] pose a great threat to Israel and also to Palestinian hopes for a state that is both secular and democratic.�?

Posted by dvz at July 4, 2010 11:26 PM


It seems to me that if the PC(USA) went to such lengths to misrepresent the Israeli narrative by practically dismissing it, as well as by intentionally denying Israel's "right" to exist, it has clearly and distinctly revealed that it is not interested in promoting peace between Palestinians and Israelis -- but, rather, in doing away with Israel. As well, its refusal to acknowledge terror and its incitement which is taking place under the auspices of Mahmoud Abbas, and not merely Hamas, is indicative of its misrepresentation of the nature of evil which, supposedly, goes to the heart of Christianity itself. By bringing such a document to the attention of its members, this organization has shown itself to be a dishonest broker in the conflict and frankly reveals itself devoid of all moral vision.

Posted by: marilyn at July 5, 2010 08:38 AM

Guidelines for posting

This is a moderated blog. We will not post comments that include racism, bigotry, threats, or factually inaccurate material.

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)