Presbyterians Call for ‘Prayerful Study’ of BDS
(JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League expressed “disappointment” after the Presbyterian Church USA passed several resolutions aimed at pressuring Israel and re-evaluating church support for the two-state solution.
The church’s General Assembly, held in Portland, ended on Sunday.
Among the resolutions passed was approval of the report of a committee charged with studying the two-state solution and possible alternatives, “including but not limited to that of two sovereign states — Israel and Palestine.” The report, approved 429 to 129, said that the church “stands with the people of Israel, affirming their right to exist as a sovereign nation” just as they affirm such rights for Palestinians.
However, the report also suggest that facts on the ground, mostly but not solely the fault of Israel, have made the possibility of a two-state solution dim if not impossible.
Another resolution called for the “prayerful study” of the church’s use of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and opposition to BDS.
A third resolution urged the realty company RE/MAX to stop sales of property within Jewish settlements. Supporters of the overture reportedly said they received prior to the General Assembly a letter from RE/MAX CEO Dave Liniger stating that the company “will no longer receive any income from the sale of Jewish settlement properties in the West Bank.”
In its statement the ADL lamented that the church opened discussions over a single state or “bin-national” solution to the conflict, and that it supported economic pressure on Israel or its settlements.
“We are deeply disappointed with the Presbyterian Church’s decision to embrace motions which forward arguments in favor of a bi-national state and of the anti-Israel BDS campaign,” Rabbi David Sandmel, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs, said in a statement. “Any alternative to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would mean the demise of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, a view that is offensive to millions of Israelis and Jews around the world.”
The report by the church’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy acknowledges that alternatives to the two-state solution are “less attractive political possibilities,” including a “Jewish dominated state that further oppresses the Palestinians, or a potential Arab/Muslim majority state that could conceivably subject Jewish Israelis to expulsion or subjugation.”
The plenary also approved a report submitted by the Advisory Committee supporting measures that revoke tax deductions and 501(c) 3 status to organizations that promote and finance Israeli settlements. It encouraged Congress to investigate the use of U.S.-made equipment in so-called Israeli human rights violations, and supporting the enforcement of laws requiring the labeling of settlement products as such.
The church itself acknowledged that delegates to the Assembly were divided over the Advisory Committee’s paper, with some saying that its “tone and rhetoric … did not promote reconciliation.” Those critics “urged more balance in speaking about violence and injustices committed by both Palestinians and Israelis,” according to the church’s own Presbyterian News Service.
On Saturday, the Unitarian Universalists at their General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio voted on a resolution to divest from Israel.
The measure garnered the votes of 54 percent of the delegates, a vote of 774 to 646, but did not muster the two-thirds majority necessary for passage.