Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From General Assembly Forward

Dear Friend,

IPMN = the PCUSA Israel/Palestine Mission Network group, about 70 PCUSA folks really dedicated to security for Israel and justice for Palestinians.
Here is there concluding report from GA in Pittsburg ending last week (July 7, 2012) with a view to where we go from here. JRK

Final IPMN Report from the 220th General Assembly
of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Moving Forward with Boycott
of all Israeli Products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories

At the close of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) wishes to reflect on the results of the GA and to thank all of our friends, supporters, and the hundreds of church commissioners who took a stand for human rights and justice in the Holy Land last week by voting according to their consciences, and not according to their fears.

While the resolution calling for targeted divestment from three companies that profit from Israeli violations of international law and abuses of Palestinian human rights was not adopted by the plenary, it was approved overwhelmingly by the church’s Committee on Middle East Peacemaking Issues (Committee 15), and the minority report that replaced it won by a mere two out of 666 votes, with two commissioners abstaining. In truth, a full plenary discussion on divestment never took place, pre-empted by the minority report’s adoption.

On the other hand, the resolution calling for a boycott of just two products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories was expanded and strengthened by Committee 15 to cover all Israeli products made in the occupied territories, before being approved by an overwhelming majority (457-180, or 71%) of the plenary in what was a very divided Assembly. The boycott vote puts the Presbyterian Church (USA) squarely into the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 and officially endorsed by the Palestinian Christian community in 2009 with the Kairos Palestine document. "Presbyterians have heard the call for economic solidarity from Palestinians, including Palestinian Christians,” said Rev. Jeff DeYoe, IPMN Advocacy Chair. “The IPMN looks forward to assisting the church in determining which products will be included in the boycott.”

Despite the fact that they failed to pass divestment, afterwards 57% of church commissioners voted in favor of a resolution directing the church’s Board of Pensions "to create a program for relief of conscience for plan members who are troubled by the choice to continue holding Board of Pensions assets in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard.” Although this motion was later overturned on a procedural technicality by the GA’s Stated Clerk, it clearly reflected a desire on the part of a majority of commissioners to provide an option for individual Presbyterians who have moral qualms about profiting from these three companies, whose products are used to inflict so much hardship and suffering on Palestinians.

“A few short years ago, any one of these things would have been considered a significant victory for divestment and boycott supporters,” said Rev. Katherine Cunningham, IPMN Vice-Moderator. “At every General Assembly since these issues were first introduced in 2004, the church has moved slowly but steadily towards the positions advocated by the IPMN. In 2010, following our official endorsement of a boycott of Ahava Dead Sea beauty products and dates from the Hadiklaim Co-op, we were attacked by critics for being ‘ahead of the church.’ Last week, the rest of the church caught up with the IPMN on boycotting settlement products, and moved much further in the direction of divestment than anybody could have expected just a few years ago. We believe it’s only a matter of time before the church catches up on divestment too, and we look forward to the next GA in Detroit in 2014, and to the day when both Israelis and Palestinians are able to live in peace and freedom.”

Just as the RCA took the lead in BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) in re the S. African government, so the PCUSA is now taking the lead for "ecumenical" churches to bring pressure to bear on the Israelis to End the Occupation. O, have you noticed? A commission set up by PM Bibi Netanyahu has concluded there IS NO OCCUPATION. This confirms there are no Palestinians, and Isr has the freedom to continue the colonization of the land (if the commission report is adopted. Bibi has referred it to the Sec. for Interior Affairs. I wonder what he will do with it.).

It appears that the PCUSA is "divided" in whether to move ahead with BDS. The IPMN clearly thinks the PCUSA has joined the Boycott movement and is intending to pull the denomination in that direction in the coming years. The next GA will be in 2014, in Detroit, which has the largest ME population this side of the ME.

We may be at a tipping point. Isr fears "deligitimization", having delegitimized the Ps for decades. Many are running scared. On the other hand, many more especially youthful Israelis there and here in the US are risking the wrath of their parents in questioning Israeli policies, especially since the military "victory" and increased settlement activity since 1967.

Even though there are signs that the rank and file RCA members are vitally interested in justice for Palestinians, (e.g. large attendance at a Forum at Gen Synod in Palos Hts), RCA leaders are showing extreme caution in speaking of BDS in RCA circles. They judge the RCA “isn’t there yet”.

But we are looking for "Networks" in willing RCA Classes to form Middle East Peace and Justice committees/persons, to seek further insight and take appropriate actions, in league with groups like JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace), KUSA (Kairos USA), and the I/PMN (Isr/Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA). Faithfully yours, JRK

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