Presbyterians for Middle East Peace strongly supports the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as an important step in the right direction. Secretary of State John Kerry worked tirelessly on this effort with multiple trips to Israel/Palestine in recent months, and deserves gratitude and recognition for his commitment and efforts.
These negotiations can be productive if they are focused on incremental steps towards peace and realistic goals. Complete resolution of the so-called “final status” issues (permanent borders, the status of Jerusalem, etc.) in the time frame of the next nine months is probably not realistic. There is too much work still to be done to establish the necessary conditions for permanent peace. In addition to talking about things such as geographic boundaries and security, the talks should focus on economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that will benefit both peoples and advance peace, and the Palestinian nation-building process that is only partially complete.
A recent issue of the Presbyterian Outlook presented commentary on the Investment versus divestment debate. We were pleased to participate representing the positive investment case, with the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) advocating divestment. The articles are available on the Presbyterian Outlook website:
We believe that fair debate with equal time for competing viewpoints is essential. At the 2012 General Assembly, a divestment resolution was endorsed by the Middle East Committee but rejected in its entirety by the plenary. The reason for the apparent anomaly was clear. The plenary debate was carefully balanced to give equal time to the two viewpoints. In committee, however, a strikingly disproportionate amount of floor time was provided to divestment advocates. In some cases, divestment advocacy was presented to the committee as “education” or “background” on the issues for discussion. This is plainly unacceptable, and something that must be addressed in advance of the next GA in 2014.
Although Presbyterians for Middle East Peace was formed around issues relating to justice for Israelis and Palestinians, we are filled with heavy hearts as we watch violence envelop Syria and Egypt and new waves of violence emerge in Iraq. It is clear that the problems in the Middle East are rooted in deep, complex issues. We pray for the peace of Egypt, Syria and Iraq and their peoples, and that all will be safe.
We are especially concerned by the violence against protestors and the targeting of churches in Egypt. The Egyptian government’s excessive use of force, the high number of deaths, and the targeting of Christians by extremists are all profoundly troubling. We condemn the attacks on innocent people, churches, monasteries, and Christian schools, and urge the government of Egypt to provide them with security, safety, and basic rights.
We ask our government and the international community to do everything possible to end the violence and protect the lives of the innocent. We also ask our leaders to stand firm in our commitment to fundamental human rights, including the rights of religious minorities, women, and children. Millions of people in the Middle East strive for a future of peace, tolerance, and opportunity. They need and deserve the support and prayers of all in the PCUSA.