General Assembly 2006
Action on Divestment and Israel/Palestine
|Assembly apologizes for
(Wednesday, June 21) the Assembly received the report from the Committee on
Peacemaking and International Issues, with the issue of divestment as the
The committee responded to a long list of overtures, some
in support of the action of the 2006 Assembly to initiate study of possible
divestment from U.S. corporations that have been providing support for the
Israeli occupation of Palestine, as well as from corporation that have in
some way supported Palestinian acts of terrorism.
Committee moderator Gretchen Graf explained that a writing
team from the committee had worked long and hard, "pulling words from the
many overtures before us." The committee’s statement, she said, describes
divestment as a last resort, and to be undertaken only with the permission
of a General Assembly.
The statement opens with this expression of apology:
We acknowledge that the actions of the 216th General
Assembly (2004) caused hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the
Jewish community and within our Presbyterian communion. We are grieved by
the pain that this has caused, accept responsibility for the flaws in our
process, and ask for a new season of mutual understanding and dialogue.
Two efforts were made to amend the statement, both pf them
affirming the continued support of the PC(USA) for the rights of the
Palestinian people. The arguments against them focused largely on the fact
that the committee had reached a substantial level of agreement, which
Commissioner Bruce Ogden of Sacramento described as "fragile." He followed
that with the warning that if people didn’t accept the committee’s motion
"we’ll be here a long, long time." Other argued that the 2006 action was too
one-sided, and that this statement gives a kind of "balance" to the church’s
stance in relation to Israeli and Palestinian concerns.
Supporters of the amendment, including former Moderator
Fahed Abu-Akel, argued that it proclaimed a needed identification with the
Palestinian people, often with specific reference to "our Christian sisters
and brothers in Palestine," and a recognition of the suffering they continue
Both amendments were defeated – the second one by a vote
of 273 to 237.
The final vote was 483 to 28 to accept the committee’s
For a general report on the debate and the Assembly's
the Presbyterian News Service report >>
respond to the divestment action
Clearly a variety of Jewish groups have been watching the Assembly with
great interest. You may be interested to glimpse their "take" on the action
of this afternoon’s session. [6-22-06]
First, a paper in New York, The Jewish
Week, reported enthusiastically on June 23, based on early impressions
of the Assembly, that the "church [is] poised to kill divestment."
The church was described as "poised to do an about-face on its controversial
plan to punish Israel with economic divestment two years after the church
sparked a broader effort to punish Israel with economic sanctions."
Jewish Council for Public Affairs hails Presbyterian
Church for opposing divestment from Israel
News release dated June 21, 2006
NEW YORK - In response to the Presbyterian Church’s
(U.S.A.) passage of a resolution at its General Assembly reversing a
two-year old ‘phased selective divestment’ position focused specifically
Israel, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), today issued the
"The JCPA commends the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for
adopting a balanced and thoughtful policy on peacemaking between Israelis
and Palestinians. The church will now hold companies working in Israel to
the same standard as the rest of its investments. Today’s resolution calls
for a‘new season’ of interfaith cooperation,’ to which we are deeply
committed," said Lois Frank, JCPA Chair.
The resolution also changes the church’s stance on
Israel’s security barrier, no longer calling for its removal, but instead
focusing on its location. "The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly
has turned an important corner," Frank added, "by changing their policies,
calling for improved relations, and acknowledging the pain and
misunderstanding caused by the process and policies from two years ago, the
challenge now falls to all who have engaged in this spirited conversation."
The JCPA and local community relations councils, in
conjunction with other major American Jewish organizations, have worked
diligently to foster collaborative relations between the Christian and
JCPA Associate Executive Director Ethan Felson, who
attended the PC USA General Assembly, added: "We must build on the lessons
we have learned - and continue to engage on even the most contentious
issues. Clearly there is great passion on issues pertaining to the Middle
East. Our fervent prayer is that we can harness these energies in the
pursuit of justice, peace, and security for Israelis and Palestinians. We
will continue to promote dialogue and understanding, as we also make the
case that threats of divestment are not the path to peace."
The JCPA is the national community
relations arm of the organized American Jewish community, including the
American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation
League, Union for Reform Judaism, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
of America, and ten other groups.
So what do you think we did
And how is it being reported where you are?
send a note and tell us about it!
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!