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Presbyterians vote to continue pressure on Israel

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) commissioners express their views during a plenary meeting at the General Assembly on June 24, 2016. Photo by Danny Bolin, courtesy of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

(RNS) Presbyterians at their General Assembly passed several resolutions aimed to pressure Israel to leave territories it has occupied since its 1967 war with neighboring states.

RELATED: Methodist supporters of Israel-related divestment regroup after setback

The votes Friday (June 24) by Presbyterian Church USA delegates angered mainstream Jewish groups, who said the measures unfairly “demonize” Israel, give a pass to Palestinian violence and question the Jewish state’s right to exist. But some Jewish leaders noted that delegates amended resolutions to temper action and stances against Israel.

Presbyterians who voted in favor of the resolutions, called “overtures,” said they showed how committed Presbyterians are to alleviating Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.

On Saturday, Unitarian Universalists also considered a resolution divesting from Israel at their General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio. There, 54 percent of delegates voted to reject investments in companies involved in the occupied territories, but supporters did not meet the two-thirds majority needed for passage of the resolution. 

Among the measures that passed at the Presbyterians’ biennial assembly in Portland, Ore., were those to:

  • Approve a report of a committee charged to evaluate the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Critics said the report questions the right of Israel to exist as the sanctuary for Jews it was created to be. The report was approved 429-129 with an amendment that affirmed the right of the people of Israel “to exist as a sovereign nation.” Delegates rejected a minority report that referred to the adopted report as “pugnaciously flawed.”
  • Call for the “prayerful study” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and opposition to BDS. The approval of this overture trumped a move to end any church affiliation with BDS, a global campaign to apply economic pressure to Israel and boycott its institutions and products.
  • Urge the realty company RE/MAX to stop sales of property within Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Supporters of the overture 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.”

The Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the church, which had lobbied for overtures critical of Israel, welcomed “the advances made at this year’s General Assembly towards supporting a just and lasting peace in Israel and Palestine.”

The American Jewish Committee criticized the General Assembly for endorsing a report that was “one-sided” and “filled with inaccuracies.”

“For those who seek an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace it is deeply disappointing that a major Protestant denomination in the U.S. with deep roots in the Middle East has chosen to be a cheerleader for those whose vision of peace does not include the State of Israel,” said Emily Soloff, AJC associate director of interreligious and intergroup relations.

In 2014, after an emotional and hourslong debate at the PCUSA’s General Assembly, delegates voted to divest church funds from three American companies it cited for profiting from the oppression of Palestinians within Israel’s occupied territories.

This year’s votes by the Presbyterians come less then six weeks after the United Methodists disapproved measures intended to increase pressure on Israel.


About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)


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  • Hey, Presbyterians, ISIS captured 900 Kurdish civilians in the past three weeks alone, different Islamic terrorist groups are capturing and swapping sex slaves and training male children as executioner’s by teaching them beheading techniques, Gay people are being dropped off of Tall buildings head first, Hamas executed three Palestinians just last week alone, and women are being lashed and stoned and sometimes killed for being uppity with their menfolk or for no reason at all–all by Muslims, in the Muslim world–everyday. Not to mention that pesky little genocide problem in Syria and those constant little episodes of violence in Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. Then, there is that tiny matter of ballistic missile testing in Iran and North Korea. Maybe you should take a little time out from your “Israeli Obsession Syndrome” address some of THAT for a change.

  • Take a logic class. And learn something about how the Israeli Palestinian conflict has a direct bearing on every listed item you spewed. I am very proud of Pres.

  • As the only existential threat that Israel faces, it’s own illegal colonies, it is rather poetic that it is they and Hasbara trolls who have destroyed the Jewish national home. Not Iran, not Hamas or Hezbollah both created by Israel. Nope, the illegal occupation of Palestine has cost the legitimacy of the Jewish national home. A shame, but of their own doing.

  • Michael if you think that the existence of Israel is the cause of the sectarian and Islamist atrocities, in which Muslims are the main victims, in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Libya as well as the expansionism of Iran and the dictatorship in Korea then you are the one who needs to take a logic class. if Israel had never existed these things would have gone on just the same.

  • What a tool. Talk about logic failure

    If Israel disappeared tomorrow, how would that impact ISIS?

  • Not very likely. Israel is here to stay.

    But over the last eight years, AMERICA’s prospects are looking worse and worse… !!

  • Israel goes from strength to strength.

    Israeli GDP has DOUBLED during the 11 years of BDS.

    Israel will be thriving long after you’re both dust, and long after the last Presbyterian is a distant memory.

    Presbyterian church lost more than a 1/3 of it’s membership between 2005 and 2014, by which time there were only 1,600,000 Presbyterians. They are predicted to lose 100,000 more in each of 2015 and 2016, and another 400,000 by 2020, bringing their membership down to 1,000,000 by 2020 from 2,300,000 in 2005.

    “”The slide [from the meeting] also showed that COGA is predicting membership losses of 100,000 for both 2015 and 2016,” reported The Layman.

    “Membership losses for 2017-2020 are projected to be 75,000 each year. That is more than the membership losses in both 2014 (-92,433) and 2013 (-89,296).”

    Their idiotic position on Israel is a prime factor.

  • Not to mention the Presbyterians prospects. Google the way their numbers have been dropping, and are expected to keep dropping.

  • By 2020, Presbyterians are expected to number only 1,000,000 compared to 2,300,000 in 2005, and 1,600,000 in 2014.

    From the Christians United for Israel website:

    “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
    – Genesis 12:1-3

    For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.
    – Isaiah 62:1

    Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they that love thee shall prosper. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will say now, peace be within thee. For the sake of the House of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.
    – Psalm 122

    “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”
    – Isaiah 62:6-7

    They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.
    – Romans 15:27 (NIV)

  • It is sad when a mainstream religion choo to commit itself to Hate,. We should pray for them.

  • Just so people know…”Michael Hess” is a very prolific Anti-Semite who dresses his propaganda up in the “sheep’s clothing” of “Anti-Zionism” and Israel-bashing every chance he gets. The best policy where “Hate trolls” like this is concerned is to not feed them. Just saying. Another warning: He posts under multiple screen names.

  • I don’t want Israel to go away. I want the Israeli nation to remain. My hope is that Israel will work with the Palestinians to find peace without further pain inflicted on either group.

    It seems to me that Netanyahu is not really interested in peace. I think he’s got to go before progress on peace talks can be made. It looks like the new settlements aren’t helping things.

    Rather than shouting back and forth, I wish an informed Jew would talk about what she thinks needs to be done to bring peace.

    (I’m only writing about what Israel can do. I know the Palestinians have plenty they need to do too.)

  • “Presbyterians who voted in favor of the resolutions, called “overtures,” said they showed how committed Presbyterians are to alleviating Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.”
    I’m sure the Presbyterians read their Bibles and know that the Israelis are occupying what is rightfully theirs. It is hard to believe that an organization that claims to follow God would in reality never read the Scriptures. Or worse… disregard the Scriptures.

  • Why bother writing posts to defend Israel. According to your bible, it’s already set. God favors Israel, he doesn’t need your help convincing people. I mean he is freaking God right ? Israel will be fine without people telling us it is going to be fine, or that it is written that it will be fine. God doesn’t need your help, he’s got Israels back. Never understood that from you Christian freaks. Unless you think we humans can screw with what is already decided by God . Are you saying if we don’t listen to you and defend Israel, we , as humans , can change the course of the bible, and Gods will. We can override God on Israel? Then shut the f up on Israel, and let people say what they want. After all, it’s written, therefore God has decided. No one can change the course of Israel, no one! Seems like you are afraid God might change his mind if we don’t all agree with him.

  • Not only is the Jewish national home not “destroyed”, it is stronger (militarily & economically), and its future is brighter, than ever before. You’ve been doing your Nostradamus impersonations of doom & gloom for, and imminent demise of, for Israel for at least 10 years. You’ve been making a complete fool of yourself. Having never been to Israel, you haven’t a clue what Israel’s condition is. It takes a real ldiot to declare of a thriving country that it has been destroyed. The real “shame” of it all is that you’re too much of an lmbecile to realize how much of an lmbecile you are.

    P.S. How ’bout that U.K. brexit referendum, huh Mikey? It’s a beautiful thing. Say, didn’t you DECLARE (not predict, but DECLARE) that U.K. would vote to remain? Oh well, at least your record is still perfect. You’re ALWAYS wrong.