Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace

Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace In fulfillment of its assignment from the 221st General Assembly (2014) to review the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s support for the “two-state” solution to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy recommends that the 222nd General Assembly (2016) adopt the following summary assessment (I) and requested recommendations (II), and receive the supporting study and policy review (III). These sections together constitute a report with actions appropriate to a situation of moral urgency entitled, Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace. The sections are: I. While the Door Closes: A Summary Assessment II. Acting on Christian and Universal Values: Recommendations III. The Two State Approach from a Values Perspective: A Brief Study I. While the Door Closes This report focuses on the actual situation of Palestinians and Israelis in the land they share and on the values that need support from all people seeking a just peace. Faithful to the General Assembly’s assignment, the report resists simple formulas. It understands the responsibility of a single church based in the US to contribute to a larger ecumenical and interfaith conversation about basic moral expectations and to take informed actions of integrity, witness, and solidarity. The Presbyterian Church [PC(USA)] has had a deep concern for Israel-Palestine for many reasons, including its place in Christian self-understanding and the prominent role the United States has taken there. Since 1949, the Church has taken public positions on the situation, supporting Israel as a safe homeland for Jews but also calling for just treatment for Palestinians, including Palestinian refugees. In 1974, the General Assembly called for “The right and power of Palestinian people to self-determination by political expression, based upon full civil liberties for all… If the Palestinians choose to organize a permanent political structure, then provisions should be made to determine its jurisdiction, assure its security, and support its development.”i In 1982, the Assembly first called for “the establishment of a national sovereign state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as an expression of self-determination of the Palestinian people.”ii Subsequent Presbyterian statements have affirmed United Nations Resolution 242, of November 1967, calling for Israel’s withdrawal from the territories it had just begun to occupy, and have lifted up the Palestine National Council’s 1988 decision to recognize Israel within the boundaries that had held from 1949 to the 1967 war. That implicit ceding of 78% of British Mandate Palestine to Israel supported the possibility of a two-state solution and, with the largely nonviolent first Intifada, opened the path to the Oslo accords.iii The most recent comprehensive statement by the Church on Israel-Palestine within its Middle Eastern context, Breaking Down the Walls (2010), provides the starting point of principles and policy for this study. That 2010 report examines the “contest of traumas” caused by past suffering on both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, with fears of antiSemitism and fears of a continuing Nakhba (or catastrophe of dispossession) hindering 1