Friday, June 24, 2011

Presbyterian Kairos Palestine Document Takes A Swing at Israel

Since the Presbyterian Church (USA) ended its General Assembly July 2010, the denomination has made itself clear on its one-sided stance against Israel  regarding the Middle East conflict.

In an excellent article "Oslo Syndrome Redux?" summarizing the anti-Zionist element within the PCUSA by Dexter Van Zile, he argues that despite several compromises in their commentary on the Arab-Israel conflict, "there is still some committed anti-Zionists in this church who are obsessed about Jewish influence on American politics and who want others to embrace this obsession."  The church, Van Zile says, has realized that it needs to figure out a way to advocate for the Palestinian cause without demonizing Israel.


Let me back up and provide background on the PC (USA) when it comes to Israel.  Existing within the church is a bloc of anti-Israel activists who have tried to portray Israel as the chief culprit for the problematic Arab/Israel conflict.  These individuals have submitted overtures to meetings of local presbyteries. 

These overtures have ignored the terrorist activities of the Palestinians and focused on Israeli policies.  Once these overtures are submitted and passed by the local groups, they advance to the General Assembly, the PC (USA)'s national stage.

     The 2004 anti-Israel overture. In 2004 an anti-Israel divestment resolution that was submitted by a presbytery in Florida was approved by the GA.  The overture claimed Israel is the cause of the violence against innocent Palestinians.  Again, the resolution, like many of them, failed to mention the part Islamic groups played in creating violence in Israel.  The passage of this resolution appeared to be a great victory for the anti-Zionists within the PC (USA).

     The 2006 overturn of the 2004 resolution. Jewish leaders along with Presbyterian pastors and laity most likely complained about the 2004 resolution. So at the next GA two years later, the assembly overturned the 2004 vote that focused on Israel for divestment.  Oddly, the local presbyteries did not single out any other nation for divestment other than Israel. It doesn't take a genius to figure out other nations could have been called out for human rights violations. 

     The 2010 divestment resolutions. The local presbyteries were still bent on singling out Israel for punishment by the PC (USA).  A number of resolutions were brought before the GA in 2010.  Two overtures called for the denomination to divest (to deprive of financial support) from Caterpillar because the company supplies tractors and bulldozers to Israel.  

Israel would often bulldoze the homes of Palestinian terrorists especially if that person was involved in a brutal attack on innocent Israelis. Both the home and the family dwelling in the home were displaced because of the terrorist actions of one of its family members.  

     The report of the Middle East Study Committee (MESC). Apart from the above mentioned overtures, none of them were as bad as the 172 page report prepared by a nine-member MESC. This committee was responsible for providing a comprehensive report on the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

The resulting report "Breaking Down the Walls" was damaging to Israel and lacked any concern for Israel's security. The report was unfortunately passed by the GA . . . but in an altered form while retaining its anti-Israel bias. 

"Breaking Down the Walls" was seen by Presbyterians for Middle East Peace as "unbalanced, historically inaccurate, theologically flawed and politically damaging." 

     The creation of the Kairos Palestine Document. The 219th GA created a special "Monitoring Group on Middle East Policy" (MGMEP).  One of the tasks given to the MGMEP was to create a study guide for the Kairos Palestine Document, a so-called compromise for not accepting the "Breaking Down the Walls" report.  As we shall see, it isn't much of a compromise. 

The study guide was intended to endorse the document's focus on the hope of "liberation, non-violence, love of enemy and reconciliation."  Earlier this month, the study guide was released . The study guide and accompanying document was solely meant to address the concerns raised by Palestinian Christians. 

The Kairos Palestine Document was released on December 11, 2009 in Bethlehem.  The paper was composed by an ecumenical group of Palestinian Christians who wanted to show the world what was taking place in their land.  It cannot over overlooked that board of theologians and pastors who composed the KPD were all Palestinian!  

On the Kairos Palestine website the purpose of the document is spelled out: 
This document is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It is written at this time when we wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in this land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit the document requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades. The suffering continues while the international community silently looks on at the occupying State, Israel.
The document continues its biased intent:
In this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.
Notice that the Kairos Palestine Document (KPD) does not represent the Israeli perspective but solely the Palestinian viewpoint.  There is nothing mentioned about Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israel.  The document uses the terms "occupying Israel" to prejudice the reader against Israel.

In addition, the KPD condemns any theology that would show support for Israel, which is akin to a theology which "legitimizes the occupation."  In other words, the KPD only allows for a replacement theology in which the church is now the new Israel and all the promises God made to Israel concerning the Holy Land are null and void.

I have a lot more to say about the KPD, which I will leave for my next blog.  The flaws and dangers of the KPD cannot be tossed aside.  If you are a member of a Presbyterian Church (USA), I  implore you to speak to your pastor or leadership board about their position on this document. Voice your concerns about the infiltration of an strong anti-Zionist contingency in the denomination.

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