Jewish Group Urges PC(USA) to Reject Mideast Report

The oldest Jewish human rights organization urged the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this week to not approve a report focused on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

B'Nai B'Rith, a Jewish humanitarian, human rights and advocacy organization with a 166-year history, opposes a controversial report by the PC(USA)'s Middle East Study Committee, which will be presented at the denomination's General Assembly that begins Saturday.

The report, according to the Jewish group, "dramatically emphasizes" Israel's responsibility for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, while "belittling" Arab wrongdoings. It also fails to recognize the historic Jewish roots to the land and Israel's peace efforts while confronted with terrorism.

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Report recommendations include divestments from certain businesses that engage with Israel and a call for economic sanctions and boycott applied to Israel alone, complained B'Nai B'Rith.

"For all its shortcomings, Israel is a democracy, and one well-known for extraordinary robust political debate," wrote former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin in a letter urging the PC(USA) GA delegates against endorsing "unbalanced or counterproductive" Mideast policies.

"However, narratives and activism that appear to target Israelis or exclude recognition of any of Israel's positive contributions to peace only make the people of my country, including the most progressive and moderate of us, feel isolated, insecure and less capable of encouraging the kinds of concessions and risks for peace that I have long strongly advocated," he wrote.

The PC(USA) committee report has long drawn criticism from many Jewish organizations, including from the Simon Wiesenthal Center that said the recommendations, if approved, would damage interfaith ties.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the center described the proposal as reflecting an "anti-Israel political agenda" and not "balanced and fair" as the church leaders had promised their Middle East policies would be.

The recommendations include calling on the U.S. government to withhold financial and military aid to Israel; Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and repent of its "sinful behavior" throughout the Middle East; and for PC(USA) to strongly denounce the company Caterpillar's for profiting from non-peaceful use of its products in the region.

While Jewish groups denounce the report, some PC(USA) leaders are urging the GA commissioners to approve the study.

"We urge you to be a prophetic assembly by approving this report to help the whole church begin a two year study of Israel and Palestine and asking our people to travel and meet Israeli Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims, and see the situation for themselves," reads the letter signed by 16 former PC(USA) GA moderators in support of the study.

The General Assembly is scheduled to take place in Minneapolis, Minn., July 3-10. The PC(USA) is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country with 2.1 million members.

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