Presbyterians push conflicting Israel views

COMPILED FROM JTA

The Presbyterian Church moved ahead with several contradictory motions on the Middle East at its General Assembly. In a sign of deep schisms among Presbyterians, members of the Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues, meeting Tuesday during the church’s biennial General Assembly in San Jose, Calif., approved several motions that appeared to contradict one another. One motion prohibited the church from adopting positions that would identify too much with one party to the conflict.

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But the committee also approved a motion endorsing the Amman Call, a document adopted at a 2007 church gathering in Jordan that calls for the right of return of all refugees.

The committee also struck down language that would have permitted the church to move ahead with divestment from Israel without further approval from the General Assembly. According to a report on the church’s Web site, more than 100 people spoke during hours of debate before the committee, whose recommendations must be approved by the General Assembly.

Dennis Ross, a former American Middle East negotiator, in a video message to the committee said a divestment resolution was “divorced from reality,” according to the New York Sun. The Presbyterian Church became the first mainline Protestant denomination to recommend divestment from Israel in 2004, though it backed away from that decision somewhat two years later.

Jewish groups have praised the Presbyterian Church for its decision not to “over-identify” with either party in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Spearheaded by the umbrella organization the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish groups issued a statement Friday in support of some of the stands taken last week by delegates to the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

The Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee, Simon Wiesenthal Center, B’nai B’rith International, Anti-Defamation League, and the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, expressed concern about the Church’s support for the right of return.

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