The Presbyterians and Israel

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The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) met in Richmond, VA, from June 26th to July 3rd. In resounding Resolutions, the Assembly, made up of over 500 delegates, blasted the oppressive regime (wrmea. com) of Ariel Sharon, calling for end to the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall (http://www.stopthewall.org/), and for "a selective divestment" by the Church in businesses situated in the Zionist state that are in any way found to be involved in the brutal occupation of the Palestinian people. It also repeated its strong demand for an "end to the occupation."

The Presbyterian Church (USA) today represents about 2.4 million people nationwide. In the U.S. Congress, 34 members of the House of Representatives and 13 members of the Senate identify themselves as Presbyterians. In America, Presbyterians have a very proud and hard earned tradition of patriotism, independence and integrity that can be traced back to Colonial Days ("Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America" by David Hackett Fischer) when many of its sons, like the legendary Andrew Pickens, were found gallantly fighting in the Revolutionary War for America, against the British ("A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens," Lawrence E. Babits).

In a clarifying statement released by the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the "Stated Clerk" of the Assembly, the Presbyterians had this to say about the Apartheid Wall: “The assembly called for an end to Israel’s construction of the separation barrier, while fully aware of our interest in Israel’s security, the major reason for this action was the assembly’s concern of the impact of the structure on the economic, social, and religious life of Palestinians… In previous assemblies, the church has called for an end to the occupation, as the principal cause of the conflict" (07/21/04, Jerry L. Van Marter, pcusa.org). Rev. Kirkpatrick added, "The best hope for security for both Israelis and Palestinians may be found in laying down all forms of aggression on both sides, ending the Israeli occupation, and finding ways to build bridges of peace rather than walls of separation. Good neighborly relations, rather than mutual isolation and suspicion, are urgently needed between Israel and its neighbors in Palestine and the Middle East" The General Assembly said the Wall "ghettoizes the Palestinians and forces them onto what can be called reservations."

Church activists also urged a study, according to Rev. Kirkpatrick, leading to a "selective divestment" of church funds from those companies whose business in Israel is "found to be directly or indirectly causing harm or suffering to innocent people, Palestinian or Israeli. It did not approve a blanket divestment from companies that do business in Israel, as is being reported in some places." Kirkpatrick explained the Assembly’s action in this way, "Although the decision to initiate a process of phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel may be presumed by some to invite comparison of Israeli policies with those of apartheid South Africa, the Assembly has not asserted any moral equivalency between the two. The two situations are distinct. The focus of this action is to explore use of a proven tool of economic pressure to motivate real change in Israeli policies and movement toward peace."

"The conviction of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that the security of Israel and the Israeli people is inexorably dependent on making peace with their Palestinian neighbors, by negotiating and reaching a just and equitable solution to the conflict that respects international law, human rights, the sanctity of life, and dignity of persons, land, property, safety of home, freedom of movement, the rights of refugees to return to their homeland, the right of a people to determine their political future, and to live in peace and prosperity," Rev. Kirkpatrick concluded.

Since the Presbyterian General Assembly made its gutsy decisions, it has been predictably "inundated" with letters and e-mails of protest and has even been denounced as being "anti-Israel and anti-Semitic."

How would one of America’s heroes from the 19th Century, Major General Andrew Jackson, (later a two term president), have handled today’s Israeli leaders, I wonder? I sometimes fantasize about Jackson, a great populist, and a Presbyterian, sitting in the White House’s Oval Office again, when the Israeli thug Ariel Sharon (http://www.wrmea.com/html/newsitem_s.htm) comes back to shake down the taxpayers for billions of additional dollars in freebies (http://www.wrmea.com/html/us_aid_to_israel.htm). I envision "Old Hickory" taking his cane out and giving the fascist Sharon a whack or two on the top of his bald head, while chasing him out of the office and into the World Court where he rightfully belongs as a defendant ((http://www.indictsharon.net/). I would also like to see the heroic Jackson purge our land of the last vestiges of the evil Neocon Menace ("Neocons and the Military Industrial Complex," Carl Bloice, Znet, 09/05/03, http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm), which helped to scheme us into that Iraqi quagmire that has already cost us, our British allies, and the innocent Iraqi people, so dearly (antiwar.com).

Until those liberating days arrive, however, I suppose I will just have to be satisfied with the highly praiseworthy actions, on the Israeli/Palestinian issue, by the recent General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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