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To Presbyterian Church USA: Your anti-Israel resolution bears false witness

Why demonizing Israel as an apartheid state would be a poor decision for PCUSA - and 5 constructive steps to help Palestinians to take instead
Flyer for the PCUSA General Assembly, 2022. (Facebook)
Flyer for the PCUSA General Assembly, 2022. (Facebook)

To the Commissioners of Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA):

I have spent the decades of my career toiling in the vineyards of interfaith relations, and Jewish-Christian understanding. It is holy work.

I urge you to reject the resolution (INT-02) labeling Israel as an apartheid state that is scheduled for a PCUSA General Assembly vote on July 7, 2022. It is an appalling document, riddled with untruths, half-truths, legal distortions, and deep bias. It will surely be seen by all those seriously working for peace as an ideologically driven, one-sided resolution constituting false witness. As such, it will undermine any remaining credibility PCUSA has regarding the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The resolution repeatedly refers to Israeli policy in racial terms. This is a profound distortion, as any person knowledgeable about the conflict knows. The conflict is not about race, but about two national movements that contradict each other. Portraying it in racial terms is a cheap shot apparently intended to gain supporters through deception.

INT-02 also advocates a Palestinian “right of return.” People aware of the conflict’s history know that this is code for the destruction of the Jewish state — Israel, even before its 1967 occupation of the West Bank areas. This is blatantly inconsistent with PCUSA’s alleged support of the right of Israel to exist. Denying the Jewish people its natural right of national self-determination is an egregious double standard, as PCUSA freely grants other peoples this right. Such unjustifiable discrimination can be rightly seen as antisemitism.

The resolution systematically ignores all Palestinian responsibility for the conflict and the current tragedy. It elides persistent Palestinian terrorism and Israel’s legitimate right to defend its citizens, which is such a large part of the conflict. (Just recently Palestinian terrorists murdered 13 innocent Israeli civilians). Not holding Palestinians morally responsible for their behavior smacks of bigotry: it judges Palestinians incapable of moral agency and living according to moral standards. This resolution dispels any notion that PCUSA is an honest and fair observer of the conflict.

INT-02 is also destructive, only increasing hatred toward Israel, Israelis, and Jews, while not furthering peace, understanding, or alleviating Palestinian suffering, in any way. Clearly, all the PCUSA resolutions over the years about the conflict have not helped one Palestinian for one moment of one day. INT-02 is similar and without constructive purpose. Because of this, it is, unfortunately, morally and spiritually vacuous.

Rather than falsely demonizing Israel as an apartheid state, PCUSA should take constructive steps such as (1) investing in the Palestinian economy and ensuring that the donations are used for the welfare of Palestinian citizens, rather than disappearing to corruption and terrorism; (2) helping Palestinians build strong transparent democratic institutions; (3) strengthening moderate Palestinian voices willing to engage constructively with Israelis; (4) convincing Palestinian leaders to prepare Palestinians for the realistic compromises needed for peace; and (5) urging Palestinian leaders to drop their consistent policy of rejecting peace offers, as they did in 1948, 1967, 1977, 2000, 2008, and 2020.

Finally, the fact that the resolution vilifies Israel while it ignores the suffering of millions of Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, most of whom are denied citizenship, forced to live in refugee camps, and suffer from systematic state discrimination, is revealing. Many people will conclude that INT-02 is really not about any concern for the Palestinians. It is all about the Jews.

In sum, INT-O2 sins in bearing false witness, and displays none of the Christian virtues of love, charity, or fairness.

The PCUSA, Palestinians, and Israelis deserve better.

With fervent prayers for peace and understanding,

Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn
Former Academic Director, Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding, Israel

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn is the former Academic Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding in Jerusalem, and senior research fellow at Bet Morasha of Jerusalem’s Institute for Religion and Society. His forthcoming book, "To Be a Holy People: Jewish Tradition and Ethical Values" will appear in 2021.
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