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Jewish groups mostly hail Presbyterian outcomes

WASHINGTON (JTA) — National Jewish groups praised U.S. Presbyterians for rejecting the most controversial anti-Israel proposals at the church’s General Assembly.

In votes last Friday in Minneapolis, the assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) rejected sanctions and divestment as a means of protesting Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as theological critiques of Zionism that Jewish groups said bordered on the anti-Semitic. It also recognized both Israeli and Palestinian claims in the conflict.

"Rejection of overtures calling for the use of divestment and labeling Israeli policy as apartheid demonstrate a desire for broader understanding in the quest for peace," said a statement by a coalition of 12 national Jewish groups comprising the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist streams, as well as a number of defense and umbrella bodies. "The General Assembly has modeled a more inclusive voice on the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

The statement, distributed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a policy group umbrella, nonetheless noted with disappointment that the assembly deferred for further consideration a paper recommending improvements in Presbyterian-Jewish relations that has been long in preparation.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a separate statement that was sharper in its disappointment, saying that the assembly "averted a rupture" but slammed the assembly’s recommendation that the U.S. government consider withholding aid as a means of pressuring Israel.

The two Jewish statements had different treatments of how the assembly dealt with "Kairos," a document prepared by Palestinian Christians that endorses divestment and boycotts and upholds armed resistance.

The statement distributed by the JCPA noted positively the rejection of the more controversial elements of Kairos; the ADL statement excoriated the assembly for nonetheless voting to disseminate Kairos.

Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, noted his appreciation of those Presbyterians who fought to mitigate the criticism of Israel.

"We are saddened that the efforts of our good friends in the Presbyterian Church who worked so hard were not more successful and, at best, averted a rupture between the Church and the Jewish people," Foxman said. "However, anti-Israel bias continues with the approval of recommendations which single out and put the onus for peacemaking on Israel."

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