The Presbyterians and Israel: Exacerbating The Problem


There’s something deeply offensive about advocates of Middle East peace whose actions seem almost designed to inflame tensions and undercut serious efforts to find fair, practical solutions.

Sadly, that’s the reality behind the latest move by activists in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Early next month the Church’s General Assembly will take up a new report by a Middle East Study Committee that effectively sees Israel as the sole cause of the region’s woes, terms Palestinian terror legitimate “resistance” and calls for a full Palestinian right of return — which, essentially, means the end of the Jewish state.

Report writers claim that “what we say in moral criticism of policies and actions of the Israeli government should not be used as a battering ram against Israel’s right to membership in the community of nations nor to deepen anti-Semitism or any categorical blame of the Jewish people for the ills of the world.”

But the black-and-white narrative that follows can only reinforce those views. It describes the conflict in hopelessly naïve terms: “If there were no occupation, there would be no Palestinian resistance. If there was no Palestinian resistance, Israelis could live in peace and security.”

But wait; isn’t that “resistance,” which Israel rightly labels terrorism, coming from factions that have opposed every move toward a negotiated settlement and which have vowed to destroy Israel? What’s more, Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization was created, and began its terror acts, to “liberate” Palestine three years before the 1967 War, which ended with Israel controlling the West Bank and Gaza.

The point here isn’t that strong criticism of Israeli policies is inappropriate. We’ve done it ourselves at times. But harsh, one-sided criticism by important religious bodies like the Presbyterian Church can only undercut support for new peace moves by an Israeli public that has good reason to be skeptical about Palestinian intentions.

The Presbyterian report, even if not adopted in full by the church, bolsters the position of Palestinian maximalists who believe the tide is turning against the Jewish state, so there’s no reason to participate actively in a process that requires difficult compromises from both sides.

We have no doubt some Presbyterian peace activists genuinely long for a time when Israel and its Arab neighbors find ways to live alongside each other with peace and security. Unfortunately, this latest exercise in church involvement seems driven by those who see Israel’s existence as an affront to humanity. As such, it can only be part of the problem that keeps the region seething, not part of the solution.

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