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Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church

8505 Church Street (in Ridgefield)
Crystal Lake, IL 60012
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PC(USA)’s engagement with Israel/Palestine at the 226th General Assembly

This summer, the 226th General Assembly will meet online and in Salt Lake City, Utah, and will consider two overtures that address different aspects of the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict.

The first overture from Pittsburgh Presbytery (FIN-01) asks the assembly to direct the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to begin “focused engagement” with General Electric (GE) and another company involved in law enforcement contracts along the U.S.-Mexico border. In the overture’s rationale, the presbytery points to GE’s production of military aircraft engines that the Israeli military has used to attack Gaza recently and as far back as 2008. Israel has been accused of war crimes for these attacks by several human rights organizations. Pittsburgh Presbytery states that these activities conflict with the mission-directed investment policy of the PC(USA).

The second overture, which is from Muskingum Valley Presbytery (INT-05), calls for updating and expanding a 2004 General Assembly resolution on confronting Christian Zionism. The overture asks the assembly to direct the GA Office of Theology, Formation and Evangelism to produce a study document to help congregations better understand the work of the assembly since the 2004 resolution was approved, including the assembly resolutions dealing with Israel and Palestine since 2004.

In a recommendation from the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (FIN-03), the assembly will be asked to consider removing Hewlett-Packard, Inc., from the 2025 General Assembly Divestment/Proscription list of MRTI. Previously, HP provided computer systems to Israel that some said put HP at risk of violating international humanitarian and human rights laws in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. In 2015, HP restructured and is believed to no longer provide such systems or any services that might contribute to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of engagement with issues related to Israel/Palestine, reflecting its commitment to justice, peace and reconciliation in the region. Over the years, the PC(USA) has adopted various positions and resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seeking to promote a just and lasting resolution that respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved.

One of the foundational documents guiding the PC(USA)’s engagement with Israel/Palestine has been the 1991 Brief Statement of Faith, which affirms the church’s belief in God’s covenant with Israel and the call to pursue justice and peace in the world.

A central aspect of the PC(USA)’s position is its support for a two-state solution, which envisions an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, with mutually recognized borders and security for both peoples (221st GA, 2014, “On Peace in the Middle East”).

The PC(USA) has consistently advocated for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The church has condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements in these areas, viewing them as obstacles to peace and a violation of international law. In 2022, the 215th General Assembly approved with 70% of the vote overture INT-02 from the Presbytery of Grace to “Recognize that the government of Israel’s laws, policies, and practices regarding the Palestinian people fulfill the international legal definition of apartheid.” It sparked strong reactions from voices within and outside the PC(USA) that advocate for each side of the conflict.

Following the passage of the Presbytery of Grace’s 2022 overture, then-Stated Clerk of the General Assembly J. Herbert Nelson said the resolution “follows a series of policies enacted by previous General Assemblies since 1948,” when the modern State of Israel was established.

One of the key issues that the PC(USA) has sought to address is the negative impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian human rights, including access to water, freedom of movement, and the right to self-determination. Israel’s recent bombings and repeated attacks on the people living in Gaza Strip, sparked by an attack by the terrorist group Hamas in October 2023, have exacerbated the challenges the humanitarian concerns the PC(USA) and other groups have raised for decades. The church has called for an end to practices such as home demolitions, arbitrary detentions and restrictions on Palestinian economic development, as well as the disproportionate military attacks by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians.

The PC(USA) has engaged in interfaith dialogue and cooperation with Jewish and Muslim communities to promote understanding, reconciliation and peacebuilding in the region. This includes initiatives such as the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), which seeks to educate and advocate on behalf of a just peace in the Holy Land.

In recent years, the PC(USA) has faced internal debates and controversies over its positions on the regional conflict, with differing views on issues such as divestment from companies that sell products or support in various ways the Israeli occupation or control of Palestinian land. These debates reflect the diversity of opinions within the church and the complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As recently as March 26, with the commemoration of the suffering of Jesus on Good Friday only days away, Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Bronwen Boswell signed on to a letter with more than 140 church leaders from around the world joining many other voices in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and halt arms sales to Israel. The letter stated, “[W]e stand in solidarity with all in the Holy Land who suffer.” The letter challenged what the authors called a lack of world response to the suffering in Gaza, stating, “As the ongoing devastation, bombing, and ground invasion in Gaza continue into their sixth month, Palestinians, including our Palestinian Christian siblings, cry out to the world, asking, ‘Where are you?’ World leaders have responded with empty rhetoric and political volleying about addressing the ‘humanitarian crisis’ in Gaza while ignoring the direct causes of the catastrophe. … We say, ‘Enough killing!’ and together demand a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”