The Middle East has been an area of deep concern to General Assemblies ever since the 1948 PCUSA Assembly declared: ". . . We believe that a solution to the problem will be achieved only by a return to the principle of faithful devotion to the welfare, needs, and rights of both the Jewish and Arab peoples . . ." (PCUSA, 1948, p. 203).
The 1967 PCUS Assembly supported the cause of peace in the Middle East and wrote: ". . . The General Assembly express[es] deep concern over the unrest and recent conflict in the Middle East, an area which contains much that is sacred to Christian, Jew and Moslem alike, and it registers its wholehearted and prayerful support of individuals and nations who are seeking to bring peace and concord to that area of the world . . ." (PCUS, 1967, p. 111).
The major policy statement of the UPC came in 1974, when the Assembly adopted a policy statement that provided these guidelines for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East:
 . . . the negotiation of concrete terms for the settlement of the Middle East conflict is the responsibility of the Middle Eastern parties themselves, with appropriate support and assistance from the international community. . . .
The right and power of Jewish people to self-determination by political expression in Israel, based upon full civil liberties for all, should be recognized by the parties in the Middle East and by the international community. . . .
Boundaries of all states in the area should be mutually defined and accepted. . . .
Israel should assure full political rights and the right to effective participation in public life to all Israeli Arabs. . . .
The Arab countries should assure and foster full participation by minority religious, ethnic, and national communities in political, social, and economic life. . . .
All outside powers should support safeguards for the mutual security of Middle East states . . .
In particular, the United States and the Soviet Union could best serve the interests of the peoples in the Middle East by seeking multilateral steps to limit arms supplies to all countries of the area consistent with the building of a substantive detente.
. . . The Arab oil-producing countries with accumulating financial reserves should commit themselves to increase assistance for the long-term development of the entire Middle East region through cooperative efforts directed toward the economic growth, political stability, and alleviation of social ills. . . .
The parties involved should negotiate a shared common authority for a unified Jerusalem that will preserve the integrity of the city; give full expression to the legitimate national political interests of both Israel and the Palestinians; protect the rights of all residents; and protect the legitimate religious interests of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim groups, including free access to all holy places. . . .
In 1976, the PCUS Assembly condemned ". . . the exploitation of religious faith by the conflicting parties . . ." in the Lebanese and Arab-Israeli conflicts, declaring itself "unalterably opposed to religious wars." The Assembly added: ". . . We condemn the frequent use of religion to conceal economic, political, or class struggles. We believe that God's discipleship does not include a mandate to kill . . ." (PCUS, 1976, p. 218). The 1977 UPCUSA Assembly, the following year, addressed the Lebanese civil war and called ". . . upon all Presbyterians to pray for the return of unity and peace within the Lebanese community and for reconciliation and justice within its political and economic, religious and social life . . ." (UPCUSA, 1977, pp. 430 and 484). The 1977 UPC Assembly also reaffirmed the 1974 policy statement and called upon the U.S. government to reaffirm its commitment to Israel and its support for the concept of Palestinian self-determination. The Assembly urged the inclusion of all parties, including the PLO, in negotiations in search of a comprehensive solution to the problems of the region.
Both 1978 Assemblies recognized the Sadat/Begin/Carter peace initiatives and called upon Israel and the Palestinians to mutually recognize the rights of each other to self-determination (PCUS, 1978, p. 39; UPCUSA, 1978, p. 276). The 1979 PCUS Assembly welcomed the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel; commended the President for his leadership in helping to achieve the treaty; deplored the loss of innocent life through Palestinian raids into Israel and massive retaliation by Israel; and further deplored the continued introduction of weapons into the area, and our country's deepened involvement in those weapons sales (PCUS, 1979, pp. 79, 190).
The 1981 UPCUSA General Assembly affirmed the statement of the Patriarch, Bishops, and Religious Leaders of Christian Communities in Lebanon, who note in part: "[We are] disturbed by the deadly events which . . . have made so many victims and caused so much ruin, we can only speak out in indignation. Equally, we deplore the continued attacks on southern Lebanon and its population, which make innocent victims of our compatriots . . ." (UPCUSA, 1981, p. 64).
In 1982, the UPCUSA reaffirmed its 1974 statement, and the PCUS voted to call ". . . upon Israel to withdraw all of its forces from Lebanon immediately; . . . upon the Palestine Liberation Organization to cease acts of violence against its neighbor; . . . upon the United States Government to enter into official contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization at such time as that organization acknowledges the right of Israel to exist within secure and recognized boundaries . . ." (PCUS, 1982, pp. 131, 93).
The 1983 Assembly of the new PC(USA) expressed satisfaction for balanced media reporting on Middle East events and once again called upon the U.S. to enforce its stated position against the establishment of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, this time by ". . . denying all forms of aid to Israel as long as that nation persists in creating new West Bank settlements . . ." (PCUSA, 1983, p. 796).
In 1984, 1986, and 1987, the Assemblies called again for the U.S. government to seek peace in the Middle East by recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, while affirming Israel's right to exist, and by taking immediate actions to support international efforts to create an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (PC(USA), 1987, p. 870). The Assemblies stressed the need for the U.S. to talk with the PLO (PC(USA), 1984, p. 338; PC(USA), 1986, p. 877).
The events of the Palestinian uprising beginning in November 1987 caused the 1988 General Assembly to issue a call to Israel to:
. . . 1. Cease the systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Specifically, we call for an end to the policies and(or) practices of administrative detention, collective punishment, the torture of prisoners and suspects, and the deportation of dissidents.
2. End the policies and(or) practices of beatings and of food and fuel embargoes in the attempt to subjugate and break the will of the Palestinian population, thus ending resistance to Israeli control of the occupied territories.
3. End the settlements policy and the acquisition of land within the occupied territories, since these simply provoke the Arab peoples and reduce the opportunity for a peaceful resolution of the conflicting claims of Israelis and Palestinians;
4. End its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as part of a larger peace process. [and]
5. Participate in an international peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations in order to meet with the Palestinian people through representatives of their own choosing and to resolve the outstanding differences that confront the two peoples.
Overtures in 1989, 1990 and 1991 continued requests for a peace process in the area that included participation of the Palestinians and a ceasing of new settlements by Israel in the Occupied Territories. The 1990 Assembly:
... 7. ENCOURAGES the Congress of the United States to make continuation of U.S. aid to the State of Israel contingent upon an end to further settlements in the occupied territories, and an end to human rights violations as enumerated by the U.S. State Department in its annual report; . . .
12. REQUESTS the U.S. State Department to designate 10 percent of all appropriated aid for Israel to be used exclusively for the educations, medical, and economic benefit of Palestinians in the occupied territories, such aid to be administered on behalf of the Palestinians by the appropriate United Nations agencies; . . .
The 204th General Assembly (1992) applauded the 1991-1992 Middle East peace talks in Washington, D.C., and:
1. Commends the actions of the President and Congress: (a) in their pursuit of peace through the advocacy of bilateral and multilateral negotiations between Israelis, Palestinians, and their Arab neighbors; (b) their policies in refusing loan guarantees for Israel until the building of settlements on the occupied territories has come to a halt;
2. Calls for the promotion of the free exercise of religion for Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the region;
3. Calls for exploration and investigation of additional ways to reduce feelings of despair and abandonment that the Christian communities in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and Lebanon are experiencing, and to encourage and enable them to sustain residence in their homelands;
4. Calls upon the United States government to press for the end to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, West Bank, and Gaza, and for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon;
5. Calls for the protection of Palestinian rights as new immigrants to Israel increase economic and social pressure in that region;
6. Calls for reexamination of U.S. practice and policy relating to the sale of arms with the goal of the demilitarization of the Middle East. . . .
The 207th General Assembly (1995)
1. Reaffirm[s] actions of previous General Assemblies (1974, 1984, 1988, 1990) supporting the status of Jerusalem.
2. Reaffirm[s the] actions of previous General Assemblies (1974, 1977, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991) acknowledging the right of Israel to exist within secure, internationally recognized borders and the right of the Palestinians to self-determination.
3. Urges the president and the United States Congress to:
a. support the United Nations in the implementation of its resolutions on the future of Jerusalem;
b. renew efforts to make U.S. aid to Israel conditional upon the cessation of the appropriation of Palestinian land in and around Jerusalem and the establishment of new settlements in the occupied territories, especially those that are a part of the ongoing efforts to create a Greater Jerusalem;
c. reject current legislative efforts to move the United States' embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that would do severe damage to the Middle East Peace Process.
4. Urge[s] the Israeli government to lift the military closures of Jerusalem that deny Christians, Muslims, and others access to their places of worship, employment, health care, education, and other basic services.
5. Endorse[s] the statement, "Jerusalem: City of Peace," sent by eight leaders of Christian communions and organizations to President Clinton on March 6, 1995;
6. Endorse[s] the "Memorandum of Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and of the Heads of Christian Communities in Jerusalem," November 14, 1994, on "The Significance of Jerusalem for Christians," which declares that "Jerusalem is a symbol and a promise of the presence of God, of fraternity and peace for humankind, in particular the children of Abraham: Jews, Christians, and Muslims," and which calls, further, "upon each party to go beyond all exclusivist visions or actions, and without discrimination, to consider the religious and national aspirations of others, in order to give back to Jerusalem its true character and to make of the city a holy place of reconciliation for humankind."
7. Reaffirm[s] the conviction expressed by the 203rd General Assembly (1991) and supported by actions of the 1974, 1984, and 1987 assemblies, that the future of Jerusalem is not simply a political, social, or economic issue; but is, at its heart, a religious issue grounded in the commitment of three faith groups who claim to be the children of Abraham and for whom, in the providence of God, Jerusalem is a unique symbol of the hope for a future marked by peace and justice for all of God's children.
8. Call[s] upon all Presbyterians to pray daily for the peace of Jerusalem, remembering the unique place of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in that Holy City, and remembering the difficulties faced by both Palestinian and Israeli leaders as they try to move forward in the fragile peace process without losing the support of the people they represent.
9. Direct[s] the Stated Clerk to send copies of this resolution to the Middle East Council of Churches, Churches for Middle East Peace, the signers of both the memorandum on "The Significance of Jerusalem for Christians" and the letter on "Jerusalem: City of Peace," the president of the United States, members of the House International Relations Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the secretary of state, the secretary general of the United Nations, and the government of Israel.
The letter, "Jerusalem: City of Peace", signed by many representative leaders of Christian communions and organizations in the United States, appealed to President Clinton "that in its role as facilitator to the Middle East peace process, the United States government place the question of Jerusalem higher on its agenda. Above all we ask that the administration use its influence to prevent this vital issue from being settled by force of events or the creation of facts [sic?] on the ground. ...In view of the deteriorating conditions on the ground... we urge you to use your good offices to see that the negotiators take up the question of Jerusalem as soon as possible and that the position of the United States fully reflects the concerns expressed in this statement.
The full text of "Jerusalem: City of Peace", is found in PC(USA), 1995, pp. 362-363.
In other action vis a vis the Middle East, the 207th General Assembly (1995) responded to a correspondence from the Rev. Dr. Salim Sahiouny, the General Secretary of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. The General Secretary wrote, "As an act of pastoral solidarity with us, we request that the 207th General Assembly will appeal to the Government of the United States of America, urging it to exercise its diplomatic and political resources to support a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from these areas of Syria and Lebanon. We believe that such an effort by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will make a significant contribution to ongoing peace process."
In response to this specific request, the Stated Clerk on behalf of the 207th General Assembly (1995), wrote, "We shall continue to appeal to those in a position of authority to use their good offices to maintain the momentum of the peace process, to bring about an end to military occupation, and to assure the security of all the peoples in your region. For the full text of the letter, see PC(USA), 1995, pp. 721.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has expressed consistent concern for peace between Israel, the Palestinian people, and the Arab states, and for U.S. policies to encourage and help bring to fruition negotiations for comprehensive, just, and lasting peace (UPCUSA, 1969, p. 595;UPCUSA, 1974, p. 584; PCUS, 1976, p. 218; UPCUSA, 1977, pp. 430, 484; PC(USA), 1984, p. 338; PC(USA), 1986, p. 877; PC(USA), 1988, p. 365; PC(USA), 1990, pp. 105, 106; PC(USA), 1995, pp. 688, 718). Our concerns and positions are informed by 160 years of Presbyterian involvement in the Middle East, by the situation and perspectives of Middle Eastern Christians, including series of the Middle East Council of Churches and, more recently, urgent concerns about Jerusalem expressed by the leaders of the Christian churches in Jerusalem. Our concerns and positions in relation to peace in the Middle East are also informed by and sensitive to concerns for Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim relations. (See PC(USA), 1988, pp. 365–66;PC(USA), 1989, p. 585;PC(USA), 1990, p. 104.) Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) work for the Middle East locally, nationally, and internationally in a variety of ways, including in cooperation with members of other Christian communions; ecumenical agencies, such as Churches for Middle East Peace, the National Council of Churches, and World Council of Churches; and in a variety of interreligious efforts, including the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East.
The 208th General Assembly (1996) requested that the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) submit a report to the 209th General Assembly (1997) that would review "issues related to the larger Middle East area with recommendations for appropriate public policies and church involvement" (PCUSA, 1996, p. 388). The resolution adopted in 1997 reports on political, economic, human rights, environmental, and military concerns that continue to impact the Middle East peace process. It also commends efforts made by the United States government over the last twelve months in the Middle East, and calls upon the United States to continue to be active in the Middle East peace process. It also highlights ways the people of the United States and the international community can adopt practices and policies that can have an impact on the Middle East. And it calls on all Middle East parties to work together to prevent violence and to seek nonviolent resolutions to conflict. (PC(USA), 1997, pp. 560-584)
Consideration about the Middle East peace process reemerged at the 210th General Assembly (1998), focusing on the concern that in recent years, the peace process has seemed as if it were on hold, if not dead. Overture 98-8 states that the "peace process between Israel and the Palestine Authority has been severely set back since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, due to the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the internal struggle among Palestinians between those favoring violence and those favoring negotiations." (PCUSA, 1998, p. 655-656) This overture calls upon the Israeli government to cooperate with the United Nations in investigating the living conditions and circumstances of Palestinians in the region, and calls upon the United States to monitor Israel's fulfillment of the terms of the Oslo Accords in regard to continuing aid to Israel. The complete text of this resolution can be found in Minutes, PC(USA), 1998, pp. 655-656.
The 210th General Assembly (1998) [of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)]:
1. Call[s] on the United States government to make continued aid and military assistance to Israel contingent on its fulfilling the terms of the Oslo Accords, including
a. permanent termination of its efforts to expand the settlement;
b. expeditious turnover of territory to the Palestinian Authority;
c. negotiations on the status of Jerusalem under international guidelines.
2. Call[s] on Israel to allow and cooperate with United Nations inspection teams investigating the conditions and circumstances of Palestinians living both in Israel and in the occupied territories.
4. Request[s] the General Assembly Council to organize an official visitation of a small, widely representative team from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to visit areas under the jurisdiction of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and neighboring countries . . . .
Call[s] upon the Stated Clerk to communicate this overture to the president and secretary of state of the United States, members of Congress, the Israeli government, and the Palestinian Authority.
Jerusalem is a city with a history held sacred by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and all children of Abraham. A peaceful settlement of the territorial claims of Palestinians and Israelis can be achieved only by negotiation that respects the holiness and wholeness of the city. Jerusalem must not belong to a single people but must be open to all, shared by two peoples (Palestinians and Israelis) and three religions (Christian, Muslim, and Jewish). Access to holy places and freedom of worship must be available to people of all faiths. Previous General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have called for international negotiations to determine Jerusalem's future and for the free exercise of religion for all traditions in that city.
The 212th General Assembly (2000) support[s] the efforts of all who seek a peace for Jerusalema peace that respects humankind and the political rights of Christians, Muslim Palestinians, and Israelis, as well as the rights of these three religious communities.
[The 213th General Assembly (2001) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):]
1. Affirms the call of Secretary of State Colin Powell, during his February 2001 visit to Jerusalem while standing with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, urging the implementation of United Nations Resolutions 242, 338, and others;
2. Call[s] on both the Israelis and Palestinians to recognize that the continuing escalation of violence cannot lead to peace, and that self-restraint and a willingness to make fair and reasonable mutual compromises constitute the necessary first steps toward any acceptable negotiated settlement;
3. Call[s] on Mr. Sharon's government to desist from its policy of excessive military force, and to signal its commitment to peace negotiation by ending the occupation, which is itself a form of violence, and a continuing hindrance to the resumption of a peace process;
4. Call[s] on Mr. Yasser Arafat to appeal to the different population groups of the Palestinian people to lay down their arms and stones, not as a sign of surrender to the continuing Israeli occupation, but as an expression of their unity in seeking to work out a just and an enduring peace for their people;
5. Direct[s] the Stated Clerk to send a letter President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, the ambassador to the United Nations, and all members of Congress, asking that they urge and work with both the Israelis and the Palestinians to seek a just and lasting peace; urging the conversion of funds presently budgeted or allocated for military assistance for nations of the Middle East to support for humanitarian assistance and economic aid; and discouraging the private, direct or indirect, sale of military weaponry to Middle Eastern nations.
On Urging Sustainable Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians
[The 214th General Assembly (2002) approved actions that:]
1. Urges all the parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to work toward a just, sustainable peace by
a. ending all forms of violence by Israelis and Palestinians alike;
b. implementing the Arab League proposal, essentially the same as United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, calling for full Arab recognition of Israel and Israel's withdrawl from the Occupied Territories;
c. an affirmation by Israel that it will work with Palestinians toward the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state with the same sovereign rights as those of the State of Israel;
d. establishing an international peacekeeping force to help provide security for all people as long as needed;
e. ending Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza;
f. striving for a negotiated agreement under U.N. supervision, supervision for a shared Jerusalem by the two peoples (Palestinian and Israelis) and three faiths (Jewish, Christian, Muslim); and
g. the commitment by Israel to address justly the issue of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
2. Directs the Stated Clerk to send the above statement to the president of the united States, the secretary of state, the chairpersons of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Committee on International Relations, the secretary general of the United Nations, the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the secretary general of the Arab League, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., the World Council of Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches, the Vatican, and other interested parties as the Stated Clerk deems appropriate.
3. In regard to Presbyterians, the General Assembly
a. urges them to pray that all people in that region who live under the tyranny of fear, suspicion, hatred, or despair, may find a just and lasting peace; and to join the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil for Peace in the Middle East;
b. encourages them to become better informed about the issues;
c. requests them, especially those in leadership positions, to rise to a higher level of advocacy for a just peace, though organizing ecumenically in congressional districts and statewide by participation in ecumenical efforts;
d. invites them to take part in the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel;
e. reminds them that they may contribute funds toward the relief of those who are suffering there through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance;
f. suggests that they note and make use of the following resources and contact information:
(1) Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) resources
(a) PC(USA) website (www.pcusa.org) and the link to "Middle East Crisis"
(b) Presbyterian Middle East Office (ph: 888-728-7228 x5314)
(c) Presbyterian Washington Office (ph: 202-543-1126; web site: www.pcusa.org/washington)
(d) Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and the link to "Crisis in the Middle East" (ph: 888-728-7228 x 5779; http://horeb.pcusa.org/peacemaking)
(e) Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (ph: 888-728-7228 x 5839; web site: www.pcusa.org/pda and the link to "Middle East")
(2) Ecumenical Agencies
(a) National Council of Churches (ph: 212-870-2511; web site: www.ncccusa.org)
(b) Churches for Middle East Peace (ph: 202-488-5613; web site www.cmep.org)
(c) Church World Service and Witness Middle East Forum (ph: 301-384-3615; www.loga.org/mideastforum/home.htm)
(d) Middle East Council of Churches (www.mecchurches.org)
(e) World Council of Churches (www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/palestine/index.html)
4. Directs the Stated Clerk to send this statement to the presbyteries for transmittal to the congregations, and to post it on the website.
On Sending a Delegation to the Middle East
[The 215th General Assembly (2003) approved the following recommendation of the General Assembly Council Executive Committee:]
[T]o send a delegation to the Middle East to affirm our partnerships, express our solidarity with the peoples of the Middle East, demonstrate our church's commitment to peace, justice, and reconciliation, and to strengthen the bridges of understanding that have continued to be built over nearly two hundred years in various countries there.
Resolution on Israel and Palestine: End the Occupation Now
[The 215th General Assembly (2003) approved actions to:]
1. Approve the following resolution with background rationale.
2. Direct the Stated Clerk to publish it on the PC(USA) Web site with notification to middle governing bodies and sessions, providing a copy upon request to each middle governing body or session, and distributing the Web site address to the entire church in the Minutes of the 215th General Assembly (2003), Part I.
3. Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate the import of this resolution to the different parties addressed, as well as to appropriate partners in the region.
The question of Palestine, now in its 56th year without resolution, has been the oldest continuing item on the agenda of the United Nations. From the beginning, the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians has been a subject of concern, prayer and action for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as well as other churches and ecumenical bodies in the region and the world. The church has shown concern for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Our disquiet has been enunciated, as recently as a few months ago, when we protested attacks carried out against the Jews, their synagogues, and other institutions in various parts of the world. Our voice has been heard repeatedly on behalf of the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Since the war of June 1967 and the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, that conflict has generally been characterized by violence. Except for a few periods when hope for peace seemed within reach, the strife has only intensified. During the past thirty months, in particular, the degree of violence, fear, anger, polarization, and bitterness has been unprecedented. Many innocent Israelis have fallen victim to desperate acts of terror at the hands of Palestinian extremists, while innumerable Palestinian civilians have experienced pain, suffering, degradation, and death under the yoke of Israel's heavy-handed military occupation.
The occupation is growing stronger, and the threat to Palestinian rights and Palestinian lives grows stronger, too. Despite this occupation that violates United Nations' resolutions, which the United States affirmed, Israel claims more support than ever from the United States. Alongside its military and economic subsidies from Washington, amounting to a quarter of the entire U.S. foreign aid budget, Israel has requested an additional $4 billion in military aid, and $8-10 billion in loan guarantees from U.S. taxpayers. That money would help sustain Israel's illegal occupation. Under this occupation, Palestinian civilians suffer under twenty-four-hour-a-day shoot-to-kill curfews. Israeli settlement expansion continues. Nearly 45 percent of West Bank land has already been expropriated from Palestinians for settlement purposes. Arbitrary arrests, detention, humiliation, torture, and harassment continue to the point of desperation. Even U.N. staff members are not immune.
Although it has spoken out, the church is often accused of being silent. Its call for justice and peace has continued to go unheeded. Now it must speak up and speak out again, perhaps in stronger language. Its message is clear, consistent, and straightforward: it calls for the broad goal of ending the occupation, appeals with a most urgent priority for international protection for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, and the protection of innocent Israeli citizens. The United States and the international community must act now to end the conflict and the occupation.
Therefore, the 215th General Assembly (2003):
A. Asks pastors, lay leaders, sessions and individual members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to:
1. Pray, and invite others to pray, to the God of Peace to direct the hearts, minds, wills, and actions of those in positions of authority or influence in the Middle East, as well as those who know only aggression and violence, to seek the ways of peace.
2. Avail themselves of study resources that help them understand the history, nature, and dimensions of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
3. Seek out other Christians, Jews, and Muslims, in their own areas, to work together through interfaith peacebuilding, and in support of every effort made, whether by Israelis, Palestinians, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the Christian churches, and/or other religious and secular organizations that aim toward bringing about a just, honorable, secure, and viable peace in the Middle East.
4. Travel to the region, as may be feasible and opportune, to visit with Christian partners and others, to gain firsthand experience in understanding of the issues and dynamics behind the conflict, as well as the possibilities for peace and good will, making sure to take advantage of the contacts and travel study resources produced by the PC(USA) and its partners, as well as PC(USA) mission workers and others in the region, who are able to introduce visitors to a wide spectrum of perspectives and opinions within the communities of people in the Holy Land.
5. Take individual and collective initiatives to tell the truth, having "listened with both ears," and to advocate for a just peace in the Middle East with their representatives in Congress, the administration, United Nations officials, local/regional/national newspaper editors and other opinion makers.
6. Participate and/or promote participation in the international Christian "Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel" (EAPPI), organized through the World Council of Churches, in partnership with Palestinian Christians (for information, see www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/palestine/eap.html).
7. Increase Presbyterian support to assist the churches in the region to build and maintain their capacity for retaining competent leadership and to create opportunities for vocational training and economic development, in order to curb the flight of Christians from the homeland of their faith.
B. Reaffirms the actions of previous General Assemblies (cf., in 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1992, 1991, 1990 several resolutions, 1988, 1987, 1986, and earlier to 1967) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and communications by the Stated Clerk based on those actions (cf., most recently: April 5, 2002; March 8 and 11, 2002; October 14, 2000, etc.):
1. Supporting the resolutions of the United Nations, affirming the right of Israel to exist within secure borders, and the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, including the establishment of their own sovereign state and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
2. Calling on the Israelis and Palestinians to cease their acts of violence against each other.
3. Urging the Israeli government to end its expansionist policies of confiscation of land and water resources and the building and enlarging of settlements, and of collective punishment of Palestinians, such as is exercised through administrative detentions, demolition of homes, mass house imprisonment ("curfews"), uprooting olive trees, setting up road blocks and checkpoints, and other forms of harassment and humiliation.
4. Calling on the Israeli government to end the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
5. Urging the United States government to intervene actively with the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to broker a just, secure, and permanent peace.
C. Urges the United Nations, in view of the continuing cycle of violence seen in suicide bombings and brutal attacks by Palestinian extremist groups, fierce aggression by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians, the unending military siege of Palestinian towns and villages that has devastated their lives and brought about more violent resistance, to deploy an international peacekeeping force, in order to restore calm in the Occupied Territories, while resuming peace negotiations may be vigorously pursued.
D. Strongly urges Israeli and Palestinian leaders to be serious, active, and diligent about seeking peace for their peoples; or, if they are unwilling or unable, to step down and make room for other leaders who will and can.
E. Challenges and encourages discussion of theological interpretations that confuse biblical prophesies and affirmations of covenant, promise, and land, which are predicated on justice, righteousness, and mercy, with political statehood that asserts itself through military might, repressive discrimination, abuse of human rights, and other actions that do not reveal a will to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
F. Urges the government of Israel to hasten to end the occupation of Palestinian territories; and to accept the League of the Arab Nations' unanimous offer for peace in return of the land occupied by Israel since 1967 and urges the League of the Arab Nations to commit to doing everything in their power to eliminate funding and support for terrorist acts against Israeli citizens.
G. Urges the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership to work on resolving the issue of the right of return. With the assistance of the United Nations, both sides can, if they will, strive for and reach, an understanding that affirms the right of return of Palestinians while working out a mutually acceptable formula for implementation.
H. Strongly urge[d] the United States to take seriously its leadership role to begin a peace initiative that will end Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem and fulfill the stated goal of a two-state settlement based on the pre-1967 boundaries as directed by UNSC 242. The administration needs to be fair in listening to the legitimate needs of both the Israelis and the Palestinians and to require both to adhere to the same standards of nonaggression. An end of the occupation is essential to achieving peace and the common good of the two peoples and three faiths that are deeply rooted in this land.
I. Urges the United States government to demonstrate its seriousness about being the sponsor of the Middle East peace process and the creation of a viable Palestinian state "within three years" (two years now), by
1. undertaking steps to restructure and reallocate its present annual aid to the Middle East to enable and support strategies for development of the region as a whole;
2. devising such strategies that will result in human advancement, economic growth, a more equitable distribution of resources, improvement in the quality of education, greater participation in governance, and the empowerment of women;
3. assuring that U.S. policies and economic assistance programs contribute to these ends;
4. engaging other donors, and countries in the region, in conversations about how such goals can be achieved; and
5. ensuring that sufficient resources and economic aid are made available to the Palestinian people in order to help rebuild and modernize Palestinian schools, create effective vocational training programs, resuscitate the Palestinian economy by rebuilding the Gaza Airport, constructing the long-promised harbor, facilitating trade and meaningful employment, and reinforcing the administrative infrastructure.
J. Called on the United States government and the United Nations to work closely with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership to establish effective mechanisms for examining and correcting their own respective application of the principles of participatory democracy, decent governance, and respect for human rights.
On Creating a Study Guide on the History and Evolving Present Day Situation of the Middle East
[The 215th General Assembly (2003) directed the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to:]
1. Create a comprehensive study guide of the history and evolving present day situation of the Middle East, drawing upon the work of contemporary historians and scholars.
2. Make the study guide available to all Presbyterian churches and judicatories.
3. Create publicity promoting the study guide so many Presbyterians could and would become knowledgeable of the present day Middle East situation and have a better understanding of its history and people.