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Presbyterian Church USA's General Assembly Passes Resolutions Critical of Israel


The Presbyterian Church USA passed several resolutions critical of Israel on Friday during the denomination's 223rd General Assembly held in St. Louis, Mo.

The church assembly consists of commissioners elected by the individual presbyteries or churches.

 In all, the assembly passed 11 resolutions dealing with the Middle East, including one that referred to Israel as an apartheid state, Haaretz.com reported.

The church also voted against resolutions that it said were not sufficiently critical of Israel because they also mentioned Palestinian transgressions, particularly the terrorist group Hamas, according to the newspaper

A resolution on the recent violence between Gaza Palestinians and Israeli troops on the border with the coastal strip was stripped of references to the terrorist organization Hamas, which has fomented violence on the border. The amended resolution completely removing Hamas, about which some members of the Middle East Committee expressed misgivings, passed by a vote of 438-34, according to the Presbyterian Outlet news service.

In addition, the assembly also passed two resolutions drawn up by its Middle East Committee that were not Israel-related, one dealing with the crisis in Syria and one on disengagement from Iran.

The assembly approved by a vote of 442-18 a measure urging Presbyterians to "reach out in open, truthful dialogue with Jewish colleagues," to discuss the issue of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Ethan Felson, executive director of the Israel Action Network, noted that the reconciliation, foreign aid, and Syria resolutions were positive developments for a body that in recent years has been sharply at odds with the pro-Israel community.

"We are heartened that the GA commissioners called for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation over the objections of PCUSA leaders," he said in a statement.

However, leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, were disappointed with a resolution opposing anti-boycott laws on free speech grounds, as well as one that calls on the Re/Max real estate company to stop facilitating the sale of property in Israeli settlements, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

"Just two years ago, the Presbyterian Church took an incredible step forward in promising to oppose any efforts to deny or undermine the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in a two-state solution," Skip Schrayer, chair of the Israel Action Network, said in a statement. "While relationships between Jews and Presbyterians generally remain positive at the local level, the national denomination has a distance to travel in restoring the civility and fairness necessary for healthy interfaith relations and conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

The Presbyterian assembly also voted down a resolution that would have terminated the church's classification of Israel as a "colonial project."  

The American Jewish Committee condemned the Presbyterian assembly for the resolutions. 

"The Church remains obsessively critical of Israel in its national utterances," AJC's director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, Rabbi Noam Marans, said in a statement. "For many years and in myriad ways, the PCUSA has gone beyond legitimate criticism of Israel and embraced demonization of the Jewish state."

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