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This week in Detroit at their biennial General Assembly, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have a profound choice to make: to be peacemakers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or to become participants in the dispute.

Frustration with the ongoing conflict and repeated failures to reach a final peace settlement can lead to taking sides in ways that actually backfire, no matter how well intentioned. Regrettably, developments in church bodies – namely the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) and the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) – suggest that some PC (USA) members have moved in this direction, veering away from the peacemaker role of reconciling adversaries, by taking one side and joining the conflict.

On the GA’s agenda are no less than ten resolutions addressing Israel and the Palestinians, nine of which are negative toward Israel. These include calls for divestment in companies doing business with Israel, and one that questions whether Israel should exist at all, by calling on the church to review its position on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As an antidote to the pull of lopsided politicization that so often moves those who become involved with this conflict, remembering what it means to be a peacemaker is paramount.

To succeed, peacemakers should not feed into the existential fears of either party in conflict by demonizing, dehumanizing or delegitimizing those in conflict. Calling into question the two-state solution does exactly that, which is what Zionism Unsettled, published by the Israel Palestine Mission Network, does.  This booklet invalidates the very existence of the State of Israel, and dismisses the internationally accepted moral right of the Jewish people to sovereign equality. The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is promoting this booklet on their website.

True peacemakers avoid worsening conflict. True peacemakers seek to create trust between disputants, and foster an atmosphere of reconciliation. By taking sides, PPF and IPMN have undermined their peacemaker’s mission, failing both Palestinians and Israelis alike. Tragically, they contribute enmity and misunderstanding to this conflict with their words and deeds.

It is hoped that Presbyterians will choose wisely. That they will assert their influence, intellect and prophetic voice toward being the peacemakers both parties to this conflict truly need.