Presbyterian Church (USA), or PC(USA), continues to be a divisive force in the Israeli-Arab conflict. At this year’s General Assembly, being held in Portland, Oregon from June 18 – 25, there are once again multiple resolutions demonizing Israel on the docket. A resolution aiming for neutrality, which called to “remove the divestment mandate,” was “not referred for lack of occurrence.”
Particularly jarring is a proposed resolution put forth by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), “responsible for the process of developing and recommending social witness policy to the General Assembly,” calling for various forms of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and corporations with ties to the country. It solely blames Israel for the lack of a resolution to the conflict, demonstrating the church’s obsessive, singular focus on demonizing Israel. False and outrageous claims, such as “[w]hen the IDF raids a village or refugee camp, the first shots are typically at the rooftop water tanks—easy targets— so the Palestinians will worry about how to have water the rest of the week, instead of organizing resistance to the invasion,” run throughout.
As with many similar documents, this resolution relies on anti-peace NGOs as its source, as seen in the 56-page report commissioned by ACSWP at the last General Assembly, which served as the basis for the anti-Israel efforts at the General Assembly. Groups such as B’Tselem, ICAHD, Breaking the Silence, BADIL, Christ at the Checkpoint, and Military Court Watch are cited, as well as the arguably antisemitic Kairos Palestine Document.
The resolution also references Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a highly biased and politicized subgroup of the World Council of Churches (WCC). EAPPI and the volunteers whom it sends to the West Bank promote BDS campaigns and utilize demonizing rhetoric accusing Israel of “apartheid,” “collective punishment,” and “war crimes.” In fact, the resolution encourages individuals to volunteer with the group.
Pro-BDS activists have long seen churches as an ideal battleground for their political war against Israel. As noted on the BDS Movement’s website: “Religious institutions are seen in many communities as embodying important moral and ethical principles… Divestment campaigns that target companies such as Caterpillar have been initiated in a number of major Christian churches. Not only will successful divestment campaigns financially weaken the Occupation, but will raise both the public profile and legitimacy of the BDS campaign.”
In this way the false, distorted, and/or misleading claims of NGOs are repeated and granted misplaced legitimacy.