PCJCMR was first founded in the 1950s with a focus on building positive relationships between Chrisitans and Jews. With the growth of a large, wonderful and diverse Muslim community in the United States, we have added development of relationships between and among Christians, Jews and Muslims to the tasks we consider crucial.  We hope to build dialogues between the faith communities on the local level, be advocates for peace and justice on issues that relate to the three faith communities, and sponsor educational opportunities.  We invite your ideas and participation in our work.  We are an informal group of members, ministers, and congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA); we are not an offical agency of the Presbyterian Church. For further information about our denomination, click on the logo above or any of the PCUSA links below.

   
 


A Time for Christian Realism

 

“Our dreams of bringing the whole of human history under the control of the human will are ironically refuted by the fact that no group of idealists can easily move the pattern of history toward the desired goal of peace and justice. The recalcitrant forces in the historical drama have a power and persistence beyond our reckoning.”  From The Irony of American History, by Reinhold Niebuhr Charles Scribner’s Sons (1952)

 

            It is precisely Niebuhr’s nuanced, realistic understanding of humans and history that is lacking in the report of the Middle East Study Committee (MESC).  The report will be reviewed by the 219th General Assembly of the PCUSA.  In perhaps one of the most naďve statements ever presented to a General Assembly, the report claims, "If there were no occupation, there would be no Palestinian resistance. If there was no Palestinian resistance, Israelis could live in peace and security."  Really?  If the Israelis withdraw from any interference in Palestinian affairs, all the ancient enmities as well as political, economic and social issues will disappear and peace will break out?

            Such a black and white analysis of the situation is not only an affront to the Calvinist approach to reality.  It is an affront to Palestinians and Israelis alike who live in a situation fractured by highly complex and complicated issues that the report would reduce to one issue: the occupation of Palestinian territories.  We can do better as a denomination.

            The lack of Christian realism is evident throughout the MESC report.  First, the MESC creates a clear villain (Israel).  However, as Niebuhr and history teach, such an idealized approach (the Israelis are oppressors and the Palestinians are the oppressed) will get us no closer to peace.  The only thing that moves us toward peace and justice is a very humble, realistic appreciation for the way injustice and violence become interwoven over decades and centuries.  Undoing the effects of injustice (from terrorists blowing up buses in Israel to innocent civilians dying in Gaza) will require far more than an end to the occupation.  It will require large constituencies within Israel and Palestine demanding that their leaders seek peace, not conflict.  It was changes within Northern Ireland, for example, that created the foundation for its current peace.

            Second, the Committee calls on the United States to stop foreign aid to any nation “where civil, religious and other freedoms of their peoples are (not) fully exercised.”  If done, this would mean the end of the U.S. foreign aid effort which has helped create economic development and build peace and justice in many countries.  Indeed, one can argue, the United States could not meet the committee's standard for aid.

            Third, the report calls for an end to the Gaza blockade.  While Israel certainly needs to find a way immediately to increase the world's flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, if the blockade is stopped unconditionally, the flow of rockets and other armaments to Hamas would also increase dramatically.  Rocket attacks on Israeli civilians would follow in days. 

            The PCUSA, historically, has had a very realistic approach to peacemaking in the Middle East.  We have affirmed the desires of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to live autonomously next to one another.  We have criticized what we consider to be injustices perpetrated by each side on the other.  At the same time, we have had a very clear understanding about the limits of our own ability to impact the outcome. 

            Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish, Muslim and Christian Relations calls on the 219th General Assembly to reject the MESC report and stand on the PCUSA's existing policy recommendations for this troubled region of the world. 

John Wimberly, PCJCMR Steering Committee


For further information about PCJCMR please email Charles Henderson.