Tuesday, July 6, 2010


It is hard to express how crushed and disheartened I am. I thought I went into this GA with low expectations, but I think I was wrong. I may have had low expectations in my head, but it seems that I had higher expectations in my heart.

On issue after issue, Committee 14, the committee that is dealing with Israel/Palestine issue is defeating resolutions that I approve. Yesterday they voted to denounce Caterpillar for their profit-making from the construction of specialized bulldozers used solely to demolish Palestinian homes, but after five years of fruitless negotiations with Caterpillar, they decided not to divest. In other word, we are saying, we seroiusly deplore the money you are making from the occupation, but keep giving us the money from our profits. In other words, we are not willing to make any financial or moral sacrifices. (Our denomination has about 140,000 shares in Caterpillar, for a total worth of around 10 million dollars.)

Today, they voted to significantly water down the Middle East Study Report. They voted to remove the entire third section, which is the section that has all the information about the facts on the ground. They voted not to approve the first section, which includes letters to various communities and a theological background, but to simply "receive" it. In other words, they somewhat eviscerated the report. What's worse, they did so unanimously. Apparently, part of the rationale was that they think the larger Assembly, when it votes on these issues, will not vote for the report -- it is too "controversial" in this view -- so they water it down ahead of time.
Don't get me started on the disturbing insight this experience has provided into the workings of our denomination.

Later, they voted to disapprove the motion calling the system in the Palestinian territories "apartheid." Several said they thought the term was too inflammatory. The lone African-American on the committee spoke twice in favor of the motion. Perhaps because of her experience as a woman of color, perhaps because she comes from Atlanta presbytery which has been strong on Israel-Palestine issues, perhaps for another reason -- in any case, she seemed to
"get it."

Based on these votes, I think I understand the trajectory of the committee. They won't take bold action, even when such action is called for. Frankly, I suspect the committee members are simply not able to "get it" through resolutions and brief discussions alone. The default position to compromise and support Israel seem to be too strong.

Part of what I am taking away from the GA so far, is that this is not the most important venue. The most important venue is through individual relationships and conversations and through personal experience in the region.

I forgot to mention that one of my colleagues from seminary, whom I know and remember well, is leading the opposition on every resolution I support. That is also hard to bear.


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