Tuesday, July 6, 2010

General Assembly

I don't know what has been more frustrating, the proceedings of the General Assembly's Middle East Committee or trying to get internet access here at the assembly. Although I brought my laptop here, I haven't been able to connect at either the Hyatt or the Hilton where I am staying. It has been a long time since I have been so frustrated trying to access the internet.

I missed some of the events that occurred here Friday evening and Saturday morning. Friday evening, former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Burg spoke as did Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, who our trip visited a month ago. Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions spoke Saturday afternoon.

Saturday evening I sat through part of the elections of the new moderator, but as I was tired and the election lasted over four hours (and I did not have a vote), I did not stay for the whole thing.

On Sunday afternoon, after a wonderful worship service in the morning, the Middle East committee finally began its work. No sooner had they begun than a request from a commissioner was made to hear an opposing side to the Middle East Study Committee report that was to be presented. This request was out of order, but unfortunately the moderator did not recognize it as such. It also revealed from the very beginning that there would be some strong opposition on the committee to the resolutions I support. Eventually the committee decided to allow the Presbyterians for Middle East Peace to have 10 minutes to present a critique of the report, and then to let the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, of which I am a part, have a 10 minutes. This was a decent compromise, in my opinion, but really the whole process was out of order.

Earlier that morning, I have been to the breakfast sponsored by the Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. Three speakers critiqued the Middle East Study Committee's (MESC) report. I knew before going to the breakfast that I would not agree with the positions expressed at it, but I wanted to hear the other side's viewpoint. I was not surprised by what I heard. I don't agree with their critiques and their call for "balance" in a situation that is fundamentally unbalanced. They seemed to be saying "let's not be too critical of Israel because then they won't listen to us." One positive note about the breakfast, however, was that at least a quarter of the participants were from the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), who like me, had come to hear the opposing side.

The IPMN is well organized and we are here in force. Indeed, it seems we outnumber the opposition. Sunday evening the IPMN hosted a dinner for the network at which 75 people showed up, the most that have ever been at a General Assembly. I have enjoyed meeting new people from the network and reconnecting with some older faces. It is good to know that we are not alone.

Due to the frustrating difficulties with internet access, I am behind on this blog, and have not yet brought it up to the present. Hopefully I can do that soon.


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