Will Jewish advocacy sway Presbyterians

Though it wasn’t a total breach, the Presbyterian Church (USA) this week unwisely chipped away at the support Israel enjoys from most American Protestant churches.

At its general assembly meeting in San Jose, the church presented a mixed bag, endorsing in committee some resolutions (or “overtures,” as they’re called) hostile to Israel, while rejecting others.

Among those passed by the church’s Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues was a modified endorsement of the Amman Call, which supports the “right of return” — a central demand of many Palestinians and anathema to Israel.

All serious supporters of a two-state solution understand this so-called right is unacceptable, as it would overwhelm Israel’s Jewish majority and unmake the country as a Jewish state.

The same overture singles out for condemnation American corporations that, in the committee’s view, support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It mentions specific companies by name and uges further “corporate engagement” (i.e., apply pressure), though it falls short of calling on the church to divest.

As for the good news: The committee rejected a call to end U.S. military aid to Israel and approved an overture to refrain from taking sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

All overtures passed by the committee must be voted on by the full general assembly. We anxiously await the final votes, which will take place after press time.

Whatever the outcome, influential elements within the Presbyterian Church appear obsessed with vilifying Israel. Fully one-third of overtures considered by this committee have to do with issues relating to Israel and the Palestinians.

Not one about Darfur. Not one about Myanmar. Not one about Tibet. Not one about the oppressive dictatorships throughout the Muslim world.

We applaud the Jewish organizations that camped out in San Jose all week testifying on behalf of Israel. Representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council, B’nai B’rith and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, among others, spoke eloquently before the committee. There is no doubt their words and presence made a difference.

Still, pending the final vote on Friday, June 27, the possibility remains that the good work of these leaders could be for naught. It’s a sad commentary that we must labor hard just to get a little fairness and balance from our Presbyterian neighbors.

It is always thus. The Jewish people must continue to stand guard.