Presbyterians Poised to Replace Divestment Language: Reform Jewish Movement Applauds
Pelavin: The decision of the Peacemaking Committee to recommend ‘replacing’ the Israel divestment policy is a critical step toward removing an ugly stain on the Church’s history of fighting for peace and justice
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WASHINGTON, DC, June 20, 2006 – Returning from participating in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a key Reform Jewish leader welcomed progress in the movement to remedy the Presbyterian’s 2004 policy statement calling for a process of “divestment” from Israel. “The decision of the Peacemaking Committee to recommend ‘replacing’ 2004 policy is a critical step toward removing an ugly stain on the Church’s history of fighting for peace and justice,” said Mark J. Pelavin, Director of the Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism.
Pelavin was in Birmingham, at the invitation of the Church, to speak about the Divestment Overtures, and other Israel-related concerns. He addressed a special pre-conference program, and testified before the Peacemaking Committee. The church invited three representatives of different communities to participate in their deliberations. Pelavin was the only representative of the American Jewish community, joining Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Dr. Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
In addition to his comments on divestment, Pelavin spoke to the Committee, in part, on behalf of himself and Mr. Al-Marayati, saying “We [offer joint recommendations] to emphasize that there is so much on which we agree – with each other, and, I am confident, with most Presbyterians.” Both Pelavin and Al-Marayati called on the committee to craft an “overture which:
• Recognizes, first and foremost, the urgency of finding a way for the parties to the conflict to return to the negotiating table;
• Speaks clearly, forcefully, and unequivocally about the evil of terrorism, and about the grave consequences of the Occupation;
• Calls on the Presbyterian Church to play a leadership role in fostering dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews in the
Middle East and here in the United States; and
• Directs the appropriate arms of the Presbyterian Church to support – financially and politically – those organizations in the region working toward peace and cooperation.”
“I am pleased that the Committee’s draft reflects so much of what we suggested, and am grateful to the Committee for their thoughtful, prayerful, approach,” Pelavin noted. “The fact that the Committee approved its draft, and the call to move away from divestment, by such a lopsided margin (53-6 with 3 abstentions) reflects the important educational work of those – both within and outside the Church – opposed to divestment,” he added.
The Committee’s recommendation is scheduled to be considered by the full General Assembly on Wednesday afternoon (June 21).
“I have come to have great respect for the General Assembly process, and recognize that it is possible that the Assembly will choose not to follow the Committee’s recommendation” Pelavin said. “I am optimistic, however, that the full General Assembly will concur, and that the Church will revise its policy to stop singling Israel out for such discriminatory treatment.”
Note: Mr. Pelavin is available to the press for comments and interviews. A photo is available at http://rac.org/aboutrac/leadershipandstaff
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.