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Israel, Palestine and General Convention

Israel, Palestine and General Convention

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians aroused some of the more passionate testimony in hearings at the recently completed General Convention of the Episcopal Church, even though it seemed clear from the outset that the church was not going to take action strong enough to satisfy those who believe it has not spoken out strongly enough against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.


In a recent column, Alex Baumgarten laid out his understanding of what the General Convention did and did not do with regard to the conflict in the Middle East:

First, let’s look at what the convention did. By a nearly unanimous margin, bishops and deputies passed Resolution B019, which calls for a triennium of intense teaching, learning, and advocacy around the conflict. The Episcopal Church has been at this work for 30 years, and our resolutions have been clear in what we support: a two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized Israel, the homeland for the Jewish people, lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people, with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both states. Our task now is to enlarge the number of Episcopalians committed to working, through advocacy, toward that vision becoming a reality. Resolution B019 gives us a plan for how to do that, and my office is already working to live into that plan. ….”

He adds:

[I]t’s important to note what the General Convention declined to do. The House of Deputies overwhelming rejected a move to endorse boycott and divestment of Israel and the study of two documents that have been criticized by some – including the Episcopal Church’s chief operating officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls – as theologically problematic in their portrayal of Judaism. One deputy noted that these steps would have been “conversation stoppers” and that we can’t create a broader base of understanding and support for a just peace if we can’t successfully bring people to the table. Another deputy noted that economic punishment of Israel, which Bishop Dawani and the Palestinian government both have criticized, could end up hurting the Palestinian economy, as it is fundamentally intertwined with Israel’s.

(One other short resolution, C061, calling for recommitment to our church’s existing support of shareholder dialogue on issues related to the conflict was passed by deputies but tabled in the House of Bishops after multiple bishops expressed a fear that some of its language could create a future pathway to boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.)

What are your thoughts? Did the church do enough to support the Diocese of Jerusalem? Was it sufficiently mindful of the experiences of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians?

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Ron

It is important that we talk with representatives of all the people in Palestine to hear their thoughts. Bishop Dawani is a fine and wise person, but his hands and his voice are restricted because he is a native of the West Bank who is dependent on the good will of the Israeli government for access to his entire diocese. We cannot second guess him, but we should also listen to other Palestinian voices who see boycott, divestment and sanctions as a nonviolent means to bring pressure to improve their situation.

Ron Miller

Paul Powers

I think the Church should speak out about human right violations on the part of the Israeli government(e.g. restrictions on travel, land seizures, etc., as it should about even worse violations in Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc.

I’m less sure about the wisdom of the Church getting involved in geopolitical matters like the two-state solution. It may be the best solution, but, as Tom Sramek says, that’s for the people there to decide.

Tom Sramek Jr

I would say that the question is best answered by those “on the ground” in Israel/Palestine, including Bishop Dawani. People in this country may have passionate opinions either way, but we don’t live with the reality of the situation each day.

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