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Toward Columbus: Peace in Israel/Palestine is focus of five General Convention resolutions

By Matthew Davies
4/13/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  Israel and Palestine are the focus of at least five resolutions to be presented to legislative committees of the Episcopal Church's 75th General Convention when it meets in Columbus, Ohio, June 13-21.

Offering recommendations on the peace process, investments in Palestine, and interfaith dialogue and prayers for the Holy Land, the proposed resolutions would endorse the Episcopal Church's commitment to issues of peace and justice in the region and build on its partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

The Episcopal Church's support of the "rightful existence" of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine as two nations would be reaffirmed in Resolution A011, as would its recognition of Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states.

The legislation also calls for an end to all violence and its "crippling impact on Israeli and Palestinian societies," the withdrawal by Israel from its settlements in the West Bank, the return of all parties to the negotiating table "rather than unilateral action by any party" and "the eradication of the sin of anti-Semitism."

A five-point resolution (A012) advocates for:

  • an end to the isolation of East Jerusalem and Bethlehem from the West Bank, created by the continued construction of Israeli settlements, settler roads and the Wall;
  • removal of the Wall;
  • assurance of human rights for Palestinians;
  • support for the return of sovereign control of Gaza's airspace, coastline and borders to the Palestinian people; and
  • assurance that no U.S. tax dollars will be used to finance the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

A second uprising, or intifada, against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in 2000, and many protesting Palestinians were killed. Efforts to identify a permanent border between Palestinian and Israeli land have since proved unsuccessful.

The Wall -- being built by the Israelis to heighten security but believed by Palestinians to be an intentional appropriation of land and a violation of their freedom -- stands 28 feet high in some places.

Two further resolutions (A013 and A014) ask for the consideration of investments that would support an economically viable Palestine and urge the Episcopal Church's Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer to continue in dialogue with Jewish, Muslim and Christian partners, supporting nonviolent resolution of conflict.

Resolution A015 encourages congregations and institutions to pray for "our sisters and brothers" in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East -- with which the U.S.-based Episcopal Church has a long-standing relationship -- and underscores the importance of visiting Christian congregations in the Holy Land.

Working for justice, peace, and reconciliation in the Holy Land -- and urging elected officials and policy makers to seek solutions that will realize these goals -- also forms part of the resolution.

If passed, the legislation would become the policy of the Episcopal Church and its implementation would be directed by the Office of Peace and Justice Ministries under the leadership of the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves.

"Seeking a just peace in the Holy Land has been a priority of Peace and Justice Ministries for at least 15 years," said Grieves. "The challenge is particularly hard right now with the election of Hamas, but we have a partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem as well as other faith groups."

Since the Islamic militant group, Hamas, won a landslide victory in the January 25 Palestinian elections, new challenges have surfaced. While the world comes to terms with the implications of Hamas' victory, many Anglicans and Episcopalians are wondering what this will mean for the dwindling Christian population in the Holy Land.

During the last triennium, the Episcopal Church has been involved in issues relating to Israel and Palestine through its Social Responsibility in Investments (SRI) committee, the Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns (AIPJC) and the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN).

Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, is chair of Churches for Middle East Peace, a Washington, DC-based ecumenical effort to promote a resolution to the Israeli/
Palestinian conflict through Congress and the current administration.

Vital partnerships also have been built through missionary placement, pilgrimages, companion diocese relationships, ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, as well as many personal relationships.

The SRI committee issued a report to Executive Council on October 3, 2005, recommending "corporate engagement" and "positive investment" practices when dealing with companies in which the Episcopal Church owns assets and shares, particularly those that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The council received and commended the report and adopted four resolves based on its recommendations.

The report followed a year's deliberations during which the committee engaged in research and dialogue with many groups and individuals.

As part of its study, a delegation of SRI committee and AIPJC members visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories April 29-May 6, 2005, and met with peace groups, representatives of the Palestinian Authority, residents of an Israeli settlement, staff of the Episcopal hospital in Gaza and representatives of a leading pro-Israeli government Jewish organization, as well as members of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem.

In June 2005, the Anglican Consultative Council adopted a resolution that welcomed a September 22, 2004 statement by the APJN on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and commended "the resolve of the Episcopal Church ... to take appropriate action where it finds that its corporate investments support the occupation of Palestinian lands or violence against innocent Israelis."

The same resolution also commended ethical investment strategies to other Anglican Provinces.

Support and advocacy for the implementation of U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 concerning peace, justice and co-existence in the Holy Land, was also offered.

"The resolutions coming before General Convention this year will help to sustain what is a very long process," Grieves said, acknowledging the Church's ongoing dedication to peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. "We have to be committed for the long term."

The texts of the proposed resolutions can be found, by number, at www.episcopalarchives.org/e-archives/bluebook/51.html