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Middle East Issues





Two PC(USA) Commissioners Condemn Rocket Attacks, Plea for Christians


Two commissioners to the Presbyterian Church’s 2006 General Assembly (and members of its peacemaking committee) condemned Palestinian violence against Israel and called on Palestinian leaders to protect Christians in the Gaza Strip. And instead of condemning Israel for the suffering in the Gaza Strip, they called on Israeli leaders to “build diplomatic connections with “Leading Families” in Gaza and seek all peaceful means to de-fuse this situation.”

 

The statement was issued by Rev. Jan Bruce Armstrong of the Santa Barbara Presbytery and the Rev. Noel Anderson of the San Joaquin Presbytery of the PC(USA). The statement, issued sometime in mid-January, was appended to an article about the Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem issuing a call for an end to the “siege” of the Gaza Strip. (A CAMERA analysis of the Bishops' dishonest and one-sided statement is available here.)

 

The full statement follows:  

As commissioners to the 2006 General Assembly and members of the Peacemaking Committee of GA, we call upon the Palestinian Leadership in Gaza to act to stop the rocket attacks on Sderot and Ashkelon in Southern Israel, and act to protect Christian schools, churches and Palestinian Christians living and working in Gaza from threat, violence and attack.  In the past 60 hours over 60 rockets have been launched from Northern Gaza at targets in Southern Israel. Last week a Christian School was bombed and attacked and Palestinian administrators, teachers and staff where threatened with bodily harm and death. Additionally we call upon Israel to continue in their attempts to build diplomatic connections with the “Leading Families” in Gaza, and seek all peaceful means to de-fuse this situation. We want to encourage both parties to step back from the kidnappings, detentions and violence of recent months and consider ways that would make for tolerance and peace.

 

While this statement does not suggest that the PC(USA) as a whole has come to its senses regarding the underlying causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it does suggest a level of understanding and maturity that has been sadly lacking in many mainline proclamations about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

 

This is the second time in the past month that officials from the PC(USA) have drawn attention to the plight of Christians in the Gaza Strip. During the first week of Jan. 2008, Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the PCU(USA) issued a statement expressing concern about the plight of inhabitants in the Gaza Strip.

 

Rev. Kirkpatrick writes:

 
We are especially disturbed by the fact that the tiny minority of Christians, that already shares the suffering experienced as well by its Muslim neighbors, endures an added threat of violence and persecution by some of those very neighbors in the district.
 
The memory of the recent kidnapping and horrible killing of Rami Ayyad, a young man known only for his kindness and sacrificial love toward all his neighbors, and the earlier destruction of the Bible Society bookstore that he had managed, has haunted the Christians of Gaza. Seemingly empty promises of Gaza’s political leaders to bring perpetrators to justice have not alleviated the fear and sense of despair now deeply ingrained in the Christians’ hearts.

 

Unlike the leaders of Christian churches in Jerusalem, Rev. Kirkpatrick was able to mention Hamas by name, but sadly, his statement hit a false and sour note by accusing officials of refusing “to allow humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, creating starvation, lack of medical care, and other catastrophic conditions for innocent non-combatants in Gaza.” In fact, Israeli did not stop humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip as Rev. Kirkpatrick asserts. A recently published Ynet article on foiled efforts to smuggle explosives (disguised as humanitarian aid) into the Gaza Strip, reports the following:

 
Despite the security restrictions and economic siege of Gaza, Israel allows the transfer of medical equipment and drugs into Gaza at the insistence of the World Health Organization.

 

And as the Washington Post’s editorial page recently acknowledged, inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are not “starving.”
 
Hopefully, the next time Rev. Kirkpatrick will be able to get his facts straight when he writes about the flow of goods into the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, Rev. Kirkpatrick’s call for the protection of Christians in Gaza indicates a nascent awareness that not all Palestinian suffering can be blamed on Israel.   
 

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