PCUSA Committee Declares Israel an 'Apartheid' State, Says Palestinians Are 'Suffering under Occupation'

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Jul 12, 2022
PCUSA Committee Declares Israel an 'Apartheid' State, Says Palestinians Are 'Suffering under Occupation'

PCUSA Committee Declares Israel an 'Apartheid' State, Says Palestinians Are 'Suffering under Occupation'

A Presbyterian Church (USA) committee passed resolutions this week calling Israel an "apartheid" state and designating May 15 as "Palestinian Nakba Remembrance Day" – a day on which Presbyterians can state their "solidarity" with Palestinians "suffering under occupation."

The apartheid resolution passed the PCUSA's Committee on International Engagement 28-3 and says Israel's laws and practices "regarding the Palestinian people fulfill the international legal definition of apartheid."

"Apartheid is legally defined as inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them," the resolution says.

The resolution urges "members, congregations, presbyteries, and national staff units, including the Office of Interfaith Relations, to seek appropriate ways to bring an end to Israeli apartheid."

The resolution also references the Holocaust and the silence around the world by Christians during that time.

"Christians … vowed that never again would they be silent if a government passed laws establishing and maintaining the domination by one ethnic group over another ethnic group through systematic separation, oppression, and denial of basic human rights," the resolution's rationale says. "... Silence in the face of evil was wrong then, and it is wrong now."

The Nakba resolution, which passed the committee 31-0, directs the denomination's Presbyterian Mission Agency Board to designate May 15 as "Palestinian Nakba Remembrance Day" for the "purpose of lifting prayer for peace, giving solidarity for those suffering under occupation."

"Nakba" refers to the "expulsion by terrorism and force of 750,000 Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, in 1947–48," the resolution says. The modern nation of Israel was established in 1948.

Palestinians commemorate the day every year.

The committee said the resolution will provide "solidarity to those Palestinian Americans among us and Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and refugee camps outside Palestine, all who remember and grieve."

"Our solidarity with them helps to keep hope alive that one day they or their descendants may be able to return to their homeland," the resolution's rationale says. "This is their song, their hope, O God of all the nations."

Both resolutions have drawn condemnation within Israeli media, including The Jerusalem Post.

Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of The International Legal Forum, told The Jerusalem Post that the resolutions will endanger Jewish people.

"This resolution by the Presbyterian Church, with its plethora of antisemitic tropes, crosses all acceptable boundaries and descends into full-blown Jew-hatred, that will only incite and fuel further violence against Jews," Ostrovsky said. "Furthermore, by making such mendacities accusations and deplorably invoking the Holocaust to compare to contemporary Israeli policy, places the Presbyterian Church in direct and flagrant violation of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, the most widely adopted global definition of modern antisemitism, including in the United States."

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Nick Brundle Photography

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

PCUSA Committee Declares Israel an 'Apartheid' State, Says Palestinians Are 'Suffering under Occupation'