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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