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A GENERAL ASSEMBLY WRAP-UP:
OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR JUSTICE IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE

After a long week of late night debates and early morning strategy sessions, the dust has cleared and the votes have been counted. And for the cause of furthering justice for Palestinians and Israelis, the results of the 223rd General Assembly are a resounding success. While there is much more to do, the thoughtful work of commissioners and advisory delegates, along with the tireless efforts of advocates and allies, has broadened and deepened the commitment of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to peace with justice in Israel / Palestine.

Among the significant actions taken by this General Assembly, one of the most important was the approval by unanimous consent an action opposing Congressional and state anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) laws.  The newly approved policy directs the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to “oppose specific U.S. legislation to suppress measures of economic witness…such as ‘The Israel Anti-Boycott Act.’”  The action further instructs the church to join in legislation opposing state anti-BDS laws through the filing of amicus curiae briefs, in coalition with other religious and human rights groups.

Some two-dozen laws have been passed in Congress and states across the country that are designed to suppress boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns in protest of Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights. The ACLU and other civil liberties groups have condemned these laws as un-Constitutional and an infringement on the First Amendment right to free speech. Earlier this year, in the first decision of its kind, a Kansas judge blocked an anti-BDS law in that state, deeming it un-Constitutional.

The Assembly also took an important stand in favor of free exchange of ideas. Refusing to accept limits on speech, this assembly rejected an attempt to bar the discussion of colonialism and to block the sales of Why Palestine Matters: The Struggle to End Colonialism. Through the work of commissioners on the Middle East Committee, an overture designed to normalize the effects of the illegal occupation was significantly altered and strengthened. The action now supports dialogue that works towards “radical, systemic change.”

A commissioner’s resolution addressing the ongoing violence in Gaza and expressing “profound grief and sorrow” for the loss of 131 Palestinian lives in the protests surrounding the Great March of Return received overwhelming support. The names of all those killed were appended to the resolution.

These actions, along with others demanding full human rights for Palestinians and a truthful accounting of the manifest injustices of the current situation in Israel / Palestine made this General Assembly a milestone. Never before in our work in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have so many positive actions passed with such wide margins, many by unanimous consent. 
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