- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) national assembly yesterday revised a 2-year-old policy on Middle East investments that had provoked protest from grass-roots churchgoers and Jewish groups.

To vigorous applause, delegates agreed to a statement that says Presbyterian holdings pertaining to both Israel and Palestinian territory should “be invested in only peaceful pursuits.”

The 2004 assembly authorized “phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel” because of the country’s policies toward Palestinians. Jewish organizations had criticized that action as unfairly one-sided. They were content with the new wording.

David Bernstein of the American Jewish Committee’s Washington office, who is observing the assembly, said the resolution “subjects Israel to the same process as every other country in the world. That’s what we wanted. Singling out Israel is not the way to approach peace in the Middle East.”

Mark Pelavin, director of interreligious affairs for Reform Judaism, said the revision “is a critical step toward removing an ugly stain on the church’s history of fighting for peace and justice.”

“The PCUSA adoption of a new overture that overturns one on the books targeting Israel for divestment is welcomed,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “We appreciate the church’s acknowledgment that the unbalanced 2004 overture caused ‘hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community and within our Presbyterian communion.’”

Presbyterians haven’t pulled any investments but talked with five corporations involved in Israel: Caterpillar, Citigroup Inc., Industries Inc., Motorola and United Technologies Corp.

Conservatives sponsored a talk by lay Presbyterian James Woolsey, a CIA director under President Clinton. Mr. Woolsey said the 2004 action put his church “clearly on the side of theocratic, totalitarian, anti-Semitic, genocidal beliefs, and nothing less.”

The new statement, approved on a 483-28 vote, also urges an end to terror against both Israelis and Palestinians. It says a sovereign state has the right to protect its borders but that the present location of Israel’s security wall “illegally encroaches into the Palestinian territory.”

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