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Israel and Palestine

General Assembly Action

Resolution on Economic Study and Mission Network

The 216th General Assembly (2004) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted this commissioners' resolution.

The 216th General Assembly

1. Directs that the formation of a Worldwide Ministries Division-[now World Mission] related Palestine Mission Network move forward as soon as possible, for the purpose of creating currents of wider and deeper Presbyterian involvement with Palestinian partners, aimed at demonstrating solidarity and changing the conditions that erode the humanity of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

2. Authorizes a feasibility study to be conducted by the Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD) of the General Assembly Mission Councilto explore the dimensions, costs, appropriate development approach, stability of funding, of an intentional and systematic effort of development and compassionate action in Palestine either by or through a team connected to the WMD-related Palestine Mission Network and to make recommendations for concrete measurable action plans to the General Assembly Mission Councilat its fall meeting in 2005.

Latest News: Development Initiative

That the Worldwide Ministries Division Committee authorize staff to proceed in the following way in responding to the action of the 216th General Assembly (2004) on Commissioners’ Resolution 04-19:

1. Prepare detailed plans which:

a) Promote visits to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza;
b) Support our Palestinian Christian partners in providing low-cost housing for their communities, and;
c) Expand international marketing for Palestinian crafts and products.

2. In these economic development plans, honor PC(USA) policy regarding opposition to the use of violence and terror, and regarding the right of Israel and Palestine to exist within legitimate and secure borders.

3. Report further to the General Assembly Mission Councilin April 2006.

Financial Implications: Covered in Existing Budget

Rationale

The 216th General Assembly (2004) adopted Item 12-09, based on Commissioners’ Resolution 04-19. The resolution:

1.Direct[ed] that the formation of a Worldwide Ministries Division-related Palestine Mission Network move forward as soon as possible, for the purpose of creating currents of wider and deeper Presbyterian involvement with Palestinian partners, aimed at demonstrating solidarity and changing the conditions that erode the humanity of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

2.Authorize[d] a feasibility study to be conducted by the Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD) of the General Assembly Mission Councilto explore the dimensions, costs, appropriate development approach, stability of political conditions, availability of expertise, and possible sources of funding, of an intentional and systematic effort of development and compassionate action in Palestine either by or through a team connected to the WMD-related Palestine Mission Network, and to make recommendations for concrete measurable action plans to the General Assembly Mission Councilat its fall meeting in 2005.

At the September 2005 meeting of the General Assembly Mission Council, a progress report on the action calling for the establishment of an Israel/Palestine Mission Network was submitted. The Mission Network had been created and was functioning. The feasibility study for development in Palestine had been initiated but not completed, due to the political circumstances at the time, most notably the Gaza pullout and the related travel and security advisories.

In November 2005, Elder Donald Mead, Emeritus Professor of Economics, accompanied by the Rev. Marthame Sanders, a former PC(USA) mission worker in Palestine who in November was serving as a Missionary-in-Residence, made a visit to Israel and Palestine and met over the course of several days with some 25 church leaders, leaders of church-based Non-Governmental Organizations, business people and a representative of the Palestinian Authority (a full list of people who met is available upon request). Arranged with strong support from Mr. Douglas Dicks, Regional Liaison of the PC(USA) in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, the discussions were aimed at soliciting the opinions of Palestinian partners concerning the appropriate focus of our work, in responding to this resolution.

In the course of interviews conducted by the feasibility study’s consultant, several possibilities were put forward by knowledgeable Palestinians, such as support for the churches’ social ministries through housing, education and job creation. A strong and recurring theme was to capitalize on tourism through purposeful travel as an income generating enterprise. Another ready-made avenue for development was to help with marketing Palestinian products, such as olive oil products and cottage industry crafts.

There was convincing evidence that, despite political obstacles, the proposed possibilities not only made good sense, but also will contribute to our church’s witness for justice in hastening the end of the occupation. It became clear that the three foci offered in the recommendations before the Worldwide Ministries Division Committee are worth pursuing seriously.

A more detailed implementation plan will be brought to the GAMC’s April meeting, based on further research and reflection. Specialized groups will be called together to fill in the necessary details and assisted by a project manager, between now and the April meeting of the GAMC.

The project proposed here in response to the Commissioners’ Resolution offers avenues for constructively investing in a better future in the Middle East, while also remaining true to the commitment of successive General Assemblies to confront the occupation and challenge the ways in which it impinges on Palestinian society.

Implementation Plan:

The implementation of this approach will require (a) hiring one person on a contract basis for approximately three months to serve, part-time, as project manager and facilitator; and (b) mobilizing three working groups made up of volunteers specialized and/or experienced, one group for each of the three different foci of the initiative. The work of those groups detailing how this action is to be implemented would be brought before the GAMC meeting in late April.

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