Middle East

Principles endorsed by General Assembly

  • The Presbyterian Church in Canada supports deep-level solutions of Middle East problems which take full account of the needs and rights of all the peoples and nations involved, with particular reference to the plight of Palestinian refugees. (A&P 1967, pp. 70-71, 103)
  • The beginning of a path to peace in the Middle East and specifically between Israel and Palestine lies in a process of mutual recognition whereby the Government of Israel recognizes that the long-bereft Palestinian people have rights to territory and freedom, while at the same time the Palestinians recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel and foreswear violence and threats of violence against it. (A&P 1983, pp. 374, 79)
  • The Presbyterian Church in Canada affirms the policy approved by the Steering Committee of KAIROS in 2008 opposing a general boycott of Israeli products and of sanctions against Israel while reflecting on more specific (rather than general) means of economic advocacy as a non-violent means of promoting peace with justice. (A&P 2008, pp. 271-281, 18)
  • Acknowledging the complexity of issues faced by the people of the Middle East and, in particular, by the people of Israel and the Palestinian territories, General Assembly affirms the right of the State of Israel and the people of Palestine to exist in peace and security while rejecting Christian Zionism as a doctrinal stance inconsistent with Reformed doctrine and its emphasis on one covenant of grace for all peoples. The General Assembly also acknowledges the message of Palestinian sisters and brothers in Christ that Christian Zionism poses a significant obstacle to a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  (A&P 2012, pp. 289-292, 35)

Select actions of the church

2023: General Assembly adopted a recommendation that a delegation comprised of the Moderator and other Presbyterians to visit partners in Palestine/Israel be arranged as soon as possible in the spirit of the “A Moment of Truth” invitation (issued 14 years ago by a group of Palestinian Christian leaders representing a wide spectrum of churches and church-related organizations in Palestine and Israel) “to come and see” the struggle of the Palestinian people living within Israel and in the occupied territories, and to report back to a future General Assembly.

General Assembly agreed to invite a member of the leadership team of Independent Jewish Voices and/or Canadian Voices for Peace (an offshoot of the Israeli group, Voices for Peace) to address the 2024 General Assembly.

General Assembly encouraged congregations and individuals to write to their Member of Parliament to request a meeting to listen and to respond to the specific ways the Government of Canada intends to protect international human rights for the Palestinian people. (A&P 2023, pp. 22, 105-109)

2022: Congregations were encouraged to write personal letters to members of the Government of Canada about the State of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, encouraging them to speak up for rights such as food security for Palestinians and support Palestinian farmers and olive tree planting through the Olive Tree Project. (A&P 2022, pp. 144-5, 45)

2021: General Assembly encouraged congregations to study resources from Palestinian and Israeli human rights to learn more about the situation in Palestine and Israel, to invite speakers with experience of working for a just peace to speak to their congregation; and, once pandemic travel restrictions are eased, to plan a “Come and See” visit to the Palestinian Territories using a Palestinian Tour company. Reference materials for these recommendations may be found in the report of the International Affairs Committee online here. (A&P 2021, pp. 329-360)

General Assembly adopted recommendations that the Moderator write to the Government of Canada encouraging that Canada pressure Israel to adhere to international law related to annexation of the occupied territories and the right of return of the Palestinian people and convey dismay regarding the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and other areas of the Palestinian Territories, and that the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations be given authority to take stronger action in support of recommendations on Palestine. (A&P 2021, pp. 329-360)

2019: General Assembly endorsed the “No Way To Treat A Child” campaign and wrote to the Canadian government requesting that Canada condemn mistreatment of Palestinian children brought into the Israeli military court system and that Canada challenge the government of Israel to fulfill its promises as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and requesting that it appoint a Special Envoy to promote, monitor and report on the human rights situation of Palestinian children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: specifically undertaking an evaluative analysis of Israeli military law and practice as they affect Palestinian children in the West Bank by reference to the standards of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other applicable international law. Lastly, the Moderator wrote the Government of Canada requesting that Global Affairs Canada officials in Ramallah and Tel Aviv develop links with Defense for Children International – Palestine and attend military court sessions involving children. (A&P 2019, pp. 29-30; 276-279) Context note: the “No Way To Treat A Child” campaign, launched in 2013, is an international movement advocating for the rights of Palestinian children and seeks that as a minimum safeguard for these children, Israeli authorities must respect and ensure basic due process rights and an absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment.

2018: General Assembly encouraged the Government of Canada to exclude products made in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, in contravention of international law, from the benefits of the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement. (A&P 2018, pp. 288-292, 22)

2017: General Assembly, through a letter from the moderator, wrote to the Prime Minister of Israel encouraging the Government of Israel to meet its obligations under international conventions and Israel’s laws to protect the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of its Palestinian citizens and to address racial discrimination. (A&P 2017, pp. 20, 298-301)

2015: General Assembly recommended that congregations pray for all people being persecuted and for their persecutors, that they have a change of heart; and pray for an end to violence in Syria. (A&P 2015, pp. 294-309, 26)

2013: General Assembly wrote to the Canadian government inquiring what measures Canada takes to persuade Israel to lift restrictions that it may place on the movement of people and goods that hamper economic development in the West Bank and inquiring if the Canadian government is willing to request that Israel renegotiate relevant sections of the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) so that goods include a certificate of origin and that goods from the settlements are excluded from beneficial tariff treatment under the CIFTA (This would not exclude goods produced in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank from entering the Canadian market).

General Assembly wrote to General Electric and Caterpillar requesting information on their respective policies to ensure their products are not used in situations where human rights are violated. (A&P 2013, pp. 278-286, 22, 24) Context note: General Electric and Caterpillar produced products that were sold to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)and which had allegedly been used by the IDF in actions that violated human rights of Palestinian citizens.

General Assembly wrote to the Canada Revenue Agency asking if its policies permit Canadian charities to issue tax receipts for donations that support projects in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. (A&P 2013, pp. 278-286, 22, 24)

2011: General Assembly approved the response of The Presbyterian Church in Canada to the document “KAIROS Palestine: a moment of truth – faith, hope, and love – a confession of faith and call to action from Palestinian Christians.” General Assembly recommended that: courts of the church study the KAIROS Palestine Document and supporting documents and to deepen their understanding of the situation; that the church encourage the Government of Canada to use its offices to seek ways to end the occupation and to establish a just and lasting peace in Israel-Palestine according to United Nations resolutions. The Moderator visited Palestine and Israel in response to the invitation from Palestinian Christians to “come and see.” (A&P 2011, pp. 268-271, 31, 34)

2009: General Assembly wrote to General Electric (in which the church holds shares) to inquire about the use of the Apache helicopters in the Occupied Territories, and to express concern about the apparent use of the Apache helicopters in attacks in densely populated civilian areas in Gaza on January 7, 2009, as reported to B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. (A&P 2009, pp. 288-299, 18)

2008: General Assembly advocated that the Government of Canada play a more active role in promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The work of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel was reaffirmed and highlighted as an opportunity for individuals wishing to deepen their understanding of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

Presbyterians were encouraged to promote the purchase and distribution of products and services from the Occupied Palestinian Territories through organizations such as the Zatoun organization, Holy Land Handicraft Co-operative Society, Holy Land Artisans, and the Alternative Tourism Group from Ramallah, both to assist the Palestinian people, and as a means of promoting awareness of the situation of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories.

General Assembly wrote to the Government of Canada requesting information on steps that have been taken to stimulate trade between Canada and territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority (the West Bank and East Jerusalem) and urging the Government of Canada to: 1) introduce a certification of origin to ensure that products produced in territories occupied by Israel since 1967 are excluded from the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA); and 2) ensure that neither Israeli nor any Canadian policy impedes trade relationships between Canada and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Congregations and individuals visiting the Holy Land were encouraged to consider taking tours sponsored by the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem, Holy Land Living Stones Pilgrimage (The Holy Land and Christian Ecumenical Foundation), or The Society for Biblical Studies as an opportunity for reflection and study, and to visit with partners in Israel and Palestine.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada recognized the State of Israel’s 60th anniversary and its attempts to foster democracy in the Middle East, while recognizing with contrition the Church universal’s long history of anti-Semitism and seeking greater understanding in the future. (A&P 2008, pp. 271-281, 18)

2002: General Assembly affirmed its support of the Canadian government’s efforts to participate in negotiations for a just and lasting peace settlement in the Middle East. General Assembly advocated that the Government of Canada, as a member of the UN, speak against the application of sanctions, to seek a political solution towards the current Iraqi regime, and to voice opposition to a strategy of offensive military action against Iraq. (A&P 2002, pp. 279-281, 16-17) Context Note: Military action was feared in light of a) the inclusion of Iraq in a 3-nation “axis of evil” in the January 2002 State of the Union address by President George W. Bush to the US Congress, b) statements of concern about Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction by President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in March 2002, and c) several references by top US officials and advisors on the necessity of regime change in Iraq. These fears were realized when the US and UK launched an invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003. Baghdad was secured April 9, 2003 and Saddam Hussein captured December 14, 2003. An Iraqi-led Governing Council was established in July 2003 and current plans are to turn over full authority to an Iraqi government June 30, 2004.

1993: General Assembly asked the Canadian government to press for the lifting of non-military sanctions against Iraq. (A&P 1993, pp. 252-253, 38)

1991: General Assembly commended a study by the Canadian Council of Churches on the Middle East to Presbyterians as a means of raising awareness about the churches in the Middle East and the critical issues faced in the region, adopted a statement on peace in the Middle East, and re-affirmed support for an international peace conference for the Middle East. General Assembly asked the Government of Canada implement steps to limit arms sales to the Middle East. (A&P 1991, pp. 301-304, 308, 56-57)

1990: General Assembly endorsed a position paper on the Middle East drafted by the Canadian Council of Churches and commended it to congregations. The paper affirms the need for interfaith dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims, and comments on a role for the church in seeking to build understanding, dialogue and peace-building initiatives.
General Assembly re-affirmed the need for a comprehensive settlement recognizing the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians, based on UN Security council resolutions and gave strong support to UN sponsored peace conference, asking the Government of Canada to do likewise. Messages of support were sent to the Near East Council of Churches. Presbyterians traveling to the Middle East were encouraged to contact the travel service of the MECC and take the time and opportunity to meet with Arab Christians. (A&P 1990, pp. 395-400, 62-63)

1989: General Assembly re-affirmed, and communicated this to the Government of Canada, the need for a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the UN Security Council resolutions to be negotiated through a UN sponsored peace conference. General Assembly asked congregations and presbyteries to support and facilitate efforts to build greater awareness among the churches, dialogue between Jewish and Arab communities in Canada, and dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims, both locally and nationally. (A&P 1989, pp. 367-369, 63)

1988: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to call for an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations with reference to the right of the Palestinians for a national homeland. (A&P 1988, pp. 366-367, 51)

1987: General Assembly called on Canadian Presbyterians traveling to Israel to be aware of the political significance of the travel arrangements they made, of the people and places they visited and urged them to make a point of attending church and visiting Christian institutions while in Israel. (A&P 1987, pp. 340-341, 33)
1983: General Assembly called for the withdrawal of all outside military forces from Lebanon and the pursuit of peace in the Middle East through acceptance of Israel’s right to security and recognized boundaries and the Palestinians’ right to a homeland within a clearly defined territory. (A&P 1983, pp. 374, 79)

1978: General Assembly encouraged the Canadian government to take a strong position in any Middle East peace negotiations “having regard to … justice for Palestinians and security for Israel.” (A&P 1978, pp. 335, 36)

1972: In the wake of a massacre of 15 Christian pilgrims and 9 Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv, General Assembly mandated the church’s International Affairs Committee to communicate with the governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Israel concerning maintaining safe passage for pilgrims of all faiths. (A&P 1972, pp. 61-62)

1967: General Assembly adopted a statement on the Middle East, encouraging the Government of Canada to seek that the United Nations establish a peace-keeping force adequate and appropriate for restoring and supervising conditions for a just settlement and seek solutions that take full account of the needs of all peoples and nations involved, with particular reference to the plight of Palestinian refugees. (A&P 1967, pp. 70-71, 103)

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