Thursday 23 May 2013
Delegates to the Church of Scotland General Assembly have today voted to adopt a report by its Church and Society Council which challenged "claims that scripture offers any peoples a privileged claim for possession of a particular territory". The Church report argues that it is "doubly wrong to seek biblical sanction" given "the fact that the [Palestinian] land is currently being taken by settlement expansion, the separation barrier, house clearance, theft and force".
The Church also reaffirmed their view that the present situation in Israel/Palestine "is characterised by an inequality in power" and that Israel's blockade of Gaza and illegal military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem must end before reconciliation is possible.
Delegates further stressed that the human rights of all peoples should be respected and that "this should include the right of return and/or compensation for Palestinian refugees".
The Church and Society Council report, The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the 'promised land', was condemned by the Israeli ambassador to the UK when it was first published earlier this month. The conclusions of the revised report presented to the General Assembly were unchanged from the original, while adding introductory remarks and a reaffirming of the Kirk's rejection of racism and religious hatred.
Dr Bernard Sabella of the Middle East Council of Churches, based in Jerusalem, a delegate to the Church of Scotland General Assembly, called the Church of Scotland report "a wake-up call". Rev Na'el Abu Rahmoun of the Diocese of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East explained to the General Assembly how Palestinian citizens of Israel face systematic discrimination, and said "we are about 1.5 million, Christians and Muslims together" who are "considered maybe second or third class citizens".
A motion to effectively remit the report until 2014 was overwhelmingly rejected by delegates who agreed instead to promote the widest discussion of the report and its conclusions throughout the local committees of the Church and beyond.
General Assembly delegates also endorsed the Church and Society Council General Report which notes and encourages debate around the Iona Call 2012, a response to Kairos Palestine that endorses the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and other forms of non-violent direct action.
Iona Community member Eurig Scandrett said that the Church of Scotland "has not been afraid to speak truth to power - the truth that Israel's claims to Palestinian land is unjustifiable theologically or ethically. Israel's credibility has just been dealt a major blow".
Fiona Napier, Chair of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, welcomed the General Assembly decisions, saying that "The Israeli government needs to know that Scottish civil society, including our trade unions and churches, refuse to be complicit in their crimes against the Palestinian people and, as we see the situation for Palestinians worsen, we will find and take more effective action in support of Palestinian rights".
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
2. The General Assembly is the supreme court of the Church, and is its annual national business meeting. It has the power to make laws and set the agenda for the coming months or even years for the administrative councils, committees and departments of the organisation.
3. Church and Society Council Report to the Assembly
4. The inheritance of Abraham? A report on the 'promised land'
5. Daily papers, Thursday 23 May
6. Israeli ambassador criticises 'truly hurtful' Church of Scotland report, Herald Scotland, Thursday 9 May 2013
7. Kairos Palestine document 'A moment of truth'
8. The Iona Call 2012
9. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
10. Church of Scotland General Assembly slams Israeli apartheid and land theft - suggests BDS needed
11. Church debated revised Inheritance of Abraham report, Church of Scotland, 23 May 2013