Posted by: gmscan | July 8, 2011

PCUSA and the Kairos Palestine Document

The PCUSA’s Monitoring Group for the Middle East recently sent out a “study guide” related to the “Kairos Palestine document” as directed by the General Assembly last year.   The Kairos document was prepared by a consortium of Palestinian Christian churches located in the West Bank.

I have been wary of what comes out of the PCUSA regarding Israel and the Palestinians ever since being exposed to the PCUSA’s “Israel/Palestine Mission Network” and its blatant bias against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians. Don’t take my word for it. Visit their web site and look especially at the “News and Views” section.

But I decided to review the Kairos document and the study guide with an open, if skeptical, mind in the hope that reconciliation is always possible with Christ as our guide.  Of course, reconciliation requires that all sides of a dispute be presented, and I thought that would be the purpose of the study guide – here is what the Palestinian Christians are saying, here is what the Muslims are saying, here is the Jewish response, and here are some things to think about when weighing the three perspectives.

Alas, that is not the way it was done.

The Kairos document itself is entirely one-sided, and the “study guide” material provides no context whatsoever, and certainly no criticism. It isn’t like a criticism is hard to find. It took me about five minutes to discover a point-by-point rebuttal by the Canadian Jewish Council. 

It is well worth reading both documents to get a more complete picture of what is happening.  But I didn’t need the Canadian rebuttal to find the flaws in the Kairos document. Here are just a few:

1. The Kairos document puts all the blame for problems in the region on Israel, and especially the “Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”  But, importantly, it never specifies what it means by “Palestinian territories.” Westerners will probably take it to mean the West Bank, but the Kairos document implies that the entire state of Israel is an occupation of Palestinian territory. It claims that only Palestinians have an historical connection to the land – “Our (Palestinian) connectedness to this land is a natural right” — and adds:

“It was an injustice when we were driven out. The West sought to make amends for what Jews had endured in the countries of Europe, but it made amends on our account and in our land. They tried to correct an injustice and the result was a new injustice.”

So, it isn’t just the occupation of the West Bank that is at issue, but the whole idea that the West wanted to “make amends” to the Jews for the Holocaust in Europe. The very existence of Israel, then, is “an injustice.”

It goes on to say:

“… we know that certain theologians in the West try to attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of our rights. Thus, the promises, according to their interpretation, have become a menace to our very existence. The “good news” in the Gospel itself has become “a harbinger of death” for us.”

So, the idea that the Jews have any historical or Biblical claim to being in Israel is an invention of Western theologians.

It concludes this section by stating:

“We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God.”

Then it goes on to discuss the “Nakba” (the “catastrophe” when Israel was established):

“One of the most important signs of hope is the steadfastness of the generations, the belief in the justice of their cause and the continuity of memory, which does not forget the “Nakba” (catastrophe) and its significance.”

So, a “sign of hope” is that resistance to the existence of Israel continues, even after “generations.” But it then says :

“… we see a determination among many to overcome the resentments of the past and to be ready for reconciliation once justice has been restored. Public awareness of the need to restore political rights to the Palestinians is increasing, and Jewish and Israeli voices, advocating peace and justice, are raised in support of this with the approval of the international community. True, these forces for justice and reconciliation have not yet been able to transform the situation of injustice, but they have their influence and may shorten the time of suffering and hasten the time of reconciliation.”

What does this mean? If “injustice” is the existence of Israel then “restoring justice” must be the abolition of Israel. And in fact, nowhere in the document is a two-state solution mentioned or is there any recognition of the right of Israel to exist.

2. The document defends terrorism as an appropriate response to occupation. It says:

“We call on Israel to give up its injustice towards us, not to twist the truth of reality of the occupation by pretending that it is a battle against terrorism. The roots of “terrorism” are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation. These must be removed if there be a sincere intention to remove “terrorism.”

They pretend that there was no terrorism before the occupation of the West Bank. This is nonsense. Not only was there terrorism, but active warfare against Israel. The pre-1967 borders were the precondition for the 1967 war. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights to prevent similar military action in the future.

Indeed, Israel has no reason to occupy Palestinian territories other than national security. There is no great wealth in those areas and the occupation takes a toll on Israel as well as on the Palestinians. There are better things Israel could be doing with its manpower and its money. Israel would like to end the occupation, but it will not do so until there is some other assurance of security, such as a two-state solution that recognizes Israel’s right to exist. Israel secured similar assurances from both Jordan and Egypt and relations between those states have been peaceful for decades.

Simply withdrawing its troops from the West Bank without such assurance will not end terrorism, as we have seen in Gaza.

Overall this is an incredibly disingenuous document. It throws in lots of Biblical quotations and “God talk,” but all that seems to be a cover for an ethnic nationalism that blames the Jews for all the problems of the Palestinian people.

We have seen this before.  The German Christians under Hitler also spouted Christian rhetoric and blamed the Jews for all of Germany’s problems. It, too, reached out to Christian churches around the world in the hope of legitimizing itself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the “confessing churches” stood up against this perversion of the Gospel, but the world’s churches were indecisive, not wanting to get in the middle of a schism within the German church.

It will be interesting to see whether today’s churches have learned any lessons from history. Apparently the PCUSA has not.



  1. I agree that this seems an over-reach. Also, Israel is legitimized by the ?1947? UN partition vote establishing both Israel and Palestine. And by the Geneva Convention Israel has the right to occupy the West Bank; but not to settle it’s citizens there.

    I think that, without those settlements, a mutually satisfactory peace would have been achieved by now.

  2. […] PCUSA’s distribution of two blatantly anti-Semitic documents – The Kairos Paper, which I’ve written about here,  and the even worse “Zionism […]

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