Reform Jewish Movement Statement on the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Declaration of Israel as an Apartheid State

July 13, 2022 

The Reform Jewish Movement strongly condemns Presbyterian Church (USA)’s declaration falsely charging that Israel is an apartheid state, with the passage of Amendment INT-02 at its recent General Assembly. The Reform Movement is equally appalled that the Church entertained a recommendation to remove the term “antisemitism” from its official lexicon, preferring the term “anti-Jewish,” as it is universally accepted that “antisemitism” refers specifically to the hatred of the Jewish people. This is not the first time that an egregious statement on Israel has been made by PCUSA leadership, and we can clearly see that this is part of a pattern. Earlier this year in his reflection for Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, the Church’s highest official, Stated Clerk Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, described Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as, “21st-century slavery.”

The Reform Movement condemns these libelous mischaracterizations of the Jewish State, which carry with them a significant risk of increased antisemitism in the United States and worldwide.

The accusation of ‘apartheid’ is flawed, as the distinguishing factor determining the legal system in the West Bank is based on nationality and citizenship, not racial hierarchy, skin color, religious, or ethnic measures. Positioning the conflict in racial terms is simply wrong and is unhelpful in bringing this conflict to resolution. PCUSA and other international organizations continuously fail to recognize the context of Israel/Palestine, as they do not address Israel’s security concerns or the call by many of Israel’s neighbors – including the Palestinians – to bring an end to the Jewish State.

While the North American Reform Movement has a long-standing policy of opposition to Israeli settlements, we deeply regret that the PCUSA has taken an entirely unhelpful, even counterproductive, approach toward achieving a two-state solution. We acknowledge that the occupation regularly causes hardship to Palestinians, and to that end, we have repeatedly called for negotiations to establish two states for two peoples.

Reform Jews across North America enjoy warm relationships with local Presbyterian clergy and laity, many of whom have chosen to disassociate themselves from the national body. We will continue to nurture those relationships, engaging our friends and partners honestly and candidly to share our hurt, anger, and disappointment. Reform rabbis, cantors, and lay leaders will work with our Presbyterian partners to build a greater understanding of the Jewish people’s commitment to Israel, as well as a more accurate and nuanced understanding of its ongoing conflicts, its vulnerability to antisemitism, and our shared concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people. We call on PCUSA to retract their resolution.

Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Lewis Kamrass (he/him), President
Rabbi Hara E. Person (she/her), Chief Executive

American Conference of Cantors
Cantor Seth Warner (he/him), President
Rachel Roth (she/her), Chief Operating Officer

Union for Reform Judaism
Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman (she/her), Chair
Rabbi Rick Jacobs (he/him), President