Skip to main content

Synod 2019 will be asked to deliberate Overture #6 from the Council of East Hill Community CRC, Vernon, British Columbia entitled “Follow Christ in the Way of Peace, Doing Justice, and Bringing Reconciliation to the Peoples of Israel and Palestine.” (see the Agenda for Synod 2019). 

The council of East Hill Community CRC overtures Synod 2019 of the Christian Reformed Church to act on the following:

  1. To increase the awareness of our members that in the ongoing conflict the system of official policies and practices of the Israeli government with respect to the treatment of Palestinians violates biblical principles of justice and righteousness.
  2. To, along with other Christians, continue to call on our respective governments and ultimately the government of Israel to hear God’s call to practice justice with regard to the Palestinian peoples.
  3. To encourage the Palestinian peoples and Israel to continue to choose the way of a nonviolent path to peace in the face of this deteriorating 52-year occupation.
  4. To instruct the Council of Delegates to instruct the Office of Social Justice to continue to lead our churches into taking appropriate action by providing educational resources, consultation, and coordination of our congregations’ efforts in addressing these injustices.

To assist delegates in their deliberations with this Overture, I would like them to ask them to contemplate the following ten questions.

  1. Given that the word ‘Palestine’ is derived from Roman occupation of Jewish territory of what they called “Philistine” (after the Bar Kokhba revolt of 134 AD) is it possible that the very term carries other meanings than its present day connotations as applied to an ethnicity, for example?
  2. Given that the region was Jewish originally, and that invaders of Arabic and Muslim origin then occupied it, a valid question might be “whose land is it anyways?” A further question that is addressed below is “is this all about land, anyways?”
  3. Given that the region now called Israel/Palestine was under Islamic control, how does this play into the equation? Islam has a doctrine called ‘waqf’ which essentially declares that any land that has been in Islamic hands must remain so until perpetuity, and if it reverts to non-Muslim hands, then war is declared in perpetuity. Has the overture sufficiently considered the consequences of the doctrine of waqf?
  4. Given that enmity between Muslims and Jews was declared at the time of the founding of Islam, and that Islamic texts, including its eschatology portray a strong anti-Semitism, should this dynamic enter the equation?
  5. Given that a reaction to Christian Zionism [largely driven by dispensational theology] is now Christian Palestinianism [largely driven by liberation theology] how should delegates navigate theologically through these two opposing and yet very vocal options?
  6. Given that there is ample evidence of exploitation of victimization on the part of some Palestinians with the resultant effect to demonize all things Jewish [see unedited scripts from Palestinian TV here [MEMRI | Middle East Media Research Institute] where does the call for justice apply to this dynamic? Where does responsibility for Palestinian actions come into play?
  7. Given that there is evidence of exploitation of Palestinians by Palestinian leaders  [*witness the fortunes that leaders such as the late Yasser Arafat, Mousa Abu Marzook and Khaled Meshaal have amassed] how will this injustice be addressed?
  8. Given that Christians of Arabic background in this region are doubly marginalized, either by a Jewish or Muslim majority, depending where they live, how will their plight be prioritized? Also, given that Christians throughout the world suffer injustices and that this must rank high on a list of Christian priorities, why does it seem that injustices towards Palestinians [Christian or otherwise] seem to have a higher “value” than say, Pakistani Christians trapped for years in refugee camps, than the almost unreported kidnappings of Christians in the Minya region of Egypt and the present systemic persecution of Christians in China?  
  9. Given that many resources on the region for Christian reading tend either toward Christian Zionism [i.e., blessing all things Jewish] or Christian Palestinianism [i.e., blessing all things Palestinian] how will balanced resources be made available, in light of the overture’s leaning toward the second?
  10. As much as biblical justice is part of the mandate of the church and its members, where does the CRCNA draw lines around what its "core business" might be, and what might be the ministry of a certain group of interested members, without it needing the official funding, energy, and sanction of the CRCNA? In short, can the CRCNA ever say no to official advocacy for an injustice somewhere on this planet?


Overture # 6 Background:

“The role of the Church in the face of injustice is not to remain silent but to speak truth prophetically against oppression, discrimination, human rights abuses, and to call on governments to uphold international law.

Our denomination has previously acted on its obligation to speak to injustice in a similar situation by addressing “Apartheid” in South Africa. It is time again for the Church to use it’s voice in like manner about the ongoing injustices in occupied Palestine.”


I came across this UN ESCWA Report (that is Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) from 2017 called “Israeli Practices towards Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” 71 pages long and I read most of it.

It’s authors are Prof. of International Law, Richard Falk, UN Special Reporter and Virginia Tilley, Prof. of Political Science U of Chicago, who came to the conclusion that the State of Israel is indeed committing the now recognized crime of institutional apartheid against the Palestinian people.


Four Domains:

Domain 1: The use of laws to curtail the capacity of Palestinian citizens of Israel to obtain equal rights with Israel’s democracy.

Domain 2: Highly insecure residency laws for Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem.

Domain 3: Military Law governing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories as a permanent alien population which rejects any claim they may want to make on Israeli political representation for equal rights and conditions.

Domain 4: Policies preventing Palestinian refugees and involuntary exiles from returning to their homes in Mandate Palestine.

These domains interplay on each other to enfeeble Palestinian resistance to Israel’s apartheid oppression.


There is much more on demographic engineering, discriminatory laws, no freedom of movement and practices that cannot be contained in this brief note……we should all read it.


I found at the end of the report under General Recommendations:

“United Nations bodies, national governments and civil society actors, including religious organizations, should formally endorse the principal finding of this report that the treatment by Israel of the Palestinians is consistent with the crime of apartheid.


I don’t know what religious bodies are meant here but I do know that many churches have made resolutions or overtures on this subject. 

This is a very pressing issue for us because our governments are heavily involved in this awful stuff and we are implicated in it, the USA much more so and Canada, no matter Conservative, Liberal, all our administrations have supported Israel’s immoral behavior, one just more overtly than the other. Our governments say they support a two state solution but let Israel build more settlements with $4 billion (from the USA) in aid to boot.


There are also counter arguments listed which can be accessed.

This report has yet to make it’s way to the International Court of Justice still.


I feel very sad having to present these things, it feels very heavy on my heart, we have not even talked about Gaza yet. We have been kept in the dark for too many years by a lack of honest reporting. We really do need to pray for all the parties involved and search our souls too.







I admit to you Lubbert that I or we could have listened better before taking the overture to classis a second time. You did inform us that the overture needed significant change for classis to discuss it again. We thought that we had made enough changes to merit an approval by classis but I guess we thought wrong.


What bothered us about the process though was that the advisory committees only included people that knew the one narrative of Israel/Palestine and Not both sides, while there were definitely people in the two churches on the committee that know both narratives.

In particular one person who has very intimate knowledge and heart for the subject was sidelined. This person went to great expense of her own, even lived with a family that endured hardship from the Israeli occupation.

I was told that there were educated people on the advisory committee and indeed some of them were, they have a degree or two; the problem is that they were not really informed though on the whole of the issue.


I agree with Jennifer that the churches could do more for our indigenous peoples and yes, the Anglican church in Canada (in the USA Episcopalian) is more involved here, it is through KAIROS in the Anglican church that I got involved in both our First Nations and Palestinian/Israel issues.

There remain many inequities for our indigenous and settler peoples not unlike in Israel but in our country there is some progress going on, the reconciliation process is happening.

However, for Palestinians and Israelis the situation is getting worse every year. Palestinian families are systematically and illegally dispossessed of their homes and land every week at an increasing rate.


Besides calling for more awareness for our church members the overture has an admonishing word for the Israeli government and its military. Rightly so because as an occupying power under international law there are strict laws that are to be obeyed by Israel , however they tend to ignore them. 

One example, since 2000, at least 8000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system notorious for the systematic treatment and torture of Palestinian children; see Amnesty International report 2015-16.

No wonder organizations like “” come into existence. Doug, you are a lawyer, why don’t you check them out and compare notes with their lawyer.

If Naim Ateek of Sabeel shows anger at times it is because it is a righteous anger on behalf of his people and their women and children.



Saturday, June 8, there was an internet conference linking eight cities in Canada, including our city of Vernon, BC, with the chief orthopedic surgeon from the Shifa Hospital in Gaza and a 3rd year dentistry student. They spoke to us and we could ask questions from them directly. We learned   about the trauma and psychological harm to men, women and children. It is immensely troubling. (An eleven year old in Gaza has witnessed three conflicts in its lifetime; each of these conflicts were characterized by massive bombing raids on densely populated civilian areas.  An estimated 70% of children in Gaza need psychological counseling to address the symptoms resulting from the traumas they have experienced. )

Friends of Sabeel Canada was the main convener of this event and our community’s venue was at the  East Hill Community Church auditorium, where I am an elder. 


We raised funds for the “Near East Council of Churches” who have a longstanding relationship with Sabeel in their work for psychological support for children and youth through established maternal and child clinics in Gaza’s poorest districts.


We in North America are implicated in all this trauma, I am afraid, as our governments help fund this open-air prison under complete siege by Israel and partially by Egypt on the south border - probably part of a peace treaty with Israel.















Hi Martin…

I appreciate your concern for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. 


However, notwithstanding your acknowledgement that “we could have listened better before taking the overture to classis a second time,” neither the second overture, nor the third overture to Synod addresses the concerns of the classical advisory committees regarding the lack balance in listening to both parties to the conflict in seeking scriptural reconciliation. As a consequence the overture undermines your stated intent “to speak truth prophetically against oppression, discrimination, human rights abuses, and to call on governments to uphold international law.” Secondly, we have previously discussed a concern which again appears in your email, i.e. impugning the committees’ integrity in raising concerns of balance with you to ensure equity, mercy and reconciliation be addressed by all parties.


Jews and Christians have since the emergence of Islam experienced dhimmis status, i.e. second class citizenship; and occasionally suffered expulsions, and pogroms. As recently as the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century, we have seen the genocide of the Armenians in Turkey ; and the expulsion of Jewish populations from North Africa . This persecution continues to be a daily reality for Jews, Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East & .


One might argue that the lack of balance in the overture opens it to a charge of anti-semitism, as has been the case with the BDS movement.


Yours in Christ,

Reading the many posts about the Palestine overture I can't help but notice how often the central and key element of our faith and belief is left out of the discussion , namely what the bible (word of God) says about the matter . Already early on in scripture (Genesis 12:3 ) , Numbers 24:9 and many other places throughout the bible the creator decrees his judgment on those who stand against his people and their land . In Genesis 17: 7-8 our heavenly father speaks directly about whose land it is and for how long it will be their's   " and I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”   Who are we to say anything different ?

Nick.... God never reneges on his promises , when he said to Abraham the land shall be yours and your offspring "forever" he meant forever ! Sure God punished Israel by exiling them to other countries when they were disobedient but the land he promised them was never taken away. Daniel prophesied the Israelites would get their country back after a long absence (2300 years) and look what happened in 1948 . This time (end times) God won't exile his people from the land he gave them so long ago anymore but as seen,  many still hate the Israelites  and still try hard to get rid of them .   Question then is " Do we support those against the Jews or do we oppose their efforts " ? 

Listen, listen slowly to every phrase from this Christian pastor from Bethlehem:

"I am a Palestinian (Christian) living under Israeli occupation.

My captor daily seeks ways to make life harder for me. He encircles my people with barbed wire;he builds wall around us, and his army sets many boundaries around us. He succeeds in keeping thousands of us in camps and prisons. Yet in spite all these efforts, he has not succeeded in taking my dreams from me.I have a dream that one day I will wake up and see two equal peoples living next to each other, coexisting in the land of Palestine, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan."

Rev. Mitri Raheb

Does this not speak to your heart?

It is seldom that we hear from Christians of the "Holy Land" and I doubt if he cares that much what the name of the country is,

he wants to live and breath in freedom and equality.

A large group of Christian pastors sent out the KAIROS Document: a combined cry to the western Church to pay attention to their plight......look it up on the net.

Whether they are Messianic Jews or Palestinian Christians, it does not matter, we should be listening to them.

Both have less status in modern Israel.

Gary and I have four points we wish to address to Martin and his overture team, and to anyone else who may be reading this thread:

1) Martin, through your overture and your supporting comments, you have continued to provide us readers with an exceptionally clear demonstration of a “one- sided” argument. Your recent accusations about the Israeli blockade of Gaza completely avoid even the mention of the terrorist Hamas party in power!  And in today’s post, you present a “victim” voice to promote your argument. Gary and I also mourn the terrible suffering in Gaza, the 52 year military occupation in the West Bank, and corrupt politicians found in both the Israeli and Palestinian governments. However, we are working on educating ourselves on the history and the bigger picture, through meeting with and listening to a variety of individuals and groups in the Land, not just one perspective.  

We have heard and experienced a different Palestinian Christian voice; those seeking to spread the fragrance of Jesus and the Good News in a challenging place, without resorting to victimhood.  We just received the June 7, 2019 Friends of NEC newsletter( Nazareth Evangelical College): , with the current message from Rev. Azar Ajaj ( Principal):
“ Many churches advertise their tours to the Holy Land by inviting the members to "walk where Jesus walked". And indeed, many do come to visit the land and see the dead stones of the past....However, most of the people leave without seeing the most recent chapter. Yes, Israel-Palestine is the land where Jesus walked, but it is also the land where He is still walking. Despite all the tensions that you hear about on the news, there is the good news of the kingdom of God....It looks like God is doing things that are bigger than our dreams and expectations; he is opening doors that we did not know were there and is exchanging beauty for ashes.“ - Azar Ajaz
The newsletter goes on to highlight the ministry of some of its current students.

2) Regarding your recent post about the church’s role in addressing injustice, the facile (i.e. superficial) likening of the occupation of the West Bank to Apartheid policy in South Africa is a false equivalent.  As is using this “similar situation” to justify the CRCNA involvement in protest. In the South African situation, it was very appropriate for the CRCNA to become involved; after all, it was mainly Dutch settlers (Afrikaners) who crafted and instituted the Apartheid, and their church supported it. 

3) One- sided proposals and encouragement of polarization on this subject (which Sabeel and Christian Peacemakers consistently do), are not helpful; in fact, they are frankly DAMAGING to the reconciliatory efforts of thoughtful Israelis and Palestinians ( Christians, Jews and Muslims): the people who actually live there, have spent their lives sacrificially working for peace and who hope their grandchildren will be able to live in peace there. ( For the record, you should know that i have an equally strong negative opinion of the one- sidedness of the Christian Zionist movement.)

Below is a link to a current article by David Horowitz, which was published in the Times of Israel newspaper today, June 12, 2019.

It is a long article which includes an interview with Yossi Klein Halevi ( an Israeli Jew) and Mohammed Dajani, ( a Palestinian Muslim), but we hope people take the time to read or at least skim it, because it will give you some idea of the complexity of the situation in which you are hoping the CRCNA will dabble. These men share honestly their personal journeys; their dedicated work in reconciliation is laudable. Neither have time for a one- sided whining “victim” voice which this overture caters to.

There is real work to be done there, which involves listening to both narratives and a responsible pulling together. 

    4.  Overture 6 calls on the OSJ to provide “ educational resources” to the CRCNA congregations.  If the source of these resources stems from this one- sided overture, that is both a frightening and dangerous prospect!!  Such teaching would fail to promote real dialogue and reconciliation. 

Gary and I hope and pray that 2019 CRCNA Synodical deputies will exercise wise discernment and defeat Overture 6.

It’s not hard for me to see some of reasons for our denomination decline after reading these comments! It makes me sad that we can’t agree on much! It’s depressing to see this supposed respect for opinions of other people when most just want theirs to be the right one! This subject is important but our approach is leading to no action for any group! I concentrate on what I can do for the Lord that’s within my capabilities and accessible. I don’t agree with everything our church does but I still try to support God’s purpose and kingdom!

No, it's not hard to "see some of the reasons for our denomination decline," but it's not just about this overture but also other overtures (over the years) that asked the CRC to venture deep into non-ecclesiatical (political) side-taking.

If any organization, institutional church or otherwise, expands its mandate (jurisdiction if you will), it risks division.  And the more it expands (especially into the political unless it is a political organization), the more the risk.  The reason is, or should be, obvious: the members of the organization didn't become part of the organization in order to "be one" as to matters the organization "was not about" when they joined.  Real world translation: I'm not part of the CRC because I want the CRC to lobby and take positions on political issues in my behalf.  (It was the same with the downtown Salem organization board I was on member of, and the Parrish Little League board I was a member of--when asked to take political positions, I said "no", whether I agreed with the political position or not).

Now I think political questions are really, really important and certainly one of Kuyper's "square inches" if you will, and I regularly join forces with others (in other organizations) to take those questions up, and when I do, I seek to do so from a deeply biblical perspective.  Still, I'm not a member of the CRC in order to take up that square inch of life (there is a time and place to take up the questions involved in all square inches of life), and so I appreciate the CRC Church Order Art 28, by which CRC councils and members covenant that they will stick to "ecclesiastical matters" (translation: not attempt to become political activist representing all CRC members).  Taking up this Overture 6 would break that covenant.  It should be ruled "out of order" as a contravention to the constraints provided by our "Church Order covenant" (CO Art 28).  I pray Synod does just that.  The only other choice is to deepen division by forcing institutional consensus on a non-ecclesiatical matter.

Thank you Doug, for your comments. We are joining you in that prayer. If there is a church order article to deal with this situation, taking it off the agenda, all the better! 

Seriously, how can one ask CRC people to vote knowledgeably on such a complex and yes, divisive issue. We were thankful for the Advisory committee in place at Classis BCSE who patiently went through the overture twice in 2018.

Even then, it was rather unnerving to watch a roomful of European Canadians vote on such an overture.

Last year, when Gary told me Classis BCSE was voting a second time on the overture, I had asked him, out of curiosity, if I could read the overture. I hadn’t taken interest in it previously in the Spring.  On glancing through it in October, I immediately spotted a blatant lie - which none, including the advisory committee nor Gary, had seen! ( I won’t go into detail here, you can talk to BCSE for proof of this, and I’m happy to provide my email thread to them).

The author of the overture apologized publicly about the “mistake” and told Gary and me later that a friend had been helping him with listing all the UN resolutions against Israel and writing about the Nation State Law, and that he hadn’t had time to check the work his friend had done!

The problem is that lies like these are used to push the “apartheid” label and BDS agenda.

This explains why I have written strongly to refute inaccurate statements...


To respond to Ken Libolt, I have plenty of respect for people who hold different faiths, theologies and political leanings, and there are many situations in which I can agree to disagree. However, in this situation, I do say something when CZ people make anti-Arabs comments and say they shouldn’t be in the Land, and I do say something when the pro- Palestinian side distorts the facts by presenting only one side of the story, and often with the agenda of de-legitimizing the right of the State of Israel to exist.

Lies lead to dangerous and hateful race propaganda, and I will not let that go without speaking up.

As followers of Jesus, let’s not give up hope for true peace and reconciliation in that part of the world- through honest dialogue, prayer and appropriate action.








I happen to have a friend who is a Christian born and raised in Jerusalem. He has no right of return. He is very sad about that. I can go back to bike in my old country where I grew up any time I want.

So I went to check that out. I witnessed the mess over there, not a cruise or a pleasant vacation.

It was very disturbing. You should check it out. I did not go to Turkey, my niece from Aldergrove is working there and in Armenia with a Christian Mission, we gladly contribute to her work. I know what happened there, I read the latest biography about "Lawrence of Arabia "a few years ago, it explained how the whole place was divided up by the colonial powers, mostly Britain. After a while the whole thing smelled to "high heaven" and Lawrence refused to be knighted right in front of the king. In the British Mandate they gave most of the land of Palestine to the Jewish people which we all loved for the sake of the Jewish refugees, it's just that there were people living there. But now the Jewish Israelis are the colonial power. It's somewhat similar to us in Canada being the colonial power and we  have to make things right with our indigenous people to be reconciled with them.....but in Israel they are continuing their colonial occupation full speed ahead. In Canada we don't put blame on the indigenous peoples for living here. Why do we want to put equal responsibility on the Palestinian peoples?? So I am doing all I can for all peoples in that area because we are all God's creatures, it is a justice and reconciliation issue that even "The Banner" can touch on. Why can we not talk about human rights issues re. Israel just like we do about Myanmar? I saw a newspaper headline from Israel sometime ago that read "Israel needs to be saved from itself!"; as if to say "we can't do" it to the world.   52 years is enough.


BDS is not the same as antisemitism, nor is criticism of the state of Israel antisemitism as Lubbert implies. The state of Texas had to back down because it impeded peoples free speech. 





“Lie” is a strong word. You use it several times, even “blatant lie,” Yet, without any evidence. And to whom is this directed? Apparently, proponents of the Overture, but the primary proponent cannot be accused of lying. By your own account, Martyn did not know the information was mistaken and when he learned it was untrue, he withdrew it and apologized. Lying requires intention to deceive. Where is your evidence Martyn, or anyone, had intention to deceive?


You refer to it as a mistake but you assert it was intentional by placing the word in quotation marks. Again, where is your evidence? In the absence of evidence you attribute motives and make accusations grabbed out of thin air. You might want to apologize and show the graciousness Martyn showed when he was shown to be mistaken.

Hi Nick…

Therein lies the complexity of the issue. The falsehood lies not with either Martin or Jennifer, but the quote cited in the 2nd overture to classis from the book by Gary Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians provided as the Human Rights grounds for supporting the overture. 


Though the overture to Synod excludes the factually incorrect quote, “In the State of Israel, the most recent move to deny the right to vote and other democratic participation by people other than Jews is alarmingly distressing by anyone who hopes and prays for a peaceful coexistence in this region,” the overture still substantively cites a book which has been challenged for factual errors.


An alternate cited source might have been a better choice in the overture to Synod.

Lubbert, Nick and Jennifer:

Re. the incorrect statement in the "Basic Human Rights" part of the "Grounds" for the second Classis BC SE being referred to is not from Gary Burge's book "Whose Land....Whose Promise" but from one of our overture team members for which I took the blame for not double checking that statement. Professor Burge's book was written before the Nation State came into being and I am sure he knows his facts.

The separate paragraph underneath about the fifty-eight evangelical leaders letter was taken from professor Burge's book.


Hi Martin... 

Thank you for the clarification. Appreciated. I'm used to quotations following a statement, not before.

Nonetheless, Gary Burge has been challenged for holding this very position, i.e. Israel is "mov(ing) to deny the right to vote and other democratic participation by people other than Jews" which was provided as grounds in the 2nd overture to classis.

Though the revised 2nd paragraph in the overture to Synod removes this sentence, it now intimates Israel is in the process of establishing an "apartheid regime." A matter on which Gary Burge has also been challenged, raising questions about the veracity of the overture's source material.

Yours in Christ,

Lubbert:   Well yes, Israel is in many peoples mind already an apartheid state , Israelis and Palestinians are being kept by walls, segregated by different licence plates, forced to live in bandustans which are areas designed to keep communities apart with many discriminatory laws, and much more. I already wrote about this in an earlier post.

Again, the UN ESCWA report called "Israeli Practices towards Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid"(2017) by Professors Falk and Tilley which concluded that Israel is an apartheid state which was declared to be a crime some time ago. The unpopular Nation State Law was no help here either; it made non Jewish people groups second class which was already the case but this basic law formalized it.There are probably more states that could be called apartheid states but for now we are talking about Israel.

BDS...Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment: We did not ask for BDS in our overture but other churches have done this. Started by Palestinians themselves, it is one of the few peaceful options they have even if it hurts their own economy. Israel has lobbied hard for governments to declare it illegal in US states and lately Germany. But they are being challenged in the courts.

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post