This past Friday afternoon in Detroit the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA*, voted 310-303 to divest from three multinational companies, Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard. The PC(USA) chose these three companies because they believe these companies “further the Israeli occupation in Palestine” and that “these companies provide Israel with products that promote violence in occupied Palestinian territories.”
While we might say that this was a close vote, there are so many levels of this that are disturbing. This same resolution was proposed at the last GA of the PC(USA) two years ago and was narrowly defeated by only a few votes. Unfortunately, after much debate on the floor which included speeches made by prominent figures from not only the Presbyterian Church, but also our own Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, the General Assembly has decided to join the ranks of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement that has been very vocal throughout the nation and especially on college campuses.
What is most troubling is that the PC(USA) has chosen to quarantine themselves to a position that closes the door to conversations about creating peace in Israel. This move toward divestment does not send a message of support to the land of Israel, which they profess to care about deeply, rather it sends a message that they are interested in only one voice. If there is a two-state solution, a Jewish state and a state for the Palestinian people, then cutting off one voice is not the way to accomplish this task. The Presbyterian Church has voted to attempt to create economic sanctions to companies that not only have deep connections to Israel, but also play important roles in our lives here in the United States. Are those who voted for this divestment willing to hand over their cell phones, turn off their computers and stop construction because they wish to divest themselves? (I know, I’m being overly dramatic).
What bothers me most about this vote is that there are so many misunderstandings and so much misinformation within documents and speeches. Even the educational document the PC(USA) provides, called “Zionism Unsettled”, is wrought with misinformation and is being used as a teaching tool in their religious education programs. I am nervous when David Duke, long time KKK leader, endorses the PC(USA) movement and there is appreciation of his endorsement by some church leaders. I am concerned that this will create a rift in interfaith relations when we should be working toward dialogue and discussion.
I am grateful to those who fought against the divestment measure and hope that we can raise our voices together to work toward understanding and a lasting peace in the Middle East and throughout the world.
There have been increased instances of anti-Semitism in the past year and months that should cause all of us to be more aware and vocal when it comes to issues like this vote for divestment from the Presbyterian Church USA. We can no longer say, ‘this is something happening in Israel and it does not affect me here in the United States.’ This vote and the BDS movement IS happening here in the United States and I’m concerned for the Jewish community if we ourselves are not aware of these issues and if we disconnect from Jewish community. I invite you…I implore us all, become more aware of what is happening regarding Israel, anti-Semitism, and the Jewish community here and abroad. Be connected to Jewish community, we need this more than ever.
*please note, there are two principal Presbyterian Church organizations in the United States. The second is Presbyterian Church in America who were not a part of this General Assembly.
Articles of interest: