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June 26, 2014
Shutting Down Presbyterian Assembly Lines
“In no way is this a reflection of love for our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
In terms of disingenuousness, Rev. Heath Rada’s declaration that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly vote to divest from three companies doing business with Israel ranks right up there with, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” and “This is for your own good” — statements which, not coincidentally, are uttered before disciplining children.
Regardless of what Rada, the church moderator, said at the Detroit conclave last week, and the resolution’s note that the vote “does not mean an alignment with the overall strategy of the global BDS movement,” the facts are clear. The 310-303 vote in favor of selling the church’s investments in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard — combined with an accompanying vote to re-examine the church’s commitment to the two-state solution and its tacit approval earlier this year of “Zionism Unsettled,” a blatantly anti-Israel study guide depicting Zionism as a false ideology — plainly shows that the church has adopted an unambiguously anti-Israel position.
It is tempting to downplay the significance. At 1.8 million members, the denomination makes up less than 2 percent of Protestants in the United States and, as indicated by vociferous shows of support from local Presbyterian leaders like Cindy Jarvis, there are many in the church who disagree with the move to divest. The threadbare nature of the church’s moral fiber shows through in its lack of motions against the Chinese persecution of the Uyghurs, the horrific labor abuses of migrant workers at both New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus and Qatar’s bribery-tainted World Cup 2022 venues, and the violence against Christian minorities in numerous Arab countries, to name a few.
But dismissal is not an option. This is already the fourth instance of a religious institution joining the divestment movement — the Quakers, the Mennonite Central Committee and the United Methodist Church’s pension board have all sold out equity positions in firms that do business with and in Israel. This will only serve to embolden those in the BDS community and in the fringes of other denominations that see a renewed opportunity to further isolate Israel through ostensibly principled means.
We must not just be outspoken within our own community, as organizations from the Anti-Defamation League to J Street have already done; we need to redouble interfaith efforts with groups like Jarvis’ Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. To change the culture of officially sanctioned anti-Semitism, we must follow Rada’s example and express our true purpose through actions, not words.