‘Americans for Peace Now’ says Presbyterian measure could stoke ‘global anti-Semitism’

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) sent out a press release yesterday urging the Presbyterian Church not to divest from three companies doing business in the occupation because the measure serves those who seek “Israel’s destruction” and raises “very real and understandable worries about global anti-Semitism.”

APN’s press release says the Presbyterian divestment measure targets “Israel rather than the occupation,” but this language would seem to directly contradict the resolution itself, which is narrowly focused. 

Below are excerpts of the APN press release and a response to the peace group from Noah T. Winer, a board member of Jewish Voice for Peace. First APN:

Washington, DC – Americans for Peace Now (APN) urges the plenary of the Presbyterian Church (USA) not to adopt the resolution approved yesterday by its Middle East and Peacemaking Issues Committee (Committee 15) to divest from companies, over Israel’s use of their products in ways that allegedly violate Palestinian human rights.

APN’s president and CEO Debra DeLee said: “We believe that divestment campaigns such as this are misguided and counterproductive. They use a blunt instrument to pressure global corporations to curtail their business with Israel because of objectionable Israeli government policies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” 

“By targeting Israel rather than the occupation, this divestment campaign creates the impression that PC (USA) is making common cause with historically virulently anti-Israel organizations and individuals, who are often not interested in Israeli security concerns or Palestinian behavior but in Israel’s destruction. Divestment campaigns such as this therefore raise very real and understandable worries about global anti-Semitism and the perception that the campaigns are not truly (or only) about Israeli policies but rather reflect a deep-seated hatred for and rejection of Israel.” 

“Their impact, characteristically, is not Israel changing its policies but rather changing the subject. Divestment initiatives like this divert attention from the problem – the occupation – and help advocates of the status-quo frame things in ways that serve their goals.” 

“Such campaigns, instead of making a distinction between Israel and its presence in the West Bank and Gaza, blur the Green line. A morally and rationally justified tactic would be to focus on the line that separates Israel from the West Bank, and, while buying goods made in Israel, to make a point of not purchasing products made in West Bank settlements.”

From Jewish Voice for Peace board member Winer, to APN official:

I’m just back from attending the PC(USA)’s General Assembly, and I was disturbed to see APN’s statement describe the PC(USA) as “targeting Israel rather than the occupation.”

This is factually incorrect. The PC(USA)’s Middle East and Peacemaking Issues Committee spent many hours working on precise language (arguing over meaning, intent, grammar, and punctuation). This follows a very detailed report from the [Presbyterian Church’s] Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee. Nowhere in the overture does such targeting exist. Here is the language that passed. In fact, both MRTI and the Board of Pensions made it quite clear in Committee deliberations that the church still intends to hold stock in many companies doing business in Israel. The three companies being targeted for divestment are to be placed on that list as “companies profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine.” The exact nature of those “non-peaceful pursuits” is explained in detail in the link above — which is the language approved by committee.

What was APN’s justification for describing the PC(USA) overture as targeting Israel rather than the occupation? I hope you can issue a correction to prevent damage to the relationship between PC(USA) and the American Jewish peace community. Whatever disagreements APN may have with PC(USA)’s decision, this is an inaccurate representation.

The APN assault on divestment follows a warning by J Street’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami that divestment would end harmony between Christians and the “Jewish community.”

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