In the U.S. movement for justice in Palestine, the Presbyterian General Assembly vote Friday to divest is a major turning point. It represents the first time that a large mainstream U.S. church took a formal step to do what it’s able to do to end the Israeli Occupation. Perhaps even more important in assessing the impact of this event for the U.S. public, it reflects recognition by the rank-and-file church representatives — its General Assembly, comprised mostly of rank-and-file church members — that the conservative and militant Zionist U.S. opposition to the BDS movement relies only on name-calling and guilt-tripping, rather than fair and reasoned argument on the merits of their position.
Opponents of the divestment proposal wore t-shirts bearing the slogan: “Love us, don’t leave us!” The opposition arguments heard again and again at the plenary were threats that the adoption of the allegedly “anti-Semitic” proposal would anger and alienate the U.S. Jewish community from the Church. Not one argument was heard in defense of the merits of their position. Proponents of the proposal, in response, appealed to the Assembly to do justice, to have the courage to place their values above their fears of being accused of anti-Semitism. These appeals by proponents to the conscience of the voting rank-and-file Church membership were what carried the day.
The victory was for this reason far more significant than it appeared to be, as reported in mainstream media. It showed not only that rank-and-file Church members recognized the bankruptcy of the opposition, but that they also understood the facts on the ground and knew that these facts compelled Church divestment from the Occupation.