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Total number of comments: 35 (since 2011-04-24 19:04:00)

Interested in finding helpful dialog on the Israeli/Palestinian conundrum since visiting Israel and the West Bank.

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  • Why do Muslims object to depictions of their prophet?
    • The equivalent to the modern situation concerning religious images was the French Wars of Religion in the late 16th Century. The Calvinists believed that the images in the Catholic churches constituted idolatry and in the 1560s the Calvinist vandalized churches throughout Europe. For example, this print of the Calvinist Iconoclast riot of 1566.

      link to commons.wikimedia.org

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      The Frence War of Religion resulted.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      The first instances of Protestant iconoclasm, the destruction of images and statues in Catholic churches, occurred in Rouen and La Rochelle in 1560. The following year, mobs carried out iconoclasm in more than 20 cities and towns; Catholic urban groups attacked Protestants in bloody reprisals in Sens, Cahors, Carcassonne, Tours and other cities.

      When all the conflict was over 2 to 4 million people were dead. Religious images are NOT a joking matter.

  • Yale Protestant chaplain says Americans must curb Israel so as to curb anti-Semitism
    • Clearly there is not greater awareness amongst mainstream American Christianity -- even less so amongst evangelicals. Those who are clueless have remained clueless. What this marks is a different attitude amongst elite opinion and activists in mainline Protestantism. Marc Ellis was just a little ahead of the curve declaring the Interfaith Ecumenical Deal being dead.

      link to mondoweiss.net

    • The anti-Semitism emotional blackmail is definitely starting to backfire in my liberal Protestant circles. Before Protective Edge we balanced what we were hearing from our different ecumenical partners. After killing over 500 children and the same anti-Semitism trope was used any sense of (false) balance is gone. During the debate for Presbyterian divestment I engaged Zionist critics. Now I just block them.

  • 'New Yorker' limits its expose of Israel lobby to AIPAC
    • That's a pronunciation-dependent style usually used by British newspapers such as the Guardian. If it is a true acronym then it gets mixed case but if it is a letterism (USA) then it is all caps. This then leads to the question how do you pronounce Aipac? I tend to see this style when the article is originally written in Europe or Britain. Being in New York may make the topic too hot.

  • Israeli ship heads out of Oakland - again - after five days of extraordinary protest
  • Rightwing Jews who want to destroy Muslim holy site in Jerusalem raise funds on Indiegogo
  • US suspended aid to Egypt after it slaughtered civilians -- why not Israel?
  • Palestinians build tunnel to attack Israeli kindergarten, Netanyahu says
    • Even when Israel use photographs they lie. They tried to justify bombing al Wafa with a Twitter photograph that claims a M75 rocket was launched right next to the hospital. Except it wasn't.

      link to palsolidarity.org

      The IDF photograph was really the "Right to Live" society (the palsolidarity story has a typo). This is a playground for Down Syndrome kids. See the gazebo in the satellite photograph and see how it matches the photos of the playing kids.

      link to playgroundsforpalestine.org

      Here's a map view of "Right to Live"

      link to openstreetmap.org

      and a satellite view:

      link to google.com

      The Israelis justified bombing a hospital with a rocket launch in an open field 200m away.

  • NBC reverses; Mohyeldin to return to Gaza to cover 'Palestinian side of story'
    • Eli Lake is tweeting that cable companies should dump RT. State-owned stations have obvious agendas. But Neo-liberal stations like MSNBC & OnTV in Egypt pretend to be independent fooling "liberals" in both countries. The latter was key in cheerleading the coup last year. Now the crossing is blocked and and so is a solidarity/humanitarian convoy and we all know about the bogus cease fire proposals. Media bias has real, even deadly, consequences.

    • Shows the power of online advocacy. I'm also happy that it is an Arab voice that prevailed. Even in the activist community there is too much white saviorism. I would only correct one thing in Ayman's tweet. You're telling the human side of the story. Congratulations and stay safe.

  • Israel destroys el-Wafa hospital as staff evacuates all patients
    • I'll tell you what I'm thinking given HP technology was used to kill those 4 boys on the beach and for the current ground assault. I'm damned proud of my denomination. When the Rabbi made his offer/threat I noted, "He confuses us with Congress." and indeed he has....

  • Jet Blue incident shifts from anti-Semitic story to anti-Palestinian one
    • Hophmi, this is what happens when you (generic you not you personally) immediately yell anti-Semitism before the facts come in. I saw this story splayed over social media. You should have immediately distanced yourself from her or at the very least have a wait and see attitude. Then you would get a pass that this was an isolated crazy person. Post hoc distancing doesn't cut it. Now when real anti-Semitism inevitably happens nobody will be listening.

  • NBC reportedly orders Mohyeldin to leave Gaza -- after he criticized State Dep't
    • Matt Lee said State Dept Spox said #GazaBeach deaths "make clear #Israel must take every possible step 2 meet its standards 4 protecting civilians"

      I confirmed with him that his understanding of the statement was not that Israel should live up with international standards for protecting civilians but rather their own standards.

    • Richard Engel is Rachel Maddow's go to guy for foreign policy. This could explain Rachel's coverage (or lack thereof). If the purported concern is for the reporter's "safety" then why send a reporter that was recently abducted?

      link to washingtonpost.com

    • Maximus, Ayman Mohyedin pulled from coverage as you predicted.

      link to firstlook.org

  • 'J Street has to change or die': Divestment battle exposes tactical rift among liberal Zionists
    • link to pcusa.org

      I feel for our moderator and stated clerk. First they sent out an open letter and now this, wrongly assuming that this will allow us to go forward. If liberal Zionists were smart they would declare victory and move on. Past behavior indicates that this won't happen.

    • The wholesale freakout of Jewish groups like J street will produce an even bigger and more profound reaction from us next time. If we say everything J street wants but have a very limited and targeted action with OUR money and this causes phony charges of anti-Semitism then people will say why even bother to compromise and go for broke.

      The next GA in two years will be reconsidering the two state "solution". Groups like IPMN will participate in the report for our commissioners. J Street and Reform Jews could participate but everything indicates they will shun us and thus their point of view won't be incorporated. Divestment was a last resort for a very simple reason when you break relationships then you lose any influence. Only when MRTI threw up their hands and said the 3 corporations were intransigent did we divest. What J Street and Reform Jews did was incorporate this strategy as a first resort. The political stupidity is simply put, staggering.

  • Jeffrey Goldberg leads the charge on latest BDS smear: Presbyterian Church divestment is anti-Semitic because David Duke supports it
    • Given the high amount of controversy for this and for the issue of gay marriage we were cognizant of the pain involved. For example, we understood the pain of the pastor from Peoria that would have his people negatively affected by the Caterpillar divestment. That we listen to and we share in the pain. The lies and the threats on the other hand just anger us.

    • This was a coordinated campaign to get us to not divest. Just prior to GA the following pastoral letter was written:

      link to presbypeacefellowship.org

      This has now changed. With the publication of Zionism Unsettled, a “study guide” on Zionism produced by the PC(USA)’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network, and a series of overtures pending before the 2014 General Assembly that reflect its arguments, we are no longer debating how the occupation should end, but whether Israel should exist. Zionism Unsettled announces this shift from its opening section, saying: “put simply, the problem is Zionism.” It makes no distinction between different forms of Zionism, arguing that any form of Zionism is inherently discriminatory. Some forms of Zionism have been violent and exclusionary; the same is true of any form of nationalism (American, British, Chinese, Palestinian, etc.). But to argue that any Jewish desire for any form of statehood within their historic homeland is inherently discriminatory is not only patently false but morally indefensible. And the conclusion is obvious: if Zionism is the problem, then ending Zionism (i.e., Israel) is the solution.

      It is telling that one of the earliest and loudest affirmations of Zionism Unsettled was by David Duke, perhaps the most notorious white supremacist and anti-Semite in the United States today, who said:
      In a major breakthrough in the worldwide struggle against Zionist extremism, the largest Presbyterian church in the United States, the PC(USA), has issued a formal statement calling Zionism “Jewish Supremacism” — a term first coined and made popular by Dr. David Duke.
      The reality that David Duke would endorse a Presbyterian study guide available for purchase on the PC(USA) website is sickening to us, and should give all Presbyterians great pause in considering the arguments and language of this document and Zionism Unsettled’s ideological relationship to the overtures coming before the General Assembly.

      That Sunday we received a letter from Desmond Tutu:

      link to presbypeacefellowship.org

      Archbishop Desmond Tutu Urges Presbyterians to Adopt Divestment

      As the Presbyterian General Assembly gathers for its biennial meeting I reach out in prayer and solidarity that the Assembly will make a strong witness for reconciliation, justice and peace. I am aware that the Assembly will consider eight overtures on the confounding and intractable conflict in Israel and Palestine, however I am especially urging the Assembly to adopt the overture naming Israel as an apartheid state through its domestic policies and maintenance of the occupation, and the overture calling for divestment of certain companies that contribute to the occupation of the Palestinian people. Both are worthy of adoption, by speaking truth in the first instance, and owning up to the Church's complicity in maintaining the occupation through its investments in the second.

      The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice to the Palestinians. I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed. Realistic Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Israel will either end its occupation through a one or two state solution, or live in an apartheid state in perpetuity. The latter option is unsustainable and an offense to justice. We learned in South Africa that the only way to end apartheid peacefully was to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure.

      The overtures proposed at the General Assembly are not about delegitimizing the State of Israel, but about ending its suppression of 4,000,000 Palestinian sisters and brothers. It's about naming an unjust system and refusing to participate in it. The stubbornness of Israel's leaders in wanting to hold onto and settling land that is not theirs can only lead to tragedy for both peoples. For the sake of them both as God's cherished, the strong witness of the two overtures is the only peaceful route left in the cause of justice and ultimate reconciliation. My prayers today are with the members of the General Assembly and with all the peoples of the Holy Land in Israel and Palestine.

      Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
      June 10, 2014

      A press conference was held and the following response was generated that include 8 former moderators of the PCUSA.

      link to presbypeacefellowship.org

      Sisters and Brothers,

      We are deeply concerned about the Open Letter sent to General Assembly Commissioners by John Buchanan and twenty-eight of his colleagues on Friday, June 13th.

      We consider the signers of this letter our friends. Together, we have been allies and colleagues in our shared work of reclaiming a vibrant church. However, we disagree sharply with their critique of the recommendation that the Presbyterian Church (USA) divest itself from the stock of three corporations that are doing business in a way that supports or benefits the State of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

      The guilt by association was specifically mentioned in the press conference and what was found "disturbing" in the response letter. David Duke mentioned that Zionism Unsettled alleges that Zionism is "Jewish Supremacist". I rechecked and could not find any such references. Duke further claimed that the PCUSA "formally" defined Zionism as this. So, instead of undercutting Duke's anti-Semitism and say that the PCUSA said no such thing the opponents of divestment took Duke's word for it. Duke then took the critique as "proof" that we really said what we did not. Far from combating anti-Semitism it was aided and abetted. Those of us who have experienced this propaganda campaign were ready for it but naive commissioners were not ready. So, please don't judge them too harshly. Two years from now will be a totally different story.

  • 'Forward' editor says Presbyterian vote was anti-Semitic
    • This is the presentation MRTI made to the ME committee of why they recommended divestment.

      link to pcusa-pcbiz.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com

    • One particular example is helpful. Before MRTI recommends divestment they work with the companies to change their practices which the 2008 GA defined as "non peaceful pursuits". This is defined as follows:

      “... to confine their business activity solely to peaceful pursuits, and refrain from allowing their products or services to support or facilitate violent acts by Israelis or Palestinians against innocent civilians, construction and maintenance of settlements or Israeli only roads in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory, and construction of the Separation Barrier as it extends beyond the 1967 “Green Line” into Palestinian territories.”

      [Minutes, 218th General Assembly (2008), p. 1223. Emphasis mine.]

      MRTI engaged Citigroup because they were wire transferring money to the families of suicide bombers. Citigroup unlike HP, Moto, and Cat responded favorably to our requests.Even if we restrict ourselves to the conflict we don't take sides but rather invest solely according to our values.

    • Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy was critical of our divestment here:

      link to juicyecumenism.com

      It is revealing that Israel is the only country targeted for divestment, not countries that oppress, torture and execute dissidents, like Iran among many others.

      So, fair question: what about countries like Iraq? Well, as Annie noted we don't just pick on Israel. In fact, we address the issues as they happened. We opposed getting into Iraq in 2002. The same Mark Tooley said the following on this decision:

      link to web.archive.org

      Opposing U.S. military action against Iraq fits well into the mindset of mainline church officials. Functionally pacifist, they see any kind of warfare as unworthy of a humanity progressing toward global harmony. They believe that the United States lacks any moral authority to wage warfare. All international conflicts can and should be settled through United Nations diplomacy, they are convinced. These same religious leaders opposed the Persian Gulf War twelve years ago, as they opposed virtually every U.S. military initiative during the final 25 years of the Cold War.

      Usually, these church officials are ignored. Their press conference last week on Capitol Hill, though it featured spokesmen who ostensibly represented tens of millions of American church members, was sparsely attended and barely reported. Their opposition to war with Iraq will have almost no appreciable effect upon the upcoming debate in Congress, despite the large lobby presence that mainline denominations maintain in the prominent United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.

      Some of these mainline denominations have lost a third of their membership or more over the last four decades. Most of the millions who have left these churches have not left directly because of the radical politics of church elites. But the spiritual void left when politics becomes the bottom line does not fulfill the yearnings of the churches’ youth for a more ultimate meaning by which to guide their lives. Nor does it attract the interest of the unchurched, who—if politics appeals to them at all—could find it more readily in a secular activist group, without all the archaic religious trappings.

      Some abandon organized religion altogether. Others seek deeper spiritual experiences at more theologically orthodox and morally demanding churches. Few church members, even liberal ones, are actually energized by the calls to political activism routinely sounded by their denominational leaders.

      Those denominational leaders include the Evangelical Lutheran and Episcopal bishops who met with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice this week to denounce the administration’s war plans. No doubt Rice, who is a devout Presbyterian, was polite. But she should not lose any sleep over the bishops’ opposition.

      These bishops, and other mainline church leaders, are largely captive to egalitarian visions of world justice and harmony presided over by the United Nations and a plethora of international courts and concordats. For them, global peace is just one more treaty away.

      In 2002 Presbyterians were universal pacifists that would jump on any and every perceived violation of social justice. Now we just pick on Israel. Given the history of Iraq perhaps our liberal Zionist friends might listen to our friendly critique.

  • Victory's unintended consequences
    • Pretty much nailed it. At the 220th General Assembly (2012), of the 688 commissioners, there were no ruling elders or teaching elders under the age of 25. While 93 (11 percent) commissioners were age 26–45, nearly 90 percent of commissioners were over the age of 45.

      03-03 would have given young people real power. How did GA respond? Pat the youngsters on the head. It was voted down by consensus. Consensus is code for didn't even need a recorded vote.

      Assembly Action
      On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
      Disapprove with Comment
      [action via Agenda: Wednesday Consent Agenda]
      While the committee recognizes the value of the YAAD program, the input these advisors give us, the perspective they bring to our discussions, and the experiences it gives our emerging church leaders, we recommend Item 03-03 not be approved for the following reasons: 1) There is flexibility within the current Book of Order for this intent to happen. 2) The overture actually could work counter to the intent of the overture in that there would be no prior vote for advice; their voice would be blended with all other votes with no distinctions as to how the younger commissioners were thinking. 3) We also wish to honor and respect the advice of COGA and the ACC that offer serious considerations on how to include young adults in the whole life of the church. 4) The 221st General Assembly (2014) encourages the COGA to continue the discussion of how to include young adults in all levels of the life and ministry of the PC(USA) including the encouragement of sessions and presbyteries to affirm the call of young adults to the office of ruling elder, while encouraging persons who have served as YAADs as well as other advisory delegates to the 221st General Assembly (2014) to be included in this discussion and discernment.
      Consensus

    • Joe, their stupidity also shows up in the other major decision of the GA, letting pastors marry same sex couples. The chair of the committee that dealt with those issues was on the losing side. 10-NB was passed that we should be reconciled and his behavior helped to give sympathy for the losers by the winners. No applause happened when the votes came in and people prayed for healing on the other side. Note that this issue passed by a wide margin. The people that helped to pass this were targeted by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic. If GSM activists really believed Israel was the most gay friendly country in the ME then divestment would have gone down in flames. So, another fail was the pinkwashing fail.

      One of the viral hashtags for GA was #GAmargins. This was to focus Presbyterians on all the marginalized including GSMs, young people, and Palestinians. Israel was wrong that we were picking on them but rather they wanted to be excluded in not having their privilege scrutinized. Another characteristic of this GA was the consideration of the opinions of young people. The PCUSA like all white Protestant denominations has lost many young people. So, people kept track of the votes of Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs) and the commissioners. There was less than half a dozen times where the votes diverged. Over 60% of the YAADs voted for divestment. The ME debate was where the comity broke down somewhat. At least three times the YAADs made privileged motions complaining how their voice was silenced either by calling the question or by not being called on equally. We made progress in listening to our young people but more work needs to be done if we are not to (literally) die off. We gained some good will with the last GA and I pray we don't waste it.

    • Another emotional reality will be to relate to the collective punishment of the Palestinians. I predict that churches and pastors who disagree with us on divestment will be punished, too.

      N.B. While I am talking about relating I am talking about the same kind of suffering but the degree of suffering we go through is much less. Both sides of the debate have a desire to not be complicit in this suffering of others. What we need to communicate to our sisters and brothers is a sense of proportionality. When they contrast us with others who have zero sense of proportionality most of the battle will have been one. Presbyterian ethics hold that the civil law found in the OT is fulfilled not in the details but by general and proportional equity.

    • One thing we owe the ordinary non-activist folk is a warning not to say they are Presbyterian when traveling to Israel.

    • Not only was the nothing is good enough aspect shocking to us but so was the ultimatum aspect. Our disclaimers were not new but just re-iteration of longstanding Presbyterian policy. Presbyterians were not part of the global BDS movement, until now! Before the flashy motion passed a quiet one proceeded it that called for a reconsideration of the so-called 2 state solution. A report on this will be presented at our next GA when we have learned from the bad faith reaction to our limited, moderate divestment. If we are shunned by the Jewish establishment we will have built two years of relationships with young Jewish activists instead. I am confident of this prediction because my church parallels my own personal journey.

  • 'Washington Post' suggests Presbyterians voted against Jews and peace
    • This is a generational thing. For decades the Institute on Religion and Democracy has been trying to kill the mainline church. Since a lot of them are a bunch of neo-Cons they are militantly pro-Israel and they complained how young *evangelicals* are part of the problem.

      link to juicyecumenism.com

      The rise of young leaders in the church who identify (more or less) as evangelicals, and who seem to have a bone to pick with Israel…continues apace.

      This community, which loves to use buzzwords like, well, “community,” is heavily networked and social media-savvy. They are attractive, possess uncommon communication skills, and understand the culture intimately.

      It seems to me that most pro Israel supporters in the church are largely unaware of a titanic challenge that has been incubating for decades.

      As just one example, Margaret Feinberg is an engaging and emerging writer/speaker, based in Colorado. She speaks at events like “Catalyst” and her bio is emblematic of the fresh-faced, “world-changer” persona so prevalent among young evangelicals. Her bio reads, in part:

      “Always up for an adventure, Margaret is known to drive 50 miles to chase down a food truck and snag Groupons for skydiving on a whim. She prefers watching comedies and laughing until her tummy aches over doing sit ups.”

      I note the bio because it is important to understand that this generation will do everything in its power to separate itself from the fundie-meanies of the previous generation. This move away from traditional church began in earnest with writers like Philip Yancey, who lamented their experiences growing up in fundamentalist churches in the South.

      The IRD started their own failed gambit a decade ago:

      link to nytimes.com

      By 1989, fundamentalists had recently taken over the Southern Baptist Convention. And in the liberal mainline churches, the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee and the Methodist group Good News were already growing. ''We have had for a number of years a good number of renewal groups,'' said Parker Williamson, chief of the Lay Committee. ''But the I.R.D. and Diane Knippers have been a wonderful help.''

      Now, as Presbyterians prepare for their General Assembly, Alan Wisdom, the institute's Presbyterian director, says representatives of the institute will be there in force, calling attention to any liberal positions coming out of the church, distributing position papers to delegates and lobbying them in a conservative direction.

      Mr. Wisdom said the institute did not support the idea of a Presbyterian breakup, and almost no one expects a split at this year's General Assembly. But some conservatives are already drawing up a plan they call ''gracious separation'' to divide the church's assets. ''If we don't see significant changes in the next two General Assemblies, I suspect we are going to see some manifestation of separation,'' Mr. Williamson of the Lay Committee said. ''I hope and pray it would be gracious.''

      The goal was to get the progressives to quit but in the end the so-called gracious separation had the conservative chuches leaving instead. This has tilted the playing field in a progressive direction with increasing pace. A large number of churches left when Amendment 10-A passed in 2010 (which allowed for gay pastors). The one-two gut punch of allowing pastors to marry gay people and divestment will have even more conservatives looking for the exits.

      Even in churches like mine that did not leave as a church, individuals and the leaders who would become commissioners at the GA level are becoming more progressive as conservative individuals leave. My church is best described as a "third way" church so we don't want the conservatives necessarily to leave but they do anyway. With the rapidly changing demographics within the Presbyterian church it leaves the Jewish establishment flat-footed. Their old playbook simply does not fit our new reality. More nimble groups like JVP will be the ones we partner with in the future.

  • Fear of anti-semitism accusation did not stop Presbyterians from witnessing occupation
    • Permit me to go into the weeds of Presbyterian polity. The opponents of justice had two goals both of which failed. The one that attracted all the attention was the divestment motion. This was a teaching moment in that it taught us it is impossible to be moderate enough to escape the false charges of anti-Semitism. Two years from now we will remember this. The second item that failed was to marginalize the Israel Palestine Missionary Network (IPMN) whose purpose is to advocate on the behalf of justice for the Palestinians. This was established by the the 2004 GA and it was to talk to and not for the church. A motion to get Zionism Unsettled off our web site was modified by the ME Committee to just say that ZU does not represent the PCUSA which merely re-iterates IPMN's charter. This passed on the consent calendar because people in the know knew that this meant nothing thus was uncontroversial.

      After divestment passed there was much flailing to strike back at IPMN. So they removed their council on a report on the rights of children. They had to do it twice since they missed one reference in 04-12 on the floor.

      But 04-01 had already passed which was reconsideration of the so-called two state solution. A report that looks at the viability of the two state solution and provides commissioners with information about the facts on the ground will be prepared for our next GA in two years. In this resolution is this language:

      d. Consult also with appropriate, official PC(USA) General Assembly entities in the preparation of this report, including staffing teams, mission networks, and national caucuses.

      IPMN is an official PCUSA GA mission network. So, Zionism Unsettled will still be sold on our denominational web site and IPMN will contribute to a report on whether the PCUSA continues to support a two state solution AND Rabbi Jacobs "offer"/emotional blackmail royally pissed us off. So when the report hits in two years what we will be contemplating will be much more radical than a limited divestment of three companies. Note another dynamic: many of those who support Israel under any and all circumstances will probably be gone over the gay marriage issue.

      What happened on Friday is just the beginning. Stay tuned.

  • In 'turning-point' vote, Presbyterians divest from occupation-linked corporations
    • This was always a very limited action. PCUSA is the "decently and in order" denomination. Trying to flatter us backfires. When Netanyahu thought we were like Congress and asked our moderator to visit him as a price for killing divestment our reaction was "nah we're not important".

      The argument against divestment applies to the establishment Jewish reaction to us. Once you've broken the relationship all your influence is gone. That's why it took it took a decade to divest. It's a last resort.

      The big winner here is JVP. Their influence in the process cannot be understated and they will be the Jews we will be interacting with going forward. This partnership will have a greater impact than the divestiture itself.

    • The actual debate on the floor was we should not divest fossil fuels because we should trust MRTI and then when we discussed HP, Moto, and Cat we should not divest because we don't trust MRTI.

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