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In ‘turning-point’ vote, Presbyterians divest from occupation-linked corporations

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Image of jumbo screen at Presbyterian assembly, by Jordan Tarwater

Image of jumbo screen at Presbyterian assembly, by Jordan Tarwater

Nearly 30 years after it divested from corporations complicit in South African apartheid, the Presbyterian Church voted 310-303 to divest from three corporations involved with the Israeli military and its occupation.  The vote means that $21 million of Presbyterian stock in Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions will be divested.

The extraordinarily close vote (51% to 49% of delegates) came after an intense hours-long debate that featured emotional pleas on all sides.

“It hurts me to know that we invest in the tearing apart of Palestinian lives,” said Emma Warman, a youth delegate, before the vote took place.  The advisory voters, including the youth delegates, overwhelmingly recommended a positive vote for divestment.

This close vote came two years after another close vote that went in the opposite direction.  In 2012, the Presbyterian Church rejected divestment by just two votes.

“After a decade of corporate engagement with Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, these companies have failed to modify their behavior and continue to profit from Israeli human rights abuses and non-peaceful pursuits,” said Rev. Dr. Walt Davis in a statement released by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, a Presbyterian group that supported divestment.  “This is a historic vote and the culmination of a long and deliberate internal process within the church.”

The vote followed and preceded many anguished statements from church members who said they feared alienating Jewish groups with the vote. Heath Rada, the leader of the general assembly, rushed to assure the Jewish community that the vote was “in no way a reflection of a lack of love for our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

The American Jewish Committee was not assuaged. In a tweet, it called the votea setback for Israeli-Palestinian peace & a breach w/ Jewish community.”

But many supporters of the divestment resolution cited Jewish support for it. Jewish Voice for Peace had lobbied hard for the divestment resolution, and it released a celebratory statement immediately after the vote:

Jewish Voice for Peace congratulates and celebrates the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s vote to divest $21 million from Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions, and Caterpillar – three companies whose profits from the ongoing Israeli occupation have been extensively documented.

The Church has a long history of ethical investment choices, and it is a strong signal of its commitment to universal human rights that it chose to divest.

This is a turning point. The Presbyterians’ decision is a major development in the longstanding work to bring the US into alignment with the rest of the world.

This decision will have real consequences, sending a message to Palestinians that the ongoing violations of their human rights is worthy of action on the global stage, and to companies and the Israeli government that the occupation is both morally and economically untenable.

Original post:

The Presbyterian Church’s general assembly in Detroit deliberated all afternoon on resolutions on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The main motion, to divest from three corporations that serve the Israeli occupation–Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Systems — went before the body after dinner tonight at 7:30. You can follow the historic discussion on the live-stream, above.

Debate has been spirited and wide-ranging. A motion to replace the divestment resolution with a resolution that called on the head of the Presbyterian church to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu next week in Jerusalem, at the behest of Reform Jewish leader Rick Jacobs, was defeated by 54 to 46 percent, in a possible signal of the outcome on the main vote tonight.

Pro-divestment voices have been very strong. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, the head of the committee on responsible investment in the church, said that the church had undertaken divestment on earlier occasions, notably from many companies doing business in apartheid South Africa, beginning in 1985, and from a company implicated in Sudanese human rights abuses.

Somplatsky-Jarman also said that the three companies have all refused to engage in productive dialogue on the concerns of the church’s ethical investment committee that they are promoting violence. By contrast, Citi Group sat down with the Presbyterians to address its concern that bank funds might be going to suicide bombers.

Dries Coetzee, a church commissioner originally from South Africa, thanked the church for having liberated Afrikaaners like himself from their role in apartheid, through the divestment action in 1985. He called on the church to do the same for Israelis.

Heath Rada, the moderator of the assembly, closed the afternoon session with a hymn calling on the commissioners to the assembly to find peace in their hearts. It would seem that the church’s leaders are opposed to the divestment measure, despite many changes to it assuring Israelis that the church is committed to a two-state solution that preserves the country’s Jewish character.

Tonight’s debate promises to be serious, earnest, and even thrilling. Tune in.

Here’s a comment from the active discussion on the Presbyterian site:

I too visited Jerusalem and the West Bank recently, on a Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) run jointly by the YWCA & YMCA in Jerusalem and Bethleham. I thought I knew a lot about Palestine and Israel but was horrified by the prison like locking in of Bethleham by 7 prominent illegal Jewish settlements on the hills around and immediately visible from the centre of Bethleham, and the concrete wall carving the town in two and cutting off Palestinian rights of thousands of years to visit Ravhels tomb. Having also seen Palestinians subject to pass laws within the West Bank, and heard the JAI and Jerusalem YMCA speakers on why they have become convinced Israel is operating an Apartheid state, I have been convinced that the Two State Solution is no solution.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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103 Responses

  1. amigo on June 20, 2014, 2:12 pm

    Where is the conference taking place??.

    Is the 3 O clock time East Coast??.

    I am GMT so want to be sure I do not miss it.

    • adamhorowitz on June 20, 2014, 3:04 pm

      3:00 pm Eastern time, but again that is just an estimate.

      • amigo on June 20, 2014, 4:01 pm

        Adam , Thank you.

    • on June 21, 2014, 12:44 am

      i personally am disgusted it was so close and took so long.this should’ve happened in the 1980’s.
      i clearly see that there’s still a tremendous amount of self-inflicted holocaust guilt amongst these people. where in gods name they get their info from i dont know.
      i think they incredibly ignorant people considering it was so close.
      jesus would truly be ashamed!

      • Debbie Menon on June 21, 2014, 8:16 pm

        @ truthhurts.

        True…to adopt a life based upon Christianity and pure Christian principles would make anyone a natural enemy of “Colonization of a people,” if it is not too late to postulate or define what might be or have been the pure principles of Christianity, since the Church has done such a number on hiding it for 60 years.

        “The truth has a certain elegance and restraint to it. Sometimes it can be a little rough because the truth doesn’t spend as much time in makeup as the lies do. Lies require cosmetics and strategic lighting. Truth possesses its own beauty (if you can see it), without the need for artifice and produces its own light.” — Les Visible

      • on June 22, 2014, 12:17 am

        “if you can see it”

  2. Shmuel on June 20, 2014, 2:31 pm

    “… categorically divest from fossil fuel companies to witness that we care for all of God’s creation” (from the Ustream broadcast of the Presbyterian GA ).

    Why divest from fossil fuel companies? That’s what radical environmental terrorists want. Does the GA support terrorism? And why are you singling out fossil fuel companies? Surely there are companies that do far worse, without providing all of the benefits and technology made possible by the fossil fuel companies. This is one-sided and, frankly, smacks of bigotry and ignorance. Furthermore, it will alienate your friends in the oil, gas and coal industries. Is that what you really want? Perhaps you should continue to invest in fossil fuel companies, alongside positive investment in alternative fuels. That would send a message of peace and partnership rather than divisiveness and strife that will only harm God’s creation.

    (Excerpt from an appeal that the head of one of the leading oil companies might have made, had she been invited to address the GA, “for the sake of balance”.)

    • just on June 20, 2014, 3:10 pm

      A bit odd.

      As you say, perhaps they could propose investing in wind turbines and lobbying for a cessation to clear-top mining and other heinous practices that actually destroy “God’s creation”. btw, fossil fuels are “God’s creation”. An acknowledgement that climate change (global warming) as real and man made would also be most welcome.

      • joecatron on June 20, 2014, 6:05 pm

        Lethally poisonous mushrooms are “God’s creation.” That doesn’t mean we should all run out and eat them.

      • just on June 20, 2014, 6:37 pm

        Yes, Joe. ;-)

      • RoHa on June 22, 2014, 1:06 am

        Wind turbines are, of course, definitely a heinous practice that actually destroys “God’s creation”.

        They are extremely destructive both to the environment and to wildlife, while serving no useful purpose. They require vast swathes of land to produce, intermittently, a very small amount of electricity, but need to be backed up by conventional power stations.

        However, they are very useful for transferring large subsidies to enrich their owners.

    • richb on June 20, 2014, 10:31 pm

      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.

  3. Kay24 on June 20, 2014, 3:47 pm

    Wow, this lady is giving a thorough description of the situation, the inability of Caterpillar, HP, and others to not stop hurting the situation, and a long list of transgressions by Israel. She mentions that nothing has changed for the Palestinians these last 10 years. Good job. Hope this goes through.

    • just on June 20, 2014, 3:50 pm

      I am impressed with her speech. I hope Mr. Obama et al gets to hear it.

      Wow– HP indicted without reservation!

  4. seafoid on June 20, 2014, 4:04 pm

    This is the third Presbyterian vote I remember. The bots have done NOTHING to improve the situation on the ground since the first vote. They think they can take the piss out of decent Christian groups and continue their persecution of the Palestinians with the old anti-Semitism slur waiting for anyone who dares question them.

    I hope this is a watershed. I think Judaism needs a positive vote.

  5. Feathers on June 20, 2014, 4:10 pm

    re the speaker from Oklahoma, “Will divestment come at the cost of our relationship. . . .A rabbi in my town asked me if PCUSA is against Judaism” (or words to that effect).

    This tactic and concern is appropriate for junior high school girls, but it is the wrong question for a body like the Presbyterian church to be asking.

    In junior high school parlance, it boils down to, “If you don’t look the other way as we brutalize Palestinians, you can’t be my BFF.”

    Presbyterians should — must — set a different standard: They should ask and act on the standard, “What must we endorse as just and equitable?”

    • Woody Tanaka on June 20, 2014, 4:31 pm

      ““Will divestment come at the cost of our relationship. . . .A rabbi in my town asked me if PCUSA is against Judaism” (or words to that effect).”

      And the response should have been “If our relationship requires me to approve Israel’s brutality, in order for you to wish to continue it, then it is you that is destroying that relationship. I will do right and you can do what you will.”

      • lonely rico on June 21, 2014, 3:03 am

        Bravo Woody ! Well said.

    • Ron Edwards on June 20, 2014, 9:44 pm

      Agreed. Solidarity with every point and with Woody’s reply.

      My phrasing: “This is not about relationships among institutions. This is about the responsibility of each institution.”

  6. just on June 20, 2014, 4:15 pm

    Mr. Central Florida is championing Zionism and the 1700 rabbis. He done drunk the ziocaine by the gallon.


    • Kay24 on June 20, 2014, 4:46 pm

      One guy even mentioned a Rabbi they work with said their relationship would never be same again, if this is passed. Whatever happened to clergy, and people representing their religion, being tolerant and understanding!
      That sounded more like a threat!

      • just on June 20, 2014, 4:57 pm

        It was a threat. The Commissioner in the striped shirt and jeans said he didn’t want to have to make his amendment, but he was “tired” of the tshirts…

      • ritzl on June 20, 2014, 6:02 pm

        just, you have to mention what he said the t-shirts said: “Love us or leave us.” Also a threat.

        Were they Jews? He didn’t say, but it’s hard to assume otherwise. Whoever they were, they really pissed off some of the speakers.

        Anyway, the minority report just went down. In 2014 that was the anticlimax (the minority report was adopted) and passed as the final resolution. This year is at least that much different so far.

      • just on June 20, 2014, 6:25 pm

        ritzl– thanks for the clarification that I failed to mention. Apparently, some folks are tired of the bullying and threats. 10 yrs of this and some people are still intimidated. What’s insane is that there is ANY debate on divesting from US companies that have been given every opportunity to change and WON’T; companies that contribute to the brutal Occupation and the State of Apartheid.

        I very much appreciated the words from the Presbyterian from South Africa…

      • ritzl on June 20, 2014, 6:54 pm

        Yes, just. I was pretty amazed at, as you say, after 10 years and I would add the explicit negative experience and recommendation of the people (MRTI) attempting to negotiate with the companies, there was so much hand-wringing about divestment and/or acceptance/fear of the Jacobs threat.

        And then the ones saying what a glorious new day it would be for Peace in the Middle East™ when the PCUSA Moderator and Rabbi Jacobs sit down with the PM of Israel… What rock have they been sleeping under for the past two years? And needless to say, no mention of a Palestinian in that room. -sigh-

      • oldgeezer on June 20, 2014, 7:44 pm

        ” And needless to say, no mention of a Palestinian in that room. ”

        Zionist balance always excludes the Palestinians.

      • Stephen Shenfield on June 21, 2014, 9:24 am

        Kay24: “One guy even mentioned a Rabbi they work with said their relationship would never be same again, if this is passed.”

        “Not being the same” could mean — better, more honest. A promise rather than a threat.

      • just on June 21, 2014, 9:54 am

        ““Not being the same” could mean — better, more honest. A promise rather than a threat.”

        That would be lovely, but I watched the gentleman speak and that was not at all what he conveyed.

        The agents/lobbyists of Israel seemed quite present.

      • Edward Q on June 21, 2014, 2:47 pm

        Not only that, but how relevant should such a relationship be to the discussion in the first place? Does the occupation become legal and moral if you are good friends with a Zionist? This person is admitting a conflict of interest. Maybe the Zionist should be concerned with his relations with non-Zionists. Why does this concern always have to be on one side?

  7. Kay24 on June 20, 2014, 4:22 pm

    This guy who is presenting something called the minority report, seems sympathetic to Israel. Apparently thousands of Rabbis have written asking them not to divest.
    As if the Rabbis are working for the down trodden, as if the Rabbis would work harder to give back the Palestinians their rights and freedom, if this motion is not passed.
    From the comments by a couple of members show that Israeli agents have gotten to them. One guy even said he was removed from of his post because he made two trips to Israel, and that he would not be unbiased. Of course.

  8. Kay24 on June 20, 2014, 4:31 pm

    Hallelujah! Those who worked hard for this, must be happy.:))

  9. just on June 20, 2014, 4:34 pm

    I love this guy in the striped shirt and jeans!

  10. just on June 20, 2014, 4:51 pm

    That last amendment is poop– still trying to placate Israel.

    (Maybe B’tselem will get lots of moolah.)

  11. just on June 20, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Nope, leave Israeli Government in (do not change to Jewish) and do change Palestinian extremist to entities.

    GO BOLT!

  12. Hostage on June 20, 2014, 8:15 pm

    Watched it for three hours and it finally passed!

  13. oldgeezer on June 20, 2014, 9:08 pm

    No prayers or thoughts for the recently dead Palestinian children though. Yet the church will be accussed of being one sided with the Palestinians. Palestinian kids never count. Nor their families.

  14. Sycamores on June 20, 2014, 9:35 pm

    congrads to the PCGA

    i lost count to the number of amendments been made. distancing themselves from the BDS movement was one.

    waiting for the onslaught from the MSM

    • Ron Edwards on June 20, 2014, 9:53 pm

      I’m *hoping* that one of the key features of this moment is that the MSM demonstrates a recoil, rather than an attack. When major religious institutions do something like this, it’s not like a university (whose highest-paid, I do not say “top,” admin is easily suborned, or perhaps is defined by its prior subornment) or the U.S. legislature (ditto). Secular rhetoric aside, U.S. culture is deeply religious even if the phrasing and observance are mild, and if you include religious-tinged patriotism in the definition, neither is mild at all. I’m thinking that mainstream Protestant denominations simply aren’t safe targets for the usual howls, smears, and lies – try it and people won’t knuckle under, but will rather ask, “What? Why?”

      I could be wrong, but I hope I’m not. What my hope suggests is that the MSM delivers a big crickets-chirping non-reaction, denoting the moment when Zionist power over U.S. discourse finds its over-reach at last.

      • Sycamores on June 20, 2014, 11:45 pm

        good point i hope you are right. the majority report group were also responsible for the Zionism Unsettled booklet which could make them a target for a possible smearing.

      • oldgeezer on June 21, 2014, 1:13 am

        Well that’s due mostly to it being Canada in my opinion. The United Church rarely makes the news. Most religions don’t although, because of the current situation, Judaism and Islam do. Their internal issues don’t make the news though.

        The last two times I saw a religion make the news here apart from that was when the Salvation Army was ripped off for millions(?) by one of it’s employees and back in the 70’s when 5 denominations were caught out supplying weapons to African rebels out of their members donations.

        Anyway… I was raised UCC, before I opted for atheism at 15. I’m probably a member technically as I was inducted (or whatever their term is) at the age of 12…. I know a huge number of members…. They aren’t going to care on a personal basis what the adl thinks. Since they were listed as one of the top antisemetic threats by the adl I’ve never heard a single person mention, or discuss, it.

      • oldgeezer on June 21, 2014, 1:30 am

        Before I hit the sack here’s what I don’t get (well I do but …). Divesting from companies involved in the oppression is seen as antisemetic. It’s seen as anti Israel and anti Jewish. It’s seen as being on the Palestinian side. In fact all it does is (help to) level the playing field. It’s removes the special privilege Israel has to benefit from, or use, our companies to further the oppression or profit from it. It’s not as if we said we will divest from companies supporting Israel and invest in companies supporting the Palestinians. It merely says you can’t do what you are doing on our nickel.

        So antisemetism boils down to if you don’t support Israel in everything it does, even if illegal, then you are an antisemite. I will die with a clear conscience. I wish no harm to anyone.

      • Hostage on June 21, 2014, 12:17 am

        I’m *hoping* that one of the key features of this moment is that the MSM demonstrates a recoil, rather than an attack.

        I doubt it. The ADL listed the largest Canadian denomination in its top 10 list of anti-Semitic organizations and there wasn’t a peep out of the MSM about it. The mainstream Jewish organizations and Jewish press have been rather two faced on the issue for years now. On the one hand they openly suggest that the Presbyterians, Methodists, Friends, Lutherans, et al are harboring and encouraging anti-Semites for even considering resolutions on Palestinian human rights violations by Israel. On the other hand they suggest that adoption of indirect actions, like divestment, will harm friendly relations between organized Judaism and organized Christianity. Friendly relations between mainstream organized Judaism and Christianity is like sex between alley cats. You hear a lot of howling and screaming about it, but seldom get to actually witness anything warm and friendly going on in actual practice.

    • richb on June 20, 2014, 10:53 pm

      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.

  15. annie on June 20, 2014, 10:39 pm

    i’m ecstatic, this is fantastic.

  16. Qualtrough on June 20, 2014, 11:22 pm

    A welcome move, but it makes me wonder why an organization ostensibly dedicated to following the precepts of Jesus has one thin dime to invest?

  17. RoHa on June 20, 2014, 11:28 pm

    “church members who said they feared alienating Jewish groups with the vote.”

    What do they fear? What terrible things will result from alienating Jewish groups?
    Will Hollywood insult Presbyterians in the way it insults Arabs?
    Will burning Stars of David be planted on Presbyterian lawns?
    Will my cat start putting commas after subject clauses?

    If all they fear is that Jews who support Israel will not love them any more, then they can do without such love.
    If all they fear is that Jews who support Israel will feel unloved, then that is simply justice.

    • RoHa on June 20, 2014, 11:45 pm

      Ah, now I see, from another story, what they fear. They are being threatened with having to meet Netanyahu. Truly a terrifying prospect.

      • LeaNder on June 21, 2014, 10:17 am

        Irony, RoHa? Yes, that was slightly more entertaining then the rest of what I saw. Are we reading this into matters, since we assume this is more a threat than an honor? ;)

        I did indeed read a slight aversion against meeting the with Netanyahu from the remarks of the Master of Ceremonies, if I may, Heath Rada. The way he dealt with the topic felt slightly out of his ordinary routines.

        Apparently he would have been one of two representatives accompanying Jacobs to the meeting with Netanyahu next week (?).

        From the Forward:

        “If we are truly partners and you disapprove this divestment overture, I look forward to sitting with your leadership in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem,” Jacobs said. “You can choose partnership and engagement or you can choose separation and divestment.”

        The vote on the divestment proposal is due to take place on Friday.

        Named in Jacobs’ invitation, which earned applause from the assembly, were Heath Rada and Gradye Parsons, respectively lay and religious leaders of the church.

        But no doubt quite a few were highly delighted with the idea of such a feel-good-activity.

        Although some seemed to assume the Presbyterian delegation would meet both sides, which doesn’t seem to have been exactly Jacobs idea, if I get things right.

        What the hell are commissioners in the Presbyterian Church?

      • Betsy on June 21, 2014, 12:47 pm

        Commissioners are ordinary lay people from all around the country who are democratically nominated to attend the General Assembly, where the church votes on key policies. Individual churches are run democratically by Ruling Elders (lay members from the congregation). Churches within a region form a Presbytery. The Presbytery nominates the commissioners for GA (with input from member churches). Presbyteries also can submit “overtures” for the GA (e.g., put forward topics for voting). The GA appoints various committees & study groups to do in-depth study of difficult issues — which is why GA votes can take so much time. E.g., difficult questions are put off into committees to clarify the issues. For instance, this year, there were a lot of overtures pushing for total divestment from fossil fuels. But, that has been sent to committee. It doesn’t mean it’s being sidelined — it’s just how things are structured in order to make sure debate is informed & inclusive.

      • LeaNder on June 21, 2014, 2:24 pm

        thanks Betsy helpful. In other words the commissioner’s vote is representative of the diverse church communities over the country. I understood that special tasks are given to committees that look deeper into matters. I understand there is some type of constitution.

        What were the other voting blocks about? Representing different groups organized in the church, like young adults?

        I know the presbytery from the diverse Reformed churches over here.

      • Betsy on June 21, 2014, 2:59 pm

        @LeaNder — yes, the vote is a window into the heart, soul & mind of ordinary Americans from very diverse regions of the country. The rules are based on The Book of Order which keeps getting revised but has really old roots into the self-governance traditions in Scotland & then the unruly self-governance of pre-Revolutionary US.

        The Commissioners go through fairly elaborate, pre-GA training:

        There are non-voting Advisory Delegates also, who can have a big impact on outcomes (and often have special expertise or commitments).

        The non-voting blocs also mostly are to hang with their voting Presbyteries. Here’s what the official description:

        Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs) and Theological Student Advisory Delegates (TSADSs) are seated with the commissioners from their presbytery in the plenary hall. Missionary Advisory Delegates (MADs) and Ecumenical Advisory Delegates (EADs) have assigned seating in the commissioner/advisory delegate area.

        Many of these youth are doing volunteer work for the church. The MADs are paid church workers — many of whom are serving all over the world as “mission co-workers”. These people tend to be fantastically knowledgeable, having spent many years living in communities, speaking the languages, often in extremely difficult circumstances. They also are very well educated, as they periodically have really terrific sabbaticals/educational programs that are run by the best scholarship PC(USA) can muster (which historically has been top-flight). These are the people who are largely paid for by the church investment & pension funds that Marc Ellis keeps railing against (despite their very modest life-styles doing hard work in often low-tech & difficult settings). I always watch their ‘votes’ (which aren’t included in official tally), because they are by far the most knowledgeable, the most connected with community-based networks (internationally & US). Their votes are usually prescient, showing where the church is headed.

        The sad thing is that these people & the national staff used to have much more influence than they do now. They & the national staff have drastically lost funding, because of a false ‘democratization’ that turns work over to local congregations (who are increasingly local focused & uninterested in national / global issues)– yet these blocs are the best informed & the most attuned to real politics & policy making (e.g., their work against TPP & other bad global trade deals has been fantastic, but increasingly done on a shoe string). So, if PC(USA) followed Marc Ellis’ advice & got rid of the church money, the part of the PC(USA) that is by far the most progressive, might largely disappear.

      • LeaNder on June 21, 2014, 5:27 pm

        Multiple thanks Betsy. I should have asked you this before. At one point I realized that the “votes” before the commissioners apparently were taken but did not count. That may be why you call them “non-voting blocs”. There were points, when different trends surfaced. Obviously a point when wished I understood better who exactly they are.

        Interesting. If I ever watch it again, I will heed your advise and watch out for the MAD’s vote.

        I agree, Marc Ellis occasionally turns his prophetic voice into something that seems to leave only scorched earth behind. The only thing I can understand in the context of the Presbyterian divestment activities is impatience. Obviously such efforts are mainly symbolic, but no doubt bring attention, debate and increasing awareness. But pray tell me, what could bring rapid change, and why exactly attack the Presbyterians who at least tried against strong resistance.

        The positions of the anti-divestment group was interesting. The ones that seemingly were fond of the offer of a another handshake event for media, you will probably find in every group.

        My humanist mother reduces Christians generally to this type. All surface and rituals and no content. She has a strong critical strain too, I use a German word for it that is impossible to translate. But for me it describes the point where the high ethical standards are turning sour. Its a point I cannot completely grasp but it has a strongly self-righteousness feel and touch to it, think hyper high expectations towards people that sometimes become more than you can stand. Interestingly she always notices, when I exhibit the same trait. Why can’t you accept the world as it is? ;)

        Yes, this is reminiscent of such an ideal-world-demand:

        In fact, as the administration of Union Theological Seminary emphasized in its much-heralded recent decision to divest their endowment stock from companies related to fossil fuels – while for decades cowardly refusing to confront their Jewish neighbors across the street at Jewish Theological Seminary on Israel-Palestine – the stewards of the churches’ financial future assure their constituencies that any divestment avoids financial risk.

        Underlying: Why can’t help save my co-religionists for me instead of futile activities? No doubt this would be the ideal handling of matters. But how long would this have taken? Would this have worked faster? I doubt.

        But don’t worry, for my special pleasure he compared the present pope to Eichmann. “The banality of Evil” – “The banality of Prayer”. Well, yes, the Jesuits had not many martyrs under the Nazis either. I am only aware of one. And yes, that may be only the peak of the iceberg concerning antisemitism…

  18. Daniel Rich on June 21, 2014, 12:05 am

    It might be a million mile journey, but we’ll get there, one step at a time….

  19. seafoid on June 21, 2014, 12:06 am

    There was a real bitchy piece on this in Ha’aretz , called “why the BDS movement is such a colossal flop”

    “The Financial Times story about the faltering boycott against Israel asked 15 of world’s largest fund houses how they applied their ethical investment principles in the case of Israel’s occupation, half declined to comment or said they had no view; the other half didn’t answer at all.
    Even the Presbyterian Church is marginal. It sounds like a pillar of the American establishment but, in fact, it has only 1.8 million or so members and the number is declining rapidly. A quick perusal of an anti-Israel screed called “Zionism Unsettled” shows that among some there is serious antipathy toward the Jewish state, but the church’s broader membership has so far failed to support even the very limited divestment proposals brought to it, which strangely call for selling the church’s stock in three American companies, rather than divesting from Israel.
    No interest /commitment: The BDS movement hasn’t come close to convincing the broad public that Israel deserves their special attention. In the Modern Language Association, it couldn’t muster up enough people to vote yes this month for a mild resolution asking the State Department to pressure Israel to allow Palestinian academics into West Bank and Gaza.
    Even among the best of its friends, few are willing to make any personal sacrifice for the sake of Palestine: BDSers never ask anyone student or coop shopper to actually boycott a product they actually use because they know it would fail. The people who can congratulate themselves by raising a clenched fist and vote to boycott Israel are almost always asking someone else to take a moral stance as is the case with the Gates Foundation. They are quite willing to demand their Gates or their university or some investment fund sell Israel-related stocks, but ask them to boycott Microsoft by not using Windows?
    No chance: BDS likes to present itself as a moral stick swatting away at businesses and people who should know better than to be collaborating with an oppressive Israeli regime. But businesses know perfectly well what they would be risking by acceding to the movement’s demands. The world is full of bad behavior, of which Israel is by no means the only or worst offender. If they concede on Israel where will that leave them vis a vis China, Russia and India, which all control disputed areas, or for that matter the U.S. government?
    The Presbyterian Church is being asked to boycott HP, among other targets, because it sells hardware to the Israeli Navy and for use at West Bank checkpoints, and has done some business with Israeli settlements, all of which counts as complicity with the occupation.
    But by that standard HP is complicit all over the world in human rights offenses. The company has billions of dollars in contracts with the U.S. armed forces, which have committed atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan and has a poor record in dealing with sexual harassment in its ranks. For years, HP’s Chinese suppliers were apparently using forced student labor. In Russia, it is associated with a country that has invaded two neighbors, routinely violates human rights and enforces anti-gay legislation.
    To say that of all the business HP does around the world, its dealings with Israel are those ones that deserve special condemnation. As the United Nations translator remarked last November after the General Assembly adopted nine resolutions against Israel, “There’s other really bad shit happening [around the world], but no one says anything, about the other stuff.” ”

    Israel has a problem differentiating between stocks and flows.
    It’s going to take a lot more time but the bots are beginning to lose the big arguments.

    As Lex in the FT observed

    ” The freedom to be as avaricious as possible within the law keeps companies hard, fast and efficient, which is how we like them.”

    The big corporations aren’t going to drop cashflow unless their clients demand it. It was the same in south Africa.

    But it is going to come. There are more people who care about Gaza and Judaism than will buy Zionism’s lies indefinitely.

    • Hostage on June 21, 2014, 1:04 am

      As the United Nations translator remarked last November after the General Assembly adopted nine resolutions against Israel, “There’s other really bad shit happening [around the world], but no one says anything, about the other stuff.”

      That “went over” well with the Zionist nut cases, but anyone who reads the Universal Periodic Reviews and resolutions adopted by the General Assembly HRC, and Economic and Social Council knows perfectly well that they constantly talk about “other really bad shit” – and do so without the need to observe the stupid Negroponte Doctrine balancing act codified in 22 U.S. Code § 8602 – Statement of policy.

      • Donald on June 21, 2014, 2:18 pm

        “That “went over” well with the Zionist nut cases, but anyone who reads the Universal Periodic Reviews and resolutions adopted by the General Assembly HRC, and Economic and Social Council knows perfectly well that they constantly talk about “other really bad shit””

        For the past year or so every time I see someone claim that the UNHRC focuses almost exclusively on Israel I pay a visit to their website’s front page. I’ve done this maybe 6 or 7 times, including today. Only once was Israel mentioned on the front page. I think Syria was there every single time. North Korea was there today, along with Syria.

        I’ve also browsed through the UNHRC website and it’s chockful of information about all sorts of human rights issues. The hasbara on this subject is stupid even by hasbara standards.

    • Daniel Rich on June 21, 2014, 1:12 am

      @ seafoid,

      side note: thanks for the vid. I heard Ridley Scott was blown away when he first saw the opening shots of ‘Gladiator’ combined with Hans Zimmer’s score and Lisa Gerrard’s voice. A truly great voice. Very touching.

    • Hostage on June 21, 2014, 1:46 am

      No chance: BDS likes to present itself as a moral stick swatting away at businesses and people who should know better than to be collaborating with an oppressive Israeli regime. But businesses know perfectly well what they would be risking by acceding to the movement’s demands.

      I think the Haaretz author is out of touch with reality in this case. Nearly a decade ago the UN established the Secretary-General’s “Special Representative for Business and Human Rights”. In 2011 the UN HRC adopted a new set of “Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights”. At that time, it established the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. During the current session, the UN HRC is considering a resolution:

      “to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights;”

      If you go to the UN Treaty Organization, you’ll find that’s the usual method by which nearly every post-WWII convention or declaration that codified customary rules has been initiated. If you have a fiduciary responsibility and are responsible for doing due diligence on investments in businesses operating in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, then the hand writing is already on the Wall. The authors at Haaretz need to admit that the BDS movement and other NGOs have drawn attention to the lack of sanctions against businesses that profit off of human rights violations, including Israel’s occupation and the illegal settlements. It has always been possible to investigate and prosecute individuals, but it will soon be commonplace to pierce the veil and go after corporate assets that represent the proceeds from plunder and pillage.

      • seafoid on June 21, 2014, 1:56 am

        I agree

        ” The freedom to be as avaricious as possible within the law ” is what drives companies . Reputation is massive. Lose that and the cashflow dries up.

        No foreign company has a vested interest in YESHA. It’s an Israeli project and the logic only works in Israel.

      • Hostage on June 21, 2014, 3:16 am

        Reputation is massive. Lose that and the cashflow dries up.

        True enough, but the 6 June 2014 statement of the UN Working Group on transnational businesses makes it emphatically clear that the ICRC and UN Guiding Principles are based upon the current, existing state of international law and that companies already have a fiduciary obligation to ensure they aren’t involved in any dealings that result in gross human rights violations. It points out that they can be held criminally liable as principals or accessories whenever they do. It also says that home states are required to protect the human rights of people living in areas of conflict from abuses committed by businesses based in their jurisdiction. See the full text of the 6 June 2014 “Statement on the implications of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the context of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”

        I had meant to call this to Phil and Annie’s attention, but got sidetracked. It’s a pretty big development.

      • talknic on June 21, 2014, 3:59 am

        @ Hostage

        Chunky and quite to the point.

        Recommend downloading and perusing… 6 June 2014 “Statement on the implications of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the context of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” link to

      • ritzl on June 21, 2014, 7:59 am

        Thanks Hostage. I know I’m cherrypicking, but can you explain what this means, in practical terms:

        Home States of business enterprises operating in or connected with the Israeli settlements in the OPT may also take a role in providing a forum for remedy where affected individuals are not able to access remedy.

        That seems to tie in with the very last paragraph:

        Where business enterprises identify that they have caused or contributed to adverse human rights impacts through settlement-related activities such as construction or servicing of the settlements, they should provide for or cooperate in their remediation through legitimate processes.

        What are “legitimate processes?” Is that a new avenue for redress or a recommendation to unblock court systems for these kinds of “remediations?” Or other? Just curious.

      • Hostage on June 21, 2014, 9:44 am

        can you explain what this means, in practical terms: Home States of business enterprises . . . may also take a role in providing a forum for remedy

        The Working Group took note of numerous Secretary General and UN reports that indicate the Government of Israel, and its judicial and administrative or ministerial legal forums, have played a leading role in the creation and expansion of the illegal settlements in the OPT. While it called upon Israel to abide by international law and to make businesses subject to its jurisdiction do the same, the Working Group pointed out that Israel should no longer have the last word or enjoy sovereign immunity on the subject of judicial relief or legal remedies for its own human rights violations or those facilitated, aided, or abetted by businesses. See Michael Sfard, “The legal tsunami is on its way” for additional information and

        That seems to tie in with the very last paragraph

        Not exactly, the former is a message to state actors that says the government of Israel is complicit and shouldn’t be permitted to obstruct justice in cases where gross human rights violations have occurred. The latter is a warning to businesses, which are usually non-state actors, that they should begin to include liability for their own potential human rights violations in connection with their operations in the OPT and either provide a remedy, wherever possible, or cooperate with treaty bodies, arbitrators, or the courts, i.e. “legitimate processes”, in providing remediation.

        The big news is the discussion about criminal liability of businesses under existing international law with regard to the illegal settlements. That will provide more momentum for large institutional investors to pull their capital out of the banks and businesses that aid and abet the illegal settlement enterprise.

    • just on June 21, 2014, 10:04 am

      Beautiful video; many thanks.

  20. Basilio on June 21, 2014, 12:41 am

    It’s kind of rich about how people say that addressing Israel’s human rights abuses and corporations that profit from such abuse should not be dealt with as it would harm peace. It reminds me of wife beaters and their supporters who say you’ll break up a family if you interfere, and that the fact that the husband is giving his wife black eyes is not germane. If you interfere, you’re being against men and break up families and not help the woman. I can understand some Presbyterians voting for this because some don’t want to offend Jews, but any Jewish rabbi ignoring the abuses or not doing much about it, support darkness, not the light.

  21. seafoid on June 21, 2014, 12:56 am

    “The pope did not put us to shame because he worships differently or because of his credo that we cannot share. He shamed us because in the very areas where we share beliefs, we have abandoned our sacred role and relied on others to seize the initiative.

  22. ckg on June 21, 2014, 2:29 am

    In Ramallah yesterday I heard Hanan Ashrawi praise this outcome.

  23. HarryLaw on June 21, 2014, 5:42 am

    I am disappointed at the narrow margin of victory, especially after the prolonged debate, one would have thought a larger majority would be a no brain er. But then divestment sounds so negative to these religious types, far better to invest, seek dialogue, love your neighbor, don’t split the ecumenical movement etc, and generally get round the camp fire and sing kumbaya. As those tee shirts said “you can love us, or leave us”, ok, good bye.

    • Justpassingby on June 21, 2014, 6:43 am

      I agree about the narrow win, what is this topic to argue about anyway?

    • Slappy on June 21, 2014, 8:44 am

      The Presbyterian Church USA is cratering:

      “The vote comes as Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is losing members, seeing a membership drop of 37% in 21 years, more than 1 million members.”

      This should reduce them to the lunatic fringe (say, less than 1 mil, in a nation of 300+ mil).

      And you know what the irony here is? Read that Morgan gal’s thread. Read the statements from PCUSA. Solidarity with Christians. Meanwhile, Israel = the only nation in the ME to have a growing and not shrinking Christian population.

      Oh, and they also voted Thursday to do the same sex marriage thing in states that allow the thing. But not without some dissent:

      Another Presbyterian group, the Presbyterian Lay Committee, protested the vote, saying the church “has committed an express repudiation of the Bible.” … “The Presbyterian Lay Committee mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them,” the group said in a statement.

      The Lay Committee went on to mention withholding money, so they are going to be doing some boycotting and divesting of their own.

      They’ll be down to less than 50% of their early 90s total within the next year or two.

      Let me leave you with:

      “The report reveals, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the PC (USA) is old and white. 94% of the randomly selected members reported their race as “white or Caucasian,” as did the randomly selected Ruling Elders. Of clergy, 91% of pastors and 89% of specialized ministers (chaplains, professors, etc) reported their race as white. For all categories of respondent, more than 90% were born U.S. citizens. The study notes, most alarmingly, that the racial-ethnic makeup of the denomination has remained virtually unchanged in the last forty years. This discontinuity makes the future of the denomination untenable since it has not reached either immigrant communities or people of color in any meaningful way. While there are flickers of light in the 1001 New Worshipping Communities initiative, it seems to be rather too late for this to significantly offset coming losses.

      The denomination also continues to age. The median age of members rose from 60 to 63 between 2008 and 2011. That means that if you were to list the ages of each of the member respondents, half of them would be older than 63 and half younger. The number is similar—62—for ruling elders. The report also indicates that almost 50% of church members are not employed, while only 7% of members report being “full-time homemakers.” Could it be that almost half of our church members are retired? Perhaps the PC (USA) should be called the AARP at prayer?”

      Oh, and one of the comments to that piece:

      PresbyMike • 11 months ago

      This is my tribe and none of this surprises me. We have tried every spiritual and theological fad of the last 50 years except for an exuberant orthodoxy. Sadly, that is probably the least likely response we will take to head off our demise. Unlike the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2, Jesus doesn’t have to remove our lampstand. We are already doing it for Him.

      And for every fad of the last 50 years, see here:

      “However, I think that there is a more profound explanation: Since the 1970s mainline Protestantism has been strongly influenced by every progressive ideology that came down the pike—anti-capitalist neo-Marxism in economic and social perspectives, anti-Americanism and pacifism in world affairs, and every variety of “victimological” identity politics. For some years the pronouncements rolling off the presses of the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches and mainline Protestant denominations read like reprints of manifestos composed by rioting students on the Berkeley campus.

      A core component of this cobbled-together worldview was an idealization of the so-called Third World. In the 1970s this reached a bizarre climax in an enthusiasm for every murderous regime in developing countries, from Maoism on down—as long as a regime was avowedly socialist and anti-American. This particular form of craziness has been more muted in recent years, particularly since the collapse of the Soviet empire and the rise of a radically capitalist China (under the auspices of a government that still calls itself Communist). But the Third-Worldism of the earlier period still lingers on in “postcolonial theory” and, more importantly, in the nostalgic memories of aging revolutionaries in academia—and in mainline Protestant churches: Palestinians are a Third-World people, therefore their cause is just. It is possible to empathize with the Palestinian people, without looking at its situation through this distortive ideological lens.”

      And now for Mr. Weiss, no, there is no turning point here. The only turning point is that with the vote to divest and the vote to have gay marriage, the PCUSA has sealed its doom. Literally on the verge of making themselves the equivalent of that wacko preacher that we all see downtown at lunch time, in whichever downtown we happen to be in.

      • Bumblebye on June 21, 2014, 9:16 am

        “Slappy” appears to be the reincarnation of former commenter “Robert Werdine”.

      • Betsy on June 21, 2014, 9:44 am

        @Slappy — are you pulling a Colbert? Is this a self-satirization? As a Ruling Elder of my PC(USA) congregation, I found myself laughing at this twisted history of my community — twisted by repeating Right Wing talking points & a cold-hearted lack of empathy for other faith communities’ histories. In fact, the more PC(USA) stands up on these basic moral issues, the more young people return. A point that I hope my neighborhood & greying Temple notes.

        It’s been fascinating to many Presbys over the past year to watch the focus on *demography* in the coverage of our community in mainstream Jewish presses. Almost every article re/ PC(USA) that I’ve read, has started with this actuarial frame — population growth / decline & age. With a notable lack of transparency or equivalency. While PC(USA) has conducted it’s business in public — there’s been a notable lack of equivalency. @Slappy — in the name of ‘balance’ shouldn’t you be asking equivalent questions of other communities? And are these really the frameworks (of sheer power or demographics) you should be applying to basic moral questions by a faith community?

      • Hostage on June 21, 2014, 10:26 am

        seeing a membership drop of 37% in 21 years, more than 1 million members.”

        This should reduce them to the lunatic fringe (say, less than 1 mil, in a nation of 300+ mil).

        LOL! You need to recheck your math, i.e. a loss of 1 million members over 21 years was only 37%, not more than 50% as you suggest. The PCUSA still has 1.8 million members and are more than twice as big as the Union of Reform Judaism, which only has 700,000 members. FYI, as for the 300 million, polls show that if the two-state solution collapses, the U.S. public favors democracy over Jewishness.

      • Donald on June 21, 2014, 1:49 pm

        That’s pretty much what rightwing conservatives have been saying about mainline Protestant denominations for decades now–I remember this as a kid. It might have been in the Reader’s Digest.

        There’s a bit of truth to it as far as the decline of mainstream Protestantism is concerned, but something missing from it is this–the conservative evangelical churches are also on the decline. Much of this is their own doing–white conservative Christian churches in the Bible Belt were the last to get on board with the civil rights movement, and a generation later, when civil rights for gays becomes a mainstream position, the conservative Christians fight it tooth and nail. During the Bush presidency the conservative Christians were in his corner–conservative Christians were more likely than the average American to support torture.

        I could say some positive things about conservative Christians–for instance, they were in favor of increased spending to fight AIDS in Africa. Good for them. On other moral issues, you can often count on finding them on the wrong side.

      • talknic on June 22, 2014, 8:47 am

        @ Slappy “The Presbyterian Church USA is cratering…etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc…”

        No problem. Is that right Slappy? If I take your word then it must surely be as obvious to you as it is obvious to me, you obviously have no need to be here.


  24. ritzl on June 21, 2014, 7:42 am

    First, and by far the most important, in the face of threats and absolute, quaking, soil-yourself, fear of alienating Jews, the PCUSA GA followed their consciences and did the right thing. It was a profound an act of personal and collective courage, played out live for all to see.

    A distant second, the IPMN and “Zionism Unsettled” did their job and were duly sacrificed […].

    Generally, I have to wonder how normal people are going to view such a craven, public display of threats and/or fear of Jewish retaliation. Gosh, even the prayer at the end became a imploringly fearful subtextual plea to “forgive us, our Jewish brethren” by reinforcing the ongoing insinuation that missing Jewish kids are vastly more important than dead Palestinian children (who didn’t rate a mention in a conversation with God).

    As JVP noted in the update, this vote (and context) will be an act that will resonate for many reasons, hopefully for all the right ones.

    • just on June 21, 2014, 8:11 am

      “First, and by far the most important, in the face of threats and absolute, quaking, soil-yourself, fear of alienating Jews, the PCUSA GA followed their consciences and did the right thing. ”

      Spot on, ritzl! That is what I witnessed, and it was sad & frightening to watch. How can these ‘threats’ aimed at believers cause such distress? How can a professed believer (Rick Jacobs), one of the most vocal and visible agitators, wield such threats against the GA members? Why was it necessary for so many members to prostrate themselves in obeisance to Jews and the state of Israel? The divestment was not from Jews or Israel, but from 3 US Corps who contribute to the daily misery of the Occupied Palestinians, despite years of asking them to change.

      What I don’t get is why any US citizen must face such intimidation. If our government would be more of a role model in standing up to the heinous actions of Israel and end our complicity in their crimes, perhaps organizations and solitary folks would have more moral courage to do the right thing.

      I am grateful that divestment passed. I am sorry that it caused such visceral & apparently painful reactions among those who participated. I am sorry that it is so difficult to find and act on one’s moral compass and according to the PCUSA own rules for investment. I believe it is an historic moment; hopefully the beginning of many more to come. I thought it interesting that so many references were made to the ‘global’ and ‘international’ BDS movement, and strenuous attempts were made to distance the PCUSA GA from the movement…

    • Betsy on June 21, 2014, 10:40 am

      I think you’re misinterpreting the emotions here. It’s not as much about ‘fear’ as you’re saying. Why & what should we Presbyterians fear? I think it’s more accurate to attribute the slow & painful debate to these factors combined: a) ignorance: the PC(USA) is democratic, so the church leadership at GA are made up of ordinary American citizens & in many ways reflect the lack of information of ordinary Americans. Rather than blame the church for this, people should be trying to improve general awareness. Frankly, I think the church has been doing a far better job of outreach & education of ordinary Americans than any other institution I know b) awareness among the church leadership: the historic connections between the churches of Middle East & PC(USA) and the high-information awareness by the subcommittees & workers of the church means that a minority of extremely well informed people have been pulling this process along, but they have tried to do this by educating the wide lay membership of the church. That might seem like a slow process to outsiders, but I think that bottom-up consciousness raising could end up being the better strategy and c) there are in fact close personal relationship between Jewish & Presby faith communities in local & regional networks. Rather than us being fearful of Jewish ‘organized’ community — there’s a lot of anguish about the vicious & (to us) irrational & unfair accusations that have been personally hurled at us, by long time friends & allies (in multiple social justice that are grounded in our everyday communities. What some in this thread see as ‘fearful’ comments — are actually how many Presbyterians show anger. Because we run through very slow democratic processes, we’ve developed a culture of slow deliberation & trying to avoid conflict. I think that what many people are trying to do is to signal that we’ve made every effort at peaceable & rational discussion with our neighboring Jewish faith communities — and *still* there has been a lack of reciprocity & empathic communication in many ways. To state again & again that this is not an anti-Jewish or anti-Judaism vote, is a Presbyterian way of throwing down a gauntlet — trying to frame the rules-of-the-game back home in home communities — so that, if others don’t reciprocate & walk away from inter-faith, then the fault is clearly on them. What seems fearful, is actually I think a form of shaming those who smear us. Trying to set a different moral framework, so that people have to focus on the question of injustice towards Palestinians, rather than get diverted into questions re/ PC(USA) & organized Jewish community (which should be secondary to the question as to whether what’s happening in Occupied Territories is right).

      • just on June 21, 2014, 10:57 am

        I appreciate your comments, Betsy. I also very much appreciate the work that you and your brethren have done on this issue for these many long years. It appeared that some folks were intimidated/afraid. We know that there was a concerted effort to quash the vote to divest. I am glad that the effort did not prevail over the more compassionate and clear- thinking Presbyterians. The Presbyterians adhered to their own principles and guidelines for investment after all is said and done. I also appreciate the fact that the discussion/debate was available to others to watch. It was a testament to ‘democracy’ at work.

        The PCUSA GA is a trailblazer on the road to justice.

      • Donald on June 21, 2014, 2:04 pm

        ” Rather than us being fearful of Jewish ‘organized’ community — there’s a lot of anguish about the vicious & (to us) irrational & unfair accusations that have been personally hurled at us, by long time friends & allies (in multiple social justice that are grounded in our everyday communities. ”

        I’m positive this is correct. I tried explaining this dynamic here in the past and people didn’t seem to get it, but yes, liberal Protestants (I used to be Presbyterian but am Episcopal now) tend to pride ourselves on our tolerance and willingness to have dialogue and our willingness to face up to the history of Christian antisemitism. It should be possible to face up to the history of Christian antisemitism and also recognize that false charges of antisemitism can be a form of anti-Palestinian racism, but some people apparently can’t keep those two thoughts in their head simultaneously.

        One of my previous rectors once mentioned how the local clergy would get together and she felt closer to the local rabbi on many things than she did to Christian fundamentalists, which I’m sure is generally the case on 99 percent of the political and social issues. So the Israel-Palestine issue is guaranteed to be exactly the sort of thing that will make many liberal Protestants feel uncomfortable–the mere thought of being accused of classic Christian antisemitism would probably trigger an immediate run for the exits as far as this issue is concerned. Part of me is disgusted that the vote was so close–the other part of me is amazed that the good guys won.

        Of course, what is truly pathetic about this is that it’s a divestment in companies that assist Israel in human rights violations and this is still unacceptable to all the lovely peace advocates who want Presbyterians to feel warm and cuddly about meeting Netanyahu.

        Netanyahu’s arrogance is probably why things are changing. If Israel had a pseudo-liberal Prime Minister, I’m not sure people would see the issues so clearly, even if the actual settlement policies were exactly the same.

      • LeaNder on June 22, 2014, 9:27 am

        If Israel had a pseudo-liberal Prime Minister, I’m not sure people would see the issues so clearly, even if the actual settlement policies were exactly the same.

        I think the problem is much deeper, at this point in time no “pseudo-liberal Prime Minister” could avert the world’s attention . It can’t be restricted to Netanyahu. I think much more that the WOT led people to focus on central issues. Sharon recognized this. Gaza. Do you remember the amazingly high proportion of Israelis that supported the Iraq war? In other words events changed the focus of attention.

        Ok, maybe It’s me. But I cannot see that any “pseudo-liberal” Isreali prime minister would help to re-focus the world’s attention. But in spite of the fact that much money can be made with changing perceptions according to one’s wishes, I don’t think it works without starting “at home”. If there are core problems no high profile (expensive) gloss will work.

        I tried explaining this dynamic here in the past and people didn’t seem to get it,

        Link, Donald?

      • ritzl on June 21, 2014, 11:52 am

        Hi Betsy, I agree with what you say. You provide the valuable nuance that I omit. I totally agree that you all give equal weight to various questions of morality. To you all/PCUSA morality doesn’t appear to be a matter of degree. That comes across very strongly in the prayerful discerning.

        “Why & what should we Presbyterians fear?” is a great question. Nothing, imho. But I’m torn between what I saw, and an understanding that alienating Jews is at least as important as dealing with the human rights abuses that those divested companies participate in in the Occupation.

        What I saw was, threats from the Jewish participants in the committee process (not outreach or discussion) to walk away from PCUSA, such that half the GA made that more important than matters of conscience and morality. The other half stood firm against that onslaught and voted to divest, but after the divestment vote immediately threw IPMN and its work for Palestinian rights away like trash. My sense was that sacrifice was as an offering to mitigate the coming angry Jewish reaction. Then, the ending prayer, offered by a very tired human being under incredible, week-long duress and feeling the need to try to reconcile what had just happened, well, did the best he could in a healing moment.

        Personally, I think the level of fear in the GA was a sign of your humanity and working through that showed the strength of your spirituality. But fear it was, imho.

        Another thing about the fear in the GA is that once the rightness of this decision becomes more obvious, the fading rear-view mirror view of the angst you all suffered in making it happen will make give you strength down the road.

        Peace to you all, and thanks for your insights.

      • ritzl on June 21, 2014, 12:03 pm

        Betsy- Or let me say it a different way, the fear was a good thing, for all the reasons you described.

      • Betsy on June 21, 2014, 12:26 pm

        thanks for thoughtful comments…I can see what you all are saying re/ the fearfulness. Presbyterians culturally, I think, tend to be very cautious people, who don’t like to stand out & really really really don’t like conflict. That trait bothers me too.

        And, you’re absolutely right that there’s suddenly been an internal marginalization of IPMN & BDS — that is a huge problem that we need to work on within the church, going forward. My hope is in the blazing clarity of the youth vote — and the fact that new policies within the church are giving youth leaders preference, so, hopefully, there will be a kind of internal reformation.

        That said, there is also real anger & hurt. Lot’s of people are just shocked by how the mainline Jewish groups have behaved over the past decade– but haven’t figured out how to articulate our moral critique. (As I said, we’re a slow moving body. I’m not applauding that. It’s just who we are because of our history). We’d gotten used to irrational, hypocritical attacks from Christian fundamentalists, but somehow can’t wrap our minds around what seems like a kind of fundamentalism from mainline Jewish groups (who had always been allies in our big fights). Part of what makes it so bizarre, is that I think many of us are realizing that there’s a lack of organizational & financial transparency in overlapping groups that call themselves ‘the organized Jewish community’ — but which don’t transparently show the clear lines of decision-making, financial disclosure & organizational structure that we value so much.

        I wrote a letter of protest to a regional Jewish organization last year (about something that seemed Islamophobic) and got back a statement the “The organized Jewish community” didn’t support [whatever it was]. And, I thought to myself: “what does that mean?” “Did all Jews vote on that?” “how can you say you represent and organized community?” It just seemed like a totally weird statement to me (as if Presbyterians claimed to speak for all Christians!). I wish more Jews of Conscience were directly tackling these problems of lack of *organizational* transparency…I see threads on Mondoweiss against such claims ‘to speak for all Jews’, but wish there were most sunshine shown on the organizations themselves…

        on a positive note, in my very cautious & Southern congregation, I’ve just talked the adult Sunday school into doing the “Zionism Unsettled” study guide next fall and I’m trying to figure out how we can get some dialogue with local Temple .

      • ritzl on June 21, 2014, 2:25 pm

        Thanks Betsy. Great comments.

        BTW, did you make it as a commissioner?

      • Betsy on June 21, 2014, 3:06 pm

        @ ritzl — good memory! no, I didn’t make it as a commissioner. What I learned is that my Presbytery basically had picked its delegates 2 years ago, so last fall was too late to start my angling! We do move slow :( So, I’m politicking for 2016 :)

      • LeaNder on June 22, 2014, 9:55 am

        Personally, I think the level of fear in the GA was a sign of your humanity and working through that showed the strength of your spirituality. But fear it was, imho.

        Ritzl, strange, I didn’t experience the responses of the anti-divestment-camp as led by fear, but much more by conformation to well established narratives.

        I may have a very ethnocentric perspective on matters, no doubt. But I think the Holocaust and antisemitism lie at the core of this consent. Add to that the US as the force for good in that context. You cannot expect the average member of the church to be able to deal with the ideology of “New Antisemitism”. That’s not fear but conformity to well established mainstream thought. Without more knowledge to make sure you are safe you can simply switch to philosemitism. Is that really fear?

        I am absolutely with Betsy on this. And I think she is a very worthy representative of her community:

        :a) ignorance: the PC(USA) is democratic, so the church leadership at GA are made up of ordinary American citizens & in many ways reflect the lack of information of ordinary Americans. Rather than blame the church for this, people should be trying to improve general awareness. Frankly, I think the church has been doing a far better job of outreach & education of ordinary Americans than any other institution

  25. Nevada Ned on June 21, 2014, 9:36 am

    I was delighted to hear of the historic divestment vote by the Presbyterian Church.
    Given the small size of their investment, the economic effect on Israel will be very small.
    But the political effect will be very big.
    It will make it easier for other churches to vote the same way.
    The vote is a way of telling Israel, “we condemn your oppression of the Palestinians”.
    And it comes from a very respectable group, which can’t be credibly smeared as anti-semites.
    Of course, the Israelis and their supporters made just that accusation, out of sheer desperation. What else were they going to say?

    I was not impressed by the 1,700 rabbis against divestment. I recall back in the summer of 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon and massacred some 18,000 Palestinians and Lebanese. A group of 1,000 American and Israeli rabbis took out full page advertisements in the New York and Israeli newspapers, in which the 1,000 rabbis praised Begin and Sharon for their “actions for the safety of Israel”, and condemned Peace Now for its “poisonous propaganda”.
    It’s the same familiar story: 1,000 (in 1982) or 1,700 rabbis (now) will support anything Israel does.
    Meanwhile, the Rabbis for Human Rights, who are critical of some Israeli policies, musters up a grand total one or two dozen members. Among the rabbis, blind supporters of Israel’s racism outnumber the critics by about 100 to 1.

    • Pat on June 21, 2014, 6:22 pm

      There is zero economic impact on Israel. So you are correct, it is indeed very small.
      Please remember that the church invests in many Israeli companies.
      While I do not believe that anti-Semitism was the driver of this measure, lots of anti-Semites supported its passing and chortled when the vote was announced.

  26. Justpassingby on June 21, 2014, 9:58 am

    What does divesment mean in this case.

    They wont buy from these companies?
    Is the vote binding?

    • Betsy on June 21, 2014, 4:59 pm

      the General Assembly is the ultimate authority in the church, so it’s binding, and my understanding is that the folks who handle the funds are prepared to divest immediately. Sometimes, there’s an uprising in the membership that topples GA votes in future years — but it’s very unlikely that any uprising will now be able to convince the church to actively *choose* to positively invest in the 3 companies — you’d have to argue that you think it’s a *positive* moral move to support Caterpillar, etc.– ain’t gonna happen…

  27. chinese box on June 21, 2014, 10:16 am

    This is amazing! One the rare moments where I’ve felt a glimmer of hope after following this struggle for many years.

  28. Orryia on June 21, 2014, 3:58 pm

    Great news for all Palestinian supporters around the world. But I’d advise everyone to wait with the champagne bottles. First, the decline in their membership has to be stopped. They lost members recently, including more than 100,ooo between 2011-2012.


    • just on June 21, 2014, 4:30 pm

      “First, the decline in their membership has to be stopped.”

      Uh, no. Why? I don’t consider it ‘anyone’s job’ to stop a decline. Lots of churches are experiencing a decline. At least in this country, we still have freedom of religion as a constitutional right.

      • LeaNder on June 21, 2014, 5:32 pm

        You don’t get the point, just. It feels. Suggesting and now even more will leave? ;)

    • Hostage on June 21, 2014, 9:53 pm

      First, the decline in their membership has to be stopped.

      No, the divestment of stock in companies that support the State if Israel’s violation of human rights is about money they already have, not about membership. Hasbara fail!

    • talknic on June 22, 2014, 8:37 am

      @ DaBakr “just a small bit of irony”

      Uh huh.. let’s see.

      “not to dampen a hard won fight for bds:
      Hamas digging out explosion victims – with Caterpillar equipment”

      Oh…. So they’re not in someone elses territory they’ve occupied, illegally destroying olive groves, orchards, cisterns, animal pens, livelihoods, homes, dispossessing, creating more and more illegal facts on the ground?

      The irony is, what you think irony is! That ol’ ziocaine sure is powerful stuff!

    • just on June 22, 2014, 8:48 am

      That’s the grim work that a bulldozer is supposed to be used for.

      You think that’s “irony”? It just goes to show how twisted your thinking is. Do you deliberately miss the point?

      (PS– are you still drinking Sodastream? There were plenty of concern trolls out and about a few months back saying that boycott of SS would “hurt Palestinians”– even Scarface herself.)

      • ritzl on June 22, 2014, 9:05 am

        “That’s the grim work that a bulldozer is supposed to be used for.”

        Further, if that was the only work CAT equipment was used for, PCUSA wouldn’t have divested.

        The DaBakrs can’t ever quite get it right (i.e. make even a little sense) because there is no right in their position to “get.” Babble-issississimo.

  29. Kay24 on June 22, 2014, 7:19 am

    This morning Victor Blackwell and Chisti Paul, on CNN, became the defenders for the zionists, when they grilled the official from the Presbyterian Church, and confronted him about this vote. Then they brought out a Rabbi from Israel, who seems to have rehearsed well, to play the injured party, making sure to mention the majority Jews are against this, and that even in the US Jews are united and against this.
    It is strange how during the two segments, NO ONE mentioned the Palestinians, they fact that they are suffering, and being abused by their occupier, and it was amazing to see the Rabbi, come out looking like the victim in all this. His talking points were well rehearsed. I must say Israelis are masters of making themselves look the victim, all the time. In fact they deserves Oscars, for constantly being able to play that part, and make the Palestinians look as if they have the upper hand. The abuser acting the victim. Oy Vey!

    • Pat Nguyen on June 22, 2014, 4:12 pm

      Or perhaps you lack empathy or the ability to see things from another perspective

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