Plus ça change, the more the same people keep coming back with the same idée fixe. This time it’s the General Assembly Mission Council of the PCUSA, approving a recommendation from its Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRIT) Committee to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola “until they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful activities in Israel-Palestine,” i.e., helping Israel defend itself. According to the Presbyterian News Service:
At issue are their participation in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the construction of the “security barrier” between Israel and Palestinian territory, and the destruction of Palestinian homes, roads and fields to make way for the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have been declared illegal under international law.
“We have run out of hope that these companies are willing to change their corporate practices [in Israel-Palestine],” said the Rev. Brian Ellison, a Kansas City pastor and chair of the denomination’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI). “We have made diligent effort to engage in conversation. We’d like to do more, to make progress, but substantial change does not seem possible.”
“This is not a boycott,” Ellison insisted, “nor is it a call for general divestment. “We hold stock in many companies that do business in Israel and the West Bank. What we are asking is divestment from particular companies where engagement has not been productive.”
Noting that the PC(USA) has consistently condemned violence by both sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict and since 1948 has called for a “two-state solution” with secure borders for both Israel and Palestine, Ellison said, “We are trying to engage both sides. Our sole goal is a just peace.”
He’s right that the “engagement” has not been “constructive,” if by that he means that the three companies have refused to listen to an insignificant shareholder spew venom about Israel and change how they do business with the Jewish state.
This is of a piece with the general drift of PCUSA with regard to Israel. The denomination continues to support an anti-Semitic cancer in its midst in the Israel Palestine Mission Network. This summer’s General Assembly with see yet more efforts to label Israel an “apartheid state.” Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons recently offered a preview of the GA, and said that the forty overtures so far received could be grouped into eight categories: ordination standards, marriage, Israel/Palestine, Board of Pensions, immigration, non-geographic presbyteries, union presbyteries, church property. Funny, isn’t it, that the only issue beyond American shores that gets mainline Presbyterians all lathered up is Israel?
For all the protestations of even-handedness, the net effect of PCUSA protests is to suggest that the denomination’s leaders consider Israeli self-defense of no consequence–for instance, the repeated condemnations of the security barrier, which has cut suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism within Israel by over 90%, an unwelcome result, since the PCUSA’s leaders apparently value Palestinian olive trees over Israeli lives).
Despite the fact that the PCUSA profits from companies doing business in some of the world’s most despotic regimes (China, for just one example, which has never, to my knowledge, ever been confronted by PCUSA over its occupation of Tibet, which has been occupied by Beijing since 1961, even longer and at least as brutally as the West Bank and Gaza), Israel is the only one that is ever singled out for this kind of treatment.
UPDATE: Jonathan Tobin of Commentary has more.