The web site of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly isn’t updating on controversial committee actions, but I’ve got my sources. So I can report that Committee 15 on Middle East and Peacemaking Issues appears to be buying the anti-Israel campaign hook, line, and sinker.
First up, resolution 15-11, which came from the denomination’s governing Office of the General Assembly and General Assembly Mission Council. Together, they passed along with a positive recommendation the proposal of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), which proposed:
The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment has been seeking to engage companies profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine since the directive of the 216th General Assembly (2004) and the reaffirmations and actions of each subsequent assembly. This process of engagement has, in the case of three companies, produced no substantive change and, in the judgment of this assembly, is likely not to do so in the future. Under the church’s regular process of corporate engagement (approved by the 116th General Assembly (1976) of the PCUS and reaffirmed as policy after reunion), the final step is to recommend divestment from companies where engagement is not resulting in any change. Therefore, in accordance with the actions of prior assemblies, we direct that Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions be placed on the General Assembly Divestment List until such time as they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine, as defined by prior General Assembly actions.
This now goes to the full Assembly, which gets to decide whether it is more important to make a public statement that will endanger relations with Jewish dialogue partners in the U.S. and put the denomination firmly on one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while accomplishing nothing practical, or not. It passed the committee 36-11-1.
Then there’s resolution 15-2, which is from San Francisco Presbytery and calls on the denomination to boycott Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories and Hadiklaim (an Israeli Date Growers Cooperative) products:
1. Condemn the production and sale of Israeli products that come from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
2. Call for the boycott of AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories Beauty Products.
3. Call for the boycott of all date products of Hadiklaim, the Israel Date Growers Cooperative, Ltd., often marketed by the brand names: King Solomon Dates and Jordan River.
4. Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action to all other PC(USA) councils and entities and invite and strongly encourage those groups and organizations to endorse this boycott.
5. Direct the Stated Clerk to inform our ecumenical partners of this action, both nationally and globally, and call upon them to join in the boycott of these companies.
The reason given is that Ahava and Hadiklaim use resources from the West Bank as well as settler products. In the rationale, the authors make an interesting admission:
4. Does boycotting the Israeli occupation harm Palestinians?
Yes, it can have an economic impact. Any kind of economic pressure is bound to harm first and foremost the Palestinians, who are already economically vulnerable because of the restrictions that the Israeli occupation imposes on their ability to study, work, and move people or goods. Despite Israel’s exploitation of Palestinian labor, Palestinian natural resources, and the captive Palestinian consumer market, Palestinians themselves have asked for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions because they see them as effective tools to express international solidarity to oppose the Israeli occupation.
Makes you wonder: did they speak to the Palestinians who would be hurt by a boycott? Or did they just speak to the activists who are playing politics with other people’s livelihoods? Is the Pope Catholic? This move to punish the Palestinians who make the mistake of actually working with Israelis passed 37-6-2.
Next up for the committee: is the Israeli occupation “apartheid”? Even more than the previous two, their vote on this issue will reveal whether they have bought entirely into the anti-Semitic agenda of the Israel Palestine Mission Network. More later.
UPDATE: According to tweets from the noted Presbyterian organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which has representatives at the General Assembly and particularly in this committee, a commissioner posed the question of whether the murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany would be considered apartheid. This is an easy question to answer (no), but what’s troubling is that the committee apparently is getting guidance from Anna Baltzer, a far left Jewish activist with the anti-Zionist organization U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She is, according to the tweets, using the opportunity afforded by the question to cite a variety of sources (including an unnamed “report” commissioned by the government of South Africa that supposedly found that Israel practices apartheid. Why is a non-Presbyterian being allowed to essentially lobby a General Assembly committee for a political viewpoint most Presbyterians would not hold? Appalling.
UPDATE: A small measure of sanity has prevailed in committee–the resolution to declare Israel’s actions “apartheid” has failed 19-28.
UPDATE: The Presbytery of San Jose had submitted a grotesquely one-sided resolution, 15-09, that called for the following:
1. Commend the U. S. State Department for its annual published listing of incidents of religious discrimination by the State of Israel affecting the human rights and religious freedom of Arab Christians and other Palestinian citizens.
2. Commend the U. S. State Department for reporting on the failure of Israel to protect Christian Holy sites throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
3. Urge the Israeli government to end any and all religious discriminatory practices.
4. Urge the Israeli government to enforce its own legal obligation to protect Christian holy sites throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
5. Direct that the Stated Clerk contact President Obama and the Israeli ambassador to the U. S. asking them to assist in ending all religious discriminatory practices and to protect religious groups’ holy sites in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Essentially, passing this would have been saying that religious discrimination in the West Bank and Gaza (which is rampant, especially in the latter) is perfectly OK, and that Christians and their holy sites need no protection in Muslim-run and dominated areas. The committee rejected this one as well, 19-26-3. The St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, which is present in the committee, responded, “They voted to NOT urge the Israeli govt to end any and all religious discriminatory practices.” Actually, they voted not to condemn one while ignoring the other, but I wouldn’t expect the STPSC to grasp a nuance like that.