The PCUSA messed me up yesterday. My intention was to live blog the debate over the Middle East resolution on divestment and boycott, and they kept pushing them back so that I had to miss them. (I was out all evening.) Well, this morning it appears they’ve given my a second chance.
Last night, by a vote of 333-331-2, the General Assembly voted to substitute a positive alternative to invest in Palestine for the original motion to divest from Israel. The Assembly then voted by over 55% to pass that. This morning, claiming that she’d pushed the wrong button on the first vote, a commissioner asked to reconsider the whole thing. That’s what they’re doing now, so I’ll give it to you as it happens. Then they’ll be considering the other Middle East resolutions, and I’ll have them as well.
UPDATE: 62% voted not to reconsider last night’s action. So the PCUSA has avoided falling off the cliff on divestment. But that doesn’t mean that the anti-Israel forces are done. A commissioner immediately took the microphone to make a speech asking commissioner to stand in silence “against oppression,” etc. The usual stuff.
UPDATE: The chair of the MIddle East committee has proposed that all of the pro-divestment resolutions that were going to be placed before the Assembly be answered by the action previously taken. The first response from the floor was a motion to have the Assembly take up each of those resolutions separately. The effect of that action, if approved, would be to leave the Assembly either wasting a lot of time on stuff that will inevitably be defeated, or in hopeless contradiction to itself if any of them are passed. Gotta love it. The Assembly then voted on the motion, and voted not to by 15%-85%. I suspect even some pro-divestment folks are getting tired of the relentless inability of their colleagues to accept that they’ve lost.
UPDATE: A great example of that inability. A commissioner from the DC area accused…someone…of “parliamentary sleight of hand” because the Assembly voted to substitute a minority for a majority report. Can you say, “sore loser”? I know you can.
UPDATE: Pathetic. Now the same commissioner (a pastor, no less) who claimed she mis-voted last night gets up and says she doesn’t know much about these issues, but that the Assembly should “trust the committee” and take up and pass each (pro-divestment) resolution that was passed in committee individually. These people have no shame.
UPDATE: So now we have the vote on whether to answer the divestment resolutions with last night’s action. Approval given by 75%.
UPDATE: The Assembly is now considering a resolution to boycott Ahava Labs and Hadiklaim date growers, as well as any other Israeli companies that use products made or grown on the Palestinian territories, particularly by settler communities. One commissioner tried to amend this to bring the divestment issue back in, and got booed (as well as ruled out of order) for her trouble. On this resolution, the vote is 457-130-3. A meaningless action (how many Presbyterians will even hear about this, much less follow through, much less have access to the products in question?) has now allowed the GA to say it’s taken the side of the angels. Good for them.
UPDATE: The Assembly is now taking up the resolution to label Israel an “apartheid state.” This didn’t even pass the committee, which recommended disapproval. An ecumenical delegate from Lebanon claims to speak for all 15 million Arab Christians in favor of the apartheid designation. She also claims that they are following the Assembly and that they are terribly disappointed at the divestment votes. It must be nice to be able to read so many minds at so much distance so quickly. Another commissioner says he comes from the “moderate middle” of the PCUSA, but that the PCUSA must “speak the truth to a friend.” Some moderate, huh? A pastor who is from South Africa assures the Assembly that he knows apartheid, and the situation in the territories ain’t it. This wrapped up by defeating the effort to defame Israel by a vote of 463-175-2.
UPDATE: One final item had to do with Syria, specifically a call to pray, to ask the U.S. government to support negotiations, and to refrain from military action, while seeking UN non-military intervention to bring about a cessation of violence. Interestingly enough, this one included no specific condemnation of the Syrian government for slaughtering civilians–that is reserved for Israel. This one passed overwhelmingly and without debate.
That wraps up the Middle East issues debate. Supporters of Israel won all the way around, those seeking to single out Israel as uniquely evil and worthy of Presbyterian attention lost and showed themselves sore losers, and Jewish-Presbyterian relations were permitted to continue without break for another couple of years.
Oops, they aren’t done. The sore losers have moved to have the denomination’s Board of Pensions to come up with a “relief of conscience” program that will allow anti-Israel advocates to sleep at night knowing that some of their money is going to Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard. BoP will have two years to come up with such a balm. This one passed without debate 355-257-16. A representative of the BoP, for some reason, waited until after the vote to inform the Assembly that because of the way the Board works, it’s impossible to put the proposal into effect. The Moderator then asked the BoP to try to find a way to do the impossible. And then they moved on to worship.