One of the hot issues coming before the assembly has to do with Palestine and Israel. The main substantive initiative concerns divestment. Some want to sell the shares of stock that the denomination owns in three companies: Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard. These companies make money providing to the Israelis the means by which they maintain their illegal occupation of the West Bank, and make a profit from it. The church has been negotiating with them for years, but it appears they are intransigent. So, to ensure that, at least in this case, the denomination will not be profiting from this human misery, there is a recommendation to divest (the opposite of invest) in these companies.
Last winter a controversial document called Zionism Unsettled was published by the Israel Palestine Mission Network, a group related to the General Assembly. Zionism Unsettled gives the history of Zionism starting from its 19th century beginnings as a desire for European Jews to escape terrible and often murderous persecution. It continues to tell the story of the actions and consequences when Zionists settled in Palestine, gained power and strength, and began to forcibly remove the indigenous Palestinians. This culminated in wars in 1948, 1967, and 1973, and two violent uprisings by the conquered peoples.
Because Zionism Unsettled has the effrontery to tell this story from the perspective of the victims, its publication has disturbed many in the Jewish community. Apparently, they only want this history recounted from the Israeli point-of-view. They appear to consider insulting to them any reporting of the suffering of the people they are expelling and subjugating.
Zionism Unsettled has drawn a firestorm of sometimes hysterical attacks. (One group suggested that it ranked for anti-Semitism to the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a comparison that can only be attributed to mental illness.) It has been charged that Zionism Unsettled advocates an elimination of Jewish presence in Palestine. It doesn’t. Zionism Unsettled does question the idea of a “Jewish State.” Most people think this means Jewish presence or homeland. But the term “Jewish State” refers to a nation in which one ethnic/religious group has rights and privileges at the expense of all other segments of the population. This is how the advocates of a “Jewish State” themselves define the term.
Anyway, a letter appeared recently, signed by a list of Presbyterian luminaries including a lot of pastors of large, rich urban churches. The letter is severely critical of Zionism Unsettled. But there is little evidence that they actually read it, or comprehended what they were reading. Beginning with the idiotic mentioning of David Duke, who apparently made a statement in support of Zionism Unsettled, the letter chooses to frame the document as threatening the existence of Israel, and calls for a more balanced approach.
In my view, this is an attempt to change the subject away from the suffering of the Palestinians and instead invoke a paranoid fantasy about Israel’s supposedly tenuous existence. It’s sort of like a bully claiming that any criticism of his violence threatens his life. In other words, it’s nonsense.
I have been to Israel/Palestine recently. The Israelis are not going anywhere. Neither are the Palestinians. These two populations are going to have to learn to live together. Whether a “two State solution” is even possible anymore is debatable. Israeli illegal settlement activity has sliced and diced the territorial integrity of any possible Palestinian State. But we’ll see.
All that is before the General Assembly right now is an attempt to remove the church’s money from three corporations benefiting from and enabling Israeli oppression of the indigenous population. One would think this is a no-brainer, as it were. When we give money to the church, who wants that money paying for the demolition of innocent people’s homes? Who wants their pension based on money gained in oppression? Not me. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Yet the PCUSA has been arguing about this for years. At the last General Assembly this simple act of dignity was rejected by 3 votes. It is one of the most hotly debated items on the agenda, a fact I find to be pathetic and embarrassing. What’s to debate, for crying out loud?!