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Forum Post: Presbyterians Poised for Historic Vote Against Israel's Occupation of Palestine

Posted 4 months ago on June 12, 2014, 10:11 p.m. EST by LeoYoh (115)
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Presbyterians Poised for Historic Vote Against Israel's Occupation of Palestine

Thursday, 12 June 2014 15:29
By Robert Naiman, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/24327-presbyterians-poised-for-historic-vote-against-israels-occupation-of-palestine

Next week, Presbyterians meeting in Detroit have a historic opportunity to help change the fundamental dynamics of the Israel-Palestine conflict by considering divestment from three companies significantly tied to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Sometimes a situation that appears hopeless is actually poised for a new beginning - when the apparent hopelessness reflects acceptance that conventional wisdom has utterly failed to bring about solutions and that solutions require actions that conventional wisdom has blocked.

Next week, Presbyterians meeting in Detroit have a historic opportunity to help change the fundamental dynamics of the Israel-Palestine conflict in a way that will bring a just resolution of the conflict closer. They'll be considering divestment from three companies - Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett Packard - that are significantly tied to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

When I refer to the "Israeli occupation of Palestine," I mean by "Palestine" the areas of historical Palestine that were militarily occupied by Israel in 1967 - Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem - which have been the focus of Palestinian national aspirations for an independent state since 1974, and which were implicitly recognized as "Palestine" by 138 countries when they voted 138-9 to accord "Palestine" non-member observer state status in the United Nations on November 29, 2012.

Caterpillar's bulldozers have been used to demolish Palestinian homes. (A Caterpillar bulldozer killed American peace activist Rachel Corrie when she tried to block the Israeli destruction of a Palestinian home in Gaza.) Motorola supplies Israeli military occupation forces in the West Bank. Hewlett-Packard has supplied the Israeli military with products to administer the Israeli blockade of Gaza and to maintain checkpoints that control Palestinian movement in the West Bank.

The most important reference point for non-Presbyterians to judge the morality and wisdom of the divestment that the Presbyterians are poised to consider is the context of failed diplomatic efforts for the last 20 years to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

For the last 20 years, the fundamental dynamics of efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict have been:

1) The anti-occupation forces in Israel have not nearly been strong enough politically to defeat the pro-occupation forces. On the contrary, the pro-occupation forces in Israel have dramatically increased their political power and the anti-occupation forces in Israel have dramatically lost political power. This dynamic is exemplified by the participation of West Bank settlers adamantly opposed to Palestinian independence as ministers in the current Israeli government.

2) The United States government has dominated the process of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Historically, Arab diplomacy to resolve the conflict was based on the assumption that at the end of the day, the US government would pressure the Israeli government into taking actions necessary to achieve a political resolution of the conflict. But the US government has proved incapable of doing this, because of the political power of the pro-occupation lobby in Washington. This dynamic was exemplified when the Obama Administration failed in its efforts to compel the Israeli government to freeze its expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

3) Therefore, if there is going to be a just resolution of the conflict, effective pressure on the Israeli government to agree to a just resolution is going to have to come from outside of Washington.

4) The same pro-occupation forces that have blocked Washington from taking effective action to pressure the Israeli government to accept a just resolution of the conflict are understandably opposed to any effort to go around them by imposing pressure on the Israeli government in other arenas.

5) However, the political strength of the pro-occupation forces is much less outside of Washington and has been decreasing outside of Washington much more rapidly.

This is the political context in which Presbyterians will consider divestment from three companies linked to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, when they meet next week in Detroit.

If the Presbyterians vote yes on divestment - which they well might, given that at their assembly two years ago, divestment failed very narrowly - non-Presbyterians will hear that as support for the key ideas that:

1) Increased pressure on the Israeli government is essential to resolving the conflict; 2) there is no visible prospect that the necessary pressure on the Israeli government will come from Washington; and 3) therefore, institutions like the Presbyterian Church will have to take the task of pressuring the Israeli government into their own hands if they want to see a just resolution to the conflict.

You can sign your support for Presbyterian divestment from the Israeli occupation here http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/presby-divest and you can find an image to show your support of Presbyterian divestment from the occupation here http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/presby-divest-pic .

Copyright, Truthout.

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[-] 7 points by LeoYo (5845) 4 months ago

Israel in Political Isolation Over New Palestinian Government

Saturday, 14 June 2014 11:21
By Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/24353-israel-in-political-isolation-over-new-palestinian-government

United Nations - The United States' decision to "work with" the new Palestinian government has virtually isolated Israel: the only country so far to have publicly rejected the political alliance between Fatah and Hamas.

"Not a single nation has heeded Israel's futile call to boycott the new unity government," said Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations.

The new government, joining rivals Fatah, which controlled the West Bank, and Hamas, which ruled Gaza, was enjoying support from countries around the world, except Israel, he said

"This is a significant development and in line with the national interests of the Palestinian people," Mansour added.

Israel, one of the closest allies of the U.S., has already launched a scathing attack on the administration of President Barack Obama, describing U.S. recognition as "American naivete".

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations stands ready to lend its "full support" to the newly formed government in its effort to reunite the West Bank and Gaza, in line with the intra-Palestinian unity agreement of Apr. 23, under one legitimate Palestinian authority.

This, he pointed out, includes addressing the serious political, security, humanitarian and economic challenges in Gaza, and holding long overdue elections.

Asked if this means "U.N. recognition" of the new unity government, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters: "The issue of recognition of governments is one that is up to member states.

Dr. James E. Jennings, president of Conscience International and executive director of US Academics for Peace, told IPS, "The new Palestinian government has already conceded to Israel what the Zionist state has long demanded: that Palestinian leaders recognise Israel, thus essentially conceding Israel's right to exist."

Further, he said, Fatah's leadership of the coalition, with its built-in security agreement with Israel, means the new Palestinian government also agrees to operate behind the apartheid wall as a demilitarised entity dismembered by scattered Jewish settlements under the protection of Israel and its intrusive security services.

"Even if the new government survives, the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will continue to be dominated by realities imposed by Israel backed by its indulgent uncle, the United States," said Jennings.

While Mahmoud Abbas will continue to remain President of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, the new 17-member cabinet will be headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, described as a linguist and a former university president.

Clarifying the political nuances of the agreement, the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) said the new government is "composed of a consensus cabinet consisting of individuals agreed upon by all of the major Palestinian political parties."

The cabinet does not include members of the two largest Palestinian parties, Fatah or Hamas.

Instead, it is made up of independent technocrats whose job is to prepare the groundwork for elections for the Palestinian Authority.

Although Hamas supports the government, none of the members of the new cabinet is affiliated with Hamas, IMEU said in a statement released Tuesday.

Hamas remains designated a "terrorist group" by Israel, the United States and some of the Western European nations.

"Fascinating development," Vijay Prashad, Edward Said chair at the American University in Beirut (AUB), told IPS. "But it is taking place for all the wrong reasons."

Hamas is weakened by the strangulation of the Gaza economy by a combination of the (normal) Israeli garrote and the Egyptian closure of the tunnels and checkpoints, he added.

"With little easy access to regional and international markets, Gaza faces financial desperation – and this on top of the normal de-development and financial pressures."

Prashad said Hamas had no good choices available to it because Gulf money is not a long-term solution or (in this time of a shakeup) a short-term option.

The international agencies (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) all ask for reforms that are not an option for a small region that is essentially a permanent sanctions economy, he said.

"Hamas had to surrender to the neo-liberal policy slate that has become the main policy agenda for the Abbas-led government in the West Bank," said Prashad, co-editor of 'Dispatches from the Arab Spring'.

Asked if it was really a government of national consensus, he said: "No. More like a government of desperation".

Hamas had to back off on its demand for its person to run both religious affairs and prisoner affairs. This shows you that it is not based on consensus, he noted.

"Israel is going to do all it can to undermine even this consensus situation. It will do everything possible to break the unity, including sabotaging the elections slated to take place in six months," Prashad predicted.

"And it is in Israel's interest to have the two parts of Palestine in a kind of political congestion suffocating for lack of a pathway to liberation and peace," he added.

Jennings told IPS it was clear from the beginning of the rift between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Hamas that it would hopelessly divide Palestinian political ambitions and serve only the interests of Israel.

In fact, it has been a disaster for the Palestinian people.

"The question, now that a lacuna of seven years has separated the two factions and vast changes have taken place in the Middle East, is whether the April reconciliation agreement can possibly hold, and whether it is already too late to repair the damage."

An even more daunting – and very doubtful – issue is whether the Obama Administration's willingness to do business with the new unity government can withstand being crushed between the upper- and-lower-millstone coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his numerous sycophants in the U.S. Congress, he noted.

The irony of that situation is analogous to the time when the ancient Israelites were reduced to having their weapons blocked and their tools sharpened by their arch-enemies, the Philistines.

There is no agreement with Israel on political rights leading to statehood, no human rights guarantees for Palestinians, no control of its own borders, and no realistic chance for the massive economic programmes that are needed to empower Palestinian growth and development.

The caretaker technocrat government installed by President Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah with the concurrence of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza is a step in the right direction, Jennings noted.

However, it has very little time to perform before scheduled elections take place six months from now. Over the past few years humanitarian needs in the Palestinian territories have grown exponentially.

Caught between Israel's destructive policies and remaining elements of Hamas rejectionists in Gaza, it is very doubtful that the new leadership will be able to withstand Israeli attempts to torpedo it and inspire the full support of the international community that is sorely and urgently needed, Jennings declared.

Visit IPS news for fresh perspectives on development and globalization.

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 4 months ago

"Israel is going to do all it can to undermine even this consensus situation. It will do everything possible to break the unity, including sabotaging the elections slated to take place in six months" Hmmm & fyi :

From the last link : ''.. it’s impossible to get an informed cover of pretty well anywhere [in] the world, unless you navigate your way through, these days, through the internet. If you don’t navigate, and you sit in front of your television set, then you’re likely to be given propaganda. It’s always been that way – it’s probably now more intense, but we do have alternatives now. We do have the internet, but as I say, it requires that research. Otherwise, we sit in front of the TV, or we pick up a newspaper, and we’re not so much informed as when we’re monitoring it or deconstructing it ...'' (John Pilger)

e tenebris, lux ...

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5845) 3 months ago

Presbyterians Divest From the Israeli Occupation: The End of the Beginning?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 11:58
By Robert Naiman, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/24561-presbyterians-divest-from-the-israeli-occupation-the-end-of-the-beginning

When there is a just resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, I will claim that June 20, 2014 marked a turning point.

That was the day that the Presbyterian Church, USA voted to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions as a result of these companies' continued involvement in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and these companies' continued refusal to change their policies.

Many people are fond of saying that the Israel-Palestine conflict is complicated. Of course it's a truism: all interesting things in human affairs are complicated. But frequently the intent of saying that the Israel-Palestine conflict is complicated is to imply that the listener should refrain from trying to do something about it. "It's complicated," so don't worry your pretty little head about it. Of course, if we accept the idea that we shouldn't try to do anything because "it's complicated," we're not being neutral. If we do nothing when there is a good opportunity for an ethical and helpful action, we take the side of the status quo.

What's going on in Iraq is complicated. But we don't need to know and understand every detail of Iraq's political history to understand that US military force is not going to solve Iraq's political problems and that demands for direct US military intervention in Iraq are a bad idea that we should oppose. Telling your member of Congress to oppose US airstrikes in Iraq is an ethical and helpful action. You don't need a degree in Iraqi history to take the action with a good conscience.

The basic idea of divesting from the Israeli occupation is quite simple. It is generally understood that at the end of the day a just resolution to the conflict is going to be a resolution that's negotiated. But right now the Palestinian victims of occupation do not have enough political power to negotiate a just resolution.

The US-led "peace process" has failed, fundamentally, to produce a resolution because the United States and its allies have been unable or unwilling to stop the Israeli government from confiscating and building on Palestinian territory in the West Bank, which any representative group of Palestinians would insist would have to be part of a Palestinian state in order for a two state resolution to the conflict to be a just resolution.

If there is to be a just resolution, some sufficiently potent other groups of people will have to effectively weigh in on the side of the Palestinian victims of occupation.

In this context, the Presbyterian vote to divest from the Israeli occupation could be the "end of the beginning" of efforts to bring about a just resolution of the conflict.

Until now, supporters of the occupation have effectively used threats and intimidation to block effective action to help redress the power imbalance so that Palestinians can negotiate a just resolution.

But when the Presbyterians voted to divest, it was a decisive repudiation of these threats. In the future, if these threats are deployed to try to block action to redress the power imbalance, the power of these threats is going to be greatly diminished.

Suppose that another American Protestant church now contemplates divesting from the Israeli occupation. Suppose that supporters of the occupation try to block this action by accusing the supporters of divestment of being people who hate Jews. Will any significant group of mainstream American Protestants see this as a credible threat?

After June 20, 2014, to assert in the United States that people who support divestment from the Israeli occupation hate Jews you must also assert that 1.8 million Presbyterians in the United States hate Jews. No significant group of mainstream Protestants in the United States will see this as a credible threat, after the Presbyterians succeeded in staring it down. The Presbyterians stood tall in the face of threats and lived to tell the tale, people will say. Why should we be cowards?

This turning point in our national discourse about the Israel-Palestine conflict is a significant political achievement, and the lion's share of the credit goes to the Presbyterians who have been slogging away on this front for 10 years.

But it is beyond reasonable dispute that Jewish Voice for Peace played a decisive role.

I was at the Presbyterian general assembly, following the debate. The argument that was most invoked by the opponents of divestment amounted to this: if we divest from the Israeli occupation, the Jewish community will be mad at us.

The presence - or the "witness," as some Christians might say - of Jewish Voice for Peace at the Presbyterian assembly undermined this argument. It did not stop this argument from being made; it did not stop this argument from having weight. It undermined this argument just enough to prevent it from carrying the day.

Here's how The New York Times told the story:

Of more influence was the presence at the church's convention all week of Jewish activists, many of them young, in black T-shirts with the slogan "Another Jew Supporting Divestment." Many of them were with Jewish Voice for Peace, a small but growing organization that promotes divestment and works with Palestinian and Christian groups on the left.

Right before the vote, some Presbyterian commissioners sought out Rabbi Alissa Wise, a co-director of organizing for Jewish Voice for Peace, who spent a week inside the convention center and spoke at a prayer service in a Presbyterian church. She told them that divestment can serve a constructive purpose. "To me, this helps Palestinians build their power," she said, "so that Israel is convinced, not by force, but by global consensus that something has to change."

Now, given that the Presbyterians were told that the main reason to vote against divestment was that Jews who support the Israeli occupation were going to be mad, what do you suppose is happening now? Jews who support the Israeli occupation are denouncing the Presbyterians.

Of course, Jewish Voice for Peace is pushing back against the people who are attacking the Presbyterians. You can add your voice here. http://org.salsalabs.com/o/301/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15918

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5845) 4 months ago

"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Signatory to a Boycott of Israel?" The BDS Movement and the Return of McCarthyism

Thursday, 19 June 2014 00:00
By Chip Gibbons, Truthout | News Analysis

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24436-are-you-now-or-have-you-ever-been-a-signatory-to-a-boycott-of-israel-the-bds-movement-and-the-return-of-mccarthyism

State and private attempts to silence and isolate public supporters of the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement are eerily reminiscent of McCarthyist tactics to silence, destroy and intimidate political opponents.

Full disclosure: The author of this piece was an active member of Keep Free Speech in the Free State, a coalition of groups opposed to the Maryland anti-BDS bill, who testified against the bill during Maryland General Assembly hearings. The views expressed are his individual views.

Contemporary mainstream portrayals of McCarthyism tend to depict that phenomenon as being an overzealous reaction to perceived threats of espionage and the infiltration of the American government by the Cold War enemy. While such reactions are often portrayed as excessive, paranoid or part of a witch hunt, even critics still concede that this paranoia was rooted in legitimate national security concerns - even if their targets and tactics were illegitimate. Such an understanding of the McCarthyist era - which includes not just the demagoguery of the era's namesake, but also compulsory testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Smith Act prosecutions, the blacklists, Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations, and exclusion of certain individuals from trade unions - misses its fundamental purpose.(1) At heart, McCarthyism - much like the First Red Scare following World War I - was an attempt to repress dissent. It was not just would-be foreign spies that aroused the attention of McCarthyism. The labor and civil rights movements, those who questioned the United States' continuously bellicose foreign policy and the general erosion of civil liberties, as well as journalists and publications, were deliberate targets of the era's enforcers of political orthodoxy.

Today's assault on defenders of Palestinian human rights, especially those involved with the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, holds many direct parallels with the original McCarthyist repression. Opponents of Palestinian human rights often seek to label their opponents as some sort of alien agent or enemy, calling them terrorist or terrorist sympathizers. However, the petty name calling of increasingly desperate defenders of Israeli apartheid is not the most troubling of these parallels.

Recent attacks on the BDS movement reveal a troubling goal of the movement's opponents - such groups and individuals wish not to merely shut down public discussion of Israeli human rights abuses and civil society based opposition; they wish to punish any individual or organization even remotely associated with BDS by permanently barring their participation in public life and civil society. There are numerous examples to expose this true intent.

One example is Judith Butler's cancelled lecture on Kafka at the Jewish Museum in New York City. Butler, a continental philosopher, is most famous for her works on gender theory. She is also an outspoken supporter of BDS. Butler is no stranger to attempts to have her lectures censored due to her views on BDS. There was an organized effort to have an event featuring her and Omar Barghouti cancelled at Brooklyn College. However, there was one crucial difference. The event at Brooklyn College was explicitly on BDS, whereas Butler's speech at the Jewish Museum had nothing to do with BDS. While it is still a pernicious form of McCarthyist censorship to try to block BDS events, it is a different level of repression to attempt to block supporters of BDS to speak on any topic, ever.

A similar set of bans has been set in place by the Washington, DC-based Jewish Community Center (JCC). A recent Washington Post article details how the center has set in place a process of "vetting" the political views of speakers and artists after the JCC rescinded an invitation to the feminist punk band The Shondes, because the band's singer, Louisa Solomon, supported BDS. Even though Solomon promised not to mention BDS from the stage and most of the band's work is apolitical, she was still deemed to be a persona non grata. The process of "vetting" artists has taken on a familiar line of questioning. When Theater J, which is run by the JCC, was considering hosting a production of Tony Kushner's "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures," the theater's artistic director was required to ask Kushner, "On behalf of the Jewish people, are you now or have you ever been a signatory to a boycott of Israel?" Given that Kushner's play revolves around an aging Communist Party member, it would appear that today's McCarthy's not only have no sense of decency, but no sense of irony, as well.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5845) 4 months ago

It is not just private organizations enforcing this new McCarthyism; many state legislatures have tried to enter the game, as well. After the American Studies Association, the Asian American Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association all endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, several state legislatures, including New York and Maryland, considered bills to punish these associations. The New York bill would have originally denied funding for an entire year for any school that used state funding for a membership in or travel to the conference of any organization that supports the academic boycott of Israel (it was later amended to only deduct the cost of the membership or the travel in question from the school's budget). The travel funding ban is particularly telling as none of the money would go to the organization with the "wrong" views - just to pay for a professor's train or plane ticket.

The Maryland bill was even more stringently anti-free speech and went even further in scope. Under the Maryland bill, a school that received state funding could not use any money, including tuition, institutional or grant money, to pay for a membership in or travel to the conference of an organization that directly or indirectly boycotts a country that has signed a "declaration of cooperation" with the state of Maryland. While it could be argued that the New York bill was about keeping state funding from going to the offending organization, Maryland legislators made it clear their attempt was to make it as difficult as possible for any faculty member to freely associate with a professional organization that has taken a political position deemed incorrect by the state.

The bill's original sponsor and Maryland's own Joseph McCarthy, State Delegate Benjamin Kramer, frequently used inflammatory accusations to try to tarnish the reputation of the American Studies Association (ASA). Not only did he incorrectly state that the ASA has solely chosen to boycott the world's one Jewish state - implying anti-Semitic intent behind the boycott - Kramer went even further by comparing BDS to the deplorable actions of the Nazis. On Maryland's House floor, he stated, "the Nazi party came into power in Germany and they promptly began to isolate Jewish academics, leading to prohibitions against Jews serving as professors," later adding, "Having taken a page from the history books, Israel's enemies are once again starting with the academics and professors, the targets of their boycott."(2) During both legislative sessions and in the media, he also frequently made analogies between the ASA and the Ku Klux Klan, and between academic conferences and cross burnings.

The Maryland bill died in committee, but Kramer was able to get some watered down language condemning BDS and the ASA placed in the Maryland budget. The New York bill is stalled for the moment, but could come back before the session is over.

These actions are directly reminiscent of the blacklists and subversive organization lists of the McCarthyist era. The blacklist did not just ban certain political parties or ideologies; it also prohibited individuals associated with prohibited political causes from maintaining any kind of professional or public life. Members of groups deemed to be "subversive" by the attorney general were denied subsidized public housing, benefits under the GI Bill, and passports. Private hotels even used the list to bar organizations from renting rooms.

The point of such moves in both the McCarthyist era and now is not just to stop individuals from talking about communism or BDS, but also to stop individuals from talking about Kafka if they've already transgressed the norms of politically accepted dialogue. It is not just to stop state funds from "directly or indirectly" supporting BDS, but also to make sure that no professor of any political persuasion can speak about any topic at a meeting of a professional association that has taken the incorrect political position.

Much of the repression of the McCarthyist era stemmed not just from the persecution of some by the state or their blacklisting by private industry, but by the chilling effect those actions placed on the general discourse in the United States. Today's repression will have a similar affect. Many churches, school governments and other civil society groups have debated and even passed BDS resolutions. It is impossible to believe that the possibility of state action, like that witnessed in the anti-ASA bills, will not cast a shadow over future debates. Artists and other individuals who know that public support for BDS means their plays will not be shown at certain theaters, their band will not be allowed to perform at certain venues or they will not be allowed to speak on issues not pertaining to BDS will think twice before taking such stances.

It is important to recognize the latest move by opponents of Palestinian human rights as what it is, a torn out page from the old playbook of the McCarthyist era meant to silence, destroy and intimidate political opponents.

  1. The term McCarthyism is today used to refer to the general set of repressive practices during the Second Red Scare, which both began before Senator Joseph McCarthy's arrival on the anti-communist scene and continued after his political star had dimmed significantly. Much of the activity commonly thought of as "McCarthyist" in the popular imagination, such as the Hollywood blacklist or the House Un-American Activities Committee, did not actually involve the Wisconsin senator. Thanks to his bombastic antics, he has the great honor of having the era's general gamut of politically repressive practices named after him.

  2. Delegate Benjamin Kramer's full remarks to the Maryland House of Delegates can be heard at the 27:40 mark at http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmAudioVideo.aspx?ys=2014RS&clip=HSE_03272014_1.mp4

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5845) 4 months ago

Presbyterian Divestment: Contesting Representations of "the Jewish Community"

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 14:59
By Robert Naiman, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/24434-presbyterian-divestment-contesting-representations-of-the-jewish-community

Detroit - Listening to the debate among Presbyterians about whether to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard over the persistent involvement of these companies in the Israeli government's occupation of Palestine, it seems clear that the most powerful argument of Presbyterians who oppose divestment is the following:

"If we divest, it will damage our relationships with the Jewish community."

There's no question that some Jews will be very unhappy if the Presbyterians vote to divest from these three companies.

But it's equally clear that the opponents of divestment from the occupation do not speak for all Jews; and to say that the opponents of divestment speak for "the Jewish community" is tantamount to saying that Jews who support divestment are not part of "the Jewish community" or that their membership in "the Jewish community" doesn't count in assessing that "the Jewish community" has a position opposed to divestment and will be unhappy with the Presbyterians if they vote for divestment.

There are some folks here in Detroit at the Presbyterian general assembly from Jewish Voice for Peace. They're saying to the Presbyterians contemplating divestment: we are also Jews. We are also members of the Jewish community. And we support those Presbyterians who, consistent with the long-established investment policy of the Presbyterian church - which requires the church to make its investments part of its witness for justice, and to ensure that those investments are not contributing to oppression - are advocating that the church divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard.

In the last few days, my Just Foreign Policy colleague Megan Iorio and I had the opportunity to take short video testimony from some of these Jewish voices for peace. Here are four of them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-IxpCM8BwVE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EJQFHErlwd0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QKHTjdqyty4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOyeovROuvQ&feature=player_embedded

You can find more voices in support of Presbyterian divestment here http://whywesupportdivestment.tumblr.com/ . Jewish Voice for Peace's Rabbinical Council has an open letter to the Presbyterians in support of divestment, which you can find here http://www.rabbisletter.org/ .

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5845) 4 months ago

Anti-Apartheid Archbishop Tutu Calls Presbyterians to Back Divestment From Israeli Occupation

Monday, 16 June 2014 14:09
By Robert Naiman, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/24402-anti-apartheid-archbishop-tutu-calls-presbyterians-to-back-divestment-from-israeli-occupation

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged Presbyterians, meeting in Detroit, to name Israel as an apartheid state and divest monies from certain companies that contribute to the occupation of the Palestinian people.

As Presbyterians meeting in Detroit consider divestment from three companies linked to the Israeli occupation of Palestine - Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett Packard - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the leader who more than any other human being alive is associated with the successful use of divestment to help overturn apartheid in South Africa, is calling on Presbyterians to choose divestment from the Israeli occupation.

Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his leadership, as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, of the nonviolent resistance campaign to challenge apartheid.

In granting the peace Nobel to Tutu, the Nobel committee wrote (my emphasis):

The Committee has attached importance to Desmond Tutu's role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa. The means by which this campaign is conducted is of vital importance for the whole of the continent of Africa and for the cause of peace in the world. . . .

This year's award should be seen as a renewed recognition of the courage and heroism shown by black South Africans in their use of peaceful methods in the struggle against apartheid.This recognition is also directed to all who, throughout the world, use such methods to stand in the vanguard of the campaign for racial equality as a human right.

As a leader of the nonviolent struggle against apartheid, Tutu championed divestment - efforts to pressure US institutions to sell their investments in companies doing business in South Africa and supporting apartheid by doing so.

Here's what Tutu is saying now about the prospect of Presbyterian divestment from the Israeli occupation (my emphasis):

As the Presbyterian General Assembly gathers for its biennial meeting, I reach out in prayer and solidarity that the assembly will make a strong witness for reconciliation, justice and peace. I am aware that the assembly will consider eight overtures on the confounding and intractable conflict in Israel and Palestine, however, I am especially urging the assembly to adopt the overture naming Israel as an apartheid state through its domestic policies and maintenance of the occupation and the overture calling for divestment of certain companies that contribute to the occupation of the Palestinian people. Both are worthy of adoption, by speaking truth in the first instance, and owning up to the church's complicity in maintaining the occupation through its investments in the second.

The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice to the Palestinians. I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed. Realistic Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Israel will either end its occupation through a one- or two-state solution, or live in an apartheid state in perpetuity. The latter option is unsustainable and an offense to justice. We learned in South Africa that the only way to end apartheid peacefully was to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure.

The overtures proposed at the General Assembly are not about delegitimizing the State of Israel, but about ending its suppression of 4,000,000 Palestinian sisters and brothers. It's about naming an unjust system and refusing to participate in it. The stubbornness of Israel's leaders in wanting to hold onto and settling land that is not theirs can only lead to tragedy for both peoples. For the sake of them both as God's cherished, the strong witness of the two overtures is the only peaceful route left in the cause of justice and ultimate reconciliation. My prayers today are with the members of the General Assembly and with all the peoples of the Holy Land in Israel and Palestine.

My Just Foreign Policy colleague Megan Iorio and I are in Detroit this week, working to help lift up the diverse voices - Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, Palestinian and Israeli - speaking to Presbyterians in favor of divestment from the Israeli occupation.

On Sunday evening, we had the opportunity to speak with Rev. Don Wagner, a Presbyterian minister who has been a leader for decades in efforts to end the occupation and defend the human rights of Palestinians.

I asked Rev. Wagner: what's the most important thing that you think we should be telling people right now about this debate? His answer: Tell people about Archbishop Tutu's statement in support of Presbyterian divestment from the Israeli occupation.

You can join Archbishop Tutu and Rev. Wagner in calling on the Presbyterians to choose divestment here http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/presby-divest .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hVpwJmEvHW8

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Pressuring Israel, Presbyterian Church Divests From Firms Tied to Occupation of Palestinian Land

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 11:28
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24571-pressuring-israel-presbyterian-church-divests-from-firms-tied-to-occupation-of-palestinian-land

In what is being hailed as a major milestone for the global campaign to boycott and divest from Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to divest from three companies that it says supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory. According to the church, the three firms — Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard — profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land by selling bulldozers, surveillance technology and other similar products. The decision passed by seven votes, 310 to 303, making the Presbyterian Church the largest religious group to vote for divestment. We are joined by two guests: Dr. Nahida Gordon, a Palestinian-American professor who is a member of the steering committee of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and Rabbi Alissa Wise, director of organizing at Jewish Voice for Peace.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a discussion on what’s being hailed as a major milestone for the global campaign to boycott and divest from Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. At its general convention in Detroit Friday, the Presbyterian Church of the U.S. voted to divest from three companies that it says supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory. The companies are Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard. The value of Presbyterian holdings in the companies is about $21 million. According to the church, the companies profit from Israeli occupation of Palestinian land by selling bulldozers, surveillance technology and other similar products. The decision by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to divest passed by seven votes, 310 to 303, making it the largest religious group to vote for divestment. Two years ago, the assembly rejected a similar divestment proposal by two votes. The vote also supported interfaith cooperation, the right of Israel to exist and a two-state solution.

To talk about the vote’s significance, we’re joined by two guests. In Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Nahida Gordon is with us, professor emeritus—emerita at Case Western Reserve University. She’s a Palestinian American who was born in Jerusalem before 1948. She’s a Presbyterian, a member of the steering committee of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In San Francisco, Rabbi Alissa Wise is with us, director of organizing at Jewish Voice for Peace. Her group supported the Presbyterian Church’s divestment decision.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! I want to begin in Cleveland. Let’s begin with Dr. Nahida Gordon. Explain what happened this time. What made this vote different from the vote before, when this was defeated?

NAHIDA GORDON: I think, with time, more people in the Presbyterian Church, particularly the commissioners who were on the floor of the General Assembly, are beginning to know more of what is really going on in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem and Gaza. Thanks to the news and news sources on the Internet, they’re beginning to see more and more of what is going on in Palestine and the terrible conditions under which the Palestinians are living. And I think we built from the last General Assembly to this assembly, and so we know more, we understand more. And we had some people on the floor who said some wonderful things to explain what is going on. And we organized. We worked very hard for this decision. And we succeeded, and we’re very gratified that we succeeded.

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AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the companies that the Presbyterian Church will divest from?

NAHIDA GORDON: Yes. We feel that the church would be complicit in the occupation if we remain divested in these three companies. Caterpillar, I don’t know—most people have seen these very huge D9 bulldozers, which are weaponized—they have machine guns on them, and I believe some of them are electrified—destroy houses with just one simple swipe. We’ve seen them uproot olive trees. On May 19th, they used bulldozers to destroy, we believe, between 1,500 and 2,000 fruit trees at the Tent of Nations farm. They build the roads into the West Bank, which are for Israelis only. They have been used in building the separation wall, which goes deep into the West Bank into Palestinian territory. And they help build the settlements.

Now, Motorola Solutions produces fuses for bombs that the Israelis use against the Palestinians. As you well know, they bomb Gaza almost regularly. They also produce surveillance equipment for illegal settlements. These are illegal under international law, and they’re throughout the West Bank.

And Hewlett-Packard produces biometric—amongst other things, produces biometric scanners, which the Israelis use in checkpoints, which are throughout and inside the West Bank. There are—a few of them are on the border between Israel and the West Bank, but the majority, the large majority, are checkpoints within the West Bank.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the decision by the Presbyterian Church to divest from U.S. companies that operate in the Israeli-occupied territories. He spoke on Meet the Press on Sunday.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: It should trouble all people of conscience and morality, because it’s so disgraceful. You know, you look at what’s happening in the Middle East—and I think most Americans understand this—they see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions. Then you come to Israel, and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians. Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So, most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re bringing in Rabbi Alissa Wise now, director of organizing at Jewish Voice for Peace. Can you respond to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

RABBI ALISSA WISE: Sure. Thank you for having me on this morning. You know, I’m concerned about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s framing of, you know, what Israel is, because, quite certainly, as Dr. Nahida Gordon just described, there are really urgent and critical human rights issues that need to be addressed both within the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and also there’s a critical issue around lack of basic equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel. These are the reasons behind, you know, this Presbyterian call for divestment and the reasons so many around the world are urging divestment as a way to remedy the urgent human rights abuses going on on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is your role as a rabbi in arguing for this in the Presbyterian Church?

RABBI ALISSA WISE: Well, I just spent the last week in Detroit at the Presbyterian General Assembly. And part of my role was, you know, I was invited there by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and other friends within the Presbyterian community to serve as a witness and a support to the Presbyterian process. You know, there is—you know, as we like to say in the Jewish community, "Ask two Jews a question, get three opinions." So, there’s quite a bit of diversity within the Jewish community around these questions around, you know, what to do about what is now a 47-year-old occupation, and how do we—how do we stop these urgent human rights abuses against Palestinians. So, in part, it is to be a strong interfaith partner and support to our friends in the Presbyterian Church, which involves interfaith—strong interfaith partnerships involve kind of staying at the table, even in moments of deep disagreement.

And it is my sincere hope that those in the Jewish community and other faith communities, who might be—you know, disagree with this decision, will stay at the table and, not only that, will actually dig deep to actually hear the message of their Presbyterian brothers and sisters. And, you know, one of the things most frustrating that I find from those others in the Jewish community that oppose the divestment bills is that they have no real practical solution to what to do to end these human rights abuses. You never get to hear their ideas about what will stop settlement construction, what will stop the daily humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints, what will stop, you know, the bulldozing of olive trees and the demolition of homes. That’s never the conversation at the table. And it’s my sincerest hope that this action by the Presbyterians will push all of us to kind of ask those critical questions.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to turn to comments made by the Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism. He was speaking to CNN in response to the vote.

RABBI RICK JACOBS: I represent the overwhelming majority of the American Jewish community, literally millions, and we are all united. We’re not united about everything, but on this, we are completely united, that this act of divestment, which is—whatever the language says, it is an affirmation of the global BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The global BDS has already claimed this as a great victory. This is a very hurtful act that causes the entire Jewish community not only pain, but a sense of betrayal from the Presbyterian Church.

AMY GOODMAN: Rabbi Alissa Wise, your response?

RABBI ALISSA WISE: Yes, I actually did have the opportunity to speak with Rabbi Jacobs myself when I was in Detroit briefly. We spoke about this very issue. You know, I think that because of the intense muzzling that exists within the Jewish community around these issues—there are severe restrictions that we’ve seen in the past year through the Open Hillel movement, Jewish students on college campus challenging what are truly McCarthyite restrictions on the way that debate and dialogue can happen around Israel and on college campuses—we actually don’t know exactly, you know, how many Jews are supportive of these—this Israel right or wrong idea, or those that are really—want to speak out for justice and feel kind of silenced by the policies of the Jewish community.

Beyond that, I think that, you know, Rabbi Jacobs at the Presbyterian General Assembly made a last-ditch effort to strong-arm the Presbyterians to vote against divestment by offering a last-minute meeting with Netanyahu, which, by all accounts, you know, backfired, because it was seen as a manipulation. And it’s clear that, you know, as I said before, there’s not consensus in the Jewish community on any issue, most certainly on this issue. And I think it does a disservice to the entire Jewish community and, most certainly, to our interfaith partners to misrepresent that.

AMY GOODMAN: How many rabbis signed on to the open letter to the Presbyterian Church, Rabbi Wise?

RABBI ALISSA WISE: You mean the open letter from Jewish Voice for Peace?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, the—

RABBI ALISSA WISE: Or the open letter from—

AMY GOODMAN: From Jewish Voice for Peace.

RABBI ALISSA WISE: I don’t know the exact number. The truth is that it’s not a numbers game, right? Because of this, you know, there are many rabbis that are supportive of these policies that simply cannot come out of the woodwork, for fear of losing their jobs. Right? So I think that what’s most important is that, you know, Jewish Voice for Peace is an organization that is small and growing and being able to kind of create a space for those in the Jewish community that wish to express these values of a hope for equality, justice and self-determination for Palestinians to really come to light and to bear fruit.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Dr. Nahida Gordon, where does the Presbyterian Church go from here?

NAHIDA GORDON: Well, technically, we will now not invest in these three companies. And where we go from here? We need to continue to work for the human rights of Palestinians. We are very much concerned with partners in Palestine, as well as with Israel. What we would like to do—we’re not against the Israeli people. What we would like to do is to see that the government of Israel starts treating the Palestinians better. We would like to see the end of the occupation. We’d like to see Palestinians have their human rights, have freedom. Basically, that’s it. We need to see that the Palestinians have their freedom.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Nahida Gordon, I want to thank you very much for being with us, professor emerita at Case Western Reserve University, a Palestinian American born in Jerusalem before 1948, member of the steering committee of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network in the Presbyterian Church. And thanks so much to Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace.

That does it for today’s broadcast. Democracy Now! is hiring a seasoned Linux systems administrator. Visit democracynow.org for more information.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.