Rabbis letter urges Presbyterians to resist divestment

Rabbis letter urges Presbyterians to resist divestment

Objects to 'oversimplifying a complex conflict and placing all the blame on one party'

Some 127 rabbis, cantors, and Jewish divinity students from New Jersey appealed to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA  to vote down a resolution advocating divestment in three corporations that do business in Israel.

They were among the 1,700 clergy from 50 states, representing a broad cross-section of Jewish political views and religious denominations, to sign a letter rejecting the resolution.

The resolution – which failed by just two votes in 2012 — urges the church to rid itself of the stock it holds in Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola, all of which sell military products to the Israel Defense Force that are used in the West Bank.

The open letter urges commissioners to reject divestment from companies operating in Israel and other anti-Israel resolutions. It was signed ahead of the church’s biennial General Assembly, taking place this week in Detroit. 

The signers express concern over resolutions that call for divestment, branding Israel an “Apartheid” state, reconsideration of a two-state solution, and distribution of an anti-Zionist study guide.

“Oversimplifying a complex conflict and placing all the blame on one party, when both bear responsibility, increases conflict and division instead of promoting peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding,” says the letter.

The church's Middle East Issues Committee, in a 45-20 vote on Tuesday at the church’s 221st General Assembly, advanced the measure to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. The resolution likely will be voted on during a plenary session of the full assembly later this week.

“A passionate discussion of divestment featuring voices in support and opposed” preceded the vote, according to a statement issued by the committee.

At the 2012 church assembly, delegates rejected a divestment initiative by a vote of 333-331. Jewish-Presbyterian relations already were strained following the publication in January of a study guide created by the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network. The document, “Zionism Unsettled,” depicted Zionism as a false theology.

The rabbis’ letter goes on to say, “If we truly want to help both parties, we should encourage reconciliation, investment and a negotiated solution, instead of boycotts and divestments.”

It also expressed concern about the church’s sponsorship of the “Zionism Unsettled” booklet.

With reporting by JTA

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