Thursday, August 18, 2005

Presbyterian Church USA Moves Forward On Israel Divestment Plans

Last summer during its bi-annual General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church USA passed an overture that not only condemned terrorism by both Palestinians and Israelis but also actually came up with a way to bring peace! The plan is to divest all PCUSA investments from businesses whose services or products are used by Israel to perpetrate unjust actions against the Palestinians. It's not a boycott, exactly, but a witholding of investment money.

Israel was singled out, of course, because the Palestinians purchase neither services nor products from anyone. This is because all money given to the Palestinian Authority for such things disappears down a black hole (that leads to Swiss bank accounts which invest in companies that sell services or products to Israel). In any case, since there is nothing for the PCUSA to boycott or divest in the West Bank and Gaza, rather than find a different approach to the problem that could address both sides of the conflict, the General Assembly decided to lean only on Israel.

As a Presbyterian Pastor, I was not particularly charmed by this decision. Neither were many other Presbyterian pastors and members. American Jewish leaders were not overjoyed either.

When I first heard about the divestment proposal, I collected the critical responses from folks like Dennis Praeger and included them with a personal letter of my own to my church Elders.

My letter and attachments can be read here if you are interested.

A recent column by Minnesota writer/blogger extraordinaire James Lileks also takes a dim and sarcastic view of the matter.

In any case, no decisions have been made whether to divest or not. But the corporations being recommended for divestment include, Caterpillar (their tractors are used to level the homes of Palestinian suicide bombers), ITT Industries (who make night-vision goggles that I assume must give the Israeli's an unfair advantage), Motorola (which makes communications equipment that Israel uses whenever their military or police do anything anywhere....oh, the shame) and United Technologies (which makes helicopters that fly up in the air and do nasty things to suspected Palestinian bombers, etc.)

The PCUSA General Assembly Council will be chewing on these suggestions before making a final decision on what to do.

The better part of virtue would be to do nothing....especially against a country that is fighting for its life against tens of millions who would like to see every one of its Jewish citizens killed and its land returned to Muslim/Arab control.

Every group, even Christian ones, make a bad decision now and again (consider the poor decision made by Jephthah in Judges 11:29-40). But I do believe that God would rather we broke a bad promise than kept it. Either way there is a need for repentence, of course, but when a bad decision is reversed at least the bad thing is left undone!

In my letter to my church Elders (Session) I concluded as follows:
I personally do not support this boycott policy and consider it both morally and politically irresponsible.

That's about all. Perhaps there will be more later.