In 2004, the Presbyterian Church (USA) touted solidarity with Palestinians by endorsing a “phased, selective divestment” from firms doing business with Israel. Church elites had underestimated the negative public response, both from American Jews and from more temperate Presbyterians. After a campaign to revoke divestment, including a feisty luncheon appearance by former CIA Director James Woolsey, the denomination’s 2006 General Assembly revoked divestment.
But the church’s anti-Israel boll weevils won’t accept “no” for an answer. A PCUSA so-called Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee is now recommending a new, more selective anti-Israel divestment targeting Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Motorola. Next year’s General Assembly will vote up or down on behalf of the about 2 million member denomination, which has already lost over a million members thanks to clueless church elites.
Naturally, PCUSA elites are not advocating any special sanctions aimed at Iran, North Korea, Sudan or any truly loathsome regimes whose crimes include persecution of Christians. Israel remains the only serious target of their chronic ire.
“It has been seven years since the General Assembly named [Caterpillar] as a company for possible divestment,” rejoiced the Israel Palestine Mission Network, an anti-Israel caucus group within the PCUSA seeking a “just peace in Palestine.” The Network’s spokesperson declared: “I think it is tremendous, and high time that this action be taken. I am proud and happy that MRTI has finally taken this important step.“ This Network thinks Presbyterian divestment from Caterpillar and 2 other firms will help remedy “injustices being routinely inflicted upon Palestinians as collective punishment in the West Bank and Gaza” by Israel. A beaten down Israel supposedly will fulfill prophesy promising that “swords will be beaten into plowshares in Israel and Palestine so that all God’s people may dwell together as brothers and sisters in peace.”
More likely, enhanced international pressure on Israel, if effective, would only embolden further Palestinian radicalism and accelerate demands for even greater concessions. The ultimate end-game for anti-Israel diehards is the deconstruction of Israel as a meaningful Jewish democracy. Whether all anti-Israel, PCUSA “peace” activists fully understand this ultimate goal is an open question. Radical church activists who undermine pro-Western regimes have a decades-long tradition of facilitating even greater conflict and the enthronement of tyranny. In these sad scenarios, such “swords,” rather than becoming “plowshares,” often weaponize into even wide instruments of mass destruction.
A more Israel friendly caucus within the PCUSA called “Presbyterians for Middle East Peace” sagely noted the divestment proposal will “surely offend and hurt our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community with whom we are in close dialogue.” And it accurately faulted a “small group of activists within the PCUSA that has relentlessly sought to punish Israel” by alleging that “Israel is solely to blame for the current conflict.” It predicted the church’s governing General Assembly next year will reject this latest call for anti-Israel divestment. But the anti-Israel zealots in the PCUSA are not typically deterred by routine rejection from governing church bodies. Their faith in the anti-Israel cause has almost no boundaries. The United Methodist Church’s governing body rejected anti-Israel divestment by wide margins in 2008. But that denomination’s Capitol Hill based General Board of Church and Society will again lobby for divestment next year when the convention meets again. Reading off the same page as all the major anti-Israel groups, religious and secular, they also want selectively to divest from Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Motorola. These firms are apparently the symbolic sinister trinity behind Zionist aggression, according to anti-Israel activists.
The Jewish Council of Public Affairs (JCPA) was key to building Jewish-Christian coalitions that defeated earlier anti-Israel divestment proposals within Mainline Protestant denominations. JCPA’s president denounced the latest PCUSA initiative as an “invitation to more conflict and more division, without the prospect for fostering peace in a region that so desperately needs it.” He warned it also “promotes the de-legitimization of Israel.” Another JCPA official reasonably suggested “divestment should be saved for the most intractable and odious regimes, when all other means have failed; not for liberal democracies committed to an ongoing peace process.” Anti-Israel divestment, he said, doesn’t promote peace but instead feeds “resentment” and builds a “false impression that Israel is solely to blame.” Still another JCPA spokesman pronounced that the PCUSA‘s implementing anti-Israel divestment could potentially have “horrific” impact on church relations with Jewish groups.
Probably the PCUSA and The United Methodist Church once again next year at their conventions will again reject anti-Israel divestment. But their self-appointed elites will continue to exploit these denominations for ongoing anti-Israel campaigns. Their identification of Israel as the primary culprit for Middle East strife reflects a wider cluelessness about the world, for which over 40 years of plunging membership are but one predictable consequence. Most American Christians, including probably even most United Methodists and Presbyterians, understand that democratic Israel’s survival merits prayers, not sabotage.