Last week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) rejected a resolution calling for divestment from Israel. This was a victory for supporters of Israel – sort of. The resolution was defeated by a single vote, and another resolution endorsing a boycott of West Bank products was adopted. Divestment advocates have vowed to continue their struggle, and they may win next time around.
The Presbyterian Church first raised the divestment from Israel issue in a 2004 resolution. The Jewish community, unanimously opposed to divestment and boycotts, responded to this resolution with anger, and a meeting of Jewish and Presbyterian leaders at Reform movement headquarters quickly became a shouting match. But in an effort to build understanding, we agreed to create a framework for dialogue, and over the next 3 years, heads of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements met regularly with their Presbyterian counterparts, both in New York and at Presbyterian headquarters in Louisville.
These were fascinating, eye-opening meetings, generally friendly in tone even when our differences were sharp. We shared an interest in religious life in America, but Israel was always at the heart of the agenda. We learned as Jews that the Presbyterians were not Israel-haters or anti-Semites. On the other hand, neither could we assume an instinctive sympathy for Israel – or, in a few cases, any sympathy at all. Their concern for Palestinian suffering was deeply felt and frequently expressed.
On the Jewish side, we saw it as our task to create a greater understanding of the Zionist narrative and of the vulnerabilities and fears of Israel’s citizens. The Presbyterians wanted to do the same for the Palestinians. But the framework for our discussions was clear: the Jews supported a two-state solution that would divide the land and provide dignity and security for both peoples, and the Presbyterians – in most instances, it seemed to me – supported this as well…Read More>>