By the narrowest of margins, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA defeated a resolution calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel’s security forces. The 333-331 vote was the closest the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement has come to getting a major American Christian denomination to endorse such a measure. The close vote is a victory of sorts for the Jewish groups, such as the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) that lobbied hard to defeat the motion. But the narrow margin is a virtual guarantee that divestment advocates will be back next year with expectations of victory at the Presbyterian conclave as well as at other gatherings of mainline Protestant groups.
Though there is little support for Israel divestment among the rank and file members of Presbyterian congregations, there is no denying the growing appeal among church activists for BDS proposals. The defeat of BDS this week may show that a narrow majority of Presbyterian delegates still understands that a vote for such a resolution involves the church in what amounts to an economic war against the Jewish state and a potential break in relations with American Jews. But the close call may indicate that support for anti-Zionism among liberal Protestant groups such as the Presbyterians is on the rise and it may only be a matter of time before they prevail.
The three companies targeted for divestment in the vote were Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard. Though church activists considered the resolution to be distinct from a broad BDS vote, even this proposal betrayed the malevolent nature of the anti-Israel movement. Motorola and Hewlett-Packard produce devices that help the Israel Defense Forces monitor security checkpoints for terrorist explosives and other dangers. Caterpillar vehicles help construct Israel’s defense barrier that keeps out suicide bombers as well as demolish illegal construction and structures that shield terrorist activities.
Thus, even this narrow divestment resolution amounts to a Presbyterian endorsement of the actions of Palestinian terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank that Israeli security forces seek to prevent. Far from being a neutral sentiment aimed at conveying sympathy for oppressed Palestinians, such a divestment vote would have been a declaration that a major American church group thinks Israel doesn’t have the right to defend itself against terrorism.
That American Christians who profess to care about human rights would stand aloof from the dozens of other conflicts around the world where humanitarian catastrophes exist while concentrating their energy on trying to punish Israel is a shocking statement of their bias. Those who judge the Jewish state differently from other nations are engaging in a form of prejudice that is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism. Seen in that light, the BDS effort is no longer a well-meaning if misguided attempt to promote solidarity with the Palestinians but a vicious statement that reminds us of the link between anti-Zionism and Jew-hatred. The presence of far left Jews at the Presbyterian conclave such as the so-called Jewish Voices for Peace that actually lobbied for divestment illustrates just how misguided efforts to include such persons in the Jewish community can be.
While a Presbyterian vote in favor of divestment would have been a far greater disaster, this close call is nothing to celebrate. The vote is an ominous portent of the shift among liberal Protestants against Israel and in favor of an anti-Semitic war on the Jewish state. The fight against divestment is just beginning.