September 13, 2011: Presbyterian Divestment Plan is Dangerous

Presbyterian Committee’s Anti-Israel Divestment Proposal is Harmful to Peace and Intergroup Relations

The recommendation by a Presbyterian Church (USA) committee to divest from three large companies who do business with Israel is a disappointing and dangerous proposal for Middle East peace and intergroup relations, said the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

“We have noted positively that there are groups from across the Presbyterian spectrum that are seeking paths of reconciliation. The recommendation from the PCUSA’s committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) is, however, an invitation to more conflict and more division, without the prospect for fostering peace in a region that so desperately needs it,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “This kind of proposed action promotes the delegitimization of Israel. The JCPA is proudly partnered with The Jewish Federations of North America to foster Israeli-Palestinian peace and combat delegitimization through the Israel Action Network.”

“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,” said JCPA Chair Dr. Conrad Giles. “Implicating companies like Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Motorola is merely holding American companies responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather than promote peace, it threatens to deepen resentment and build a false impression that Israel is solely to blame.”

“The committee’s recommendation will not be voted upon until next year.  We are heartened to know that we do not stand alone and that many prominent Presbyterian leaders oppose anti-Israel divestment,” added JCPA Vice President Ethan Felson, pointing to the statement by Presbyterians for Middle East Peace (PFMEP) which said it will work “long and hard” to make sure that the Church’s 2012 General Assembly will continue to “play a positive rather than inflammatory” role.  “We hope and pray that the assurances made at the last PCUSA gathering were not illusory.  The repercussions on interfaith relations from this unfortunate committee decision could be horrific.” 

Felson was in attendance at the past three PCUSA General Assemblies and is available for comment.

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