- Some ‘Peace Now’ faithful dispute its claim that divestment will stoke ‘global anti-Semitism’
- Democratic Congressman’s aide who said there are no Palestinians says he wasn’t speaking for his boss
- ‘Goldstone Report will pale’ next to damage we will do to Lebanon, says senior IDF official
- Netanyahu implicated in nuclear smuggling from U.S. — big story in Israel
- Exile and the Prophetic: Tighter than Tight
- By nearly 9-to-1, Americans believe our support for Israel could lead to terrorist attacks
- Military ‘kill house’ training base used Muslim women targets
- Presbyterians overwhelmingly vote for boycott of settlement products; endorse ‘choice of conscience’ option for pension holders to screen CAT, Moto, and HP from portfolios
Some ‘Peace Now’ faithful dispute its claim that divestment will stoke ‘global anti-Semitism’
Jul 06, 2012
Yesterday we published a statement against divestment by Americans for Peace Now that warned Presbyterians that they would be stoking “global anti-semitism” by voting for divestment from Israel (in fact the Presbyterians’ proposal was to divest from 3 companies doing business in the occupation).
Well Americans for Peace Now’s base doesn’t seem to like the APN statement, to judge from the 12 comments at that link, a few of which are from APN veterans. All but one comment at the site oppose APN’s stance, some angrily. Here are excerpts of a few:
Betsy | July 5, 2012 11:59 AMI am shocked by this — it is factually incorrect to suggest a) that the Presbyterian resolution ‘targets’ Israel rather than the occupation or b) that the Presbyterian church is making ‘common cause’ with anti-Semitic networks. …
For decades, Jewish faith communities & Presbyterians have worked closely in all sorts of social justice labors and in interfaith dialogue. I, for one, am a Presbyterian who feels strongly that Jewish contributions to America’s spiritual, moral, intellectual & political life have been splendid — uplifting our general culture with marvelous ethical critique, insights & ethical passion. It has been a terrible shock in the last decade as key organizations in the organized Jewish community have attacked our sincere & painstaking efforts to follow what we understand as God’s call to work for healing, peace & social justice in the horrible tragedies of the Middle East. How dare you stereotype & distort what we have been saying & doing?
It has been an exceptionally painful & labored process in which we have struggled to listen to all voices. You might disagree with our conclusions & we might very well be wrong. But, why aren’t you focusing on the SUBSTANCE of our arguments? Why are you focusing more on categorizing (unfairly) the messenger, rather than the message? Why are you miscasting us as linking ourselves with horrific anti-Semitic forces — when we have explicitly fought against such? That we are involved in “campaigns” that”reflect a deep-seated hatred for and rejection of Israel.”??? COME ON, GET REAL! We are your allies, neighbors, co-workers on so many social justice labors! do not stereotype us! This sort of statement is damaging interfaith relationships! Are you listening to us? Or, are you trying to manipulate us?Dan | July 5, 2012 4:00 PMDear Ori [Nir],
As a former APN intern and someone who deeply respects your reporting, I am upset to read your statement smearing the U.S. Presbyterian Church’s effort toward responsible investing.
…As a Jew, I feel endangered when right-wing groups cheapen the word antisemitism by applying it to critics of Israel. As someone who has encountered antisemitism and been in the proximity of two fatal antisemitic shootings (one in Connecticut and one in DC), I am sad to see APN partake in this same behavior which makes the word meaningless.
I also feel that such statements will discredit APN in the eyes of many young Jews like myself. You appear to be playing a part in derailing a sincere interfaith effort (which includes Jews) toward ending the Israeli occupation, and I would like to know why.
Dan FischerHal Weiner | July 5, 2012 5:04 PMGet serious. If it works for the Verwoerd Government it will work for the Israelis. They don’t understand anything in the Knesset. Their vile treatment of the Palestinians is a travesty on the Zionist belief in a homeland for the Jewish People….. they perverted the original ideas of Herzl and all my Russian Jewish forbears. I have nothing but contempt for the current regime, and the Palestinians are long overdue for social justice. You want Peace? Try Justice. Divestment is a mere slap on the wrist compared to what I would think up to persuade them to act more human.James Weller | July 5, 2012 5:17 PMBullshit, APN. The Occupation is a continuing practice of injustice and unmitigated evil, and it is the policy of the state of Israel. All its citizens are complicit in this evil. I make no distinction between Israel and the Occupation. To do so is ridiculous ratiocination, a distinction without a difference. No sane person believes your cries of “global Anti-Semitism” any more – no more than anyone capable of critical thinking believes in the so-called “global war on terror.” Israel is not threatened with destruction, not by any stretch of the imagination. As a vassal of the Anglo-American imperium, it is the overwhelmingly dominant military power in the Middle East. Israel is a rogue state, and it should be sanctioned politically and economically by all available measures, until it is forced to reform. South Africa in decades past is a directly comparable model.Ann Crosby | July 5, 2012 5:45 PMExcuse me? As a WASP member of J Street, I don’t agree with you on this one. Its wonderfully marvelous that PCUSA is onto the fact that Israel is openly committing genocide with most of the world’s blessing.Ed DiCesare | July 5, 2012 7:23 PMI joined APN believing it to be a fair minded organization which can make change happen from within ; While I still believe this, your position here seems to ignore the obvious, that the policies of the Israeli government can not be decoupled from the occupation. I’m in complete agreement with the comments of Dan Fischer and James Weller. South Africa did not get the message until real, financial pressure was applied. Oppression is oppression, no matter how it might be rationalized away by the oppressor..Gerhard Stoll | July 5, 2012 8:33 PMSorry Peace Now. I’m a Jew who has supported Sholom Aschav [Israeli Peace Now movement] for years, and will continue to do so. But you blew it on this one and need to give a sincere apology to the Presbyterians.
Caterpillar will survive, and you may not agree with this tactic, but the State of Israel must bear the responsibility for what happens within its borders. Those of us who know that Israel is destroying itself, and undermining its very reason for existence–the vote of the United Nations in 1948– need to focus on that responsibility. The Presbyterians are on our side, and we need all the peaceniks we can get.Eric Wilson | July 5, 2012 10:13 PMI am puzzled and disappointed by APN’s response. This sort of carefully targeted divestment from companies directly involved in facilitating the human rights abuses of the Occupation seems to be exactly the type of action we should be supporting, and very different from the calls for a blanket boycott of Israel that APN appears to have confused it with.Alan Levin | July 6, 2012 1:52 PMI agree with the vast majority above. This is an outrageous and hypocritical position. Using the word ‘anti-semitism’ in your argument against the Church’s proposed statement is abusive. The fact that, after all this time, you continue to distort the position of those who seek to act ethically and divest or boycott the settlements and their supporters is unacceptable.
Democratic Congressman’s aide who said there are no Palestinians says he wasn’t speaking for his boss
Jul 06, 2012
We’ve been covering the case of a Florida politician, Evelyn Garcia, who resigned from the Democratic National Committee, after emails emerged in which she bewailed the treatment of Palestinians under occupation by Israel. Garcia was elected to the DNC in 2008 and is now running for state office.
Several of Garcia’s emails were written a year ago to Dan Liftman, a legislative aide in the office of Alcee Hastings, a Democratic congressman from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. In one of his exchanges with Garcia, Liftman writes:
“What Palestinians? As yet there is no Palestine. Not officially.”
Hold on there. A right wing Republican, Newt Gingrich, got in trouble earlier this year for calling the Palestinians an “invented people.” Even Mitt Romney condemned the remark as “incendiary.” But here’s a Democrat saying the same thing!
I called Liftman in Hastings’s Ft. Lauderdale office and asked him if he was speaking for Hastings when he said, There are no Palestinians. He said:
“It absolutely does not reflect the congressman’s views and it never will. I was writing in a moment of pique and I was speaking for myself. It has nothing to do with the Congressman. I got a little angry when I read something like what Evelyn sent me. ‘Concentration camps, crimes against humanity.’ But this has nothing to do with the Congressman.”
I called then emailed Hastings’s press secretary. I have yet to hear from her.
Liftman said he has apologized for his “invective.” I pointed out that Garcia’s comments have cost her a job. Liftman said that those comments were “horrible” and that Garcia herself had called them “ugly and insensitive,” but there was no need for him to resign over his statements about Palestinians.
“No. Of course not. I’ve already been chastised for speaking out,” he said.
When asked who had chastised him, Liftman said, “This has gone too far” and declined to say.
Though he is Jewish and very strongly pro-Israel, he said he has friends on all sides of the issue, including Muslims. (By the way, Hastings’s district is mostly African-American; constructed for the purpose of sending an African-American to Congress.) Liftman also said he was not the source of the leaked emails.
Oh and to repeat the takeaway: you can be a liberal Democrat in the United States today and hold these essentially racist views. No one is busting you for having these views, really. And the Democratic Party is trying to paper over the differences between Israel lobby types like Josh Block and critics of Israel in the party’s base. That process won’t last; the contradictions are too great.
‘Goldstone Report will pale’ next to damage we will do to Lebanon, says senior IDF official
Jul 06, 2012
This is what Sparta looks like. Even as everyone talks about an Iran war, Haaretz says that Israel is preparing for another war in Lebanon because of the instability in Syria.
In IDF simulations of what a third Lebanon war would look like, ground maneuvers in villages that are considered bastions of Shiite Hezbollah become particularly important. “The next war will be different, and therefore we should stop it as quickly as possible, in order to make things easier for the home front. This means carrying out a very strong attack against Lebanon, and the damage will be enormous,” says a senior officer in the Northern Command.
“The Goldstone report will pale in comparison to what will be here next time. There is no choice but to fight against the enemy where he is, and that is in the heart of a populated area. “
Thanks to Dan Crowther.
Netanyahu implicated in nuclear smuggling from U.S. — big story in Israel
Jul 06, 2012
The Israeli press is picking up Grant Smith’s revelation from FBI documents that Benjamin Netanyahu was part of an Israeli smuggling ring that spirited nuclear triggers out of the U.S. in the 80s and 90s.
Arutz Sheva, the nationalist Israeli press:
Declassified FBI documents from a 1985-2002 investigation implicate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in an initiative to illegally purchase United States nuclear technology for Israel’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu was allegedly helped by Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood producer with ties to Israeli prime ministers and U.S. presidents.
The original story was broken by Grant Smith at antiwar.com, “Netanyahu worked inside nuclear smuggling ring”:
On June 27, 2012, the FBI partially declassified and released seven additional pages [.pdf] from a 1985–2002 investigation into how a network of front companies connected to the Israeli Ministry of Defense illegally smuggled nuclear triggers out of the U.S.* The newly released FBI files detail how Richard Kelly Smyth — who was convicted of running a U.S. front company — met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel during the smuggling operation. At that time, Netanyahu worked at the Israeli node of the smuggling network, Heli Trading Company. Netanyahu, who currently serves as Israel’s prime minister, recently issued a gag order that the smuggling network’s unindicted ringleader refrain from discussing “Project Pinto.”
The Hebrew paper Ma’ariv, in translation:
According to FBI documents released by the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was involved in smuggling in the 70s from the U.S. components of Israeli nuclear program, and assisted by the businessman Arnon Milchan, who according to previous publications was a former Mossad agent.
The documents, declassified in part by the FBI after partial classification removed, describe the findings of the investigation has been performed between the years 1985 to 2002 on about how a network of front companies a U.S. security firm illegally smuggled equipment used for weapons seeds out of the U.S..
Exile and the Prophetic: Tighter than Tight
Jul 06, 2012
Marc H. Ellis
This is part one of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. See the first parthere and the intro here.
Just a few days after I arrived at the Cape, as a rocket was lifting off nearby my apartment, the news of Yitzhak Shamir’s death crossed the wires. When a rocket lifts off, I hear the rumble in my apartment. It’s so loud, the apartment shakes. It’s feels like a minor earthquake, at least that’s the sensation as I hear it from others who live in earthquake zones.
At first, I experienced Shamir’s death as an afterthought. As in, is he still around? But in his prime Shamir was important. As Prime Minister of Israel in the late 1980s, early 1990s, Shamir sealed the deal against a Palestinian state. Under his leadership, the settlement explosion in Jerusalem and the West Bank continued. Then he ordered the crushing of the first Palestinian Uprising which was carried out courtesy of his cabinet minister and recently minted saint, Yitzhak Rabin. On crushing Palestinian aspirations, the right and left-wing of Israeli parties have always come together. Rhetoric differs. Actions are virtually identical.
Shamir was an early and controversial terrorist against the British in Mandate Palestine. At his order, executions were commonplace. His early career as a terrorist didn’t disqualify him from political leadership in the state of Israel. On the contrary, his terrorist credentials promoted it. Like the other Prime Ministers before and after him.
Who of the early Prime Ministers of Israel could have served if terrorism or ethnic cleansing disqualified them? This includes Rabin who was honest enough to admit his role in “removing” Palestinians from their homes to create a Jewish state. There is no use singling him out though. The whole pantheon of Israel’s heroes is involved. This answers the current question I’m often asked as to whether Jews can be ethnic cleansers. Since Jews have experienced similar horrors so often at other’s hands, it seems like a contradiction. Like the mezuzah on the door post?
As I say, in history practice trumps theory. In theory, Jews cannot be ethnic cleansers. In fact, we are. Can Jews participate in ethnic cleansing? The answer – “Yes.”
I remember Shamir vividly because I was often on the road during those years speaking on the Palestinian Uprising. For me the Uprising was our last possibility as Jews to forge an ethical future. Israel and Jews around the world faced a clarion call: “Stop oppressing the Palestinian people!” The Jewish response (at least from those in power): “Crush them! Teach the Arabs a lesson in the only way they know – through force.”
That was part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s eulogy of Shamir. His refrain, more or less: “The Arabs are as they are. Does this also mean: “The Jews are as they are?” How often this is said about Jews. Now we specialize in saying it about others. Curiously, we seem to have become what we say others are. We have become frozen into the image and reality of empire builders and enablers. Without admitting this to ourselves, of course. This is what Shamir was. What Netanyahu is. Is this our fate as Jews? Is this what our history boils down to?
Traveling during these years, I had the sense that this was our last chance to turn around. Today I am even more certain that the Uprising years were the last possibility. Shamir wanted to close that door shut, tighter than tight. He did.
Another memory during those Uprising years. Wherever I went to speak the most hostile groups, especially at universities, were progressive Jews. They also wanted to close the door shut, tighter than tight, on any Jewish dissent that was to the left of them.
This is a lesson we should ponder. The problem wasn’t only the identifiable ethnic cleansers of Palestinians. They knew what they had done and why. One might even admire their clarity while disagreeing with their policies. Shamir didn’t have a doubt in his mind that what he did was right.
If progressive Jews have second thoughts, they keep them to themselves. They want everyone else to keep it to themselves as well. Thus they are part of the problem. Progressive Jews fought against views that might have substantively addressed the Israel/Palestine issue. Examples abound from that time period. They were against: cutting off American aid to Israel; sending Witness for Peace delegations into the occupied territories; criticism of the Oslo Accords as too limited. What is now commonly held sometimes even by them, progressive Jews labeled anti-Semitic and self-hating.
The ethnic cleansing/permanent occupation facts on the ground left the station decades ago. So why, oh why, can’t progressive Jews admit it? My own sense is that they are so involved in American and Israeli empire, so deeply dependent on and benefitting from it, that like other Jews they are blind to what has already occurred to the Jewish ethical tradition. Instead, they invoke that tradition at every turn. Even against those Jews who believe that its very invocation covers over its violation.
I don’t exempt myself from this critique. How can I? Jews identity today is characterized by imperial sensibilities to such an extent that they are invisible to us. As in, who me? Us? No way.
Imperialism has penetrated so deeply into the core of what it means to be Jewish that calling them out provokes an intense reaction. It’s like a traumatic wound that cannot withstand the light of day. Like the idea that Jewish history has collapsed and that our post-Holocaust era is marked by atrocity, then – against us – and now – against others.
We live in the Golden Age of Empire Judaism. Shall we hide ourselves from this knowledge? Traveling globally, it’s like a secret known all over the world block. The question is our own awakening. To know and speak what is already known. By others. By us.
By nearly 9-to-1, Americans believe our support for Israel could lead to terrorist attacks
Jul 06, 2012
A Darmouth foreign policy poll of American attitudes, conducted in May and June, has interesting questions and answers regarding Israel. See Questions 49-52.
Q 49. A national interests question: 52 percent of Americans think the U.S. depends on Israel to protect “vital interests” in the Middle East. 17 percent don’t believe so.
Q 50: Another national interests question, we’re winning this one: 61 percent of Americans agree that “Current U.S. military, economic and political support for Israel angers many Muslims and makes terrorist attacks against the United States and our interests more likely.” Only 6.9 percent disagree.
And when you shake out Republicans and Democrats, 65 percent of Republicans agree, 61 percent of Democrats.
Q 51. Your congresspeople, are they more favorable to Israel than you are, or less? Democrats say they are more favorable, by 34 percent to 7 percent. (Just as favorable and don’t know: 58 percent). This suggests to me that the Democratic Party is out of step with its base on the issue.
The numbers are almost reversed for Republicans (with large blocs in both parties saying they don’t know or the politicians are just as favorable.)
Q 52: When it comes to influencing U.S. policy toward Israel and the Middle East, do you think that “pro-Israel lobby groups” have too much influence, or too little? Overall, people say too much by 28 percent to 13 percent. And Democrats say, Too much by 38 percent to 7 percent. Republicans are flipflopped (too little: 26 percent, too much, 13.5 percent). Again, a sign that the Democratic base is way to the left of the Democratic Party.
PS Jim Lobe was on to this a month back…
Military target from the nation’s top Navy SEAL training facility in Virginia. (Photo: Hyunsoo Leo Kim/Virginian-Pilot)
Until last week the “crown jewel of America’s military bases” used cardboard cutouts of veiled Muslim women for target practice in a training facility known as the “kill house.” The Virginian-Pilotreported the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story training facility in Virginia Beach installed the images in a Navy SEAL close combating training facility:
The 26,500-square-foot building contains 52 interconnected spaces, including mock-ups of markets, a hospital, schools, a bank, a bus depot and two mosques. It will allow small groups of SEALs to practice enemy engagement at close range.
Many of the details were taken from actual raids over the past decade.
The massive $11.5 million mock combat zone was designed by a company that specializes in building movie sets. Up to four military units can practice shooting Muslim women in dynamic settings:
In one section, nine chairs painted in primary hues sit behind desks in an elementary school classroom. Other rooms are more sinister, like a torture chamber accessed through a bus station wall.
But the images of women were removed after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) pressured the Pentagon. “This is a welcome first step, but a serious and comprehensive review is needed to deal with the issue of Islamophobia in military training,” said CAIR’s National executive director Nihad Awad.
The elimination of the offensive targets comes after another recent CAIR watchdog victory to curtail violent Islamophobia in the U.S. military’s educational system. After Wired published a curriculum that called to drop nuclear bombs on Mecca and Medina in a “total war” against Islam, CAIR spearheaded a campaign that caused the suspension of the instructor, Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley. The course, which had been offered for two years, espoused, “It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.”
Slide from Army Lt. Col Dooley’s PowerPoint presentation, “A Counter-Jihad Op Design Model.” (Image: Wired)
Presbyterians overwhelmingly vote for boycott of settlement products; endorse ‘choice of conscience’ option for pension holders to screen CAT, Moto, and HP from portfolios
Jul 06, 2012
Live video from your Android device on Ustream
(11:55 AM EST) In a surprise move, the Presbyterian General Assembly voted to endorse a “choice of conscience” option for pension holders who want to avoid investments in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett Packard. Anna Baltzer explains:
The assembly voted by 57% to accept a recommendation by the Board of Pensions (which supports divestment) for them to create a “choice of conscience” option for Pension holders troubled by investments in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett Packard, which would be voted on for approval at the next General Assembly.
The significance, in my initial interpretation:
1. The approval illustrates that investment in CAT, Moto, and HP represent a crisis of conscience for the church.
2. This would be, essentially, an occupation filter.
3. This shows that GA members support divestment in theory, but are scared for their church to recommend it, likely, I believe, due to fear of losing Jewish relationships. This is no consolation to those suffering under Israeli oppression, but it’s illustrative that people are not opposed, in principle, to divestment.
4. It’s a reminder that the entire church is for divestment — the Board of Pensions, Mission Responsibility Through Investment, Advisory Committee on Racial & Ethnic Concerns, etc. The Board of Pensions was so troubled by the votes that they tried to find a way ultimately to pursue divestment.
The exact wording of the proposal should be up at https://pc-biz.org/Committee2.aspx soon.
Correction: Baltzer sent this: “It was a commissioner, not the Board of Pensions, that made the proposal (though the Board of Pensions did support MRTI’s divestment recommendation).”
(10:35 AM EST) Presbyterian General Assembly votes for blanket boycott of goods produced in settlements:
The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) sent out the following release:
Presbyterian General Assembly Passes Boycott Motion
Following last night’s vote by the plenary of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on a motion to divest from three companies whose products are used in non-peaceful pursuits in the occupied Palestinian territories, the plenary has voted in favor of a separate resolution to boycott products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including Ahava Dead Sea beauty products and dates grown by Israeli cooperateive Hadiklaim.
Although the plenary failed to pass the divestment motion, its approval of the boycott resolution sends a strong signal nonetheless that the Presbyterian Church (USA) supports those Palestinians who are using peaceful means to secure their freedom and human rights in the face of Israel’s 45-year-old military occupation and colonization of their lands. The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) believes this is a positive step and hopes the church will continue to support Palestinians who are struggling nonviolently to achieve freedom and self-determination.
The razor thin margin of last night’s vote on divestment, which was defeated by just two votes, demonstrates that the General Assembly remains divided on both divestment and investment, and has failed to provide a clear mandate on these issues. Sadly, it is the millions of Palestinians living under occupation who will pay the price for this lack of a moral directive.
(10:16 AM EST) The Presbyterian General Assembly votes to drop several Israel/Palestine related items, saying that they fall under last night’s vote. This includes item 15-03 which called for divestment from Caterpillar. This means there will not be a separate vote on divesting from Caterpillar.
(9:55 AM EST) There was a vote on whether to reconsider last night’s decision on replacing divestment with investment in the occupied territories. The General Assembly voted 62% to 38% to not reconsider the vote.
Here are Twitter updates from the General Assembly:
Last night the the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly voted to endorse investment in the occupied Palestinian territories over an overture to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard due to their role in the occupation. The real vote came on a procedural move to substitute the divestment motion in favor of the investment proposal, and on that vote divestment lost 333 to 331, with 2 abstentions. Two votes away from a straight up vote on divestment.
Jewish Voice for Peace sent out the following press release:
Not Over Yet: Presbyterian vote to divest from companies that profit from Israel loses by just 2 votes.
Proponents vow to bring issue up again Friday.
[OAKLAND- July 5th, 2012] The Presbyterian Church USA vote to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard because the companies profit from the Israeli Occupation failed tonight by an extraordinarily narrow margin of 333 to 331, with 2 abstentions.
Resolution proponents, who relied on a cadre of Christian and Jewish volunteers and a shoe-string budget— in sharp contrast to divestment opponents who have pledged to spend millions to fight divestment — have vowed to continue the fight on Friday. A critical vote on boycotting settlement goods will also take place.
Rabbi Alissa Wise, Jewish Voice for Peace Director of Campaigns, who had been in Pittsburgh at the General Assembly where the votes are taking places said, “It’s too early to know what is going to happen, but I have been moved to tears on multiple occasions as I saw authentic recognition of Palestinian experience and deep commitment to justice for all people by the Presbyterian Church. This is a historic moment in the struggle for dignity and justice, and I commend the PC(USA) for getting us this close to holding corporations accountable for profiting from the occupation. I suggest we all wait to see what unfolds on Friday.”
Here is how the New York Times describes the scene:
A deeply divided Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Thursday became the latest American church to shy away from divesting in companies that supply equipment to Israel to enforce its control in the occupied territories, after a passionate debate that stretched late into the evening and a vote that was nearly a tie.
The decision not to divest, the culmination of an eight-year process, was watched intensely by Christians, Jews and Palestinians in the United States and in the Middle East. It is likely to bring a sigh of relief to Jewish groups in Israel and the United States that lobbied Presbyterians against divestment, and to dismay the international movement known as B.D.S. — Boycott, Divest and Sanctions — which advocates using economic leverage to pressure Israel to return occupied land to the Palestinians.
By a vote of 333 to 331, with two abstentions, the church’s General Assembly voted at its biennial meeting in Pittsburgh to toss out the divestment measure and replace it with a resolution to encourage “positive investment” in the occupied territories. The results were so close that, when posted electronically in front of the convention, they evoked a collective gasp. After two and a half hours of passionate debate, the replacement resolution to invest in the territories passed more easily, 369 to 290, with eight abstentions.
There are more votes on the docket this morning, including a possible vote on divestment from Caterpillar. You can see here the overtures that passed the Middle East and Peacemaking Committee of the General Assembly. Last night the vote was on item 15-11, but divestment from Caterpillar is also raised in item 15-03. It is unclear whether this will be brought to a separate vote. In addition there will be a vote on item 15-02 which has been expanded to include a boycott on all products produced in Israeli settlements.
More updates to come . . .