Why Presbyterian Divestment Feels Like Anti-Semitism

From the Pews: The Presbyterian divestment votes doesn’t look like harmless nonviolent protest from Israel.

This article originally appeared in the Forward, June 25, 2014. Reproduced from there by permission of the Forward.

— by Jane Eisner

In a hotel ballroom in Jerusalem jammed with journalists from all over the Jewish world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a rambling speech that covered everything from Iran’s nuclear ambitions to an Israeli cow that he claims produces more milk than any other cow in the world. Really.

But I want to focus on his riff about the Presbyterians.

[Read more…]

Presbyterian Church General Assembly Votes Against Divestment

— by Sharon Bender

B’nai B’rith International commends the commissioners at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for again resisting a formidable campaign for punitive, one-sided action on the Middle East. They chose positive investment instead of divestment, voting against a resolution supporting divestment from three American companies engaged in business with Israel. They also rejected the slurring of Israeli policy with the label of “apartheid.” However, the church did separately encourage countries to prohibit products made by Israelis in disputed territories.

More after the jump.
From June 30 through July 7, the PC(USA) is convening in Pittsburgh for its General Assembly, the primary policymaking body of the 2 million-member mainline Protestant denomination.

By a vote of 333-331-2, delegates opted on July 5 to replace a church overture for divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard with one on constructive investment. This motion was later adopted by a vote of 369-290-8.

Although deliberations at the assembly continue, and some resolutions-including the one on goods made by Ahava and other companies producing in Palestinian-claimed territories-signal areas of important disagreement with our organization on Israel’s record and circumstances, a significant number of Presbyterians have continued to show their desire to avoid many of the most immoderate and harmful proposals.

They have done so in the face of assertions by some speakers that Israel is guilty of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing” and “the worst form of terrorism,” responsible for inspiring 9/11. One speaker, hinting at Presbyterian-Jewish relations, said that Jesus didn’t worry about relations with the Pharisees when he cleansed the Temple and challenged tax-collectors and priests.

Presbyterians working to enhance understanding of the complex conditions in the Middle East deserve appreciation for their efforts.

Several mainline Protestant denominations have debated and declined proposals to single out companies doing business with Israel for economic sanctions. Today, July 6, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, although not scheduled to consider divestment, will discuss resolutions on the Middle East, including several on investment issues and on adopting for study “Kairos Palestine,” an inflammatory 2009 Palestinian Christian document that called for indiscriminate boycotts of the Jewish state.  

Israel Under Attack: The Presbyterian Church USA

Israel is, once again, under attack.  This time I refer not to the rockets which have been fired at Israel from Gaza and from the Sinai Peninsula.  These new attacks are coming from our neighbors here, the national organizations of the Methodists and the Presbyterians (PCUSA), the liberal Protestant denominations in this country.  Each organization is considering resolutions comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of South African Blacks during Apartheid. Each has called upon its constituents to boycott Israel until Israel admits to adhering to racist policies. Only after such admissions, according to these resolutions, can Israel and the Palestinians work toward peace. [Read more…]

JWI Leads Efforts to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act was drafted by Sen. Joe Biden in 1994. It was passed by Congress and signed by Pres. Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994. It needs to reauthorized this year.

Almost 45 Faith-Based Organizations Sign Onto Letter in Support of the Bi-Partisan Legislation

— by Ann Rose Greenberg

Jewish Women International (JWI) is spearheading efforts to unify the faith community in support of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) during this session of Congress.  More than 40 national religious institutions and organizations, representing tens of millions of individuals and families across the United States,  have signed a letter to Members of Congress to ensure that VAWA —  our nation’s single most effective tool in responding to the devastating crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking — is reauthorized this year.

“As people of faith, members of the clergy, advocates, and anti-violence professionals, it is critical that we bring our collective voices together to advocate for VAWA’s lifesaving programs and services,” said executive director, Lori Weinstein. “In these tough economic times, the reauthorization of VAWA is essential and cannot be taken for granted. The faith community will stand strong to ensure the passage of strong, bipartisan legislation.”

More after the jump.
“The organizations that have signed on to this letter represent diverse religious traditions,” said Miri Cypers, JWI senior policy and advocacy specialist. “It is encouraging that we can come together to support legislation aimed at improving the federal government’s response to violence against women and girls. We recognize that this reauthorization process affords us a unique opportunity to increase the faith community’s leadership in passing legislation that is more responsive to the changing needs of victims of violence.”

Since the original passage of VAWA in 1994, the legislation has dramatically enhanced the nation’s response to violence against women. More victims report domestic violence to the police; the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 63%; and VAWA saved nearly $14.8 billion in net averted social costs in just its first six years. But violent crimes against women are still perpetrated each day. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women has been raped in her lifetime and nearly 1 in 4 women has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

JWI also convenes the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition, a national effort for faith based organizations, many of which have signed on to the letter, to come together to provide policy and legislative guidance on domestic violence issues. The coalition advocates for national legislation and public policies that protect all people from domestic violence, with particular concern for women and children. It represents many faiths and denominations and millions of congregants spanning the Jewish, Muslim, Bahá’í, United Methodist, Catholic, Evangelical, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Latter-day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventist and Unitarian Universalist communities.

Jewish Women International is the leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls through economic literacy, community training, healthy relationships education, and the proliferation of women’s leadership. Our innovative programs, advocacy, and philanthropic initiatives protect the fundamental rights of all girls and women to live in safe homes, thrive in healthy relationships, and realize the full potential of their personal strength. For more information, please visit www.jwi.org or contact us at 800.343.2823.