As the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), I have been proud to support the efforts of the Presbyterian Church to address Israel’s 45-year Occupation, and especially those of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), in translating a courageous moral stand against oppression into concrete actions.
Dear General Assembly Mission Council and General Assembly Commissioners, and all our friends and compatriots in the PC (USA) community,
As the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), I have been proud to support the efforts of the Presbyterian Church to address Israel’s 45-year Occupation, and especially those of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), in translating a courageous moral stand against oppression into concrete actions. (Being a graduate of Macalester College, where my mentor, Chaplain Maxwell Adams, would certainly have supported your positions, makes me doubly proud to be part of your community.)
I have worked with MRTI for many years on the issue of the Occupation. I have shared information with the Committee’s members (especially regarding Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes, now numbering over 26,000, including Beit Arabiya, a home visited by many Presbyterian delegations that was demolished two weeks ago for the fifth time). I have hosted MRTI fact-finding missions here in Israel/Palestine and have served as a resource person in its meetings in the US. I have also been privileged to participate in three General Assemblies (with another ICAHD representative attending a fourth). I know the MRTI members and have always been impressed by their professionalism, the thoroughness of their research and the clarity of their publications, as well as by their moral thoughtfulness when it comes to such an issue as the Occupation, so entwined with the sensitivities of Christian-Jewish history and relations.
Certainly the measures advocated by MRTI, which have steadily gained support in the larger Church itself, are responsible and effective ones. In fact, targeting Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard for divestment until they have ceased profiting from
the Occupation emanates directly from the mandate MRTI was given by the General Assembly: identifying companies profiting from the occupation, engaging with them, which MRTI has done for the past six years or so, and only then calling for divestment. It is clear that this process has been exhausted, and
that the GA’s card “has been called” by these corporations. Not to respond drags Presbyterians into active if non-direct complicity with these companies in suppressing the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom. The GA must disassociate itself morally and institutionally from such policies while actively trying to end the oppression itself, all of which a precisely-targeted and fairly implemented divestment campaign does.
As part of the Israeli peace camp, I can testify as to how important your support is to us, not to mention how vital it is to the beleaguered and isolated Palestinians themselves. Knowing this, as you well do, should help you put into perspective the expected attacks by segments of the organized Jewish community such as the JCPA. According to their own website, one of its senior officials and the head of its “Israel Action Network” that prepared the statement attacking you “communicates regularly with U.S. government representatives and maintains an ongoing liaison with senior Israeli officials in Jerusalem and the United States.” These organizations of self-appointed “leaders” do not speak for the wider Jewish community, some 70% of which are not affiliated with any synagogue, Federation or Jewish organization. They represent a portion of the 30%, and even here they get their marching orders from the Israeli government, which uses them to attack those who oppose the Occupation. The “officials” representing the JCPA are neither elected nor are they known to the vast majority of Jews. They may certainly express their opinions and even those of the organizations they represent, but their views cannot be taken as representative of the broader Jewish community in any way.
In fact, their “views” are only that: views – and even then the view of the Israeli government. As is common with such organizations claiming to be supporting Israel (but actually doing it great harm in the long term), the JCPA’s criticism is not based on a disagreement over facts or analyses, which they cannot confront, but rather over “intentions” (to “delegitimize” Israel, etc., etc.). Worse, they cast legitimate and necessary opposition to something as fundamental as an Occupation that has deprived millions of people of their basic rights and even lands, homes, livelihoods and identities, as somehow “anti-Semitic,” as if violations of human rights and the denial of social justice – though issues that define American Jewry – can be reconciled with Jewish history and values. The truth is that a position based on human rights, that of MRTI and of the PC(USA) in general, is a “Jewish” position.
We in Israel who work tirelessly for peace are comforted that MRTI exists, is active and receives the support it does from the Presbyterian Church. We urge you to continue to give practical expression to your moral concerns by supporting the divestment campaign, and not to let external attacks divide you or weaken your resolve. We look forward to the day when we all come together at Beit Arabiya to celebrate the end of Occupation and the dawn of a just peace. In that you will all have been instrumental.
In solidarity,Jeff Halper Director Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions