The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a pro-Israel public relations organization, recently published a letter to the Presbyterian church in advance of its general assembly, to warn them against supporting divestment from companies supporting the occupation. David Glick, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and Northern California Friends of Sabeel, responds:
I am deeply saddened and disappointed, though not surprised, at the recent letter the Jewish Council for Public Affairs sent to the Presbyterian Church. Unlike the letter, I find nothing at all objectionable in the efforts of the Presbyterian Church to selectively divest from three American corporations that are profiting from business that perpetuates Israel’s brutal occupation of the West Bank which is illegal under international law.
In my opinion, the Presbyterian proposal is extremely circumspect and careful not to offend Jewish sensibilities. It does not call for divesting from Israel proper, nor does it even call for divesting from products produced in the West Bank. If any thing. I should think the Jewish Council for Public Affairs should delight in the proposal and thank the Presbyterians for being so careful and precise in the target of their divestment efforts.
I hasten to add, as a member of Jewish Voice for Peace who is the grandson of a revered rabbi and the nephew of an uncle who saved innumerable Jewish lives by getting them out of Nazi Germany, I believe the JCPA letter is predicated on a false equivalence of the suffering that Palestinians and Israeli Jews are enduring. I believe the genuine love and concern the signers of the letter have for the Jewish people has made it difficult for them to see the enormity of the Palestinians’ suffering and how the ongoing occupation and its rapacious settlement policy is now the main obstacle to any possibility at all of ending this tragic conflict.
The letter speaks of the hope of reconciliation while ignoring the necessity of first ending an injustice that here and now is perpetuating the conflict. “Justice justice shall you pursue,” we Jews are admonished by our faith. Instead the letter would have us invest in more “meaningful co-existence programs” in the hope of fostering peace between Israelis and Palestinians and helping leaders of the Jewish and Protestant communities to develop a deeper understanding of the “multiple narratives of the conflict.”
I believe there was a time for such dialogue and it was once helpful and necessary. Regrettably, in my opinion, that time is long past. I see an unfortunate parallel between on-going dialogue work and the on-going peace process. Both seem to proceed apace indefinitely while Israel, by far the stronger party to the conflict, continues to gobble up more and more Palestinian land, virtually making any two-state solution impossible and heaping suffering upon suffering on the Palestinian people.
It seems to me that if the Jewish Council for Public Affairs was sincere in its professed support for a two-state solution, it would at the very least promptly issue a statement seeking an end to any and all U.S. tax deductions that support Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The occupation perpetuates violence against the Palestinian people on a daily basis and as the victims of that violence they have the right to choose their own method of resistance. As an advocate of non-violence, I am glad Palestinian civil society, in initiating the BDS movement, has chosen a non-violent approach based on international law and human rights. The Presbyterian proposal is not even a call for BDS, but only selective divestment of three American corporations financially benefitting from their support of this brutal and illegal occupation.
The JCPA letter claims “Many of the major proponents of divestment do not support the right of Israel to exist…” This is a serious misunderstanding. What some of these advocates of divestment reject is the establishment of Israel as a “Jewish” state as that then privileges the rights of Israeli Jews over its non-Jewish Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens.
I despair that Israel’s shameful policies toward the Palestinians, both inside and outside Israel, is perpetuating the very anger toward Israel among Palestinians and many around the world, that is then fueling the fears of Israelis. That, in turn, makes Israel more intransigent thus perpetuating the cycle. While I recognize this dilemma, as the stronger party to the conflict and the one in violation of international law, it is in Israel’s self-interest to take genuine steps to end this conflict. That, regrettably, is something the Council’s letter fails to understand.
Read the JCPA’s original letter, and background information at MondoWeiss.