A letter from Jerusalem
Next week starting on April 23, representatives from the United Methodist Church will gather in Tampa, FL, to participate in a historic vote on whether to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. I hope you and everyone you know will join me now in asking them to vote yes on divestment. By doing so, these church members will be taking a stand for Jews, a stand for Palestinians and a stand for Justice.
I wish I could convey my message in person, but I am now in Jerusalem, a divided city. An 8-meter-high wall stands in the distance separating tens of thousands of Palestinians from their city center, neighborhoods and surrounding villages. Palestinian life in Jerusalem is becoming more and more difficult. Over 1,000 Palestinians face imminent eviction in the Silwan neighborhood alone. An estimated 20,000 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem face demolition orders.(1)
The wall and the checkpoints around it are equipped with Motorola Solutions and with Hewlett-Packard equipment. The demolitions are carried out with Caterpillar bulldozers. With this vote to divest from these companies, the Methodist Church has a unique chance to send a message that it is never right to profit from harming others.
Just this week, I went to Bethlehem with a friend who is visiting Israel. We took the Palestinian bus #21 into the city center of Bethlehem near Bethlehem University and then a taxi to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. There were many groups from all over the world — but the majority of them travel on tour bus from Jerusalem, where they sleep, for the day. The taxi driver spoke of how nearly no individual tourists stay in Bethlehem or speak with the local Palestinian residents.
This is one “success” of the Israeli occupation: dehumanizing the local population, not just to the majority of Israeli citizens who almost never interact with Palestinians, but to the world. As a person of faith, I hope I never lose sight of the humanness of each of G-d’s creatures – all created btzelem elohim – in G-d’s image. We must hold up hope in the Palestinian people, and even in the Israeli who occupies them.
One thing I have learned this year is that Israel needs our help to reconcile its wrong here. Too many Israelis are too comfortable with the status quo and change needs to be encouraged. Thoughtful divestment practices can encourage this change. By disassociating from corporations that reinforce the occupation of Palestine, we all send a message that our US dollars will not be used to further the occupation. We will resist the way in which the occupation dehumanizes the Palestinian people when it surrounds them by walls, and when it dehumanizes the Israeli people who disconnect themselves from their neighbors and from human possibility.
Our ethical values matter. So do our dollars. Let the two be aligned and divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard. There are others, but this is a start and your message will be heard.
Stand with Jews. Stand with Palestinians. Stand with Justice.
Rabbinical student, member of JVP’s Rabbinical Council
(1) Jerusalem is at the heart of the Palestinian struggle. The Guardian, Mar 27, 2012 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/27/jerusalem-heart-palestinian-struggle)