Presbyterian Church (USA) Keeps Hate at Bay (for Now)
By a two-vote margin (333-331), the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) decided not to sell the church’s stock in three companies that make equipment used by the Israeli military – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola. Instead, the General Assembly voted to engage in positive investment in the West Bank.
With this vote, which took place last week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the PC (USA) General Assembly – the church’s legislative body – defeated a proposal made by the denomination’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee, which is charged with ensuring that the church’s funds are invested in peaceful pursuits.
The MRTI had informed the General Assembly that it was time to remove the companies from the PC (USA)’s investment portfolio because they would either not talk to church officials or had made it clear that they were not going to prevent the use of their products by Israel despite the church’s complaints.
On a pragmatic level, the companies in question were absolutely right to ignore PC (USA)’s complaints.
Simply put, the church is dying.
In 1998, it had close to 2.6 million members. Today, it has approximately 1.9 million members. In 2008, less than nine percent of the members of this denomination were between the ages of 18 and 34.
But on a moral plane, the overture demonizes Israel by highlighting and singling out its alleged sins in an unmistakable way. All three companies that the denomination was contemplating divesting from do business in China, an oppressive regime that uses prison labor (lagoai) to boost its economic productivity, harvests organs from death row inmates, and forces young mothers to abort their children against their will.
MRTI was not targeting these companies for doing business with China, but because their products were used by Israel against Palestinians whose leaders have refused to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and have, to varying degrees, allowed terrorists to attack Israeli civilians from the territory they control.
Despite this obvious double standard, MRTI’s recommendation was supported by the denomination’s leadership in Louisville, Kentucky, peace and justice activists in the denomination, and activists from Jewish Voice for Peace, who were out in force at the General Assembly.
While these activists were disappointed by their failure to convince the church to divest from Caterpillar and the other targeted companies, they were able to convince the General Assembly to approve a boycott of Israeli goods made in the West Bank.
This boycott resolution passed after the General Assembly heard testimony from Noushin Framke, a prominent Presbyterian “peace” activist who denies the need for and legitimacy of a Jewish state, has written that Israeli soldiers “are not human beings” and once encouraged Hamas to hold onto kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit as a bargaining chip in its conflict with Israel. Despite this, Framke was called up to the front of the General Assembly and provide information about the boycott overture.
Framke, who was spoke to the General Assembly by virtue of her position as chair of the spoke as chair of the denomination’s Advisory Committee on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, achieved prominence in the PC (USA) through her involvement in the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), an organization created by the General Assembly in 2004. Since its creation, the organization has been trafficking in anti-Zionist, and in some instances, anti-Semitic imagery and propaganda. For example, it once posted cartoon of President Barack Obama with Jewish stars hanging from his ears like earrings on its Facebook page. (Framke, by the way, clicked “like” on this image.)
These are the type of people who provide information about the Arab-Israeli conflict to the PC (USA) which has been fighting about its stance on Israel since 2004 when its General Assembly approved an overture that instructed MRTI initiate process of phased, selective divestment from companies that do business with Israel.
The text of this overture declared that the occupation had “proven to be at the root of evil acts committed against innocent people on both sides of the conflict.” Even Rabbis for Human Rights, a pro-Palestinian organization headquartered in Israel, condemned the passage of this overture.
Two years later, the 2006 General Assembly apologized for the hurt feelings caused by the 2004 vote, rescinded the LANGUAGE singling Israel out for divestment, but did not stop the divestment process that had been set in motion by the 2004.
In fact, the General Assembly instructed MRTI to use the “customary corporate engagement process” in ensuring the peaceful nature of its investments in Israel and the territories. In other words, the General Assembly reaffirmed a pre-existing process by which MRTI could call on the denomination to divest from companies that do business with Israel. It was this process that led to divestment being on the GA’s agenda in Pittsburgh.
This bureaucratic mechanism used to single Israel out for condemnation is still in place and it is highly like that yet another divestment overture targeting the Jewish state will be on the agenda at the PC (USA)’s next General Assembly, scheduled to take place in 2014. The denomination’s so-called peace and human rights activists are simply obsessed with Israel.
The obsession these activists have with Israel is reflected in the General Assembly’s agenda which included a dozen overtures related to Israel and none whatsoever related to the ethnic cleansing of Christians from Iraq and attacks against Christians in Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya. There was however a proposal (which failed to make it out of committee) to condemn Israel for failing to “protect Christian Holy sites throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.”
Just to make it clear, Christians are murdered and churches are torched and bombed in Muslim-majority countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, but Presbyterians say virtually nothing. They do however, proffer an overture that condemns Israel, the one country in the region where the population of indigenous Christians is growing, for failing to protect the rights of Christians.
On a rational level, this does not make any sense, but rationality has nothing to do with the so-called peace and human rights activism that takes place in the PC (USA).
The people who submit the resolutions targeting Israel are not interested in human rights, or peace in the Middle East.
They are offended by Jewish power and sovereignty, pure and simple.
And they will be back again in 2014.