Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Divest in Democracy

A Jewish Perspective

Last year the Presbyterian Church voted a resolution calling on churches to give up their investments in Israel, in protest of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. The reactions presented here on both sides of this issue, interestingly enough, were all written by Jews.

Shamai Leibowitz, in the March 24th edition of The Electronic Intifada wrote,
     The Presbyterian Church took a positive step in this direction when in July 2004 its General Assembly passed a resolution calling for selective divestment from companies that profit from the occupation. This past February the World Council of Churches, which brings together more than 340 churches worldwide, issued a similar resolution. While criticizing the severe human rights abuses inherent in the occupation and the construction of the illegal West Bank wall, these resolutions also affirm the right of the State of Israel to exist securely and peacefully, and they categorically reject the tragic cycle of indiscriminate violence perpetrated by both sides against innocent civilian populations.
Mr. Leibowitz, like many people on the left, offer no prescription for achieving the "right of the State of Israel to exist securely and peacefully". Any attempt at self-defense on the part of the Jewish state is not permissible. We are required to put our faith in the eternal "peace process", and somehow peace will come about. Any attempt on the part of Israel to fight back against the terrorists who would destroy it is condemned as contributing to the "cycle of violence".

Aside from wishful thinking and moral preening, the World Council of Churches has nothing to offer as a practical means of attaining the elusive peace. Make nice with the thug who comes to kill you. Close your eyes and cross your fingers, and maybe he will go away.

Not everyone agrees, however. Some Jews are planning a counter-campaign. In the April 1st Jewish Week, James D. Besser reports:
     Frustrated that dialogue is proving fruitless in the protracted fight with the Presbyterian Church (USA) over the explosive divestment issue, Jewish groups are set to break off or limit talks with the mainline Christian denomination.
And in another escalation of the fight over economic sanctions on Israel, a prominent Jewish group has started to purchase stocks in companies that could be targets of divestment campaigns.
Their goal: to fight divestment from inside the boardroom.
"I'm a firm believer in the value of communication and dialogue," said Paul Miller, president of the American Jewish Congress, which this week became the first Jewish group to launch a shareholder action campaign since the divestment issue emerged last year. "But at the same time, I believe it's important to take affirmative action. And this is a time for affirmative action."
A nice phrase, that: affirmative action. Maybe it will catch on.

On March 3rd, writing in Washington Jewish Week, Rabbi David J. Forman said,
     ...it is incumbent upon the world religious community to monitor Jewish behavior and condemn it if necessary in order to protect its own sense of moral and religious self-righteousness. One who condemns another's actions feels he is elevating his own standard of behavior. Every time Israel is roundly criticized, a non-Jew can feel a sense of superiority.
Yes, the moral superiority of the Presbyterian Church is undeniable. They were on the front lines protesting the brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet, and the ongoing human rights abuses there, were they not? No?

Surely they were the first to protest the presence of Cuba on the U.N. Human Rights Commission... Well, maybe that communiqué will be issued next week.

And the Presbyterians were up in arms about the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and the gassing of the Kurds by Saddam, and the abuse and disenfranchisement of women in much of the Muslim world... NOT.

No, for some peculiar reason it is the Jews of Israel who are singled out, the same Jews who run a successful democracy in an implacably hostile neighborhood and have survived for more than half a century against all the odds. The Jews, whose self-defense is waged under the most stringent human-rights standards in the world, more stringent than those of the United States. If the countries of the EU had any ability to defend themselves, they would not do so more ethically than Israel.

The UN has dedicated an entire agency to maintaining festering camps of Jew-hating refugees on Israel's borders; it has not done so for any other country. Only Israel is forbidden by the edict of the UN to construct a wall defending its citizens from those who would destroy it. Only Israel is singled out for condemnation in resolution after resolution for the simple act of defending itself.

Perhaps the Presbyterian Church has forgotten another form of human-rights abuse. As Rabbi Forman has said: I must also protest the most basic human rights offense committed against my people, as demonstrated anew by the edicts of both the Presbyterian Church and now the World Council of Churches: The human rights abuse of anti-Semitism.

3 comments:

Brian H said...

Yes, they seem to be immune to any awareness of hypocrisy. I doubt there's any cure.

Bill said...

And the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) is not far behind.

Baron Bodissey said...

Not to mention the Episcopalians.

The cure would be the same one the Episcopal Church is experiencing over the homosexual bishop controversy: the disgust of the laity translates into withheld pledges, or even departure from the church. Watching those dollars dwindle is a powerful incentive, even for the self-righteously comfortable.