US Churches Take Stand Against Israeli
WASHINGTON, 20 November 2004 — Appalled by squalid living conditions of Palestinians in the occupied territories, several American churches have decided to take a stand against the Israeli occupation by proposing a “divestment of holdings by multinational corporations doing business with Israel” who, they say, are profiting from the occupation.
The possible divestment process could result in the sale of stock in June 2006.
The Presbyterian Church has spearheaded the call for possible divestments, saying four of its six divestment criteria target the Israeli occupation — including the construction of Jewish settlements.
It also intends to identify multinational corporations “that enable violence by either Palestinians or Israelis.”
been swift. The decision has resulted in a barrage of protests ranging from
an intense campaign by Jewish organizations and members of Congress who want
to stop the divestment movement — to violent threats against Presbyterian
Churches throughout the
church’s announcement, 13 congressmen wrote a letter to the US Department of Commerce
stating that the divestment subject violates
The letter was
initiated by the Zionist Organization of America. The congressmen urged the
office to “investigate the national boycott campaign against
Another group of congressmen then sent a letter to the Presbyterian Church’s chief executive, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, asking the church to dump its divestment plan.
The driving force behind the letter, Howard Berman, D-California, termed the church’s divestment policy “irresponsible, counterproductive and morally bankrupt.”
The letter stated
that the resolution “leads us to only one conclusion: The Presbyterian Church
has knowingly gone on record calling for jeopardizing the existence of the
Leaders of Jewish
groups have also met with members of the Presbyterian Church to express their
anger over the decision, which resulted in a proposal to organize joint trips
But protests have continued, and Presbyterian Churches throughout the US announced they are increasing security after an anonymous letter threatening to burn down churches in retaliation “for your anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes” was sent from Queens (a borough in New York City) to the church’s headquarters in Kentucky.
Newsday, a Long Island based newspaper: “The Queens letter received last week
“There will be arson attacks against the Presbyterian Churches with people inside. There will be bloodshed,” the letter states.
The FBI is investigating.
Anti-Defamation League, a
But the Zionist
Organization of America (ZOA) and the B’nai B’rith have not withdrawn their call “for all Jewish
organizations to end all dialogue” with the Presbyterian Church “in response
to the Presbyterians’ call on corporations worldwide to cancel their
The ZOA slammed
the church, saying it “denounced
President Morton A. Klein said: “No dialogue is possible with those who
Kevin Eckstrom of the Religion News Service reported that “church headquarters in Louisville, Ky., has been ‘inundated’ with hundreds of angry phone calls and e-mails from Jews” on these subjects.
however, have sided with the Presbyterian Church. The Jewish Voice for Peace,
The swell of criticism and the threat of violence surprised many members within the church.
“This policy came
up from the church’s grassroots, a church in
The church “has
yet to even decide whether it will divest,” the source said, adding the
council was surprised by “the letters from Congress saying our move
undermines the security of
But the source said the church has also received a groundswell of support for their decision. “Because they feel it broke through the impasse and allowed us to focus on the treatment of the Palestinian civilians.”
The decision also caused tensions within the church hierarchy. “The strong reaction from Jewish communities has caused a lot of infighting in our church,” said the source. “It’s a weird situation, the church had a meeting earlier this week and it seems the most vocal people against the divestment are those who formed alliances with the Jewish community in the 1960s.”
But the attacks have caused officials in the Presbyterian Church to dig in their heels. “I’m really proud of the fact that there are a few key people within the church who believe that what they are doing is right and aren’t willing to back down,” said the source.
Josh Reubner, grassroots advocacy coordinator for the US
Campaigns and the Israeli Occupation (www.endtheoccupation.org), a diverse
nationwide coalition of 175 organizations that work to end
“It’s the Commerce Department that is breaking US law by licensing caterpillar bulldozers to be sold to the Israeli Army in full knowledge that Israel is using these bulldozers in contravention of the US Arms Expert Control Act and Foreign Assistance Act.”
Reubner said there is “tremendous” pressure being put on the Presbyterian Church to reverse its decision. “But I’m hopeful that the church will stick with its clear, moral decision and not relent under pressure from extremists.”