Over the past couple of months I’ve gotten drawn into the battle a lot of advocacy for Israel and the Jewish people. I helped draft and disseminate a statement on the crazy Ralph Messer-Eddie Long Torah ceremony that went viral on You Tube back in January, and a couple of statements concerning the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference in March, with its underlying agenda of replacement theology. Now we’ve just issued a statement warning the United Methodist Church of the ramifications of their potential decision to divest from some companies doing business with Israel. You can read the background and download the statement here: http://umjc.org/home-mainmenu-1/advocacy/765-introducing-the-advocacy-blog.
The divestment movement has infested several mainstream Protestant denominations and the Presbyterians will be considering a proposal similar to the Methodist one this summer. Divestment, put simply, is the opposite of investment. It means selling off stock in companies that sell equipment to Israel that supports what they call the “occupation.” The proposals try to define the divestment narrowly, but then they state clearly that they’re against the “occupation” period, not just to particular policies that they oppose. They don’t seem to even think about why Israel has a military presence in parts of the West Bank, or has built a barrier wall to prevent terrorist attack, or maintains a blockade against Gaza (which is still firing rockets regularly into Israel). It wouldn’t bother me if the churches decided to divest in all companies selling arms or other military equipment to anyone. I could respect a position like that. But in the midst of all the abuses, tensions, and military abuses in the world, they take the UN approach of focusing most of their moral outrage on Israel, which actually has good reason to be militarily involved.
Another troubling thing about the divestment proposals is that they’re part of the larger BDS movement –Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanction against Israel. The precedent for this kind of action is South Africa, where it actually helped to overthrow the apartheid regime. That’s why opponents of Israel love to label it as “apartheid,” and are mobilizing the same tactics there. Even if it were just for a church not to invest their funds in a company providing equipment to Israel for military purposes (which it isn’t), it would still be unjust to add fuel to the BDS movement, which lies about the nature of Israel and would love to pressure it out of existence.
It’s ironic that the liberal Protestant denominations, which have a genuine concern for justice, are ignoring the injustice of demanding unilateral concessions from Israel that would lead to the end of the Jewish state.