Not yet

The answer to my earlier post Presbyterian divestment coming? is: “Not yet.” The Jerusalem Post reports:

US Presbyterian Church rejects Israel divestment
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) rejects by a slim margin of 333-331 a motion to divest from companies it says provide Israel services that aid occupation of West Bank.

The largest Presbyterian church in the US narrowly voted against divesting its portfolio from three companies that have been accused of selling Israel products and providing services used to oppress Palestinians in the West Bank, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Thursday.

By a margin of 333-331 with two abstentions, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), being held in Pittsburgh, rejected a motion to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.

The church’s General Assembly instead passed a minority report that avoided divestment, but encouraged investing in businesses that operate for peace in Palestine, according to the Post-Gazette.

The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body for the church, which has some 2 million members.

A 2011 church report found that Caterpillar supplies bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes, Motorola provides cell phone technology to West Bank settlements and Hewlett-Packard manages information technology for the Israeli Navy. The decision to vote on divestment came after the companies allegedly refused the church’s entreaties to change their policies in regard to providing services to Israel.

Several Jewish groups came out against the move, including the left-leaning Americans for Peace Now and J Street.

“We believe that divestment campaigns such as this are misguided and counterproductive,” said APN President and CEO Debra DeLee. “By targeting Israel rather than the occupation, this divestment campaign creates the impression that PC (USA) is making common cause with historically virulently anti-Israel organizations and individuals, who are often not interested in Israeli security concerns or Palestinian behavior but in Israel’s destruction. Divestment campaigns such as this therefore raise very real and understandable worries about global anti-Semitism and the perception that the campaigns are not truly (or only) about Israeli policies but rather reflect a deep-seated hatred for and rejection of Israel.”

J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami called the possible divestment an “unproductive path.”

“I would say to the Church’s leaders as they again consider joining forces with the BDS Movement, that the Movement’s rhetoric and tactics are not only a distraction, but a genuine threat to conflict resolution. Even the limited divestment approach under consideration by PCUSA falls under the rubric of larger BDS efforts to place blame entirely on one side of the conflict. Such an approach encourages not reconciliation, but polarization. Further, too many in and around the BDS movement refuse to acknowledge either the legitimacy of Israel or the right of the Jewish people as well as the Palestinian people to a state,” he said.

(If Americans for Peace Now and J Street were opposed, you knew it had to be a truly hateful move!)

Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, was at the convention, and had been speaking with Church leaders about toning down the resolution in the days prior to the vote, according to a JCPA spokesman.

The Jewish Voice for Peace, a proponent of divestment had lobbied in favor of the resolution. Following the divestment measure’s defeat, the group said in a statement that a vote on boycotting settlement goods was expected to take place on Friday.

Rabbi Alissa Wise, Jewish Voice for Peace Director of Campaigns who was present at the General Assembly in Pittsburgh said following the vote: “This is a historic moment in the struggle for dignity and justice, and I commend the PC(USA) for getting us this close to holding corporations accountable for profiting from the occupation. I suggest we all wait to see what unfolds on Friday.”

I don’t know where the title of Rabbi comes from, but whoever gave it to Alissa Wise (sic) should be asking for it back. That title is being besmirched and held open to ridicule by such nonsense.

Though, not in the way Wise intended, it was a historic moment in the struggle for dignity and justice precisely because BDS failed. Again. Their snake oil pitch (as the excellent divestthis.com puts it) has nothing to do with dignity and justice, and much more to do with hate. As another commentator (Bainbridge) says, BDS is anti-semitic, bad economics and politics, and a breach of fiduciary duty.

Unfortunately, in modern politics, that’s no guarantee of failure.