June 25, 2014 at 1:00 am


The case for divestment from Israel

Nolan Finley’s June 22 column (“Divest, sure, but not from Israel”) was a flame-throwing polemic against the Presbyterian Church (USA), for its June 20th vote to divest its funds from three U.S. corporations – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions – that are heavily involved in some of Israel’s most destructive practices in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

The process followed by the church in deciding to divest was patient, open-minded, and respectful to all perspectives, a 10-year soul-searching process devoid of political posturing and polemic and unmarred by anti-Semitism.

The church’s main concern was that a decision to divest would alienate its many Jewish friends and close allies in interfaith work on social issues. To its credit, the church ultimately decided to follow its conscience instead of its anxieties. As approved, the Overture (resolution) also reaffirmed church support for a two-state solution, its earlier commitment to invest in projects in the West and East that support bridge-building between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, and friendship with Jewish people in the U.S.

The plenary vote to divest followed a week of serious and intense deliberations in committee. A packed hearing room heard testimony from young Detroiters of Jewish and Palestinian backgrounds and from Palestinian refugees about the inhumanity of life under the Israeli occupation and the impact of Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions in maintaining the occupation. These impacts include the continuing bulldozing of thousands of Palestinian homes and seizures of Palestinian lands, all in violation of longstanding international humanitarian laws, and the computerized I.D. technology that has turned the Palestinian territories into a surveillance state, where Palestinians’ movement is closely monitored and so often denied, even to children, that finishing high school is seen as a form of nonviolent opposition to occupation.

Finley’s analysis relies on falsehoods about Palestinian terrorism and Israeli democracy, which exists only in Israel and primarily for Jewish Israelis. Israel discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis and even against non-orthodox Jewish Israelis. Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza are now in their 48th year of a military occupation that grants them no rights, no citizenship anywhere, no security, and brutal living conditions.

Even in reporting an event at the General Assembly, a silent vigil in support of divestment by a line that stretched nearly the full length of the Cobo Hall lobby, Finley noted the participation of a single youth wearing a yarmulke and a t-shirt reading, “Another Jew for Divestment.” There were in fact, many such young Jews wearing those shirts and a large presence by Jews urging church members to follow their consciences. We are proud that Presbyterian, Arab American and Jewish social justice advocates partnered to support divestment from corporations profiteering from brutal practices which do not represent us or our values.

Barbara Harvey and David Finkel, Jewish Voice for

Peace-Detroit chapter