Protestant Churches Consider Anti-Israel Divestment

By Eric J. Greenberg

Published February 18, 2005, issue of February 18, 2005.

Even as Israeli and Palestinian leaders talk of a breakthrough, two more mainline Protestant denominations — the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ — are now weighing divestment proposals aimed at pressuring Israel to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) approved a plan last summer to begin the process of selectively divesting from Israel, and the Episcopal Church is considering a similar measure.

Officials at the United Church of Christ, which has about 1.3 million members, are expected to decide next month whether to include an anti-Israel divestment resolution for consideration at its biennial General Synod in July. Officials at Disciples of Christ, with about one million members, are similarly expected to make a decision on whether to introduce a divestment resolution at their annual summer meeting.

The timing of the push to consider divestment was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League.

“…As recent news reports fill us with hope about steps toward peace in the Middle East, why would this discussion even remain on the table?” ADL’s interfaith affairs director, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, wrote in a February 8 letter to Peter E. Makari, executive of the Middle East and Europe Common Global Ministries Board, a joint effort of the UCC and Disciples of Christ.

The ADL letter also questions why the churches are not considering constructive alternatives to divestment, and charges that a new resource guide produced by Makari’s board misrepresents facts about the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis since 1947.

A UCC spokeswoman told the Forward that Makari “is definitely planning to respond” to the ADL letter soon. She said that resolutions slated to be on the biennial agenda would be announced in April.

Makari’s resource paper, titled “The Palestinians, Israel, and the Churches’ Economic Leverage: A Resource for the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),” said their process was spurred by the Presbyterian Church’s decision last summer to begin “a process of phased selective divestment” of funds from companies “whose business in Israel is found to be directly or indirectly causing harm to innocent people, Palestinian or Israeli.”

The resource guide suggests that Christians in the Middle East are supportive of a divestment campaign: “In consultation with Palestinian Christian partners, we hear support for selective divestment as an approach North American churches might adopt to end the illegal occupation and promote a two-state solution with a viable and contiguous Palestinian state neighboring Israel, and a shared Jerusalem.”



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