Given Israel’s wrenching efforts to open a new page in its relations with the Palestinians, it is depressing to see groups supposedly committed to morality and human rights continue to demonize the Jewish state as though nothing at all had changed.
Over the past two years, a motley assortment of churches, trade unions and local city councils has taken up and occasionally adopted resolutions calling for Israel’s isolation and economic quarantine. The animating theme behind these initiatives appears to be a misguided vision of Israel as some sort of apartheid state, a latter-day South Africa governed by a racist ideology that can be defeated only by force. The proof of Israel’s iniquity, in most cases, is the erection of the West Bank separation fence. The moving spirit behind the initiatives usually turns out to be one of a group of West Bank-based Palestinian churches and nongovernmental groups, frequently working in concert with the rejectionist-led diplomatic network of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Such resolutions have been debated by American and British trade unions, by city councils from Berkeley, Calif., to Somerville, Mass., and by a growing number of Protestant denominations. One, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), earlier this month approved an initial list of American companies to be divested because of their ties to Israel.
The latest institution to jump on this sorry bandwagon is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most distinguished Protestant confessions. At its convention last week in Orlando, Fla., the church adopted a sweeping resolution, titled “Peace Not Walls: Stand for Justice in the Holy Land,” that calls for member-churches and their members to mobilize on behalf of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Church officials insist that the resolution does not blame either side for the conflict, but the text — and the very title — puts the onus on Israel. And while the resolution does not call explicitly for divestment from Israel, it does the next best thing by calling on congregations and church institutions to consider “stewarding financial resources — both U.S. tax dollars and private funds — in ways that support the quest for a just peace in the Holy Land.”
In fact, such one-sided measures do nothing to advance the cause of peace, just or otherwise. By vilifying Israel and putting it on the defensive, these misguided initiatives only raise the walls of suspicion higher and make the search for peace more difficult.