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What they Are Saying: Statements by Presbyterian Leaders on Divestment
Posted: March 20, 2006

"We believe that repeal of the resolution calling for ‘a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel’ is essential to the future of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and to the future of Presbyterian-Jewish interfaith relations."

   -- Press release, The Committee to End Divestment Now, March 19, 2006.

"Along with many other Presbyterians, we disagree with the recent actions of the PCUSA Mission Responsibility through Investment Committee regarding selective divestment from certain industries doing business in Israel. Both the timing and the substance of the MRTI actions are detrimental to peace in the Middle East. At a time when the State of Israel is currently withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and other settlements, our denomination continues to implement a year-old policy designed to press Israel for concessions, even after major conciliatory actions have occurred. ...

"We are urging Presbyterians to inform themselves about ways in which the PCUSA can be a pro-active force for peace in the Middle East, investing in peacemakers rather than applying a simplistic divestment strategy to an extremely complex situation.

"We are urging Presbyterians to call upon the MRTI Committee to suspend the exploration of divestment until the PCUSA can reconsider its Middle East policy at the 2006 General Assembly."

   -- Press Statement (excerpts), Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish and Christian Relations, August 22, 2005

"We, Executive Committee members of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, express our profound disagreement with recent national and international Protestant Church resolutions that call for selected divestment from certain companies doing business in Israel. These statements treat Israel as the major barrier to peace while ignoring the significant risks for peace that Israel is taking in withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. They also do not address the substantial support for terrorism provided by Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and radical elements in the Palestinian society. This approach demonstrates a double standard that is unfair and inimical to Israel and the Jewish people."

   -- Excerpt from a statement issued by the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, August 2005

Following the July 2004 vote by the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly to divest from companies doing business with Israel, which ADL called "unbalanced and unfair," a number of Presbyterian leaders around the country issued statements strongly disagreeing with that decision and expressing solidarity with Israel.

The following is a selection of excerpts from these important statements, which show that General Assembly vote was not representative of all Presbyterians:

"The Presbyterian Church does not speak with a monolithic voice. Just as a variety of opinions about any one issue exist among Jews, this reality is also true with Presbyterians.

"A large number of Presbyterians were distressed by the actions taken at the most recent meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA. This sentiment is reflected in the close margins by which the relevant actions were passed. To read these actions - without interpreting the votes is to miss an important part of the story. ...

"We are distressed that the General Assembly's statement this year on Israel lacked balance and failed to condemn the terrorism to which the people of Israel have been subjected. Violence and injustice are not one-sided problems and should not be portrayed as such: there are victims of war among Israelis as well as among Palestinians. We encourage peace process in the Middle East that holds both sides accountable BOTH for past acts of violence and work toward reconciliation and peaceful resolution. We affirm the right of both peoples to co-exist, and we support a two-state solution to the conflict. We categorically denounce any equation between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and apartheid. Israel is a multi-racial state. Over one millions Arabs are citizens of Israel and Arabic are one of the state's two official languages. There are persons from over 100 different ethnicities and cultural background living is Israel. The barrier is designed to combat terrorism--nothing more, nothing less. Allegations of Israeli apartheid serve to de-legitimize the Jewish state and the Zionist movement, which is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.

"We are very distressed by the proposal to recommend the consideration of selective divestment from the economic life of Israel. This proposal represents far more than an attempt to gain political leverage. Attacking the economic life of the Israeli people undermines Jewish survival. We call upon Presbyterians to express their opposition to those who may consider implementing these proposals at all levels of the church."

   -- Statement by the Revs. Dr. Donald W. Shriver and Dr. William Harter, Co-Conveners, Presbyterians Concerned About Jewish-Christian Relations

"We are acutely aware that these actions have been painful to many within the Jewish community and have called into question our friendship and support. Many of us Presbyterians were surprised by these actions and wish to go on record stating that they do not fairly represent our views. ...the actions of this Assembly dealt a disturbing setback to the vitally important relationship between our two communities. In our opinion, these actions failed to convey a sense of balance and fairness in regards to the struggle between Israel and the Palestinian people. It also failed to recognize the inappropriateness of a Presbyterian congregation expropriating Jewish symbols and rituals for the purpose of bringing Jews into Christianity.

"We, the undersigned disagree with these actions by the national church but find some hope in the Assembly's call for a new dialogue between Presbyterians and Jews. We pledge ourselves to work within our denomination for increased sensitivity to the concerns of our Jewish neighbors regarding Israel, while seeking to work as true partners to hasten an end to the conflict that has caused so much pain for Jews, Christians and Muslims."

   -- An Open Letter to the Baltimore Jewish Community signed by the Revs. John R. Sharp, Peter Nord and Christopher Leighton

"We reject the Presbyterian divestment resolution against Israel and the Jewish people as being reckless and indefensible. We call for its immediate revocation, a statement of apology for the action, and a meaningful request for forgiveness for the pain caused by this ill-conceived action. Further, as the PCUSA has chosen to withhold financial support from Israel, the Clayton Presbyterian Church, PCUSA will withhold apportionment from the denomination until this action is reversed, and we encourage other churches to join in this protest and the withholding of apportionment from PCUSA."

   -- Letter to the Presbyterian Church (USA) from the Clayton Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Georgia, (August 14, 2004)
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