The Vote for Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel
The vote is in and the Presbyterian Assembly has spoken. Even though it was a close vote 310-303, the Assembly made its choice. I woman who was guest at Shabbat Services on Friday came over to me and said,” never mind what the national vote was it did not reflect how we feel about Israel in our church.” I was comforted by her comments but the truth of the matter is that the vote to support BDS sends a clarion call to Presbyterians and liberal Christians around the country and the world that the tide is shifting and the center of gravity is shifting away from Israel. It leaves us with more questions than before such as, ‘When we analyze their vote and their congregational study guide Zionism Unsettled should accept the fact that at the root of this movement there is a powerful and dominant core which is blatantly anti-Semitic? Do we engage our Presbyterian neighbors and try to change their minds? Should we reach out to the more conservative church movements who do offer complete support to Israel? Must we become more proactive in making the case for Israel than before with all our Christian neighbors? These are just a few of the questions that call upon us for a response.
Another issue has arisen which is the speech and letter by Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the URJ who accepted an invitation to speak to the Assembly during its debate on this matter. First we should say that Rabbi Jacobs did the right thing by showing leadership and delivering his speech as well as composing a letter earlier on that was distributed to every member of the Assembly. What is troubling are some newspaper accounts such as the New York Times article that appeared on Saturday reviewing the vote and his speech. The Times reporter said, “In a last-ditch tactic on Thursday, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, leader of the Reform movement (the largest branch in American Judaism), addressed the assembly and offered to broker a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the church’s two top leaders so they could convey their church’s concerns about the occupation — on the condition that the divestment measure was defeated. That offer appears to have backfired, with some saying afterward that it felt both manipulative and ineffectual, given what they perceive as Mr. Netanyahu’s approval of more settlements in disputed areas and lack of enthusiasm for peace negotiations.“I’m not sure it was the strategy I would have chosen,” the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the church’s stated clerk and one of the two leaders invited to meet Mr. Netanyahu, said in an interview. “I’m sure it was a sincere and generous invitation. I’m not sure it was helpful in our debate.”
Read between the lines at how the clergy reacted to his remarks. Having read the speech I could see how they would react that way. Aside from the fact that I am deeply saddened by their decision, I have questions about Rabbi Jacobs remarks. I call upon him to provide us in the movement further clarification about what he was trying to achieve and why he thought that offering the Presbyterians a seat with him when he meets with Mr. Netanyahu was an effective strategy in his speech?’
It is quite possible that no matter what he said the vote would have turned out to be the same result. I wonder, however, whether staying on message regarding the values of Israel and its connection to prophetic values would have been a stronger pathway for this speech.
For this reason I have included a variety of links consisting of his letter and speech as well as my letter to the congregation about this matter. Judge for yourself and let me know what you think.
Rabbi Brad Bloom
http://www.icjs.org/featured-articles/open-letter-presbyterian-church-0 Reverend Chris Leighton who is a Presbyterian Ordained Minister wrote this article regarding the vote and the book Zionism Unsettled.
JTA Jacobs invites Presbyterian leaders to join him in Netanyahu meeting
June 19, 2014 5:00pm
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The leader of the Reform movement asked his Presbyterian counterparts to join him in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make their case against Israeli practices in the West Bank.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke Thursday in Detroit at the biennial general assembly of the Presbyterian Church-USA, which is considering a proposal to divest from companies that deal with Israeli security services in the West Bank.
Jacobs said passage of the proposal, which has already been approved by a key committee, would occasion a rupture between Presbyterians and Jews.
“A vote for divestment will cause a painful rift with the great majority of the Jewish community,” he said.
“If we are truly partners and you disapprove this divestment overture, I look forward to sitting with your leadership in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem,” Jacobs said. “You can choose partnership and engagement or you can choose separation and divestment.”
The vote on the divestment proposal is due to take place on Friday.
Named in Jacobs’ invitation, which earned applause from the assembly, were Heath Rada and Gradye Parsons, respectively lay and religious leaders of the church.
Jacobs said he shared the Presbyterians’ concerned about settlement policy.
“We are against settlements,” he said. “We are for a two-state solution, but we can’t fight alone. We need each other, and if you choose partnership over divestment and BDS, together we can change the world.”
The proposed divestment resolution had been modified to explicitly distance itself from BDS, or the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which many in the Jewish community see as advocating for the dismantling of Israel. However, Jacobs said this was not enough, especially in light of an anti-Zionist tract published this year by a church committee.
“The document, which is being sold through your online church store, is a vicious attack on Judaism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” he said. Jacobs, who is scheduled to meet next week with Netanyahu, has not yet received a response from the church leaders.
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