It was a close vote–not quite as close the one two years ago, but close nonetheless. In 2012, the Presbyterian General Assembly voted 333-331 against divesting from companies profiting by the Israeli occupation. Yesterday, at their 2014 General Assembly, the Presbyterians took the matter up again. The final tally was 310-303. Ah, but this time the vote went the other way–in favor of divestment.
“In no way is this a reflection of our lack of love for our Jewish brothers and sisters,” Heath Rada, the church assembly’s moderator, said after the vote was taken.
Rada obviously thought it worthwhile to try and extend a hand of friendship, hoping perhaps Jews would understand that for Christians attending the assembly, held in Detroit, it was a moral choice they felt compelled to make. Also (given, of course, that it is, after all, a Presbyterian gathering, not a Jewish one) the Presbyterians were surely justified in tending to the business of their own convention, handling that business as they see fit, deciding matters as their consciences dictated–yes, surely Jews would understand that, wouldn’t they?
Yes, possibly Rada thought that as well.
But of course he was wrong. Jews, aside from the perpetually divagating Jewish Voice for Peace, which supported the measure, have responded with the entirely predictable choruses of outrage.
“This decision will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on relations between mainstream Jewish groups and the national Presbyterian Church (USA),” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
The JCPA was one of several major Jewish organizations that had flown rabbis to Detroit to try and kill the measure. Another rabbi who denounced the vote was Noam Marans, of the American Jewish Committee, who called it “an affront to all who are committed to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
I’m glad the Presbyterians passed the divestment resolution, although it is a very tepid measure, and more needs to be done. But it’s a step in the right direction–and steps in the right direction are rare items these days.