Presbyterian Group Launches Petition Against Divestment

A group of Presbyterian ministers and laypersons released a statement Wednesday, urging the Presbyterian Church (USA) members to rescind the controversial General Assembly decision to divest from companies benefiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Israel.

The New York-based Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish and Christian Relations (PCJCR) claimed the divestment decision goes against the PC(USA)’s historically “even-handed approach” of favoring a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, and thus urged the General Assembly Council to impose a moratorium on any actions related to the divestment.

Entitled, “Toward a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East,” the statement says that while the group believes “divestment can be a useful tool for social change, it is wrong to single out Israel as the object of a “divestment” policy when other states and parties in the region are also guilty of serious human rights violations that can and must be addressed.”

The statement also goes on to say “because we believe that our church can play a positive role in fostering Middle East peace, we call upon the Presbyterian Church (USA) to pursue faithfully and consistently its historic vision of peace and security for all the peoples of the region.”

Meanwhile, staffers at the PC(USA) headquarters denied the PCJCR’s charges, saying the General Assembly did not stray from the historic PC(USA) stance, according to PCNews.

“The General Assembly has not diverged from its long-standing policies of opposing violence on both sides in the search for peaceful and just solutions,” said the Rev. Marian McClure, director of the PC(USA)’s Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD). “The approach to divestment that is being developed does not single out Israel. It is a principled approach.”

McClure said to PCnews that the set of six criteria established by the PC(USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee actually “allow us to look at any company profiting from the violation of human rights and international law, whether Israeli, Palestinian or anyone else.”

McClure noted that the church’s GA has approved numerous resolutions pertaining to Israel and Palestine, “repeatedly affirming, clearly and unequivocally, Israel’s right to exist within permanent, recognized and secure borders.”

“We simply want to divest of the things that make for war and invest in the things that make for peace,” said the Rev. Marthame Sanders, missionary in residence with WMD, to PCNews.

The PCJCR said it is looking for congregations, pastors and lay leaders to sign onto the statement, which can be viewed at: http://www.pcjcr.org/petition.htm.