Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Is Divestment Anti-Semitic? Constructive Engagement Must Ensure Safety for Both Israelis and Palestinians

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Is Divestment Anti-Semitic? Constructive Engagement Must Ensure Safety for Both Israelis and Palestinians

Article excerpt

The current discussion on divestment as it relates to the Middle East casts a new light on persistent themes in Christian-Jewish relations. We are on relatively new ground when we try to analyze the many peaceful options for pressing Israel to end the occupation--including constructive engagement, divestment, criticizing the positions taken by Jews and Israelis over the 38-year long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, or querying the policies of the State of Israel.

I believe that most Christians are seeking a moral response to the occupation, looking for constructive engagement to end the statelessness of Palestinians by ensuring safety for both Israelis and Palestinians, most pragmatically by a two-state solution.

Many liberal and progressive Christians are stung by the lack of basic trust expressed by the organized Jewish community toward Presbyterians and other religious groups seeking a moral response to the occupation (see "Should Churches Divest?" page 22). Jewish organizations and many rank-and-file Jews assume that the mantle of the primary victimhood remains with and belongs to Jews/Israelis. There is very little comprehension of the Palestinians--their plight or their rights. Jews need to consider: Who will speak up on behalf of Christian Palestinians if not their co-religionists around the world? Who will speak up for Muslim Palestinians?

Jews who seek the welfare of both Israelis and Palestinians should encourage creative engagement, including phased selective divestments highlighting the moral corruption at the heart of the occupation. The recent shareholder resolution calling on Caterpillar to investigate how its bulldozers are used in Israel and Palestine illustrates a positive strategic and moral use of this tactic to call attention to a wrong--the occupation. The resolution reminded Caterpillar of its responsibility as a corporate citizen. Do actions like this matter? Are they effective? My answer is yes.

In contrast, the British Association of University Teachers recently took action--later rescinded--to boycott Israeli universities in response to the branch of Bar-Ilan University that Israel set up in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. I believe the boycott was counter-productive. …

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