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Presbyterian Church committee advances divestment resolution

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(JTA) — A committee of the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a resolution endorsing divestment from three U.S. companies that “profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.”

The Middle East Issues Committee in 45-20 vote on Tuesday at the church’s 221st General Assembly advanced the measure to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. The resolution likely will be voted on during a plenary session of the full assembly later this week.

“A passionate discussion of divestment featuring voices in support and opposed” preceded the vote, according to a statement issued by the committee.

At the 2012 church assembly, delegates rejected a divestment initiative by a vote of 333-331. Jewish-Presbyterian relations already were strained following the publication in January of a study guide created by the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network. The document, “Zionism Unsettled,” depicted Zionism as a false theology.

Meanwhile, a letter opposing divestment signed by more than 1,700 rabbis, cantors and Jewish seminary students is being circulated at the assembly. The open letter, which has signers from all 50 states and the major streams of Judaism, urges commissioners to reject divestment from companies operating in Israel and other anti-Israel resolutions.

“We are deeply concerned that the PCUSA is considering several overtures that would threaten the prospects for future peace,” the letter says. “Oversimplifying a complex conflict and placing all the blame on one party, when both bear responsibility, increases conflict and division instead of promoting peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding.”

The letter goes on to say, “If we truly want to help both parties, we should encourage reconciliation, investment and a negotiated solution, instead of boycotts and divestments.”

It also expressed concern about the church’s sponsorship of the “Zionism Unsettled” booklet.

 

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