BDS Goes To Church


The public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community announced this week that it is intensifying a national “organizing” effort against a resolution, likely to be on the agenda of the Presbyterian Church’s national convention this summer, calling for divestment from three U.S. firms that do business with Israel.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs will recommend that local Jewish organizations —– including federations, community relations councils, and rabbis of various denominations — reach out to known Presbyterian leaders in their local areas to work against the resolution, spokespersons for JCPA and the Israel Action Network said in a conference call with members of the Jewish media.

The executive committee of the Presbyterian Church (USA) was expected to vote this week — after The Jewish Week went to press — on a resolution that would have the 2.4 million-member church, one of the largest in the country, divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard. Supporters of the resolution, which is part of the wider boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to delegitimize and financially hurt Israel, claim that those firms sell Israel supplies that enforce an unjust “occupation” of Palestinian Arabs.

The church’s biennial General Assembly in Pittsburgh in late June will probably receive from the executive committee a divestment resolution in some form, which will increase public debate and legitimacy of the topic, said Ethan Felson, JCPA vice president.

While a series of similar BDS resolutions considered by several denominations of Christianity — including the Presbyterians — have been defeated by national bodies in the past decade, a successful vote on the Presbyterian Church’s resolution would provide a “toe hold” to anti-Israel activists across the country, especially on college campuses, Felson said.

A Christian denomination’s acceptance of such a resolution would “really poison our [interfaith] relationship,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page hosted by the Israel-Palestine Mission Network, an arm of the Presbyterian Church that JCPA claimed had made frequent anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish statements, closed down last week. JCPA had called the mission network “a wellspring of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel invective.”

The Facebook page had included a cartoon of President Barack Obama wearing weighty Star of David earrings to suggest Jewish control of the American leaders, a common theme on the site.

In announcing suspension of the Facebook page, a statement posted last week said.

Felson said the removal of the website removes one source of anti-Israel propaganda. “We are glad that it is down.”