Leaders of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA) and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS) have issued the following open letter to the Presbyterian Church (USA), set to convene in Pittsburgh this Saturday, June 30:
The Presbyterian Church (USA), despite its historic concern for justice, is considering a move that violates basic principles of justice—targeted divestment from specific companies doing business with Israel. Divestment is the practice of withdrawing investments from companies in order to create economic and political pressure against those companies, or governments with which they do business. In this case, by withdrawing investments from companies supplying materials to Israel’s defense and security programs, divestment proponents hope to force Israel into an immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.
The mainstream Messianic Jewish movement as represented by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, the International Messianic Jewish Alliance and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues expresses its deep concern with this direction, which is contrary to the same Scriptures that the PC(USA) claims to believe. The language of the divestment proposal to be considered by the PC(USA)General Assembly in Pittsburgh beginning on June 30 and extending to July 7, 2012, may appear moderate, but it reflects a biased approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Divestment is inherently unjust for several reasons:
1. Divestment joins the larger, Palestinian-sponsored Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which uses the inaccurate, unfair, and inflammatory “apartheid” label against Israel to discredit and undermine the Jewish state.
Ironically, the BDS movement seeks to pressure Israel into unilateral concessions at a time when Israel has endured thousands of rocket attacks on civilian targets from the Gaza strip, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2005.Framing Israel’s policy in Judea and Samaria as “apartheid” and pushing for unconditional Israeli withdrawal indicates either an ignorance of why Israel maintains a military presence there, or a reckless disregard of Israeli lives and security.
2. Divestment unjustly frames the Jewish state of Israel as a colonial incursion like the white European settlement in South Africa.
The BDS movement and potential participants like PC(USA) support other national movements, including that among the Palestinians, but not the national restoration movement of the Jewish people. The Biblical promises that grant the land west of the Jordan River to the Jewish people in perpetuity do not preclude territorial compromise for the sake of peace. But they do preclude accusing Israel of “occupying” land promised in Scripture and inhabited by Jewish people throughout the centuries. Israel may opt to withdraw from such territories for the sake of peace, but any withdrawal must be part of a wider and viable peace process—not a one-sided concession to international pressure.
3. Divestment unjustly ignores the historical context of Israel’s presence in the West Bank.
Failure to curtail terrorist violence undermines the credibility of the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace. Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has never renounced the call for the destruction of Israel contained in its founding documents. Hope for an end to this tragic conflict requires that Palestinian leadership unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist. To ignore this imperative, and the historical context of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria, as the BDS movement does, belies any call for justice.
4. Finally, divestment presumes that Israel is unfairly occupying an Arab homeland.
Scripture reveals that God loves the Arab and Jewish people and promised both of them land as an inheritance. God expresses his love for Ishmael and promises to make of him a “great nation” (Gen. 21:18), later described as twelve tribes, alongside the nation of Israel (Gen. 25:12ff.). God indeed kept his promise to Ishmael, and the Arab nation today has multiplied to 22Arab states with a combined population of 350 million, and extensive territories dwarfing the Land of Israel and its population of seven million. From a Biblical perspective, itis simply unjust for the Arabs, the sons of Ishmael, to claim not only what God promised them but also the one land God promised to Israel. From this perspective, Arabs living in Judea and Samaria are actually “occupying” land God gave to Israel “for all time” (Deut.4:40). Is it just to support sovereignty in this region only for Arab states?
Divestment is a highly partisan tactic that seeks to pressure Israel into making changes that threaten its security and integrity as the Jewish homeland. Israel’s claim to legitimacy as a Jewish state, however, rests not only on broadly accepted standards of international law, but also on the words of the Hebrew prophets. Jews have maintained a presence in the Land of Israel throughout history, and have constituted the majority population in Jerusalem since the mid-nineteenth century. The state of Israel was born in response to the homelessness and suffering of the Jewish people in exile, which reached its horrible climax during World War II.
As Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus), we appreciate the attempts of Christian denominations since the Holocaust to promote understanding and good will toward the Jewish people. Divestment from Israel, however, only damages the relationship between the Christian and the Jewish communities, diminishes the possibility of genuine negotiations for peace, and encourages violence and extremism. Most of all, the divestment initiative ignores the very words of Scripture, shared by Jews and Christians, which foretell a Jewish return to the land of Israel after centuries of exile: “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24, etc.). This restoration is evident in our own times.
We call upon the Presbyterian Church (USA) to heed the words of the Hebrew prophets and the standards of justice established in Scripture, and to reject the use of divestment as a weapon against Israel.
Howard Silverman, President
Russell Resnik, Executive Director
Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations
John Fischer, President
Joel Liberman, Executive Director
International Messianic Jewish Alliance
Paul Liberman, President
Joel Chernoff, General Secretary
Messianic Jewish Alliance of America
Jeff Forman, Chairman
International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues