Pride and Prejudice:
(The Presbyterian Divestment Story)
September 28, 2005
The Middle East policy statements of the 216th
General Assembly (2004) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and their centerpiece,
divestment from corporations operating in Israel, were marred by several flaws
and unwarranted assumptions.
General Assembly heard one-sided testimony from those who supported the
divestment decision and excluded other relevant voices. Two non-Presbyterians communicated with
the assembly, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, and Rt. Rev. Riah Abu el-Assal. The views of Israeli settlers, Israeli
Christians, Israelis who opposed divestment, and American Jewish groups
who opposed divestment were not considered.
- The General Assembly relied on flawed sources of
historical background information.
Walter Owensby’s U.S. Policy and the Israeli-Palestinian
Conflict and Joel Beinin’s and Lisa Hajjar’s Palestine,
and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: a Primer were the two main sources
used. Both display elements of
one-sidedness, biased language, and disputed factual assertions.
- The General Assembly depended uncritically on the
testimonies of Palestinian Christian leaders. Those same Palestinian Christian leaders
have made public statements that raise clear questions of
- Several offices and permanent committees of the
PC(USA) have demonstrated severe and long-standing bias against Israel. These include the Presbyterian News
Service, the Washington Office, and the Advisory Committee for Social
- Over-cooperation between the employees of the PC(USA)
and the employees of other denominations affected Presbyterian policy in
violation of the Presbyterian form of government.
- The General Assembly employed several quirky and
potentially dangerous theological ideas to justify Middle East
policy statements. Among these are
elements of replacement theology and the use of explicitly Christian
imagery to demonize Israelis.
- The General Assembly apparently did not consider
potential damage to Christian Jewish relations, the danger of contributing
to the increase American anti-Semitism, and the danger of encouraging
further violence in the Middle East.
These problems render the whole Middle East
policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) morally suspect, extra-Christian, and
potentially harmful. The actions of the
216th General Assembly obscure the Christian witness of
Presbyterians everywhere, whether or not they individually supported them.
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