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Divestment Fails—For Now

8:34 AM, Jul 13, 2012 • By MARK TOOLEY
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A minority report from the pro-divestment legislative committee argued that the church's "criticism for many years [of Israel] had had no effect," and that divestment would only generate "notoriety and controversy." It instead urged a policy of "positive investment" to strengthen the Palestinian economy. A hostile delegate countered that "Palestinians aren't asking us for a check, they're asking us for justice." Another delegate pleaded that many Presbyterians "couldn't sleep at night knowing our [pensions funds] support such oppression." Still another accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing."

An anti-divestment delegate noted that Israelis are "daily terrorized by neighbors who seek to eliminate them from the face of the earth." And a former top officer of the denomination, having supported divestment in past years, described her new opposition, urging: "Never forget thousands of years of hatred and destruction against the Jewish people." 

After the 333-331 vote against divestment, the assembly voted 55 percent to 43 percent to affirm positive investment. One angry activist in the audience shouted, "No!" But most seemed relieved the debate was over.

So maybe the divestment movement has crested and will recede among America's churches, having failed to achieve a single major sustained success.   But bias against Israel almost certainly will persist in many denominational policy stances. The Presbyterians did reject a proposed comparison of Israel to Apartheid South Africa. But, like the United Methodists, they endorsed a symbolic boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements on the West Bank. And the Presbyterians, before debating divestment, voted by over 80 percent to oppose any military strike against Iran's nuclear weapons program.

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