The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted on June 20, 2014 by a narrow margin of 310-303 to give a big victory to divestment supporters inside and outside the 1.8 million-member Protestant Church, to use this strategy to pressure Israel to withdraw from the west bank.
The divestment movement, is particularly strong in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and almost passed in an even worse resolution two years ago.
Many Protestant churches oppose divestment. In 2012, the United Methodist Church rejected divestment as a tool to pressure Israel.
The issue has split the Presbyterian Church for the last decade. Presbyterian-Jewish relations, have not been good since the publication in January 2014 of “Zionism Unsettled,” a booklet produced by a church-chartered Mission which argues that the right of a Jewish nation to exist in the Holy Land is based on bad theology.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest branch of Judaism in North America, came to speak before the Presbyterian General Assembly the day before the vote.
The Reform Rabbi warned that a divestment vote would be taken as a sign that the Presbyterian church has aligned itself with those in the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement who vilify Israel and often question its right to exist.
“It would be an attack on the Jewish community and religion,” especially in the wake of the publication of “Zionism Unsettled,” the Reform Rabbi said.
Rabbi Jacobs offered to arrange a meeting in Jerusalem the next week for Presbyterian leaders to talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if they voted against divestment.
Many who spoke against the measure said it was not worth the price of alienating the church’s Jewish friends and urged their fellow Presbyterians to accept Rabbi Jacobs’ offer.
The authors of the divestment resolution affirmed the church’s support for a two-state solution and also stated that it does not mean an alignment with the overall strategy of the global BDS movement.
But they did not call for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; nor did they call for Hamas, the new part of the Palestinian government, to stop firing rockets at Israeli towns.