As a horrifying wave of stabbing and shooting attacks against Israelis producing an almost daily body count, the United Methodist Church has decided to take decisive action.
A boycott aimed at Israel.
While many have written about this, I thought its rather simple.
The church has announced that it will not allow its $20 billion pension fund to invest in five Israeli banks that have financed construction of housing in the West Bank.
In the wake of UN leader Ban Ki-Moon’s suggestion that violent Palestinian frustration is only a result “human nature” and the Obama administration’s consistent policy that building apartments is as bad as or worse than terrorism, this particular approach to the problem should not surprise.
Other churches have flirted or grappled with similar boycotts, including the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Mennonites, the Church of England and the World Council of Churches. Academic and student groups, and even a grocery co-op in Brooklyn have put resolutions past their members, and some musical performers, notably Roger Waters, have declared they won’t appear before Israeli fans on either side of the Green Line.
There are many double standards at play here. Let’s take stock of them.
First, when it comes to so-called moral voices trying to impose peace, the onus always falls squarely on Israel, because the more powerful side is always assumed to be the one at fault. As mentioned before, it’s hard to place any economic pressure on the Palestinians, given their trade status. But what if the UN and EU, as a precondition to development funding, took a serious stand to push them to, at minimum, come to peace talks without preconditions? Maybe they could also crack down on violent incitement of youth who, no longer able to smuggle explosives past the security barrier, are now resorting to stabbing attacks.
Second, there are no such boycott, divestment and sanctions movements against countries that oppress their own people or others that match the scope and intensity of the boycott push against Israel.
Third, these moralists would like to pick and choose what they boycott. If you’re in, go all in. Don’t just boycott Israeli universities and banks and food products made on the West Bank.
Boycott the research pouring out of those universities every day that stand to greatly alleviate or cure diseases, from cancer and diabetes to malaria.
Boycott pharmaceuticals patented by Israeli companies like Rafa or Teva that greatly control symptoms and improve quality of life for the sick or injured. Boycott the Pentium chips, Motorola phone systems and Microsoft OS technology developed in partnership with those companies by Israelis.
And if you’re in California, stay thirsty rather than drink the water from the San Diego desalination plant Israelis are building to help alleviate the drought there.
Does it not seem disingenuous to denounce a country as belligerent and in great need of moral rectitude while availing yourself of all the wonders resulting from Jews unencumbered by fear of being chased out of their jobs, universities, homes and countries? That scenario happened to their parents or grandparents, and there are even those who experienced it personally, either in Europe or Arab countries.
Perhaps the Palestinian boycott organizers would also like to declare that they won’t use Israeli hospitals, like Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, which recently helped save the life of a 17-year-old suffering from a rare endocrine condition. Not likely. Even stick-in-the-mud Hamas will look the other way when it comes to quality Jewish medicine in the Middle East. Relatives of top Hamas officials have sought, and received treatment for serious diseases.
Israel’s government sees the BDS movement as nothing short of an effort to destroy the country as it exists today in favor of an untenable two-state solution that would leave the Jewish half within impossible borders. There may be some well-meaning activists who naively believe something positive can be accomplished by applying economic pressure on one side of the equation (the less violent half.)
But on the whole it seems plain that the pro-boycott movement isn’t after a just outcome in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, as much as a reversal of fortune for the Jews and an end to their contemporary self-determination.
If those folks really want to make a difference in the world, they should start by cleaning up their own house. Because when people are being stabbed to death in the streets, or on the receiving end of rocket attacks, and your only reaction is to pull money out of their banks, something’s not quite right with your moral center.
Eli Verschleiser is a financier, real estate developer, and investor in commercial real estate. In his Philanthropy, Mr. Verschleiser is a board member of the American Jewish Congress, Co-Founder of Magenu.org, & President for OurPlace, a non-profit organization that provides support, shelter, and counseling for troubled Jewish youth. Mr. Verschleiser is a frequent commentator on political and social services matters. Follow: @E_Verschleiser