The leadership of the Presbyterian Church recently decided to encourage its governing body to promote divestment from companies that do business with Israel. Shortly thereafter, the Anglican church, the Lutheran church and the World Council of Churches (WCC, with 347 member denominations world-wide) followed suit with the explanation that divestment "(is) a new way to work for peace, by looking at ways to not participate economically in illegal activities related to the Israeli occupation." (1) These churches are among those often referred to as "mainline" churches.
The most problematic issue of this new “mainline” posture is that it is clearly intended to support the Arab terror war against Israel; and to justify that support, church spokespersons make use of false information about the conflict.
A review of factual information about the conflict and the nature of divestment reveals that the mainline churches have stood up in favor of a process that is illegal, irrational, immoral, biased against Israel and in favor of Israel’s enemies, and consciously oblivious to the transparent lies of divestment proponents. Moreover, by supporting divestment, they ignore the real threats of global terrorism which seeks, among other things, the destruction of all other forms of religion in the world, including Christianity. The mainline churches' stand, therefore, is quite literally self-destructive.
In September, 2004, a bi-partisan group of thirteen members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce, urging the shutdown of anti-Israel divestment campaigns, because they violate U.S. laws regarding the Arab boycott of Israel. The letter was initiated by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
U.S. Representatives Jim Saxton (R-NJ) and Rob Andrews (D-NJ), and the letter was also signed by eleven other members of the Congress. The signers pointed out that by urging Americans to divest their holdings in companies doing business with Israel, the divestment proponents were illegally furnishing information about U.S. companies that have business relationships in or with Israel, and specifically advocating that these companies be boycotted. Such actions are "expressly prohibited by the anti-boycott provisions of the Export Administration Act, which were enacted in response to congressional concerns about the Arab boycott of Israel." (2)
The bi-partisan group was led by
So, by suddenly taking up the banner of divestment, the leaders of America’s mainline churches are actually in violation of U.S. law.
There are no comparable petitions seeking action against other countries that really do enslave minorities, imprison dissidents, murder political opponents, torture suspected activists, and generally maintain totalitarian repressive governments that deny human rights to their citizenry.
The proponents of anti-Israel divestment ignore:
- the cultural and linguistic genocide of Tibetans under Chinese occupation.
- Syria’s 30-year occupation of Lebanon, with its consequent casualties numbering more than 100,000 (a significant number of whom are Christians) with c. 500,000 homeless.
- Numerous violations of human rights, oppression of women and minorities, persecution of homosexuals, abuse of children, and general absence of even-handed justice in their courts whose penalties include beheading, stoning, hanging and shooting in Arab and Muslim states.
- Arab repression of tens of millions of religious and ethnic minorities including Maronite, Assyrian, Chaldean and Coptic Christians, Berbers, Sudanese, Kurds, Bahá'ís, Druse, Jews. Even their own Muslim citizenry who subscribe to variant Muslim sects or are deemed by the authorities to be insufficiently Muslim.
- Saudi Arabia’s brutal gender apartheid with its extreme repression of women.
In sharp contrast, Israel's record on human rights is among the best in the world, and certainly the best in the region. Israel is a vibrant and participatory democracy, which has a completely free press that is often highly critical of the Israeli government. No Arab country has a free press, nor does the Palestinian Authority. Israel has a completely independent judiciary, the only one in the entire area. Its Supreme Court, one of the best in the world, is the only court in which an Arab in the Middle East can expect to get justice in lawsuits brought against any government. Palestinians have won lawsuits against the Israeli government and the Israeli military. The rights of women, gays and others are far more fully recognized, protected and implemented in Israel than anywhere in the Arab world or in much of the rest of the world. The Israeli army does not discriminate against gays, as even the American army does, and the Israeli Knesset now includes an openly gay member. Israeli Arabs sit in the Knesset, serve on the Israeli Supreme Court and have their own newspapers. (3) Israeli Arabs have choices of five different Arab political parties, which is four more than are currently available to any citizen of any Totalitarian Arab country in the world.
If their purpose were indeed to right a wrong, impede oppression and save lives, then it would be logical for the proponents of divestment to start with the most egregious governments perpetrating these evils upon their citizenry. And if one made a list of such governments with the worst violators at the top, Israel would be very near the bottom of the list. Most if not all Arab countries and many Moslem ones would be at or near the top.
One good definition of anti-Semitism is taking a trait that is universal and singling out only the Jews for criticism in relation to that trait. That is why university professors and presidents across the country have spoken out publicly against divestment, and linked it unequivocally to the presence of anti-Semitism on campuses.
Moreover, by asking their universities and churches to join the Arab boycott that has the destruction of the state of Israel and the genocide of its Jews as its larger goal, the proponents of divestment are supportive of genocide.
Bias Against Israel
Much of anti-Israel divestment rhetoric rests upon the identification of the Palestinian people as victims of Israeli oppression. If this were true, there might be some substance to the accusations of oppression, violations of civil and human rights, and “brutal occupation.” However, even the most superficial review of the history of the conflict reveals that the truth is quite the opposite of what the apologists for Arab terrorism and the proponents of divestment contend.
The PLO was formed in 1964, with the express purpose of redeeming “Palestine” from its “occupiers.” The “occupation” they were talking about then was Israel in its pre-1967 borders. There were no Israelis living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip at that time.
Just days before the 6-day war, Israel’s President begged the Arab nations at the UN to stand down from their militarization and war mongering. There were no contested issues, he said, that could not be resolved in negotiation. Israel did not want war. There was no need for war. The Arab response was more rhetoric of annihilation and threats of genocide.
After its stunning victory in the 6-day war, Israel offered to return the captured territories to Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, but only in exchange for three requirements: recognition, negotiations, and peace. Abba Eban, in his speech to the Arab nations at the UN immediately after the war, urged them to consider that negotiations would bring a just peace that would be honorable and beneficial for all sides. Israel accepted UN resolution #242 requiring the return of some territory in the context of peace negotiations. The Arab response was the unequivocal rejection of #242 and the Khartoum Conference (August-September, 1967) with its now infamous “no recognition, no negotiation, no peace.”
The proof of Israel’s sincerity in its offers to return territory and abide by #242 lies in the obvious fact that it did just that, when it had an honest peace partner in Egypt (1979, return of all of Sinai) and Jordan (1994, return of thousands of acres of land east of the Jordan river). Israel has kept its word and is still at peace with Egypt and Jordan.
In short, Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would never have occurred, or would have ended promptly, but for the uncompromising, pathological commitment of Arab leadership to Israel’s destruction, a commitment which began long before Israel’s sovereignty over captured territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It is also important to note that during the first 27 years of its sovereignty over the captured territories, Israel affected what some call its “mini-Marshall plan.” Israel invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the West Bank and Gaza Strip between 1967 and late 1970s in order to modernize the infrastructure of those areas. Electricity, sewerage, sewage treatment, roads, water treatment, telephone, radio, television technology, and medical services all underwent massive improvement and expansion at Israel’s expense. Israel maintained an ‘open bridges’ policy with Jordan, despite the fact that Jordan was still legally at war with Israel, so that Arab refugees could return freely to their homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As a result, the economy took off, tourism skyrocketed, seven universities sprouted up where none existed before, infant mortality plummeted, longevity increased, and employment rose to almost 100 percent. The population tripled from c. 950,000 in 1967 to 3,100,000 in 1994, and about 200 new Arab villages or suburbs were created in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At one point, almost 300,000 West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs worked in the Israeli economy, earning more than their counterparts anywhere else in the Arab world. (4)
During these halcyon days of Israel’s sovereignty, the West Bank and Gaza were open areas. There were no roadblocks, no curfews, no lock-downs, no stopping of ambulances and no fence. Israelis shopped in Arab town markets, Arabs shopped in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Arab youth came to the University of Haifa to take part in Arab Studies classes (many taught in Arabic), and Israeli tourists traversed the West Bank and were greeted hospitably in cafes and hotels. And, perhaps most important of all, there was almost no terrorism from these territories.
All of this came to a grinding halt with the return of Arafat in June, 1994, after the Oslo Accords (September, 1993). De facto, Israeli sovereignty over most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip ended in 1994. In phased withdrawals, Israel left Gaza and Jericho first. The last Israeli tank left Ramallah on September 29, 1996. At that point, more than 96 percent of the Arabs in those territories were now under the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority. Arafat could build his new state of Palestine.
But instead of building “Palestine” per his Oslo commitments, Arafat took the billions that he received for that purpose from the USA, UN, UK, EU and Arab states, and redistributed them to himself (c. 20% = c. $1,000,000,000 between 1994 and 2000) and to his terror minions (c. 80% = $4,000,000,000). With that money, and with the freedom granted him by the withdrawal of Israeli forces from most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he launched the first phase of his terror war - the Intifada. In the six years after Oslo, there were more terror attacks from the West Bank and Gaza Strip than in the previous 20 years. Arafat, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the El-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, Tanzim, Force 17, Fatah, the PFLP, the DFLP, the PFLP-GC, Sayyif Allah (Sword of Allah), Jayyish el-Jihad (the Army of Jihad), and even Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, all worked in partnership.
But even during these years of bus bombings and drive-by shootings, Israel did not re-occupy the territories. Rather, it turned to Arafat and his newly formed Palestinian Authority, demanding that they fulfill the commitments to curb terrorism and create a state run by law and order. They did not.
Finally, in April of 2002, after 19 months of “the Second Intifada,” in which hundreds of Israeli were killed and thousands injured or maimed for life, and after the horrific Park Hotel Passover Seder massacre of March 27, 2002, Israel launched operation “Defensive Shield,” and re-occupied the West Bank. Only then did Palestinian life under occupation take on the tragic and oppressive characteristics that spark such empathy in the West.
But what the West in general, and the Church proponents of divestment in particular, seem to ignore, is that none of these measures were in effect prior to Arafat’s terror war; and that all of these measures are nothing other than Israel’s restrained defensive responses to that terror war.
What they also ignore, or are ignorant of, is the history of Israel’s attempts to make peace with Palestinian leaders. From 1937 to today, there have been 19 offers of statehood made to Palestinian leaders by the UK, UN, USA, Israel or some combination thereof. (5) In every case, the response has been rejection, war, terrorism, violence, murder, and the continual call for the total destruction of Israel and the genocide of Jews.
In sum, the Palestinian people could have had their state, their freedom, their national self-determination, many times over -- had they been willing to build their state alongside of Israel. But their leadership insisted on “Palestine” instead of Israel.
The fact is that this war is not about the “oppression” of Palestinians. The purpose of this war is now, as it has been since its inception, the destruction of Israel and the genocide of its nearly 6,000,000 Jews.
The Palestinian national movement is unique in all of history and across the entire world in that its sole defining paradigm has always been terrorism, and its one uncompromising goal the destruction of a sovereign state. Nowhere is this better summed up than the words of the deceased Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi at a Gaza City rally in August, 2001: "I want to tell the Zionists: There is no place for you here and there is no difference between one place in Palestine and the other…our warriors have the right to launch their strikes anywhere they wish….All of Israel, Tel Aviv included, is occupied Palestine."
To continue reading this article, click here.