Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Israel Divestment Campaigns Gain Momentum in U.S.

The U.S. Presbyterian Church’s debate over divesting from Caterpillar, a construction supply corporation that profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestine, shows considerable momentum for the BDS movement, opening up rifts between some Church members and pro-Israel allies.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inter Press Service

A resolution at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three corporations which provide equipment used to maintain Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands failed by a mere two votes on Thursday.

Yet despite this apparent setback, the movement to divest from such corporations has gained tremendous momentum in recent weeks.

On Jun. 25, Morgan Stanley Capital Index (MSCI) announced that it had removed the Caterpillar corporation from its index of socially responsible companies, due in part to the use of its equipment to violate the human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank.

As a result, the leading retirement assets management firm for workers in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields, TIAA-CREF divested from Caterpillar. Activists in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation hailed this as a major victory, as TIAA-CREF had been the target of a divestment campaign for several years.

The TIAA-CREF decision raised hopes among pro-Palestinian activists that the Presbyterian Church (USA) would also choose to divest from three corporations – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solution – which their Israel-Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) had identified as profiting from Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.

If the Presbyterians passed a divestment resolution they would become the first mainstream Christian church body to do so.

But major Jewish institutions lobbied hard, as they have in previous years, to defeat the Presbyterian divestment initiative, and they succeeded, albeit by the narrowest of margins. The final vote was 333 against the resolution, 331 in favour and two abstentions.

The narrow margin of defeat, however, provided substantial encouragement to some BDS activists.

Rabbi Alissa Wise, director of Campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a major national Jewish peace group which has spearheaded the campaigns to divest from Caterpillar and to engage both the Presbyterians and TIAA-CREF in that effort, said, “It’s too early to know what is going to happen, but I have been moved to tears on multiple occasions as I saw authentic recognition of Palestinian experience and deep commitment to justice for all people by the Presbyterian Church.

“This is a historic moment in the struggle for dignity and justice, and I commend the PC(USA) for getting us this close to holding corporations accountable for profiting from the occupation.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s executive director, said, “The recent divestment wins, and the incredibly thin margin of this vote, show that the discourse is shifting. The conversation was only about how to end the occupation, not whether or not it should end. This in and of itself is incredible progress.”

That progress was further demonstrated when the Presbyterians voted on Friday to “boycott products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories”.

While JVP prominently agitated in favour of divestment, a possibly decisive blow was dealt to the initiative by two other Jewish pro-peace groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.

Both groups came out strongly against divestment and both cautioned the Presbyterians that they believed such initiatives could lead to increased anti-Semitism around the world and that passage of the initiative could jeopardise, or even destroy, Presbyterian-Jewish relations in the United States.

“Divestment campaigns such as this therefore raise very real and understandable worries about global anti-Semitism and the perception that the campaigns are not truly (or only) about Israeli policies but rather reflect a deep-seated hatred for and rejection of Israel,” said Debra DeLee, president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now.

J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, was equally direct: “If PCUSA disregards the voices of its Jewish allies in the quest for a two-state solution and votes to support divestment, it won’t bring a just peace any closer. It will merely lose the good will of many American Jews and further dissipate the energies we so desperately need to apply to the task at hand.”

Even more threatening were two rabbis, Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Alderstein of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. They stated that “it is almost beyond belief that as the ground literally burns beneath the Christian faithful in Egypt, Nigeria and Iraq that PCUSA stays fixated in aiding and abetting the de-legitimizing of Israel.

“All other mainline Christian denominations have either rejected or shelved divestment measures… A huge number of ordinary Presbyterians reject the actions of their church leadership. They enjoy a mutually warm and respectful relationship with Jewish friends. Those valued friendships will continue. But as far as PCUSA denominational leadership, the upcoming vote may bring us to the end of the road.”

Numerous groups, Jewish and non-Jewish, worked hard to defeat divestment at the GA, but despite their seeming success, the razor-thin margin of defeat could not have been encouraging for them.

“In the long-running Palestinian quest for human rights, it is important not to stop at individual victories or defeats … but to track long term trends,” said Nadia Hijab, co-founder of Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network and a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.

“And those trends have definitely been moving in favour of Palestinian rights and against Israeli colonisation of the occupied territories and discrimination towards its Palestinian citizens as well as Palestinian refugees. Perhaps most significantly, Palestinian civil society has in recent years been able to define the terms of the struggle, forcing pro-Israel forces on the defensive and costing them millions.

“Although church organisations such as the United Methodists and the Presbyterians have not yet been able to bring themselves to divest from companies that support Israel’s occupation, they have been forced to respond to the flagrant illegality of the occupation by such measures as boycotts of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements.”

Mitchell Plitnick is a contributor to Inter Press Service.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share