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Presbyterian Divestment: Contesting Representations of “the Jewish Community“

While Presbyterians decide whether they will divest from companies involved in the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine, they must remember that many members of the Jewish community support divestment.

Rabbi Brant Rosen talks about why he supports divestment. (Screen grab via YouTube)

Detroit – Listening to the debate among Presbyterians about whether to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard over the persistent involvement of these companies in the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine, it seems clear that the most powerful argument of Presbyterians who oppose divestment is the following:

“If we divest, it will damage our relationships with the Jewish community.”

There’s no question that some Jews will be very unhappy if the Presbyterians vote to divest from these three companies.

But it’s equally clear that the opponents of divestment from the occupation do not speak for all Jews; and to say that the opponents of divestment speak for “the Jewish community” is tantamount to saying that Jews who support divestment are not part of “the Jewish community” or that their membership in “the Jewish community” doesn’t count in assessing that “the Jewish community” has a position opposed to divestment and will be unhappy with the Presbyterians if they vote for divestment.

There are some folks here in Detroit at the Presbyterian general assembly from Jewish Voice for Peace. They’re saying to the Presbyterians contemplating divestment: we are also Jews. We are also members of the Jewish community. And we support those Presbyterians who, consistent with the long-established investment policy of the Presbyterian church – which requires the church to make its investments part of its witness for justice, and to ensure that those investments are not contributing to oppression – are advocating that the church divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard.

In the last few days, my Just Foreign Policy colleague Megan Iorio and I had the opportunity to take short video testimony from some of these Jewish voices for peace. Here are four of them.

You can find more voices in support of Presbyterian divestment here. Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council has an open letter to the Presbyterians in support of divestment, which you can find here.

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