Divestment: A Reply to Jewish Friends
The General Assembly deliberated for quite some time, and was careful as to what we were doing, and to what we were saying–and not saying. I was there, and can speak to the prayer and thought that went into this action.
We are not divesting from Israel, nor are we labeling Israel an apartheid state. We also acted to clearly state that this action is not an endorsement of, or participation in the BDS movement.
Instead, we have chosen to divest from three particular companies that are not in line with our pre-determined strategy of non-investment in military technology. Our MRTI team (Mission Responsibility Through Investment) team has not only investigated these technologies, but has also engaged each of the companies in an attempt to bring our investments back in line with our values–repeatedly–to no avail.
Again, this engagement was with the COMPANIES, not Israel, and it was about us not investing our money in technology that is used in warfare (of any kind, with any people) the action of divestment did not come as a result of failed peacemaking efforts with Israelis or Palestinians, but as the next step in a failed relationship between an investor and three corporations.
The resolution that passed re-articulated our commitment to peace, to Israel’s right to exist, and to a two-state solution, but ultimately, this was not about Israel, it was about us, bringing our investments back in line with our values.
We were lobbied relentlessly because this is seen as symbolic. The head of American reform Judaism, as well as Christian Palestinian leaders, came and shared their perspective. While there were many anti-divestment Jews present, there were also quite a few Jewish people than came and encouraged us to divest. We listened to all of them, but in the end, it wasn’t about Israel. It was about us and three companies. We did not want to profit from the products that these three companies made, consistent with our investment strategy of not investing in weapons, alcohol, or tobacco. We continue to invest in many companies that do peaceful business in Israel and Palestine, and there is no plan on changing that.
I know that anti-Semitism is a real problem, and the church has participated in this sin too often. But don’t judge us by the most inflammatory news reports, or by our investments–judge us by our actions.
Drew Ludwig is Pastor at Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church Buffalo N.Y.