June 14, 2006
Editor’s note: See also Presbyterians of the World, Unite! (w/Finkelstein’s comment)
Open Letter from Palestinian Civil Society to the Commissioners and Advisors to the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
14 June 2006
Dear Presbyterian friends of justice and peace,
As representatives of Palestinian refugees, Palestinians under Israel’s illegal military occupation and Palestinian citizens of Israel suffering from its system of racial discrimination , we appeal to you, representatives of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to do what’s right, what’s peaceful and what many of you agree has to be done to fulfill your ethical obligations in the face of persistent injustice and grave violation of fundamental principles of human rights and international law. We call upon you to reaffirm your position taken in the PC(USA)’s 216th General Assembly of 2004 to divest from companies benefiting from Israel’s occupation and other forms of oppression, exactly as you did from companies profiting from the apartheid regime in South Africa in the not so distant past.
In 2004, your divestment overture gave us hope that, despite Israel’s ever expanding, land-grabbing colonies, its indiscriminate killings, its wanton home demolitions and uprooting of one million trees and its monstrous colonial Wall, we were not alone; that there are people of conscience who put principles ahead of interest and ethics before profit. Aside from hope, your initiative sent a firm message to our oppressors that they cannot continue to trample on our human and political rights with impunity, that they shall be held accountable for their crimes. In contrast, the hesitation in implementing divestment — as a result of an unprecedented campaign of intimidation, threats and bullying waged by Israel and its powerful lobbies in the US — only kindled Israel’s determination to pursue its racist and colonial policies with no regard to international public opinion. A colonial power left to its own whims and desires will never voluntarily give up oppression. It must be compelled to do so. Similarly, only through effective pressure and accountability will Israel ever give up its occupation.
You must have been inundated lately by the argument that Presbyterian divestment from Israeli occupation will harm dialogue with self-appointed representatives of other faith groups. Is dialogue an end in itself? Does maintaining this dialogue justify the moral price of keeping the PC(USA)’s investments in companies benefiting from oppression? And why would any honest, peace-loving human being or group take offence or call off any dialogue in reaction to your decision to resist injustice through this morally sound, non-violent means?
As to the argument that your divestment may “hinder the peace process,” we can only wonder what peace process they have in mind? The only peace process successive Israeli governments have expressed any interest in pursuing is that which imposes submission to injustice and acceptance of the occupation, or parts of it as a fait accompli. The key word missing is justice. What we have always struggled to achieve is indeed a peace based on justice, international law and the universal principle of equality of all human beings, regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender. Your divestment can only enhance the prospects for realizing that genuine peace.
Finally, those accusing you of “scapegoating” Israel are essentially trying to convince you that, even if the perpetrators of a crime are apprehended, or at least exposed, you should not “single them out” for punishment. When you correctly analyzed that oppression in South Africa was rooted in the apartheid system you decided to clear your conscience and contribute to resisting injustice by withdrawing your investments from companies contributing to the perpetuation of that regime. Now that you have reached the conclusion that Israel’s illegal occupation, its denial of refugee rights and its racist policies are the root cause of injustice and conflict in the Holy Land, we would only hope that you shall apply the same moral standards and divest from Israel.
We have faith in you and your moral judgment.
Palestinian Civil Society Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
 Over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions and NGOs, including several key faith-based organizations, issued a call in July 2005 for a global campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law, similar to those imposed against South African Apartheid. The Call and the list of signatories can be found at: http://www.jai-pal.org/content.php?page=173