A Target on Our Back

The PCUSA Portland General Assembly is one of three denominational meetings this summer being targeted by the secular Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, referred to hereafter as “End the Occupation”, a non-Presbyterian, secular umbrella organization promoting BDS, has zeroed in on the Methodist, Presbyterian and Unitarian Universalist denominational meetings. As their Call to Action concludes, “Here’s to 2016 being the most exciting year for church divestment yet!” 

In Portland, the BDS movement, which refuses to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state, is committed to seeing the PCUSA end its historic commitment to a two state solution. Through groups like End the Occupation it will strongly lobby in support of an ACSWP Study paper coming to the General Assembly that recommends the PCUSA no longer support a two state solution. We at Presbyterians for Middle East Peace strongly urge the GA to continue support of the only diplomatic approach endorsed by the world’s major powers.

End the Occupation and the Presbyterian-related Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) have worked closely to align the PCUSA with the BDS movement’s agenda. The two groups have enlisted Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a small fringe group of American Jewish young people, in their efforts. The efforts of End the Occupation, IPMN and JVP have been vigorously denounced by all mainline Jewish organizations. J Street, a very progressive Jewish organization, has also opposed all efforts to divest that are trumpeted by End the Occupation, IPMN and JVP.

Of course, forgotten in the statements of End the Occupation and, oftentimes, IPMN is the fact that the 2014 General Assembly explicitly distanced itself from the BDS movement. In the overture endorsing divestment of GA funds from three companies, the General Assembly stated, “This action on divestment does not mean an alignment with the overall strategy of the global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement.” Further distancing itself from BDS efforts, the General Assembly instructed the IPMN to place a disclaimer on its controversial paper Zionism Unsettled, stating that the document in no way represented the positions of the PCUSA.

In 2014, opponents of divestment warned that it was naïve to think the PCUSA would not be viewed as being in alignment with the BDS movement if we voted to divest. Sadly, the opponents were prophetic. Within minutes of the 2014 vote, the BDS movement was sending messages around the world that the PCUSA had joined their movement. That message has continued unabated for two years.

At Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, we hope that commissioners will realize that we, the PCUSA, are being used cynically by a secular BDS movement that in no way shares our theological commitments. Let’s get the target off our back.