Detroit, June 20, 2014 - In response to the Presbyterian Church's
vote to divest from Israel at their General Assembly meeting, Rabbi Rick
Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following
"American Jews have great friends within the
Presbyterian Church. I was honored to meet many of them at the General
Assembly in Detroit, and am grateful for their support and friendship.
That friendship is by far the rule in communities around the country,
where Presbyterian churches work hand in hand with synagogues on a wide
array of common concerns, including Middle East peace.
"When it comes to Israel, the Palestinians, and achieving a lasting
and sustainable peace in the Middle East, PC(USA) has by a very narrow
margin chosen its preference for a policy of isolation rather than one
of engagement. We want to acknowledge with abiding appreciation the
eloquence and thoughtfulness of so many voices who argued against
divestment and for engagement and interfaith cooperation.
"In my remarks in Detroit, I said to the Assembly: 'You can chose
partnership and engagement or you can choose separation and divestment.'
Were they to have chosen to continue working cooperatively with us on
peace efforts to make real a two-state solution, I offered to facilitate
a meeting of the Presbyterian leadership with Israeli Prime Minister
Netanyahu. At this meeting we would have discussed with the Prime
Minister any areas of concern about Israel's policies regarding the
Palestinians. With their vote today, they have, sadly, chosen the latter
course of divestment and separation. So be it.
"Alas, at a national level, this is not a surprise. The publication
and dissemination of "Zionism Unsettled" as a teaching tool used by the
church sent a painful warning to us. It is a biased, one-sided and
ahistoric document. But we believed it was worth going the extra mile
and appealing directly to the commissioners.
"Of course, we will continue to partner with our allies within the
church who are committed to a two-state solution, reject the effort of
the BDS campaign to delegitimize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish
state, and work toward a just and fair solution to enable the
Palestinians to achieve the state that they deserve. We will continue to
advocate forcefully for two states for two peoples.
"However, based on today's vote, especially when taken together with
"Zionism Unsettled," we can reach no conclusion other than that PC(USA)
itself does not share those baseline commitments and that they are not a
partner for joint work on Israel-Palestine peace issues. Whatever the
intent of some who supported this resolution, this vote will be widely
understood as endorsement of and support for the BDS Movement.
"We will continue to
work with local Presbyterian congregations, many of which we know do not
support this position and with which our congregations have forged
important alliances to further the values that we jointly hold as core
to our desire for a better world for all peoples.
"We urge the majority of Presbyterian clergy and lay leaders who, we
believe, reject the approach of the national denomination in supporting
BDS to let themselves now be heard. We urge the denomination to reverse
this position. We need to be working together on this vital issue and
there cannot be a true partnership when one side endorses positions that
delegitimize the other's rights and core values."