Israel has occupied the Palestinian West Bank since 1967. The United Nations on Nov. 22, 1967, declared (Resolution 242) that this is illegal in these words: “The acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible.” It called for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied.” Not only does Israel still illegally occupy these territories to this day, but it has also illegally established settlements in the West Bank with 400,000 illegal occupiers as of today.
Much of the best land in Palestine has been taken over by settlers. There are separate roads, amenities and facilities for the settler community unavailable to the Palestinians. Checkpoints, walls and pass requirements make life in the West Bank hell for the Palestinian people. Gaza has deservedly been described as an open prison.
This in brief is the background to the decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three U.S. corporations that enable and profit from the illegal occupation of Palestine. The corporations are Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard. In their general assembly in Detroit, the church made clear that it did not endorse a wider boycott, divest and sanctions movement against Israel.
The June 30 Perspectives piece “Presbyterians Divest From Peacemaking” grossly distorts the facts of the case, and in order to make their case, the authors make scurrilous associations between the Presbyterian Church and the Ku Klux Klan. Accusations of anti-Semitism and “divesting from peacemaking” could not be further from the truth. To accuse someone or some organization of anti-Semitism because it calls out Israel on its illegal occupation of Palestine and its oppression of the Palestinians is at best dishonest. It has no more validity than accusing someone of anti-Americanism because he or she calls the United States out on its war crimes in Iraq, Vietnam and elsewhere.
The Presbyterian Church should rather be commended for its honesty and courage in taking a stand on one of the most glaring injustices of our time.