Pastor William M. Paul, in his support of the Presbyterian Church (USA) vote to divest from specific U.S. companies that do business with Israel (“Presbyterians Seek Mideast Peace: They Voted to Support a Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” July 3 Perspectives) demonstrates the blindness of many Presbyterians to the anti-Semitism of this resolution.
One can, of course, be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic. But anti-Semites are against Israel, so how should anti-Semitism be determined? Three criteria historically characterize anti-Semitism: Jews are selectively blamed; Jews are held to higher standards than others; and Jews are collectively punished. All are amply met by the Presbyterian Assembly’s divestment resolution, which notoriously singles out and punishes Israel’s actions rather than the actions of any other country.
Further, as those who voted for it must know, this resolution, despite its fine print, which Pastor Paul hides behind, will spur others to take even stronger anti-Israel actions.
Had the context been a worldwide view, for example, considering divestment from companies whose products were used by the Chinese in Tibet, then one could argue the merits of their anti-Israel position without necessarily invoking anti-Semitism. Singling out a country because of discrimination against gays and lesbians also might be understandable as this denomination of Presbyterians has taken a forthright stand on this issue, which has cost it many members.
Yet they attack only Israel, which is by far the safest country for gays and lesbians in the Mideast. The selective divestment action of the Presbyterian Church (USA) abundantly fits the historic pattern of anti-Semitism.