News / USA

US Presbyterian Church Considers Sanctions Against Israel

US Presbyterian Church Considers Sanctions Against Israeli
X
Jerome Socolovsky
June 16, 2014 11:19 PM
One of America’s oldest Protestant denominations is holding its biennial assembly this week, and high on the agenda is a proposal to divest from companies that do business with Israel. A vote on the measure is set for Friday. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports that if approved, the Presbyterian Church USA would be the largest religious organization in the United States to impose sanctions on Israel.
One of America’s oldest Protestant denominations is holding its biennial assembly this week, and high on the agenda is a proposal to divest from companies that do business with Israel.

If approved, the Presbyterian Church USA would be the largest religious organization in the country to impose sanctions on Israel.

During Sunday worship at the Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, interim pastor Beverly Dempsey offered a prayer for her Protestant denomination’s leaders gathering this week in Detroit.

“As the general assembly moves into full swing, there are many issues that threaten to tear the PCUSA apart,” she said from the pulpit.

“In the end, we may or may not wholeheartedly agree with the position that the denomination is taking on marriage equality, or divestment, or immigration reform, or the mandatory registration of guns, or any of the key issues of our day.”

Like many other mainline Protestant churches in America, this once influential denomination has been hemorrhaging members. It now has around 1.75 million. And, while the debates have divided those still in the pews, several proposals to sanction Israel for the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process may prove to be the most controversial.

One calls for Israel to be branded an “apartheid” state. Another calls for the church to withdraw investments from three U.S. companies whose products are used by the Israeli military in the occupied territories.  A similar measure came within a few votes of passing at the last assembly in 2012.

A vote on the divestment proposal is scheduled for later this week. If it goes through, it would be a major victory for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement. The movement wants to isolate Israel with sanctions like those applied to apartheid-era South Africa.

Reverend Susan Wilder of the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network, which has backed the divestment motion, says the aim is not to delegitimize Israel.

“But we do need to shine a spotlight on Israel’s-on bad policies,” she says. “This isn’t about good guys and bad guys, or being against Israel, or wanting to isolate Israel or even punish Israel, this is about wanting to shine a spotlight on actions that are harming everyone.”

She says she doesn’t want to “profit from someone else’s pain.”

“For us,” she adds, “this is a matter of living out our faith and it's a matter of our stewardship of our financial sources. It's a matter of getting our investments in line with our values.”

Earlier this year, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network published a congregational study guide called Zionism Unsettled. Critics say it demonizes Israel by calling Zionism a “false theology” and blames it for the entire Middle East conflict.

Rev. John Wimberly, retired pastor of Western Presbyterian Church, says Christians should think twice before imposing sanctions on Israel.

“There is a 2,000-year history of economic sanctions being used by Christians aimed at Jews and it's a bloody, nasty history and that is kind of my bottom line opposition right there,” says Wimberly, who is now on the steering committee for Presbyterians for Middle East Peace.

He says he doesn’t agree with Israel’s settlement policies. But he argues that the BDS movement ignores Palestinian attacks on Israel, while the divestment proposal has been pushed by lobbyists from outside the denomination.

“This divestment thing has come up ever since 2004 and at every general assembly, and every general assembly the Presbyterian Church, which is kind of a progressive body, has defeated it,” he says. “So Israel has lots of friends in the mainline churches.”

But Israel’s supporters fear a "yes" vote could prompt other churches to follow suit.  That could leave it with fewer friends among left-leaning Protestant Christians and more dependent on support from largely evangelical Christian conservatives.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Joan from: Caledon
June 18, 2014 8:23 AM
No wonder the PCUSA is losing members. In which middle eastern country is there such freedom or thought, sexuality and religion as there is in Israel. These people have to be brain dead if they accept this resolution to boycott Israel. thank God I got out of this madhouse when I was thirteen and began to think for myself. And that was sixty years ago. It seems that this church hasn't learned a thing in sixty years. Palestinian people subjugated? Give me a break. The rest of the world dumps cash into them to let them live a life of luxury.
In Response

by: Yaakov from: Jerusalem
June 18, 2014 11:55 AM
No one in Israel is aware or cares about what Christians think or do.

by: grandestgrandma from: brooklyn ny
June 17, 2014 8:22 PM
First Israel is Israel not Palestine as you wish to know it
Israel has policy's and so do other countries not all are to our liking but who is anyone to come and instigate against a country, that has every right to build and construct and civilize their country yes there country Palestinians are more than glad that they are under Israel's rule because if the Hamas Fatah call them whatever you like will rule it will look more like Iraq Iran should I continue the list I believe you get the picture that is only if you care to know the truth the Palestinians look for jobs that are offer thru Israelis rather than their brethren's for they don't know if they will get paid or come home alive which THEY DON'T fear working for Israelis so why do you want to hurt the Israelis that feed the Palestinian's wake up People are People NOT created equal some are good and some are bad it's not religion that is bad it's the person so look in the mirror and ask yourself who inspired your thoughts your hating part of you for if you really love you wouldn't be saying what you do.

by: Paul
June 17, 2014 10:49 AM
Susan suggest you aquaint yourself with the history of Israel before supporting such action and "shine a spotlight on Hammas".

by: henry mkalira from: malawi
June 17, 2014 7:04 AM
Very sad for a church to do such sanctions. End of times

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
June 17, 2014 3:06 AM
So why does the PCUSA need the publicity? Oh yeah, membership is falling. If PCUSA truly cared about their own financial involvements, then why the hype? Oh yeah, membership. I wouldn't be so quick to jump on the "3 cheers" wagon until the PCUSA allowed us all to see where there investments are. Why not, they (PCUSA) decided to make this a public/political issue. My former church banned us from patronizing Busch Gardens/Williamsburg when it was owned by Busch, because, it makes and distributes alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is bad, m'kay! But my former church sponsored trips to King's Dominion/Richmond, owned by Paramount. Really? Alcohol is bad, but a lot of the filth/anti-christian movies are OK? So we can patronize KD, but not BG? Turned out that my FORMER church had investments in KD. It was one of the largest churches in my city. But since the 'exposure' of hypocracy, that church no longer exists. Hmmmm, wonder why. If PCUSA really cared about the sufferings caused by weapons, whether by militants or opressing governments, then PCUSA should be petitioning all faiths to stop supporting any businesses that help bring about the suffering. PCUSA should have rebutted the 'no Israel investments' vision. If PCUSA had adamantly expressed that this action is not a slight to Israel, then I would be giving PCUSA more than "3 cheers", maybe 4! But they haven't, so Israel and the rest of the non-bandwagon-jumping people have no choice but to view this as anti-Israel.

by: Valentine from: Nigeria
June 17, 2014 2:02 AM
Its not a surprise that this kind of sanction against Isreal will come from a Church in the US.
The US is arguably the most civilized n advanced nation, yet heading into moral n religious doom.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
June 17, 2014 8:02 AM
That's because the message of faith is becoming less important, so churches everywhere will start sectarian policies and becoming more political because a simple message of faith is not filling their offering plates like it used to. Believe me, I don't think the Israelis are in a mad panic "OMG, PCUSA is backing out of our financial markets!" I think the Israelis are more likely saying "PCUSA?....hmmmm....let me Google that."

by: SAS from: Pittsburgh
June 16, 2014 10:37 PM
Three cheers to the Presbyterian church for taking a courageous stand against Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.
In Response

by: Puck from: San Diego
June 17, 2014 7:12 PM
SAS,

You exhibit a case of selective morality -- a case of highly selective morality. Strapping on bomb vests loaded with metal shards designed to inflict maximum damage to human bodies, and targeting buses, cafes, markets, airports, that is, places where you will find ordinary men, women, children you claim is entirely acceptable. A government that takes steps to thwart attacks upon its unarmed citizens you label label oppressive actions. Reading your post, Jesus would likely have said, "The hypocrites rule the world." Three cheers to the Presbyterian church indeed.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs