Editor’s note: Rabbi Fred Greene of Temple Beth Tikvah and Dr. Lane Alderman of Roswell Presbyterian Church wrote and co-signed the following letter to Cindy Bolbach, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of the United States’s 219th General Assembly, and copied the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church of the United States.
…ABOUT THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
We are writing to express our hopes that the upcoming 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) will vote not to divest the PC (USA) of its stock in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard, and we would request that our letter be referred to the appropriate committee at the upcoming Assembly meeting in Pittsburgh.
Both of us serve congregations in Roswell, Ga. One is the Pastor of the Roswell Presbyterian Church, the other is the Rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah.
Both of us are advocates for social justice, religious liberties, protection of the environment, and a wide range of other concerns. We share a desire for a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine which will provide peace, stability, and security for all the people of the region.
We pray daily for a lasting peace which will enable both Jews and Palestinians to live in peace. Any time a single person suffers, we all suffer. There has been deep, painful suffering on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We deplore suffering of innocents on all sides.
Those who advocate for divestment say that it is a necessary step toward a “just peace.” We share their desire for this peace, however we are convinced that this step will actually do more harm than good in the process toward that peace.
Here are some of our concerns:
- Divestment strengthens those who oppose peace on both sides. It undermines the belief that the parties involved in the conflict can reconcile. Divestment works from an erroneous presumption that Israelis feel powerful and will make decisions because they feel their power is threatened.
- Divestment likens the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the completely dissimilar situation of Apartheid-era South Africa. Checkpoints, security roads, identification cards and security barriers must be viewed within the context of the ongoing conflict and the very real security dilemmas that Israelis face. The only way to resolve this situation is to help the parties arrive at a negotiated two-state solution.
- Divestment takes a one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that fails to acknowledge that the Palestinian leadership also shares responsibility for the current impasse, such as refusing to return to negotiations without preconditions. Divestment deepens a sense of vilification of Israel, harms relationships and erodes the belief that the parties can come to a positive peace.
- Divestment will harm long-established ties between the Jewish and Christian communities. It acts out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict between Christians and Jews. It resonates for members of the Jewish community with memories of anti-Jewish boycotts throughout our history. There is also an alarming increase in classically anti-Semitic theology used to support anti-Zionist activism.
We are convinced that there are many positive opportunities to build the Palestinian economy and infrastructure, such as Profits/Prophets for Peace. It is through these types of activities that we can help both Palestinians and Israelis move beyond the teachings of hate and to live side-by-side in peace.
The way to advance peace is to foster reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians and advocate for a two-state solution. If we want the parties to reconcile, we should model reconciliation rather than conflict. We do both Israelis and Palestinians a disservice when we act out the conflict as if we are the actual parties to it.
American Jewish and Christian voices can play an instrumental role in paving the path to peace in the Middle East. We can teach and learn together, travel together, and promote positive investment rather than divestment.
In order to further the positive efforts for peace in Israel-Palestine, we urge the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to vote against divesting in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard. We will continue to hold you in our prayers as you meet.
In the cause of peace,
Rabbi Fred Greene – Rabbi, Temple Beth Tikvah
Dr. Lane Alderman – Pastor, Roswell Presbyterian Church
…ABOUT THE ATTACK ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN ISRAEL
I am a supporter of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) in Jerusalem. They are a civil rights organization working to, among other things, put an end to gender segregation in Israel.
Over the past few years, certain extreme elements of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Israel started an attack on women’s rights. They have tried to segregate public buses (with women being forced to the back of the bus), they have removed images of women from billboards and advertisements and they want to keep women off a religious public radio station.
Their latest move has been to try to pressure the Israel Defense Forces into forbidding women from singing at official ceremonies. They are literally trying to push women out of public view.
IRAC initiated a legal proceeding which ended last year in a landmark decision banning forced segregation on public buses and declaring that women may sit wherever they want on the bus. IRAC is working now to make sure this decision is implemented. Many Haredi men and women, who oppose those radical demands, support this struggle against segregation.
We should all stand with the Israel Religious Action Center in fighting back against this tide of discrimination, and there are ways we can help. For anyone visiting Israel, with a group or alone, contact the IRAC office and ask to participate in their Freedom Rides to change the reality for women one bus at a time. Our presence on these segregated buses will give many Haredi women the courage to sit where they choose instead of where they are pressured to sit.
There are few issues in Israeli civil society that will have as big an impact on the future of the State of Israel than how it balances its uniquely Jewish character with its democratic principles. The role of women in society is crucial in this struggle, and by participating in a Freedom Ride or spreading the word to other people, you are playing a tangible role in keeping Israel true to its democratic principles.
Rabbi Fred Greene
Friend of IRAC