I have been a member since December 2004 of a Presbyterian-Jewish dialogue group formed as a result of the first effort by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to inject itself into the divestment (which grew into boycott, divest and sanction) movement. So I read with great interest Rabbi Joshua Davidson’s very clearly heartfelt comments about the prospects for repairing the relationship between the Jewish community and the Presbyterian Church (USA) in the aftermath of this summer’s resolution in favor of divestment (“Repairing A Relationship With Presbyterian Clergy,” Opinion, Aug. 29).
As one who has met with and studied the Israeli-Palestinian divide from a Jewish and Christian perspective with Presbyterian colleagues on a regular basis, planned for upcoming Presbyterian biennials, traveled to Israel as part of a group of 10 Presbyterians and 9 Jews (including clergy of both faiths), etc., I respectfully submit that Rabbi Davidson is dreaming and, in the process, deceiving himself.
There is no question that the Presbyterians with whom he met were well-meaning friends of the Jewish community. The problem is that they do not control what happens at the Church’s biennial gatherings vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinians, and never will. The very first vote on divestment (targeting Caterpillar) in June 2004, was “explained” [by Church officials] after the fact as a “midnight end-around” by a ”splinter group,” an act that “caught everyone by surprise.” It was dismissed because the 2004 resolution was merely “advisory.” The explanation of “surprise” rang hollow when it was offered every two years thereafter.
The fact is that there is a virulent anti-Semitic (yes, anti-Semitic, not ”anti-Israeli policies”) group within the Church power structure, including the Middle East Study Group, which has hijacked the debate and imposed its warped view on the resolutions considered every two years. It was only a matter of time, reached in 2014, before the proponents overtook the opposition and the resolution passed. As well-meaning as our friends are — and I have no doubt about their friendship — they do not have the same “fire in their bellies” as do the proponents of the one-sided debate and vote which resulted in this summer’s outrage.