DLI, not BDS: Part II


Several weeks ago we wrote about the so-called Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to strip Israel of foreign investment and support. We wrote that the more accurate appellation would be the DeLegitimize Israel (DLI) movement, since the goals of the effort include branding Israel as a pariah in the international community.

A session on this topic was held at the recent American Jewish Press Association annual conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. The panel of experts discussing the topic included, among others, Ethan Felson, Vice President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). Felson spoke directly and eloquently about the public perception of threats facing Israel from the DLI movement. Carol Karsch, Executive Director of Tucson’s Jewish Community Foundation, spoke of successful efforts to combat the distribution of textbooks in the Tucson community that were blatantly biased against Israel (and supported by some on the University of Arizona faculty under the guise of academic freedom).

One the the most interesting and important topics discussed was the upcoming General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in July. At that Minneapolis gathering, the attendees plan to act on numerous recommendations of divestment and related efforts, backed by a report generated by a “study group” that would essentially rewrite history about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. (A link to the report is provided below.) This is not the first time that factions in the Church have pushed for anti-Israeli resolutions, but they have been beaten back in the past. It is not at all clear that sane and cool heads will prevail this time.

How damaging is this report? Well, here is a cynical but accurate description of its take on history from a Jerusalem Post article by D. Bloomfield on June 16:

You probably don’t remember but before June 1967 there was peace in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. There were no fedayeen, no terror attacks, no PLO. Only after it was “colonized in the 20th century” by Jewish immigrants from Europe who took “the land of Palestine from a majority of its inhabitants at gunpoint” did things go sour.

First came the Nakba, the catastrophe that was the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, followed 19 years later by the “illegal” occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Felson himself was quoted in the same article about the report: “It’s a highly-selective use of text, history and circumstances to form an anti-Israel narrative…They give significant voice to anti-Zionists, condemn companies that sell to Israel and allow for the demonization of Israel. That’s several red lines.”

The difficulty with the Church’s approach is not that it demonstrates caring and a desire to minister to the plight of Palestinians. There’s nothing wrong with that. But tossing Israel to the lions and whitewashing Palestinian leadership is not the way to do it.

This is the danger of the DLI movement – its lies and clear bias start to become gospel (no pun intended) to those in the mainstream, particularly those who think of themselves as “anti-war,” and who will cavalierly blame a sovereign battling a resistance movement, without reference to the specific facts involved. Lest you think this is hyperbole, think of the recent reactions to the Gaza flotilla that were formed before anyone had a reasonable and objective understanding of the facts involved.

If the Church were interested in delivering a meaningful, fair and hopeful message, this might be one way to do it:

As a group charged with promoting peaceful coexistence and the avoidance of human suffering, we are deeply saddened by the failure of Israel and the Palestinian leadership to effectively come together to create a lasting and meaningful solution to the ongoing crisis. We understand there are myriad perspectives about how we have arrived at this point, and about the causes of violence and pain. Our desire as ministers to those in need is to encourage constructive dialogue that can lead to an accord. The Church believes that Jews and Palestinians should both have safe and secure homelands, and we will offer our support to promoting ongoing efforts to reach that ultimate goal.

Whether that statement soothes you or angers you, it’s highly doubtful that it would make a mash of Jewish-Presbyterian relations. Unfortunately, the sanctions proposed, and the report they are based on, will most definitely have that effect.

The DLI movement’s threat is in duping the mainstream into accepting a grossly distorted view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The proposed resolution of the Presbyterian Church falls hook, line and sinker for the bait. We trust that sanity, wisdom and moderation will prevail, lest the Church push its relationship with Jews toward something that more closely resembles historic anti-Semitism.


To see the report, go to:

http://www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace/ pdf/middleeastpeace- fullreport.pdf.