Detroit, June 20, 2014 – In response to the Presbyterian Church’s vote to divest from Israel at their General Assembly meeting, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
“American Jews have great friends within the Presbyterian Church. I was honored to meet many of them at the General Assembly in Detroit, and am grateful for their support and friendship. That friendship is by far the rule in communities around the country, where Presbyterian churches work hand in hand with synagogues on a wide array of common concerns, including Middle East peace.
“When it comes to Israel, the Palestinians, and achieving a lasting and sustainable peace in the Middle East, PC(USA) has by a very narrow margin chosen its preference for a policy of isolation rather than one of engagement. We want to acknowledge with abiding appreciation the eloquence and thoughtfulness of so many voices who argued against divestment and for engagement and interfaith cooperation.
“In my remarks in Detroit, I said to the Assembly: ‘You can chose partnership and engagement or you can choose separation and divestment.’ Were they to have chosen to continue working cooperatively with us on peace efforts to make real a two-state solution, I offered to facilitate a meeting of the Presbyterian leadership with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. At this meeting we would have discussed with the Prime Minister any areas of concern about Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians. With their vote today, they have, sadly, chosen the latter course of divestment and separation. So be it.
“Alas, at a national level, this is not a surprise. The publication and dissemination of “Zionism Unsettled” as a teaching tool used by the church sent a painful warning to us. It is a biased, one-sided and ahistoric document. But we believed it was worth going the extra mile and appealing directly to the commissioners.
“Of course, we will continue to partner with our allies within the church who are committed to a two-state solution, reject the effort of the BDS campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and work toward a just and fair solution to enable the Palestinians to achieve the state that they deserve. We will continue to advocate forcefully for two states for two peoples.
“However, based on today’s vote, especially when taken together with “Zionism Unsettled,” we can reach no conclusion other than that PC(USA) itself does not share those baseline commitments and that they are not a partner for joint work on Israel-Palestine peace issues. Whatever the intent of some who supported this resolution, this vote will be widely understood as endorsement of and support for the BDS Movement.
“We will continue to work with local Presbyterian congregations, many of which we know do not support this position and with which our congregations have forged important alliances to further the values that we jointly hold as core to our desire for a better world for all peoples.
“We urge the majority of Presbyterian clergy and lay leaders who, we believe, reject the approach of the national denomination in supporting BDS to let themselves now be heard. We urge the denomination to reverse this position. We need to be working together on this vital issue and there cannot be a true partnership when one side endorses positions that delegitimize the other’s rights and core values.”