Open Letter to the Presbyterian Church

We are writing to you as deeply committed Jews to ask the Presbyterian Church of the United States to honor its commitment to doing justice and seeking peace, and, in so doing, to act as a true friend to our own people. We hope and pray that you will continue to disavow Christian Zionism, to condemn Israel’s continuing effort to extend and consolidate its hold on Palestinian land and water in the Occupied West Bank, and to begin selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations enabling those efforts. These decisions represented an important step forward for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.

We have been saddened, although not surprised, to see these principled actions met with accusations of anti-Jewish bigotry. All too often, when a non-Jewish group or individual speaks out against blatantly unjust Israeli policies and actions, they are accused of acting on that unreasoning hatred of Jews and Judaism that is commonly called anti-Semitism. Yet to an anti-Semite, Jews are inherently evil, and can only be improved by ceasing to exist as Jews. Issuing a moral rebuke such as a targeted divestment shows a respect for Jews and Judaism that is fundamentally incompatible with anti-Semitism. Such an act is predicated on the belief that the recipients of the rebuke are capable of reevaluating their actions and turning onto a more just path. We can think of no greater act of friendship than to risk being defamed in order to remind one’s friends of their own ideals when they, themselves, have forgotten them.

In the book of Proverbs, revered by Jews and Christians alike, it is written, “A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate you; the wise, when rebuked, will love you” (9:8). By choosing selective divestment, you can demonstrate the integrity, and the courage, to rebuke the state of Israel for its bitter oppression of the Palestinian people. At the same time, you can encourage and bring hope to the many Jews who speak out for justice in their own communities, or remain silent out of fear of censure. By embracing this opportunity to speak for justice, and for peace, you can also challenge us as Jews to meet the test of our own integrity, and our own courage: to choose how we will hear the message of divestment. Will we be scoffers, hating our friends for challenging our misdeeds, or will we be wise, loving them for reminding us of the pursuit of justice that is our highest calling, and the expression of our truest selves? The answer, of course, is that the response will be mixed, and, at first, the scoffers may well predominate.

Yet we believe that the day will come, be it in five years or fifty, when the challenge will be accepted in the spirit in which it was made, the test of justice passed, and the Church’s action in this matter will be remembered with respect and gratitude by Jews around the world. We are proud to be among the first to say, “Thank you!”

Jews Against the Occupation is an organization of progressive, secular and religious Jews of all ages throughout the New York City area advocating peace through justice for Palestine and Israel.

Related Links

  • BY TOPIC: Boycott and Divestment News
  • Churches speak out on economic pressure as a tool for peace, Adri Niewhoff (2 October 2005)
  • Presbyterian Church names companies for ‘progressive engagement’ over role in Middle East violence, Report, PCUSA (5 August 2005)
  • Jews Against the Occupation