Washington June 6 - Mainline Christian denominations that consider divesting from companies that do business with Israel are misguided and set back peace, a leading Jewish activist said Wednesday.
“Divestment moves peace further on to the horizon,” Ethan Felson, vice-President of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs told a conference call sponsored by The Israel Project. “It gives hope to Palestinians extremists that a state can be gained without negotiation.”
The American Jewish community “stands shoulder to shoulder with the church on many issues, and we ask them to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in promoting positive ways of fostering peace and rejecting divestment,” he added.
On May 3, the Methodist Church, the largest mainstream Protestant denomination in the U.S. with around 7.5 million members, twice voted against divesting from companies that do business in Israel at their national conference. The Presbyterian Church USA, another major denomination, will vote at a national convention that begins at the end of this month on proposals to divest from three multinational corporations.
Felson said that much of the information church activists get comes from anti-Zionists from propagandists in the Arab world who advocate “justice” based on a strictly Palestinian narrative and favor the destruction of Israel. Many of those holding such beliefs church administrators or academics rather than pulpit clergy, Felson said.
“The skewed narrative been allowed to go on for too long,” Felson said. We have to make sure when we talk about Israel, we do it in a way that highlights our personal story, our connection, why we as individuals love Israel and how Israelis feel.”
Felson said he was “hopeful” that the Presbyterian Church will reject divestment measures.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the church on many issues, and we ask them to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in promoting positive ways of fostering peace and rejecting divestment,” he said.