As the push to cut off investments in Israel gains momentum in Protestant
circles, Jewish organizations and their allies on Capitol Hill are racing
to neutralize the burgeoning divestment movement.
This week, following a tense three-hour summit with upset Jewish communal
officials, leaders of the Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (USA), with
2.5 million members, said they were determined to go ahead with their
recently approved plan to divest selectively from Israel. The interfaith
meeting came just days after Anglican Church officials visiting Israel said
that they would push for consideration of a divestment plan to protest
Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.
"The Presbyterian divestment could potentially create a snowball effect and
resurrect what had been a moribund issue," said the interfaith affairs
director of the Anti-Defamation League, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor. "Now
it has provoked the Anglicans, and we know it will not end there. We have
to send a clear message to every church that they will have to face a
united Jewish community on this issue."
In an effort to head off anti-Israel divestment efforts, a bipartisan group
of 13 congressmen sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce stating
that such campaigns violate America's laws regarding the Arab boycott of
Israel. The letter, which was initiated by the Zionist Organization of
America, was sent to the Commerce's Office of Anti-boycott Compliance. The
congressmembers urged the office to "investigate the national boycott
campaign against Israel, shut down the illegal divestment campaigns and
impose the appropriate penalties."
A second bipartisan group of congressmen sent a letter to the Presbyterian
Church's chief executive, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, calling for the
church to abandon its recently adopted divestment plan. The letter,
organized by Howard Berman, a California Democrat, termed the church's
divestment policy "irresponsible, counterproductive and morally bankrupt...