Following the decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three U.S. companies whose products, they argue, are used to support Israeli occupation, Americans for Peace Now today issued the following statement:
“Last Friday’s decision of the Presbyterian Church of the United States to divest from three major U.S. companies should serve as a resounding warning for the Israeli government. Increasingly large segments of American society – including ones that care deeply about Israel’s future and invest in it – are losing patience with the nearly five decades-long occupation and with the Israeli government’s refusal to act seriously to bring it to an end. Pressure for decisions like the one taken by PC (USA) is growing, supported by Americans who are neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic. It is gaining traction as a direct consequence of Israeli policies that are deepening the occupation to the point of potential irreversibility in the near term, in tandem with the apparent inability or unwillingness of governments around the world to in any meaningful way challenge these policies.
“While the decision of PC (USA) causes great pain for many of us, the discourse and debate surrounding the decision – this year and in prior years – made clear that it is the occupation, not Israel, that is the focus of PC (USA)’s concerns and frustration. Anti-Israel forces were quick to claim PC (USA)’s decision, passed by a very narrow margin, as a victory for their odious cause, but that does not make it so. The truth – evident to anyone watching and listening to the proceedings or who reads the text of the resolution PC (USA) adopted – is that the decision was explicitly and emphatically grounded in commitment to and concern for Israel, in recognition of Israel and its right to exist with peace and security, and in rejection of boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts targeting Israel.
“Americans for Peace Now weighs all activism in light of our primary mission: preserving Israel’s future and its security and viability as a democracy and a Jewish state. From this mission, we, as a Jewish, Zionist organization, derive our conviction that settlement expansion must stop, the settlement enterprise must be rolled back, and the occupation must end – for the sake of Israel’s own security and its own future. Consistent with this mission, we oppose boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts targeting Israel, and we condemn organizations and activists who seek to undermine Israel’s existence.
“Consistent with this same mission and convictions, we have long argued that activism should be targeted across the Green Line separating Israel and the occupied territories. We actively call for the boycott of settlements and settlement products. With respect to divestment, we do not take a position on specific companies, including those at the center of PC (USA)’s debate. As a matter of principle, we believe it is legitimate for activists to press companies to adopt practices that deny support to settlements and the occupation, including through targeted boycotts and divestment. In such cases, we believe that the onus is on activists to demonstrate that their target is the occupation and its manifestations, rather than Israel’s existence and legitimacy, the welfare of innocent Israeli civilians, or legitimate Israeli security practices.
“Likewise, as a matter of principle, we believe that activism must take into account the fact that Israel has legitimate security needs related to the occupied territories. The line between contributing to the occupation and addressing these needs may not always be clear-cut, and targeting activism narrowly enough to take into account this complicated situation presents a serious challenge. Absent a peace agreement, Israel has undeniable security needs related to the occupied territories. For example, securing its border with Jordan and preventing terrorism emanating from the West Bank into Israel. In many cases, like these, the line between contributing to the occupation and permitting Israel to address legitimate security concerns is not clear. Nonetheless, if careful enough distinctions are drawn, we believe that such activism can advance the goals of ending the occupation and promoting peace and a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We believe that activists who hew to these principles – as PC (USA) and the great majority of its activists appear to have done – deserve credit. Going forward, the legitimacy and effectiveness of their decision will be a function of how effectively they continue to demonstrate that the goal of their activism is to challenge Israeli occupation, not Israel’s existence.”
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