Newspaper Archive of
Heritage Florida Jewish News
Fern Park , Florida
July 20, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
PAGE 2     (2 of 20 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 2     (2 of 20 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
July 20, 2012

Newspaper Archive of Heritage Florida Jewish News produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2019. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 20, 201') Presbyterian Church's narrow rejection of divestment unlikely to slow anti-lsrael push By Ron Kampeas and Nell Rubin WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Proponents of using eco- nomic pressure to force Israel out of the West Bank may have lost a key battle this week--by a haws breadth-- but they have no intention of giving up. That's the message from backers of a divestment motion at the General As- sembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), which late July 12 rejected a proposal to divest from companies sell- ing equipment to the Israeli military in the West Bank. The 333 -331vote, with two abstentions, at the church's Pittsburgh gathering was the closest that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement--aimed at under- mining Israel's occupation of the West Bank--has come to avictory in a majorAmerican religious denomination. Friday morning also saw the defeat, by a substantial margin--403-175--of a resolution that would have likened Israel's West Bank presence to apartheid. But a boycott resolution targeting only products manufactured in the West Bank did pass, 457-180. Delegates also ap- proved by a 70-vote margin a resolution supporting in- vestment in companies that help build the West Bank economy. "We are concerned, but think it's unproductive," Ethan Felson, vice presi- dent of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the agency's point person on interfaith relations, said of the vote to boycott West Bank products. However, the main focus of the proceedings and their aftermath was on the divest- ment issue. Its Presbyterian and Jewish advocates vowed to press on. "It appears that church commissioners were swayed by a fear that divestment would cause irreparable harm to Jewish-Christian relations," said the Rev. Katherine Cunningham, the vice-moderator of the church's Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IMPN), which recommended di- vestment. "In reality, the divestment motion was sup- ported by a broad alliance of Jews, Christians and others who believe that nonviolent means such as divestment are an effective way to pres- sure the Israeli government into abiding by international law and respecting Palestin- ian human rights." The IPNM "will continue its efforts to alleviate the suf- fering of Palestinians and to help bring peace and justice to Israelis and Palestinians alike," she said. A 2011 church report found that Caterpillar sup- plies bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israel Defense Forces, Motorola provides cell phone technology to West Bank settlements and Hewlett-Packard manages information technology for the Israeli Navy. The Presbyterian Church (USA) had voted in 2004 to approach corporations that they said were aiding Israel's occupation of the West Bank, asking them to reconsider business with the Jewish state. The effort, which held back initial calls for divest- ment, was reaffirmed in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Felson called the vote against divestment a victory even though it was closer than previous votes in other religious movements. Most recently, in May, the Method- ist Church defeated similar divestment proposals by a 2-to-1 margin. "This is a major milestone that despite the full-court press from the denomina- tion's main institutions, when presented to the rank and file, divestment doesn't fly," said Feison, who was at the convention lobbying church leaders to tone down the resolution. While divestment is now off the table for the church, more efforts targeting Israel should be expected, said the Rev. John Wimberly, co- moderator of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. He also cautioned that the vote should not be seen as approval of Israel's policies. "The fact is there was an overwhelming consensus that the Palestinians are in a very bad place and we want to help them," he said. "The anger from the pro- divestment crowd towards Israel is not over," added Wimberly, who opposes di- vestment. "As long as there are Israeli troops on the West Bank, there are going to be different ways in which that's tackled. We don't know what this will be, but we know it's not going to be divestment moving forward." A number of Jewish groups pushed hard against the divestment resolution, and more than 22,000 Jews signed a letter organized by the JCPA and the Jewish Federations of North America's Israel Action Network urging the Presby- terian delegates to reject the divestment resolution. The letter followed an earlier one signed by 1,300 rabbis and sent to the church that called on Presbyterians to deepen their "under- standings of the multiple narratives in the region" and "focus on positive steps including economic devel- opment, Palestinian state building, and a return to negotiations." Americans for Peace Now and J Street each called on the church to reject the divestment resolution, even though both groups oppose Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Rachel Lerner, the vice president of J Street's edu- cation fund, said it was the means of divestment, not the end goal, that J Street opposes. "This should not have been and this was not a choice about whether you support settlement expansion or peace in the region," Lerner said of the Presbyterian vote. "This was a decision over a tactic, and that was what we wanted to emphasize." Most Jewish groups wel- comed the rejection of divestment, and expressed the hope that Thursday's vote put the matter to rest. However, Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports BDS and has been labeled by the Anti-Defamation League as one of the top 10 anti-Israel groups in the United States, said it would not be dissuaded by the narrow loss of the divestment proposal. "This is a historic moment in the struggle for dignity and justice, and I commend the PC (USA) for getting us this close to holding corpora- tions accountable for profit- ing from the occupation," said Rabbi Alissa Wise, the director of campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace. The group, which includes Jews and non-Jews, sent members to Pittsburgh for the convention and lobbied on behalf of the resolution. Jewish Dems' call on GOP By Ron Kampeas to cut off Adelson's giving revives civility talk WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Sheldon Adelson, whose cash and rhetoric has hit candidates hard this elec- tion cycle, just got swiped himself. The National Jewish Democratic Council wants Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to stop taking "dirty money" from Adelson because of allegations surrounding his lucrative casino properties in Macau, China. The "dirty money" jibe, in turn, has seen the NJDC slammed with charges of "dirty politics," and not just from Republicans. Promi- nent civil rights attorney Alan Dershowitz and the Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman also have called on the Jewish Demo- cratic group to stand down. Adelson, who was a major backer of Newt Gingrich's failed GOP presidential campaign, has given tens of millions of dollars this year to conservative SuperPACs, political action committees permitted by law to raise limitless amounts of money but which may not work directly with a candidate. The NJDC call followed revelations last week of al- legations in a lawsuit filed by Steven Jacobs, a casino executive who was fired by Adelson in 2010, claiming that Adelson approved of allowing prostitutes to op- erate in his Macau casinos. In a petition drive sent to its supporters, the NJDC suggested that the prostitu- tion allegation was part of a pattern of bad behavior by Adelson. The NJDC will not release the number of signatures, but the peti- tion likely will be sent to the Republican Party and the Romney campaign, according to David Harris, the Democratic group's president and CEO. "It's well known that Adelson makes tremendous sums of money through his casinos in China which-- according to 2008 Repub- lican presidential candi- date Senator John McCain (AZ)--means that Chinese 'foreign money' (to quote McCain) is flooding our po- litical system," the petition said. "But this week, reports surfaced that in addition to his anti-union and allegedly corrupt business practices, Adelson 'personally ap- proved' of prostitution in his Macau casinos." Adelson's spokesman did not return a request for comment for this article. Matt Brooks, the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the NJDC's call was "disgusting" be- cause it was based on alle- gations in a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled ex-employee. "Setting aside their par- tisan agenda, the NJDC should be ashamed of itself for attacking someone who has done more for the Jew- ish community and Jewish philanthropy than anyone in recent history," Brooks said, citing Adeison's ma- jor contributions to the Birthright Israel program that brings Jewish youth to Israel, and to Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memo- rial museum. Adelson is a multimil- lion-dollar donor to both efforts, and also is a major backer of the RJC. "If this is proven to be nothing more than rant- Nati Shohat/FLASH90/JTA Sleldon Adelson, right, seen here with then-President George W. Bush and Israeli President Shimon Peres at a Jerusalem conference in May 2008, is at the center of controversy over contributions earmarked for Republican candidates. ings of an employee in legal battle, NJDC is going to have a lot of egg on its face," Brooks added. "If they were truly mensches about it, they would wait until it is adjudicated." Over the weekend Der- showitz, who pointed out in his column that he is a Democrat, and Foxman, also weighed in. "Harris has apparently credited this claim even though no evidence has been submitted to sup- port it and no finding has been made by any court," Dershowitz wrote in a col- umn cross-posted on the Huffington Post and The Jerusalem Post. "Has he never heard of 'due process' or the 'presumption of in- nocence?' " Foxman likened the at- tack to those in 2010 on a major Democratic funder, George Soros, who is Jewish and had been falsely accused of being a "collaborator" during the Holocaust against evidence that he had endured it as a youngster forced into a false identity. "I was flabbergasted," said Foxman, who had reached out to news outlets, including JTA, after reading of the NJDC petition. "We knew that this campaign would get somewhat ex- treme, but for the Jewish element in the Democratic Party to resort to character assassination I think is pretty sad." Adelson is not a stranger to being on both sides of tough attacks that border on the personal. His money helped to keep alive for several months Gingrich's recent presidential cam- paign and funded attack ads that depicted Romney as out of touch with the needs of working people. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have pledged to do the same for Romney in his battle against President Obama. In March, in an impromptu address to a session at TribeF- est, a Jewish Federations of North America event for Jew- ish youth held in Las Vegas at the Adelson-owned Venetian, Adelson shocked some at- tendees by mocking Obama and likening the president to a baby, according to several of those present. Harris said the charges in the NJDC petition were fair because he said they were based on a "pattern" of allegations, although none have yet to be proven. Adelson is under federal investigation for bribing Chinese officials. Harris acknowledged Adelson's good works. "One can do something good and bad; this shouldn't be incomprehensible," he said. He dismissed charges of character assassina- tion, noting efforts by the RJC and others to depict Obama as implacably hos- tile to Israel, as opposed to delineating differences on policy between two candidates who otherwise favor a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. "None of this is couched in terms of disagreement on policy," Harris said. "It is couched in personally the most hateful ways towards these people." He noted that Brooks in a blog post last year wrote that "members of the Presi- dent's inner circle seethe with antagonism toward Israel's democratically elected leader." Brooks, in his blog post, was writing about reports in the media at the time describing frus- trations by senior Obama administration officials with what they perceived as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lack of respect for the president. One report in Bloomberg said that the then-defense secretary, Robert Gates, believed Netanyahu to be "ungrateful." At the time, Brooks' at- tack was the kind of broad- side that prompted the ADL and the American Jewish Committee in a joint appeal to call on parties "to put Israel ahead of politics" and not to sow division. Brooks and other conservatives condemned the ADL-AJC call as an attempt to silence their criticism of Obama. The Jewish Council of Public Affairs made civility a theme of its most recent col- loquium in May. Its director, Rabbi Steve Gutow, declined to comment to JTA on the lat- est fracas involving Adelson. The Jewish Federations of North America, in a rare comment on electoral politics, cited a JCPA pledge that Harris had signed in its call on the NJDC to stand down from its attack. "To condemn a man based on unsubstantiated charges violates our American and Jewish values," said a state- ment signed by the JFNA leadership. "It also breaches the Jewish Council for Pub- lic Affairs' Civility State- ment, which was signed by both the NJDC and JFNA. That document commits us to 'respectful dialogue' and 'to treat others with de- cency and honor and to set ourselves as models for civil discourse, even when we disagree with each other." The pledge was signed by individuals, not groups. In addition to Harris, Brooks had signed it. Asked if he would con- sider reissuing the joint ADL-AJC appeal, Foxman laughed and said, "Maybe we should send it out again and get clobbered like we did last time."