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July 27, 2012

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 27, 2012 By Ethan Felson NEW YORK (JTA) The Presbyterian Church (USA)'s 220th General Assembly had just cast its first vote on an anti-Israel divest- ment resolution when the spin began. Major news outlets and activists on each side could hardly wait for the debate to finish the next day before declaring winners and losers. This was my fourth GA and one thing I've learned is thai: reality lies somewhere between the headlines. Here are some reality checks on the GA. The defeatofdivestmentwasnarrow and it wasn't. The widely reported 333-331 vote earlier this month was on a motion to substitute a positive investment minority report for the main divestment resolution. This means the very first time the plenary,had a chance, it shot down divestment. It was close, but in subsequent votes the positive approach passed by a much wider margin and additional pro-divestment motions continued to fail by increasingly wider margins. The Positive In- vestment substitute passed 369-290 calls for finaflcial support for projects that include collaboration among Christians. Jews and Muslims and that will help develop viable Palestinian infrastructure, job creation and economic development. The PCUSA is different from other churches - and it isn't. Think of the most intense anti-Israel dele- gitimizers you've ever seen, heard or read. They run the show at the PCUSA. Before the GA, the PCUSA's coordinator of social witness policy defended divestment, attacked positive investment and said an Israel-apartheid comparison is unavoidable. An advisory committee called as its resource person before the GAs Middle East committee a Jewish representative from an anti-Zionist group that actively favors boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Even the church's execu- tive council backed divestment. But there were also severer major Presby- teries, seminary presidents, former national moderators and other key leaders who opposed. divestment. One group, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace. successfully advocated for a balanced approach that was clearly more in keeping With the mind-set of Presbyterians. The targeted companies are profiteers-- and they aren't. The PCUSA's Committee on Mission Respon- sibility Through Investment, or MRTI the body that originally recommended divest- ment--concluded that no further conversa- tions would matter for Caterpillar, Hewlett- Packard and Motorola Solutions. They were irredeemably and unequivocally guilty. The Methodist pension board, meanwhile, reached the exact opposite conclusion. A close reading of the MRTI report reveals that it relied on resolutions fried by radical groups better known for harassing corpora- tions than engaging them. Motions filed on a broader human rights is- sue were presented as if they were about Israel. and corporate ti'ansgressions like a corporate officer rescheduling a conference call were submitted as conclusive proof of indifference. But companies are companies. Their jobs are making money, not playing politics--and they get attacked so often, it's just noise to them. The divestment debate is really about anti-Semitism and it isn't. A church leader told me that he had never heard of Israel's security fence described as being even partially a defensive move. indi- cating that the silencing of Israel's legitimate security stance isn't just about choosing sides but about something much deeper. More than 1.500 American rabbis repre- senting a broad geographical and ideological range sent a letter against divestment to every PCUSA commissioner. Had women or ethnic leaders in the United States sent a letter on a topic of concern, the PCUSA leadership might have stopped dead in ~ts tracks. Disturbingly, that didn't happen with this letter. Even more disturbing was a pro-BDS letter signed by fewer than two dozen rabbis and trumpeted by a PCUSA committee that said it was tantamount to racism to suggest that the Jewish community opposes divestment. That doesn't rise to the level of anti-Semitism. Yet the church leadership's failure to challenge this outrageous comment certainly isn't a measure of respect either. The divestment debate is actually about Christian Zionism and it isn't. There is an intense struggle between left and Letter from Israel Higher education in Ariel By Ira Sharkansky The nomenclature associated with insti- tutions of higher education is fuzzy in the As I write this, Moshe Silman is still in in- extreme. Differences between colleges and tensive care, at least four copycats have failed universities, and other vague terms like to immolate themselves alongside banks or center or institute, are there for the picking. government offices thanks to alert bystand- "University" may generally be at the top of the ers, politicians are accusing one another of prestige heap, buttheMassachusettgInstitute being too soft on the haredim or being too of Technology, the Weizmann Institute of Sci- stubborn about one or another detail of what ence and a few others would quarrel. to do with them, and the Middle East is still In Israel the difference between a college the Middle East. and university is money. Universities get One of the two hottest topics of the mo- more, enough to support research by faculty ment is the upgrading of the Ariel University members. Center of Samaria to full university status, TheargumentsabouttheinstitutioninAriel against those who opposed the move for good are academic, financial and political. The heads or nefarious reasons, and some who wish it of Israel's seven universities have been united would go away altogether along with the rest in opposing the upgrading of Ariel's name and of Ariel and its 18,000 residents, status on the grounds of insufficient money Until 2007 it was the College of Judea and in the overall pot for higher education, as Samaria. Its intermediate title as a university well as their conclusions that Ariel's faculty center suggested, without actually saying, that it was already a university. Ariel on page 18A THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE ~ ~ iSSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Mike Etzkin Kim Fischer HERITAGE F~orida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc, 207 O~Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Richard Ries Contributing Cotunmists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman David Gaudio * Teri Marks Elaine Schooping * Gil Dombrosky * Caroline Pope right in American churches that plays out over many issues, including sexuality and Israel. The struggle is so intense that it drowns out the real debate over issues; Israel becomes a proxy for a much wider conversation. We are ,told sometimes that we need to choose between friendship with liberal or with conservative Christians. Not true. we should not be forced to choose between neighbors and friends. Peacemaking reqmres a path that is faithful to all who seek peace, including Palestinians and Israelis, Christians. Muslims and Jews. -The PCUSA has become irrelevant--and it hasn't. The membership of the PCUSA is drop- ping rapidly.Aswithmanyofthe "mainline" churches, it has lost half its members in 40 years, with one in ,five leaving in the past decade. The median age is 61 and fewer than one in 10 Presbyterians is aged 18 to 34. But there also is new life in many parts of the church and little to celebrate in the exodus from other parts of the PCUSA. It is a major American institution and an important partner on a range of issues. It helps no one if responsible voices bolt and leave behind a denomination less able to discern between peacemaking and radicalism~ The debate is really about what Palestinian Christians want - and it isn't. The PCUSA has close connections with Palestinian Christians. They visit them, hear from them and care about them. They have skin in the game. But there also are American denominations with sister churches in the Palestinian areas that have rejected divestment, most recently the Episcopal Church, which heard from Pal- estinian Christians who oppose divestment. There are many myths about the Palestin- ian Christians. Some friends of Israel believe the only stresses that Palestinian Christians face are from Muslims. And many detractors of Israel have fabricated a story that the Pal- estinian Christian population is in free fall due to Israeli policies (it isn't--the West Bank Christian population is actually increasing). Palestinian Christians do face stresses, as do Israelis. Not surprisingly, the story is far more complex than either "side" would have it. The battle continues. Well, that is true. The PCUSA passed a troubling boycott resolution. While there are committed Zionists who have supported a boycott of West Bank settlement groups, the effort in the PCUSAwas le~ by groups that don't support a Jewish state. For them it is incremental delegitimization. Presbyterians have much to decide. Do they want their church to be positive or negative? O;~e that understands that there are multiple narratives or just one version, with characters conveniently symbolized by American compa- nies to reduce a painful conflict affecting real lives to a caricature of innocence and evil? In the end, that is a Presbyterian conversa- tion. And it isn't. Ethan Felson is the vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Jim Shipley Whose country is it, anyway? One of our granddaughters is 18. She was ofAmerica.But, don'tforget, since 1812wehave born in the U.S. but lived almost half her life not had to fend off an attack from outside our in Israel. She is in the States right now, work- borders. Modern Israel has been invaded by ing, pursuing an education and some dreams, its neighbors four times to say nothing of the Looking to the future, she went to visit a border skirmishes and internal terror. recruiting office for the U.S. Army. Yeah. the In the U.S if you are not born here and kid is constantly curious. Sl~e was listening to desire to become a citizen, you have to study, the army pitch and the educational opportuni- pass and swear allegiance to no other nation. ties. etc. when the recruiter asked about her In Israel, it is not so simple. You are a Jew? travels and her life. She told him of her Israeli Can you prove that? Good! You are.a citizen, experience and that she had dual citizenship, with full rights. Oh. You're an Arab but live He replied: "Well, you'll have to give that here and have for generations. Were here up to join the Army." when a State was finally declared? You too She thought-for about 30 seconds, thanked are a citizen. And, you do not have to serve in himvery much and left. She then called to tell the IDF; because you see, your cousin Ahmed us that she would in all probability return to might try to kill us and we don't want you to Israel and join the IDF next year. No way was make the decision of having to kill him to she giving up her Israeli citizenship, prevent that. What is this pull that Israel has on so many But Jews? Jews who choose to live in Israel? of us once we have been there or even more Give me the excuse. The reason. You study if we have lived there for a period of time? Torah? Fine. In the Torah, tell me. Are there We know the story. We know that this is the any stories of Jews, good Jews, pious Jews Third Jewish Commonwealth and that our. fighting for their land, to defend their people? history, our Torah and archeological facts Thought so. confirm this. And friend, believe me when I tell you it is And yet. There are those who live there political, tied to a population that multiplies and suck up public handouts but would not at three to four times the rate of the secular lift a finger to defend the State. Some, who populace is formidable in terms of political even call the State of Israel itself illegal, but clout. For they are not independent citizens. take the dole anyway. I speak of course of the If their rabbis tell them a certain way to vote; ultra-religious. Except for a few, they do not so be it. servein the forces of the IDF. Many do not Andsothehighlytoutedcoalitionthatgave work. They study. They take tax money with the combination of Bibi Netanyahu's Likud no contribution of their own. and a smattering of religious parties along Israel was founded thousands of years ago with the Party of Kadima has come crashing as the Jewish Homeland. It was devastated by down. Kadima demanded the coalition stand the Babylonians and then the Romans and together on a bill that would mandate every- rose again from the ashes of the Holocaust. one who is a citizen of the State to serve the For the first time, in two thousand years it State; men for three years, women for two. has an indigenous government. It is perhaps It has been the backbone of the democracy the most democratic of all governments, not of the State of Israel since its founding. The just in the Middle East. Religious factions are up in arms. Fine said Twenty percent of its citizens are Arabs. Kadima-noservice, nosubsidies.Youcannot Some of them can claim a heritage on the land have it both ways. S(y, down came the coali- almost as long as the Jewish People. And, a tion as Bibi's Likud decided to stay with the significant number of them, like apercentage religious parties. of the Ultra-Religious, also feel no loyalty to It means early elections. It means that the State of Israel. It's a strange situation. Netanyahu gave up a fantastic chance to So, what to do about those who live there, level the playing field. The Jews of Israel live claim citizenship but will not lift a finger to more in the 21st century than we do. At the defendtheNationandthelandonwhichitsits? borders of the Arab Spring. It is time that all IntheU.S.therehasalwaysbeenaminoritywho the citizens do their job. Kol Israel Haverim? would not or could not pick up arms in defense All Israel is family? Time to prove it.