United Methodist Divestment: Standing in Solidarity in Tampa

It was my honor to attend the opening of the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Tampa, where they will be considering a resolution to divest church funds from three companies – Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar – that profit from Israel’s oppressive occupation.

I’ve been so inspired by the amazing people I’ve met in Tampa – Methodists from around the country, Palestinians, and many Jews – who constitute a new community of conscience on this profoundly important issue. This coming-together has been particularly important for me, because many quarters of the United Methodist Church have been unfairly demonized by the Jewish establishment over the issue of church divestment.

The resolution will be considered in committee some time over the next few days – and may possibly be voted on in plenary next week. If you, like me, stand with our Methodist brothers and sisters in our desire for justice in Israel/Palestine, please sign our Rabbi’s Letter that supports “conscientious nonviolent strategies, such as phased selective divestment, to end the occupation.”

You can read a thorough report about our efforts here on Tampa Community Radio. The clip above: my statements at a press conference yesterday which was convened by my friends at United Methodist Kairos Response – the primary sponsors of the UM divestment resolution.

17 Replies to “United Methodist Divestment: Standing in Solidarity in Tampa”

  1. I find your posts increasingly reveal your true views and state of mind. On Israel Independence Day you post a meeting at which you encourage Christians to boycott Israel. On Holocaust Day, you post a statement made by the anti-Israel rabble-rousing Arab extremist Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi. During your trip last year to a Palestinian refugee camp, you don’t even bother to stop in to visit Jewish Israel at all.
    In effect, you have set yourselves up as another version of the Netueri Karta extremist anti-Zionists, who are viewed as nut-cases even by the non-Zionist Haredim.
    It has come to the point that all Israel means to you is “Nakba” and that is the end of it. The Jews of Israel, who are now almost half of world Jewry mean nothing to you as Jews, only as “oppressors of the Palestinians”.

    You are making yourselves (JVP and allies) more and more irrelevant to Israel and world Jewry which overwhelmingly rejects your increasingly extremist positions. Perhaps this is for the best. A more “moderate” anti-Zionist line by you might have an effect on not-very-knowledgable pro-Zionist Jews. What you are doing will not.

  2. I saw your picture with banner saying behind you “Pray for peace and invest in violence”. I am glad I clicked on the video to read the full banner and listen to your participation.
    We have to continue to pray for the Lord for peace and I know that He is listening and He answers in his own ways. We also need to translate our desires and our prayers in daily action as you did. You are a courageous man and hope the Lord will count you among his righteous.

    Peace
    Ismail Hummos

  3. With Catapillar stock close to its all time high, now is a great time to divest and put the profits of occupation in the bank. How often can one have their cake and eat it too? More seriously, with over $600 million in Catapillar stocks traded every day, this resolution won’t make a bit of difference. Now if Abbas would negotiate without “pre-conditions” we might actually see some progress….

  4. i_like_Ike52 – There is so much that can be learnt from the prophetic Jewish tradition. Brant (and those like him), lives and breaths it. Loving-kindness, justice and compassion. Why do you invert his compassion? Why can we not look into each others eyes as fellow human beings rather than limit ourselves to some narrow ethno-religious-cultural box? Is it extremism to call for restraint from violence to another? How long will Israel have 7 million citizens and 11 million subjects? Never again – means never again to anyone. Not just one group. When will we learn that survival is based on interdependence rather than oppression, exclusion and control.

  5. Brant,
    In the video you quote from Leviticus 19:16 which reads: “Do not go about bearing tales among your countrymen; do not stand by the blood of your fellow, I am Adonai, I am God.” Understanding that the word rayecha can be translated as fellow, brother, or neighbor, you use this phrase to advocate a boycott, as a response to what you see as Israel’s wrongs against others. Fine.

    But Brant, that doesn’t relieve you of the obligation not to stand by the blood of your brothers, your fellow Jews in Israel.

    You also said, “…it is time to let go of our fear as a result of doing this work.” I guess the fear is the fear of damaging one’s reputation? In Israel our fellow Jews fear for their lives and the lives of their children. And they don’t stand idle; they go to the IDF and defend themselves. For the sake of the Jewish People, I hope when they look towards America, their fellow Jews are standing with them, not idly by them.

    1. Ken,

      You and I have a fundamentally different understanding of this issue. I do not see this as a evenly balanced zero-sum conflict. As I’ve written in countless posts over the years, I believe Israel’s occupation of Palestinians constitutes oppression, pure and simple. As my religious tradition commands me to call out oppression and stand with the oppressed, I believe I have an obligation not to stand idly by the blood of my Palestinian neighbors. I cannot in good faith stand by a nation and an army that I believe is engaged in such a corrupt abuse of power.

      As a Jew, this is an immensely painful stand to take, but it is one I make in good conscience. I do so with the faith that for me, the most honest way I can support my Israeli brothers and sisters – to work for a safe future of Israelis and Palestinians alike – is not to enable Israel to continue its oppressive occupation.

      I respect that you and I do not view this issue the same way. I only hope you can respect that I do not advocate my positions out of a desire to “bash Israel,” but from a genuinely Jewish conscience.

      1. Rabbi,

        Reading your blog makes me feel that is pretty much what you do is bash Israel. The positions you take are there shouldn’t be a Jewish Israel, let their be a right of return, you support Boycotting Israel (you eat hummus but not made by T’nuva or Sabra), you support Hamas missiles being fired into Israel.

        I have not read a kind or postive word from you about Israel. I have never read a suggestion by you towards Hamas, PA or their citizens on what they should do so that Israelis might cause them to look favorably towards what their needs are.

        Right now the Israeli economy is good. Israelis are sick of dealing with the Palestinians and their leadership. So maybe you should encourage the Palestinians to act in a way that Israelis would want to engage them. There is no trust.

  6. Rabbi Brant, let’s say you have your way and Israel withdraws completely from the West Bank. Would your “genuinely Jewish conscience” trouble you if this area were turned into another Gaza? Would you be concerned if major population centers in Israel became the next Sderot? How about El Al jetliners being shot out of the sky? Would that worry you at all? Or are you so concerned about the blood of your “Palestinian neighbors” that you haven’t considered the real dangers that your Israeli neighbors would face if they adopted your suicidal plans?

    1. If Israel withdrew from the West Bank (I’m assuming you mean leaving all cities, settlements and outposts and resettling Jewish residents beyond the 1967 border) and turned it into an even larger open air prison than Gaza, yes, my Jewish conscience would certainly be troubled.

    1. But I have addressed your questions. Israel withdrew from Gaza and instituted a crushing blockade on its Palestinian population that continues to this day. If it did the same with the West Bank, it would incur the same kinds of security threats it is facing in the south. Simple withdrawal is not the solution – the only way out of this tragedy is through just and equitable negotiations mediated by a fair and impartial broker.

      1. Do you think that there would be no rocketfire if it were not for the blockade? What do you do with the 100+ rockets fired from Gaza in May 2007? Maybe you’ll say that other structural problems, history of oppression, helplessness etc. justify attacking civilians (or some euphemism like “I can understand why they would do this”) even without the blockade, but then you’ll have to admit that withdrawing from the West Bank will result in rocketfire on the merkaz.

      2. Indeed, I do understand “why they would do this,” although I think you know I’ve repeatedly written that nothing justifies attacks on civilians. And yes, I do believe that if Israel simply withdraws from the West Bank w/out any real mutual agreement, there will be future attacks. I wrote as much in my comment to Laowai above:

        If it did the same with the West Bank, it would incur the same kinds of security threats it is facing in the south.

      3. So then why do you blame the violence in Gaza entirely on the blockade when you know that the rocketfire would exist even without the blockade? In your April 30 comment, you did not attribute the rocketfire to the unilateral-ness but to the “crushing blockade.”

  7. “Israel withdrew from Gaza and instituted a crushing blockade on its Palestinian population that continues to this day.”
    Aren’t you leaving something out? You know half the truth is worse than outright falsehood.

  8. Sylvia – for another side see:

    This is a presentation by Rich Forer, author of ‘Breakthrough: Transformation of Fear into Compassion – A new perspective on the Israeli-Palestine conflict’. Forer, a Jewish American, was born in he 50’s. His worldview was shaped by the Holocaust. Throughout his life he exclusively saw the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through a Jewish nationalist point of view and he was a member of AIPAC. However, in 2006 after supporting the invasion of Lebanon he was met with criticism from two non-Jewish friends. When he decided to do some research, by reading work by a Jewish-Israeli and a Jewish American he was devastated with what he found. As he continued his discovery of the other he decided to visit the occupied Palestinian territories. When he visited the West Bank he made a decision that every time he would meet a Palestinian he would say he was Jewish to see their reaction. And he did not see any reaction. Forer says he consistently heard Palestinians who he met say the problem is not religion the problem is Zionism. We just want to live in peace. Forer commented on the kindness he was met with by Palestinians. Forer says if people only went to the West Bank, they would see the conditions Palestinians live in. How can a people live like this?

    Forer’s underlying message of the book is:

    Forer calls on people to find out for themselves about what the real history is. You cannot rely on what the establishment to tell us what is going on. You have to find out yourself by doing honest, objective research. And then you have to recognize that everyone has the same right to self-determination as anyone else and that one’s religion or nationality does not give them human rights that other people should be denied. Once you realise this s you will determine compassion for people. Then you will develop some clarity and you will be able to see the point of view from the other. You will see they have the same needs as we all have right to freedom, self-determination and the right to a future for him or herself and heir children.

    To purchase Forer’s book go to:
    http://www.richardforer.com/

    Shalom Salam Peace

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